Friday, January 7, 2011

Pleating a Bonnet

A few girls in my smocking chat group (Learning to Smock) have requested some instructions on pleating a bonnet to use in the class I'm doing in about a month. I will try to give detailed, but simple instructions so any who have never smocked before can feel like I am sitting right there next to them. So here we go girls:
1. Cut a piece 9" X 40" of whatever fabric you want to use for your bonnet. I used imperial batiste. If you want to use 100% cotton, go right ahead. I just like to use a fabric that has very little wrinkling. I used a rotary cutter, a 6" x 24" acrylic ruler and a self-healing mat to cut my piece. If you have never used a rotary cutter before, practice cutting a few skinny strips of fabric like muslin, just to get the hang of using a rotary cutter. When using a rotary cutter, you must use a self-healing mat. Otherwise you will definately ruin the surface you are cutting on. Also on a safety note, when using the cutter; please keep the guard on until right before you make your cut. Right you make your cut, replace the guard. The blade is a razor blade. Let's not have any trips to the emergency room. That kind of puts a crink in your plans.
2. Next fold the piece in half so that it measures 9" x 20". Take a wash out blue marker and measure up 1 1/4" from the bottom edge with your ruler and mark a line; pictured below. To get a close-up view, click on the pictures.

3. Next roll the piece on a dowel.
We will be using 7 half spaces on the pleater. Five spaces are for the smocking and two spaces are for the holding rows. Use long enough pieces of thread so you can spread out the piece to hem the ruffle or add lace. Thread your pleater with a color of hand quilting thread. Since I love to do mainly pastel fabrics, I have black or navy hand-quilting thread loaded into my needles. Lots of people will use orange thread, but I hate the color orange with a passion. Anyway, use whatever color you would like to, just make sure it has enough of a contrast to your fabric. Sorry the next pic is so yuck of a color.
Match the blue line up with the needle on the right. As the pleater needles fill up, gently pull the fabric off the needles. The heavier the fabric, the sooner you will need to empty the needles.
4. After you've pleated your piece, measure up 1 1/8" from raw edge and unpick the pleater threads. As you can see I use a steel crochet hook to do my unpicking. It makes the unpicking part really easy.
5. Tie your pleater threads on one end in groups of 2 or 3. Tie the threads on the other end all together. This is just so you can next work on the hemming part of your bonnet.
6. You can do your hems a variety if ways (by hand, serged or folded over twice and machine stitched). I chose to do some serge and fold over, then machine stitch and some to fold over twice and machine stitch. For heirloom bonnets, always do hems by hand, it looks better. I used about a 1/8" - 1/4" folds. I pressed the folds before sewing. Pressing makes a HUGE difference in your finished project. I always use a short stitch length on my sewing machine, usually 2.0.
7. Hem three sides. The side opposite the pleater threads will be the casing for the back tie. I folded up 1/4" and then again at 3/4". I used a seam gauge for this part. Stitch very close to the edge of the fold.
8. Now it's time to pull up the pleater threads to measure 8". Notice I have pinned the bonnet to my ironing board on both sides. The side with the pleater threads all tied together in a lump is the side you want to pull up. I've also stuck a pin thru my tape measure to my board, this makes it easier to see when to stop pulling up the pleater threads. The pleats are all squished up on one end. That's ok, you will even them out in a minute. I also used a straight pin to get my knots on the end of my pleater threads very close to the end of the last pleat. You can tie your threads to the back of you want. It does keep them out of your way. But I just like having them on the front. There's no right or wrong way. However is best for you, it is YOUR bonnet after all.
9. Ok, now move the pleat across your threads and even them out. You can now starch the pleats or use a couple bursts of steam on the pleats. If you starch, let it dry over night. With steaming, let it cool completely then take the pins out and you are now ready to start smocking.

I hope this tutorial was easy to understand. It's kind of hard remembering put in steps when I do this on automatic pilot. If any has any questions at all, email at and I will be happy to answer you. I love reading comments from everyone. Happy stitching, Jan


Laurie said...

Very nice tutorial! Thanks too for posting on my blog!

Jan said...

Thanks so much Laurie, coming from you that means alot to me.

The sewing room said...

Hi Jan great tutorial,what size hat is this please and could you tell me more about what you do to the back of a piece of smocking for picture smocking ,i could realy do with some help with this as i have never done this befor i am not to bad with ordinary smocking but would like to venture a bit further by putting some pictures on.

Many thanks Pat

Jan said...

I will eventually some stuff on picture smocking, but like you it's not my favorite thing. When picture smocking, on the back you need to do cables every whole space row. That will give stability to your project and keep all the pleats together after you remove all your pleats together after removing the pleater threads. The bonnet I did the tutorial for is a newborn to 3 months size.

Kristina said...

I have a question, Jan. In step 2 you fold the fabric and mark the line. Do you then unfold it to put it on the dowel or do you leave it folded? It appears that you unfold it but what is the purpose of putting the blue line on only half of the piece? Thanks.

Jan said...

Yes you do unfold the fabric and then put on the dowel. Sorry I forgot to add that to the tutorial. Glad you brought it to my attention.

The sewing room said...

Thanks Jan look forward to that.

Hugs Pat.