Basics of Garment Construction: Pleats, Tucks & Gathers

Happy Saturday, readers! Today, I'm bringin' you part 2 of our Sewcabulary: Basic Garment Construction series and we'll talk about pleats, tucks & gathers. 

Ready? If you have your sewing book handy (I recommended some in part 1 of this series) go ahead and grab it. I would also recommend looking through your closet (or better yet, your sewing pattern collection if you're starting to collect them, that is) to see where you can find these techniques in your clothing, or the clothing you want to make. 

Let's begin today with a quick synopsis of what pleats, tucks and gathers are. All three techniques are method for creating fullness in a garment. These techniques are often how we get "poofy-ness" in our skirts, dresses, and puff. 


Gathers are when we create three (some sewists may tell you two is fine. It is fine, but I highly recommend three) rows of stitches, pull the top thread for each stitch and smoosh our fabric together along those seams to create fullness. We see gathering most often at the top of a skirt, or where the skirt of a dress meets the bodice. We also see gathers in sleeves just above the cuff, or at the shoulder. 

Let's look at this blouse to begin. (I made this and you can find more information about it here). Can you spot where there is gathering?

Inside the white circle is where this blouse is gathered. I gathered the peplum (another good Sewcabulary word!), or the bottom part, of this blouse to the bodice (the top part). This allows the peplum to puff out when I put it on. 

Let's look at another example. (More on this dress, made by yours truly, here)
Can you find where this dress is gathered?

Actually, while we're at it, this dress has some great components, and good sewcab words, so I'll add them here. Don't panic! If you don't know these words, it's ok. We'll cover them all in another lesson. I promise. 

The gathering on this dress happens where the skirt of the dress meets the yoke. Remember yokes? We briefly talked about them in the last sewcab lesson, and we'll cover them again. These gathers allow the bottom of the skirt to 'poof' out from the tighter-fitting areas above the skirt. 

So, that's what a gather looks like. Any questions about that? Awesome, ask below or shoot me an email! Moving on!


Ok, so according to my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, "Pleats are folds in fabric that provide controlled fullness. Pleating may occur as a single pleat, as a cluster, or around an entire garment section." (pg 166)

Let's look at a single pleat first. I made this skirt, and it features a lovely single pleat in the back.

Here's a closer look. The pleat on this skirt is mostly cosmetic. But, let's think about pleats that serve a function. Maybe you've owned a very tight 'wiggle' dress (I love the imagery of that phrase), or a pencil skirt that was slim around the knees. Sometimes, these close-fitting garments have a pleat near the knees to make walking more comfortable. This skirt is so large around the hem that I definitely don't need it to walk, but it just looks darn cute.  

So now let's look at a dress where a pleat does serve a purpose. I did not make this dress. It is by Kate Spade's Saturday line and I purchased it at Marshall's, so I'm not sure where you could find it. 

We're looking at the back of the dress here. Do you see the pleats here? Found 'em?

Here's another look. 

The pleats on the back of this dress allow room for my rear, and make sitting significantly more comfortable. These are not for looks. They are brought in at the waist, so that the dress fits tightly there, and then are released after the waist to allow room for the hips. 

See how these create fullness? In at the waist, out at the hips.

Ok, one more. I recently made this blouse, and added pleats in the back to create a bit more shape. 

When this blouse is on, the back puffs out away from my lower back. When pressed, these pleats are considered "knife-edge" or "sharp-fold" pleats. They are pressed in towards my lower back from each side. Again, these are cosmetic, because this blouse is very loose-fitting, but they still create fullness at the bottom of the blouse. 

There are SO many kinds of pleats. Let me overwhelm you for a moment (if you're not already!). Soft-fold, sharp-fold, top-stitched, edge-stitched, accordion, inverted, and box are the types of pleats I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's more. Have a really awesome garment with something you think is a pleat? Share it here, or on the PDG Facebook page. I love pleats and I love to see how they're implemented in garments even more. 

Ready for the last part of today's lesson? 


Any guesses where the tucks on this blouse might be? (A hint: there in 3 total locations)

The tucks along the center front of this blouse are the best example, but technically, there are three small tucks located near each shoulder as well. 

Tucks are most commonly used for decoration, though they can serve a purpose for fitting too. The tucks on this blouse are only for looks and don't affect the way it fits me. 

According to my fave sewing book again, "A tuck is a stitched fold of fabric that is most often decorative in purpose, but it can also be a shaping device." (pg 164) A very common kind of tuck you have probably heard of is a 'pin tuck', these are very very small tucks that look beautiful on the front of blouses and dresses. 

Ok, Palindrome fans, there we are! If you have questions, as always, please ask them below or send me an email (contact info on the 'Say Hello!' page above). 

If there are specific techniques and terms you'd like to learn, please let me know.  Thanks so much for reading and have a fantastic weekend!

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