Tips from Paula Ellsworth on using a pleater to pregather fabric for English Smocking.
(English Smocking is a type of embroidery that decorates pregathered pleats. Smocking stitches are worked from the right side of the fabric with a small stitch taken at each pleat formed by the pregathering.)
Fabric: Use a length of fabric that is at least 2 1/2 times the width of the bodice on your pattern. Batiste, cotton, light linen, muslin, or calicos all work well. Roll your fabric loosely on a dowel so that it is easier to handle as you roll it through the pleater.
Paula keeps all her spools of thread in a box with holes drilled into the top. She uses navy for the top and bottom (above and below the design) and red for the design rows. Use a heavier thread, like quilting thread, so that you don't risk breakage.
Thread the needles all the same direction. Paula threads from top to bottom, (hold a finger under the eye so that you can see the hole to thread the needle through, it's difficult against the black bottom of the pleater). Also, she counts the rows from left to right. Remember to count the design rows, plus a top and bottom guide thread. My design has six rows of stitches, so we threaded 8 needles. One end of the thread remains attached to the spools, the other end should be about 10 to 14 inches long, and is not knotted, just left hanging.
Carefully begin rolling the fabric through the pleater and onto the needles. Be careful to keep it straight and to do it slowly so you don't break a needle.
As the fabric begins to come out of the pleater - be careful to continually move the rows of pleating down the threads. If too much backs up on the needles, it can jam and break the needles.
Copyright 2008, Paula Ellsworth & Sarah Jane Mason (All rights reserved)
(Pullen Pleater copyright - Martha Pullen)