How to Use a Pleater for Smocking
Mechanical pleaters save artisans from aching fingers and countless hours of extra work. Pleaters are mechanical tools that allow artisans to add uniform pleats, or gathers, to the fabric in large numbers rather than sewing each one individually. Once the pleating is completed you can add a variety of embroidery stitches sewn over the pleats; this is known as smocking. This ancient technique is used to add decorative details to articles of clothing, home decor and decorations. Although artisans may do the pleating mechanically, genuine smocking calls for the embroidery to be completed by hand, according to the Smocking Arts Guild of America.
Install the needles. Use the number of needles, in the spaces required, for your project. Follow the manufacturer’s manual for installation directions.
Thread the pleater needles with strong polyester thread. Use your fingers or a threading tool.
Roll the material onto a wooden dowel or a magnetic feed-rod dowel.
Insert one end of the fabric-covered dowel through the left side plate. The fabric can feed from the top or bottom position of the dowel. Push the dowel to the left than set the other end of the dowel in the right side plate.
Adjust the dowel so the fabric feeds off the dowel and into the section of the pleater you are using.
Line up the center of the fabric with the middle needle.
Set the front edge of the fabric in place between the two back rollers.
Turn the knob a quarter turn clockwise to feed the fabric into the pleater. If the fabric is crooked or wrinkled, turn the knob counterclockwise and start again. Do not attempt to back the fabric out of the pleater once it reaches the needles. This can result in needle damage and breakage.
Adjust the dowel or fabric, while turning the pleater knob, to keep the fabric straight and to eliminate wrinkles.
Turn the knob, clockwise, in quarter turns. Stop when the fabric builds up on the needles.
Ease the fabric off the needles using your fingers and continue turning the knob.
Continue steps 10 and 11 until all the fabric has been fed through the pleater.
Pull the thread through the needles and cut them with a pair of scissors. Avoid cutting the thread too short or you will be unable to knot them.
Gather two threads in one hand and two threads in the other hand and knot them. Continue making knots until all the thread on one side of the fabric is knotted. Follow your pattern to finish and use the pleated fabric.
- For pleaters with two handles, turn the handles together or alternate turning the left handle and the right handle to keep the fabric straight.
- If the thread breaks, or pulls through one of the pleats, use a threaded embroidery needle and redo the pleats using the holes left by the pleater needle.
- Remove the needles before storing the pleater.
- Pass scrap fabric through the pleater before using or after oiling to remove excess oil.
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