How to Fashion Topstitched Pleats

Elizabeth’s Red Dress

“Elizabeth’s Red Dress” – one of the patterns in Sewing for a Royal Baby – was inspired by a charming dress we purchased in an antiques store. After carefully picking out the seams on the hand-constructed vintage garment, I (Amelia) worked up the pattern. I used Martha Pullen’s silk/cotton Elegance to recapture the soft drape of the original garment’s silk fabric. The real beauty of this design, however, is in fashioning the pleats!

I didn’t stitch down the fold from the backside to secure reverse box pleats on the slippery fabric; I wanted to avoid tying off and backstitching the thread (which can pucker, especially on silky fabrics). Instead I secured the folds with glue and worked a narrow line of topstitching down my desired length, over and back up. I chose a matching red thread, but if you’re confident in your topstitching, you could choose to do this in a contrast thread color for added design interest and add a touch of color behind.

Topstitched Pleats

NOTE: The complete pattern, supply list and instructions for making “Elizabeth’s Red Dress” are in Sewing for a Royal Baby.

What you’ll need:
• “Elizabeth’s Red Dress” (available in girls sizes 3 and 4 with the book
• Silky fabric (red silk/cotton Elegance shown from Martha Pullen Company) 
• Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue glue stick
• Sewing thread to match or contrast fabric
• Edge/joining foot for sewing machine
• Pilot Fixion iron-away pen or air-soluble marker
• Optional: 1/4-inch-wide silk satin ribbon in contrast color

How to fashion the pleats:
Using an iron-away marking pen, mark all tuck lines on front and back skirt pieces. Seam allowances are 5/8 inch for this pattern. NOTE: Marking lines will disappear when ironed; use air-erase marker if you want marks to linger while working the remaining steps.

Figure 1

1. Starting from one side of front skirt piece, fold in pleats as indicated on pattern and press (fig. 1). Fold back pleats, and lightly glue-baste just under area where pleats come together for about 4 inches. Fold pleats back to meet and press to set glue. NOTE: Always test the heat of your iron on specialty fabric before pressing the actual project.

Figure 2

2. Using an edge/joining foot and a right needle position of 1.8 (approximately 1/16 inch from pleat fold, stitch down right pleat for 4 inches, pivot, stitch across two stitches and stitch back up the left pleat while guide blade rides in between pleats (fig. 2).

3. Repeat for all pleats on front skirt and back skirt. Stay-stitch across tops of skirt to secure pleats. 

It’s as simple as that. When the glue washes out, the pleats will slightly open along the edge, but this adds a design element.

Sewing for a Royal Baby is available to purchase from the Martha Pullen Store. The book features 22 elegant, royal-inspired designs and includes patterns, smocking plates, step-by-step instructions, technique tutorials and much more! Read more about the book below and from all of us here at Sew Beautiful, Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

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