Drafting Pleats

The story so far:  in March, I made myself a top with a pleated neckline, drafted with lots of help from my pattern-cutting tutor.  Whilst far from perfect, Nicotine Surprise proved very wearable and since then, others have asked me if I’d show them how to draft something similar. 

And I said: “(Gulp) Yeah…?”

In preparation for the humbling feat, I redesigned the top and made Version 2 with 6 pleats instead of 8 and with facing instead of bias binding.  The pleats radiate outwards instead of heading towards the bust.  Also, I didn’t stitch them down as before, only forming them at the neckhole.  Once again, the process was quick and the result a much-worn wardrobe staple.

Having made Version 3, I’m still not an expert but I’ve laid out a how-I-done-it  for those who’re familiar with the bodice block and want to have a bit of an adventure adapting it into a top with some design interest and no closures.

This is by no means the definitive method of drafting neckline pleats – in fact, I’m already experimenting with another….


For drafting:

Your front and back bodice blocks with the shoulder darts moved out of the way (see here). 

Sleeve block and skirt block (not necessary for a vest top like Version 3)

Lots of paper and a little bit of tracing paper.  Numberprint Marker Paper has the virtue of being see-through in good light.  I often use salvaged packing paper from internet shopping (after a hot, non-steam press) whilst Greaseproof paper/Baking parchment is great for tracing.  See Sew Ruth for another paper tip.

Sellotape, preferrably the “frosty” Magic Tape that you can write on.

Pencil and a long ruler

Tracing wheel

For sewing

Approx 1m of fabric for a sleeveless version, 1.5m for a short-sleeved number.  Bias binding or, if making the facing, a small amount of interfacing. 

The process:

Tip on using the tracing wheel: if your tracing wheel is of the genteel variety like mine and not of the scary toothsome variety, place a couple of sheets of fabric, like a bedsheet, under your paper and your impressions will be more easily visible.

Nearly there…


When it comes to sewing the pleats, you can:

Top-stitch them.

Sew them on the inside, with the inner-most pleat the deepest.

Stitch them horizontally at the neckline and released below in Version 2 & 3 above.

Good luck and let me know how it went (it’s quicker than it looks…).

P.S. Check back here in a few weeks when I attempt to draft neckline pleats the Adele Margolis method!

6 thoughts on “Drafting Pleats

  1. I love how you say at first you were far from perfect and then give a professional and well detailed explanation with examples of how to create the pattern I felt like u were standing in front of me and showing me what to do while u explained, ur awesome thanks alot.

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