Saturday, September 6, 2008

There is no original thought..

Bunny of La Sewista is in the process of making what promises to be a gorgeous christening gown. I had commented on her blog last week while she was planning to pleat the fabric for a bishop gown with a lace overlay. When pleating two layers of fabric most patterns, books and instructions will tell you to baste the fabrics together and treat them as one as you send them through the pleater. This makes great sense on the surface. As sewists we want to control things. So it sounds like it will help us control the fabric. But a pleater works by sending the fabric through 3 ridged rods that look like gears and onto the needles. Much like the feed dogs on a sewing machine there is no way for the fabric layers not to shift as it goes through the "gears." And one fabric is going to feed faster than the other. By basting the fabrics together, you don't allow the fabric to move freely as it goes through the gears, and it fights against itself and the basting. causing skipped and y-pleats. Otherwise known as a hot mess. One of my son in laws would say "its a physics thing." Now understanding that statement may help his phenomenal golf game and probably makes a lot of sense to a lot of people but life science was my gig not physics. I may not understand it, I just know that it works.

The best way to pleat two layers is to roll each fabric on its own rod, put both rods through the handles, feed the fabrics in at the same time. Each fabric enters the pleater on its own. Very rarely will you not have one layer of fabric come up shorter than the other. As you pleat pay close attention to the fabric as it is enters the pleater, not the rolled fabric on the rods.

Bodice of silk organza/silk batiste christening gown.
Fabrics pleated as one.

Now in reference to the post title, before anyone bows down to my infinite wisdom and knowledge I must confess I was clued in by someone else. I sought advice from Gail Doane when I was embarking on a christening gown made from silk organza and silk batiste. Gail has been featured several times in Australian Smocking and Embroidery, Sew Beautiful and teaches for SAGA and other groups around the world. So when it comes to questions about construction, Gail is the one I ask.

That is what is great about the sewing world, we all learn from each other.


  1. I have basted several and dealt with 'crinkles' from the bottom being fed faster than the top.

    I have watched Judith Adams pleat so many double layers. She never bastes. Sometimes does not use a dowel. Amazing. Zip zip and she is done. Through seams and all. Sometimes she would have a little to trim off, sometimes she didn't. Experience! BTW, I have not subbed to AS&E in ages but all of my AS&E reference shows double basting. I never heard about the double dowel method until I read you or someone else post about it on HS&S. The next time I do one, I will do it that way.

  2. I am so going to try that double dowel system! What an interesting idea.

  3. Hi Martha,

    Thanks for the tutorial and wisdom from your experience. I haven't done a gown with double fabrics... but when I do, I know whom I would ask for help! :)

  4. Thanks so much, Martha, for your explanation of the technique. It really helps and makes total sense.

  5. thank you for this wonderful commentary. I am about to embark on a double layer bishop and just reading this is giving me the courage to start!

  6. Thanks Lynette. I hope it helps you.


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