the Gilded Pearl

Instructions for Preparing Fabric for the Smocking Pleater

Baroness Mistress Dorren of Ashwell
[Barbara L. Ding]

I've offered to let anyone who wants to use my smocking pleater. Guidelines for preparing the fabric that you want to pleat follow. If you still have questions, please call me anytime - my contact information is in your Gilded Pearl Member Contact Listing - to leave a message.

The hated disclaimer: pleating is at your own risk; I assume no responsibility for damage to the fabric. I will, of course, help as much as I can to expedite the pleating.

Material should be washed. Do not starch unless it is a very light, flimsy, or insubstantial fabric.

If you want pleat to the very edge of the fabric, selvages should be trimmed off. No hems, that is done after the pleating. Garments (such as the circular neckline of a chemise) need to have one seam left open; this is the edge that we will feed into the pleater.

Draw a straight line on the fabric - this will be the line that we use to guide the fabric through the pleater. It should be near the edge of the fabric, at one edge (top or bottom) of the area you plan to pleat. My pleater makes about 12" of pleating maximum; if you need wider, you need to draw a second guide line about 12" below the first, and we will have to put the fabric through to machine twice. Expect to lose a bit off the end where you’ll want to trim for evenness before hemming

Plan to use about 3 times the width of material that you want to end up with after pleating and smocking. Although the smocking will stretch, the best and most authentic effect is that of closely gathered pleats. Right now, I am only familiar with working in a straight line. Pleaters can be coaxed to go around gradual curves (as for a chemise neckline) but my experiments with it still make a rather uneven pleat; I suspect I may be trying to do too much of the curving right near the seams, which results in some rather interesting bubbling of the fabric - not necessarily unworkable, but not yet smooth. I'm willing to try it, but I make no promises - it’s still in the experimental stages at this writing (6/16/97)!

Seams should be ironed flat and the selvages trimmed off. French seams should be 1/4" for the sealed seam, and 1/2" for the sealing seam. No selvages. I am still working on this; pleating through seams has the potential to bend and break needles (this, I am told, is the equivalent of blowing fuses, and will happen on a fairly regular basis) if not done carefully. If we can't pleat the seam areas, we can do the gathering up to the seam areas, which can be hand-gathered afterward - still faster than hand gathering the whole garment.

Lames and metallics apparently will not pleat. I would prefer not to pleat anything plastic-y. Pleating has the potential to mar satins as they feed through the gears. The manual tells me that I should be able to pleat most other things from broadcloth weight through velvets.

I can provide basic instruction in smocking if needed; if you let me know beforehand, I can photocopy a few pages out of a book that has good illustrations and diagrams - alternately, most generic needlework books have a small section on smocking.

I am interested in obtaining different raglan patterns to experiment with; please let me know if you have one you’d be willing to share!

Please call me if you have additional questions or concerns or send eMail to


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