Back Pleat with Lining

Very rarely do I look for something on the internet and don’t find it, but that was the situation when I needed a tutorial for a kickback pleat with lining.  I eventually worked out what to do by staring intently at a RTW dress of mine and scratching my head.  

Here’s the tutorial.  Enjoy (no need to hobble in that pencil skirt no more)!

How to Sew a Back Pleat with Lining

In this demo, I’m using scraps but on a dress or skirt, you start here after you’ve attached the centre back zip but not yet sewn the seam below.  The lining is loose and should be some 4cm shorter than the outer fabric.

1 Apply fusible interfacing to the pleat seam allowances of the outer fabric and lining.  With the lining, you only need to interface the seam allowance, not the body of the pleat (this is why it’s a good idea to keep scraps).  Use light to medium interfacing. 


2 Hem the lining


3 Apply tailor tacks at the point where the vertical and the diagonal stitching lines intersect.  Sew centre back seam to the tailor tacks.


4 Clip to 2mm of the tailor tacks


5 Pin lining to outer fabric, wrong sides together, matching seams and tailor tacks.  

6 Press under seam allowances of fabric and lining on left side of pleat only (i.e. right side of garment)



7 Pin and stitch


8 On the right side of pleat (left side of garment) flip fabric and lining right sides together and stitch down from the tailor tack 


9 Clip corner and turn right side out.


10 On the inside, place both extensions to the right (garment left) and stitch along the diagonal through all thicknesses.


11 On the left, hem so the fabric fold meets the lining.


12 Finally, hem the right side taking care when pinning so that the final fold faces down (out of view) and not to the left


13 Done And the outside:

Adding Seam Allowances

One of you emailed me with a question that got me thinking: how do you add seam allowances?  I wonder if it’s one of those things so simple that everyone assumes they know how everybody else does it.  I hope some of this looks familiar!

Method 1 With a Sewing Gauge

Adjust slider to the desired SA and place along the stitching line.  Draw little lines against the edge of the gauge.  Repeat at regular intervals and join with a ruler.

For curved areas, draw smaller lines at shorter intervals.  To join up, I go freehand: a good method if you haven’t a fashion curve (or prefer not to use one).  Turn the pattern so the line curves in towards you (i.e. not away from you) and with your elbow pivoting on the table and your hand still, turn your forearm in a smooth arc with the pencil skimming along the little lines.

Method 2
Using a Fashion Curve

Align the desired seam allowance with the stitching line and draw along edge.

As before, on curves such as the armscye, keep realigning and mark lines a little and often.


So far so simple.  But there’s more…


3 How to Add Seam Allowances to Darts

Draw seam allowances up to the dart (on both sides).  Pin dart closed, folded in the direction you want it pressed on the garment.  The seam allowances and stitching lines should now meet. Cut along the seam allowances.

Remove pin and the pattern looks like this:

Try not to skip this step or you may have a shortage of fabric in your dart when you come to sew the seam.

4 Adding Seam Allowances to Angles

When two stitching lines meet at a right angle, no problem: the SAs are also right angles.  It gets trickier when the angles are sharp, large or curves, for example in the neck to shoulder corner, or waist to side.  If you serge your seams, what follows is perhaps less of a concern.  If you press seams open or don’t trim the allowances much (for example, if you might need to let out a garment later), you may want to add the following to your method:

Step 1 Draw the Seam Allowances up to the corners but don’t cut.

Step 2 Fold the pattern back along the stitching line then cut along the seam allowance on fold.

Do this on all curves and angles that are not L-shaped: i.e. fold back at stitch line, cut on fold along seam allowance edge.

The opened up piece will have pointy bits like this:

When the seam allowance is pressed open after stitching, there is enough fabric to align with the fabric of the cross seam.


So, any revelations?  Did I miss any tricks?! How do you add yours?



Pattern Making Equipment

Here’s the equipment I use in drafting patterns: some essential, some items less so but I find that they help.  Most of these you’ll have already.  Please add to the list with your own favourites or suggestions.  Tips on favourite brands welcome!

1 Pattern Paper – Of any kind.  In the past I have used parcel paper, newspaper, greaseproof paper (great for tracing) and gift wrap.  Then I splashed out on 300m of the proper stuff which is tough and, given sufficient light and a decent eyesight, can be used as tracing paper.  I consider it one of my best investments: I save so much time by no longer faffing with scraps! 

Blogstalker mistrusts it.  The roll is like a big, heavy pillar.  Soon as it arrived, he peed on it like a doggy on a post!

2 Glue Stick for when paper pieces are not large enough or for mistakes.

3 Sticky tape – Two tips here.  Buy the frosty, “magic” tape that you can write on, not the shiny kind.  Also, get a dispenser as it’ll save you time when you need a piece in a hurry and your other hand is busy!

4 Paper ScissorsTips again! A) with long scissors, you’ll be more likely to cut straight lines accurately. B) If your fabric scissors look like your paper ones and you get them mixed up, tie a strip of bias or ribbon to the fingerholes of the fabric scissors and wrap some papery masking tape (painters tape) around the paper pair.

5 Long ruler

6 Mechanical pencils – a.k.a. propelling pencils.  I was sceptical but my tutor persuaded me to buy these so as to always have a sharp line (important for fine detail like darts).  Along with her recommendation for “frosty” tape, this is one recent adoption that I’m never going back on.

7 Rubber – otherwise known as an eraser!

8 Set Square – not an essential, but if you don’t have a fashion curve, this is great for drawing accurate right angles and parallel lines (tutorial soon).

9 Tracing wheel – tbh, my plastic one leaves hardly an impression.  If you need to buy one, a Toothsome Tracey is a better alternative.  Or, place two layers of fabric between paper and the table and the teeth can sink in.

10 Sewing gauge – for marking seam allowances.  Useful if you’re not yet up for the commitment/expense of buying a fashion curve.

11 Bradawl – you can also use a pin, the point of a pencil or a compass.

12 Tape measure

13 Calculator – good for calculating dart width , e.g. when making the Basic Skirt Block.

14 Fashion Curve – this does many things: mine has a 50 cm ruler, seam allowance markers, bias markings, curves for neckholes and armholes.  Not all fashion curves are the same (mine’s from Shoben) so think what you would like to use it for before you buy.  One feature I particularly like is the centring scale, e.g. for finding the centre of a dart, you place the crosshair in the approximate middle then slide it until the measurements are equal on both sides of it.  Quicker than a ruler and calculator!  This is another purchase where I had to bite the bullet, hoping the expense wasn’t an indulgence but I quickly decided it was worth it.

Finally, if all this looks interesting but scary, check if there are any classes at an adult education college near you.  If there isn’t, phone up and ask for one!  You never know, somebody else may have done so too and interest in all things sewy is on the rise.  I’m currently voting for a tailoring course!!


Indian Pink Dress

If it wasn’t dripping in healthy colour, I’d call this my “Frankenstein Dress” as I’ve stitched it from 3 tutorials and in the spirit of experimentation.  The Sleeves I made back in October (don’t worry, I’ve kept them in the fridge!), the Bodice is from Pattern Magic 2 and the skirt is based on Adele Margolis’ “Pegged Skirt” instructions in my favourite drafting book

A pegged skirt is wider at the hips than at the hem, the shape of a typical clothes pegA tulip skirt is a more fashionable term for pretty much the same.  If you’d like to create the tulip effect using darts for shaping and if you want to ensure that it fits you well, it’s easy enough to draft with the Basic Skirt Block as your starting point.  Tute below. 

Pegged trousers could presumably be drafted by a similar method, with the darts changed to pleats.  It’s a very eighties look though, best avoided by the less than willowy!

The fabric I used is calico, dyed Powder Pink with a tiny pinch of blue (a gloved pinch, I hasten to add: this stuff isn’t good to handle).  I was aiming for a dusky pink but got a richer, deeper shade I’d like to call Indian Pink, or maybe Honeysuckle.  I had no luck finding a matching concealed zip but eventually settled for a lapped one.  To me, lapped zips are a bit of a forgotten skill so I referred to this great tutorial.

The dress was a pleasure to make and soon as I realized I was happy with the fit of the pegged skirt, I adapted the pattern to make a full lining.  The sleeve lining was stiffened with interfacing to help retain some rigidity in the square shoulders.

Tutorial: Drafting a Pegged Skirt

Step 1 Begin with the Basic Skirt Block (make a muslin to make sure it fits you).  Draw a straight line from dart point to the corner of side and hem.

Step 2 Cut along the line and close dart.


Step 3 Draw two new dart lines in the area between the centre front and the original dart.  They should be about 4-6cm in length, depending on your size, with the inner line being longer of the two.  As for their exact position, it’s up to you.  You could draw them and place the block against you to see what looks ok in proportion to you.



Step 4 Cut out the area between the lines drawn in previous step.  Open out the two parts of the block by hinging them at the side-hem corner.



Step 5 Place pieces on a larger sheet of paper.  Separate the two major sections by a distance of 4.5cm (or 5cm for bigger sizes) in the area of the original dart point.  Place the smallest piece in the gap and draw two new darts on each side of it.  This is the fiddliest bit, but you can move the middle piece about till each of your darts has equal leg lengths.


Step 6 Fold darts toward centre and redraw the waistline, keeping close to the original and smoothing out any jaggedy bits.  Draw seam allowances and the hem allowance (notice my rubbish short hem allowance?  I ran out of paper!  Don’t do that!).  Draw a fold line to complete the pattern and cut out.

Step 7
Repeat all of the above for Skirt Back, remembering to add the centre back seam allowance in the final step (if that’s where your zip will be).