What Are Box Pleats And How To Sew Them – Part 2

How to sew box pleats without pressing.
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In my previous blog post I described sewing box pleats: hem the fabric, draw vertical lines, pin or baste the fold and press the fabric. However, you can make box pleats without pressing the fabric and create a soft look of the final folds.

These unpressed box pleats have the same properties as the pressed ones. They add fullness to a garment or its part. You can use them to make a full pleated skirt or simply as decoration for different clothing – for example, tunic, skirt, dress hems, or sleeve cuffs. As they are easier to make, they are also much less time-consuming.

This page contains a box pleats calculator . It computes the fabric consumption based on the required dimensions.

Scheme of box pleats without pressing.

In this tutorial you will learn the following:

Tools needed to make pleats

  • Ruler
  • Textile marker
  • Pins

Suitable fabric

As you are not going to press the fabric, you can use almost any fabric you like. Both woven and knit fabrics are suitable. However, avoid thick fabrics that would create too much bulk at the top of the folds (velvet, corduroy, thick denim, etc.).

Both woven and knit fabrics are suitable to sew box pleats without pressing. Knit fabric will drape nicely.

In the images below you can see examples of different fabrics used to sew the same skirt. You can notice the difference between them. Choose a fabric that most suits your design intentions. As you can see, Duchesse satin as a stiff fabric, makes the pleats stand out. A medium-weight knit jersey drapes splendidly and forms soft folds.

Different pleated skirts with unpressed pleats.

Fabric preparation before sewing

Prepare the fabric for sewing by washing, drying, and pressing it.

Do not finish the raw edges of the box pleats in the place where they are going to be sewn to another pattern piece. Doing so would add too much bulk to the folds (see the images below). If your fabric frays badly, finish the raw edge AFTER you have completed the pleats.

Do not finish seam allowance before making box pleats.

Formulas to calculate fabric consumption

Consider the size and depth of the individual box pleats before you cut your design fabric. By pleat size, I mean the width of one box pleat front. By pleat depth, I mean how deep you fold the fabric under the box (see the schemes below).

Calculate fabric consumption for box pleats according to the following formula:

fabric width = number of box pleats ⨯ (pleat width + 4 ⨯ pleat depth)

fabric length = pleat length


Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowances.

Box pleats calculator

Unpressed box pleat dimensions.

Calculated fabric consumption for box pleats

Box pleat fabric consumption.
Box pleat fabric consumption.

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowances before cutting fabric.

How to fold fabric: Sewing box pleats

1. Mark the left-hand side seam allowance

I usually start at the left-hand side by marking the seam allowance. This way I know where the first crease of the box pleat will go (see the image below).

Marking seam allowance on fabric that is going to be pleated.

2. Draw pairs of markings on top of the fabric

Using a ruler and textile marker, draw pairs of markings on the RIGHT SIDE of the prepared fabric. The distance between individual markings is determined by the box pleat width and pleat depth (see the images below).

Drawing marking pairs on fabric.

Make sure your textile marker can be washed out from the fabric you use to draw box pleat fold lines.

3. Connect the pairs of markings

Connect the pairs of markings drawing a short line. You do not have to draw them all the way down the fabric, about 10 cm (4 inch) line is sufficient. I like to add little arrows (or triangles) on the lines that will be folded and moved to create a pleat (see the images below).

Connect pairs of markings that will become pleat folds.
Fold direction for box pleats.

4. Fold and pin the fabric at the markings

At the top of the fabric take the marked line and move it towards the line without marking. At this line, the edges of the box pleat will meet (see the image below).

Folding fabric to create a box pleat.

Pin the folds you have made. Add extra pins into the middle to hold the folds under the box pleat in place (see the image below). The pins in the center hold the fabric in place and prevent it from being folded in the opposite direction while sewing.

Pinned box pleats on pink knit jersey fabric.

5. Sew the top of the box pleats

Now that you have pinned the box pleats, sew the top of them. Use a straight stitch on your sewing machine. Also, finish the seam allowance at the top if necessary.

You can use the stitching as basting and remove it after you have sewn the pleats to another pattern piece. Or leave it hidden in the seam allowance.

At this phase, you can finish the seam allowances at the box pleats top if necessary. Use an overlock machine or a standard sewing machine to do so and continue with your project.

As you can see, the pleats have a softer look than the pressed ones. Also, they may be slightly different at the hem (see the images below).

Pink knit jersey skirt with box pleats.
Skirt with box pleats without pressing.

Conclusion: Sewing box pleats

With little effort, you can create soft and visually appealing folds in quite a short time. The outcome is rewarding, isn’t it?

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