Making a Pleating Board

We are so excited about the upcoming trim classes with Professor Kenneth King on January 4, 11, and 18, 2021.

Psst. You can still sign up at:

One of the notions he uses to create consistent, reproducible pleats is a Magic Pleater. It’s a type of Pleating Board that’s sadly no longer in production. Some people have them in their stash, but for those who don’t, I wanted to share one way to replace the board with a customized tool you can make at home using commonly available notions.

Stuff you will need:

– Scraps of your fabric, cut on grain or on the bias, depending on your planned project
– Strips of paper to test pleat frequency and depth
– A firm backing fabric such as denim, heavy linen, or buckram. I used pieces that were about 12″ X 5″ for my samples.
– Craft freezer paper or brown packing paper
– A pencil
– A clear ruler
– Micropore tape
– Double- sided fusible tape, like Steam a Seam or Stitch Witch
– A tailor’s clapper or block of unsealed wood
– An iron and ironing surface

First, decide what pleat depth and repeat you want. I like to use strips of paper to play around with the repeat.
You can cut your own strips, or you can use adding machine paper.
Once you have decided on your pleats, draw a plumb pencil line on a strip of your freezer paper and pleat it on the matte side using your sample as a guide. I like to tape them together at the edge with micropore tape.
Fuse the freezer paper to your backing fabric, shiny side down. Craft freezer paper has a little “fuse” by itself, but you can add some fusible strips to give it more security. Then you can press your fabric into the pleats in the paper, being sure to use plenty of steam if the fabric needs it and using a clapper to let the fabric cool in the board.
A series of samples using this board, from top to bottom: cotton flannel cut on grain, quilting cotton cut on grain, and silk satin cut on the bias.
If you don’t have fusible freezer paper, you can also use brown packing paper for your pleat board, but you won’t be able to use steam so it is only for fabrics that will take a press with only heat and pressure.
Match your strip of brown paper to your sample, as before. Be sure to press it flat with a dry iron if it is rumpled.
The brown paper has no “fuse” by itself, so be sure to use some double-sided fusible to secure the pleats.
No steam!
Push your fabric into the folds. This is a piece of on-grain silk taffeta.
Give it a good, long press without steam.
Put a clapper on it and don’t move it for at least 2 minutes. I literally use a sand timer and take a moment to sip tea, look around, and notice the plastic horse my family has left out in the dining room.
Lovely, crisp pleats.

How do you decide what depth/return/ pleat pattern to use? What are reliable, stress-free ways to apply pleated trim?

Sign up for the class and find out!


Six Reasons to Sew a Mask in November 2020

We’ve gotten some questions (and a few strange looks!) about why, so many months into this strange year, we’re offering a class about sewing masks. Don’t people who want them have them? Can’t you just buy them, now?

Well, yes and no. Here are some reasons you may want to sew some masks in our Pay What You Can Class in a few short weeks.

Your old masks are looking sad.

Face it. If you’ve been wearing, washing, and wearing your mask for weeks or months, it may start to show wear and tear. If you have more masks to rotate, they will all last longer.

Your current mask isn’t comfortable.

Or, maybe it’s just not as comfortable as it could be. We’ll talk about different styles of masks and their pros and cons for fit and ease of sewing.

You’re tired of nothing matching.

It looks like we may be wearing masks for a while, at least in some situations. Why not sew up a set of different colors so that you’ll be able to choose the best one to go with your outfit?

You want more masks to give as gifts.

It’s very 2020, but masks make great stocking stuffers or just “thinking of you” presents.

You want to try sewing a mask, but aren’t sure how to start.

Our class is for sewists at every ability level. Beginners are more than welcome! Since this class uses a free pattern and uses very little fabric and notions, it’s great for anyone who is just starting their sewing journey.

You have some experience sewing, but want to practice some new skills.

Of course, our class will be full of camaraderie, but there are also several skills to practice:

  • Pattern cutting with precision.
  • Sewing an accurate 1/4-inch seam.
  • Basting to save your sanity.
  • Nesting seams for perfect seam alignment.
  • Two-row topstitching for strong attachment points.
  • Learning new sewing techniques over Zoom.

If you’re as excited about sewing masks as we are, sign up now and let us know you’re planning on joining us!


Cowl-Neck Tee from a Shell Pattern

I think one of the things that keeps people from trying vintage patterns (besides the restrictive sizing of some companies) is the fact that it can be hard to tell, from a line drawing or old photo, how a pattern will look made up in “modern” fabric, or maybe with a small style change.

I sometimes treat the most basic Stretch and Sew patterns like on-the-fly pattern slopers. Many of the styles are pretty straightforward, so they’re easy to use as building blocks for creating your own style.


Recutting Dresses for Size and Style, 2 Ways

It’s hot out, and I’ve finally, firmly fallen in love with a popular pattern for knit dresses, McCall’s 6886 (this pattern was reissued in March of 2020 under the new pattern number 8058). It’s garnered a “best pattern” award on Pattern Review for five years running, and it’s easy to see why. It’s cute, fast, and easy to sew!

I’ve been sewing up all of the knit fabric I can find in my stash, but I’ve also found myself eyeballing some of the older dresses in my closet. I have two that are still in good shape, but just don’t match my current shape the way I would like. I decided to recut both dresses using the pattern pieces from McCall’s 6886 as my guide.

I had already traced the pattern onto tracing paper as whole pattern pieces. I recommend this anyway, but especially for altering, since it’s easier to see if you have accidentally moved the pattern piece.

Dress #1 is a tank-style dress in black bamboo that I made a few years ago. It is just too big for me, now. The armholes were a little low and loose, so I knew I could get away with losing a little fabric along the entire side seam. If your dress is the same, just grab your trusty scissors and slice away the entire side seam. Then, you can lay out the dress back, flat, place your pattern piece on top, and slice away any fabric that’s sticking out.

Repeat for the front, and you’ll be ready to stitch that side seam. I sewed mine on my serger.

If your armhole binding kind of thick or just doesn’t play well with your serger, you could end up with a weird spot like this:

This is not a big deal. Simply stitch the part of the seam you couldn’t manage on the serger with your sewing machine, then tack down the seam allowance in that area.

The second dress I altered is a tent-style dress. I like the fabric, but as a silhouette I’m just not into it right now.

It’s inside-out because I seriously thought I could just pin out the excess, at first.

The fit is good through the neck, back, and armholes. In fact, since I cut off the sleeves to make it sleeveless, the armholes are a tiny bit snug. I did not want to risk losing any fabric in that area. That meant I didn’t want to open up the side seams.

Since the center back had a seam, I laid it out flat and lined up the center seam with the center back line on the pattern. I then outlined the pattern piece in chalk, pinned, basted the seam, and checked the fit before I serged the side seams.

A note here: If you have done this before, you’ll see I made a mistake. If you don’t want any accidental pleats or puckers where your new and old seams meet, you want a smoother transition, not the sharp angle I’ve placed at the top of the seam here. When finished, I did get a small pleat there, but I’ve decided I don’t mind it.

I’m very pleased with my two “new” dresses! Making over clothing is a nice skill because it saves money and resources, of course, but it also saves a lot of time. I’m pretty quick, but even I can’t usually pull of two dresses in an hour.


Latex-Free Elastic Sources

I order 99.9% of the elastics I use from Sew Sassy. She has a page dedicated to latex-free elastics on her site. (And ALL of the rubber bands she uses on products are latex-free, which is nice.)

Years ago, the owner of Bra Builders told me that all of the elastics she sells are latex-free, but you should probably check with her before ordering.

Many of the elastics sold at Bra-Makers Supply are latex free.

Dritz is the elastic brand-name I find most often. So, I wrote them and got a list of latex-free elastics they manufacture. This list is from February of 2019, so it may be out of date.

Dritz Latex-Free Elastic

Dritz 9325W –3/4” plush back, latex-free stated on package

Dritz Products Not Containing Latex, but Not Stated on Package

9344 – 5/8ʺ  Glitter Elastics, black, gold and silver – 40% Spandex/43% Metallic Yarn/17% Nylon

9346C – lightweight elastic, clear – 100% Polyurethane

9347 – 5/8” buttonhole elastic, black and white – 73% Polyester/17% Nylon/10% Spandex

9348 – 3/8” stretch lace elastic, pink and white – 19% Spandex/81% Nylon

9350w – 3/8” Non-Slip elastic, white  – 31% silicone rubber/silica gel, 56% nylon, 13% spandex

9577 -1 ½” soft waistband elastic, berry, green, orange, purple and tile blue

9387  – 1” Fold Over Elastic, black and white – 90% Nylon/10% Spandex

9388 W– 5/8” double ruffle elastics, 20 SKU’s – 95% Nylon/5% Spandex

9389 – 5/8” Fold Over Elastic, 17 SKU’s  – 85% nylon/15% spandex

9379 – ½” Ruched Elastic , 9 SKU’s – 83% Nylon/ 17% Spandex

9577 – 1-1/2” Soft Waistband Elastic, 5 SKU’s – 50% Nylon/ 35% Spandex/ 15% Polyester

9578 – 1-3/4” Metallic Waistband Elastic, 2 SKUs – 62% Polyester/ 27% Latex/ 11% Silver Metallic//11% Gold Metallic

Dritz Elastics Available through Walmart, Also Manufactured Without Latex

11346 – Lightweight Clear Elastic

11166 – 1” Fold Over Elastic

Babyville Boutique Brand Elastics, Manufactured Without Latex

Fold Over Elastics:


















Other Dritz elastic contain 25% polyester, 75% rubber and do contain a natural rubber latex.