Box, Knife, and Inverted Pleats Tutorial

Pleats are formed when the fabric is folded onto itself. It can be formed from either the right side or the wrong side of the fabric. The most commonly used pleats are the box pleat, knife pleat, and inverted pleat. Pleats may occur as a single pleat, as a cluster of pleats, or around an entire garment. Each pleat requires a foldline and a placement line. The pleat is folded along the fold line, and the foldline is then aligned with the placement line. The depth and width of a pleat depend on personal preference and the style of the garment.

Box Pleats

Box pleats are most often used in skirts and on the centre back of men’s shirts. Box pleats can be used as a single pleat or in groups as seen in the photos. Each box pleat consists of two pleats of the same width, turned towards each other, either folded outwards or inverted.

Sewing The Box Pleat

Mark the right side of the fabric as follows:
Mark the centre of the fabric just inside the seam allowance and where the pleat is to be placed. Measure 4 cm (or an amount best suited to your style) on both sides of the centre mark.

Fold the fabric WRONG SIDES TOGETHER, matching the two fold lines up. Stitch from the waist to the hip, approximately 5 cm down, or as desired.

Fold the pleat to form a box pleat by placing the centre mark on the stitched line. Pin in place.

Stitch across the pleat using a large basting stitch to hold the pleat in place.

It is best to sew the hem of the garment first if the entire pleat is to be pressed.

Inverted Pleats

Inverted pleats are just the reverse side of the box pleat. It also has two fold lines which meet up at the centre. These pleats can be placed on the front or back of a skirt. Inverted pleats can also be topstitched to hold the pleats in place.

The reverse side of the box pleat (inverted pleat).

Topstitch the inverted pleat on the right side.

Knife Pleats

Knife pleats are a group of pleats folded in the same direction. They can either overlap regularly or be spaced at regular intervals. In some garments, you may see some pleats facing in one direction and the other pleats facing in the opposite direction, as seen below. Knife pleats can also be edgestitched to reinforce the break line.

Knife Pleat Marking Example

Mark the WRONG SIDE of the fabric using dressmakers carbon paper and a tracing wheel.

Bring the foldline and the placement line right sides together. Pin in place and tack through both layers.

Stitch the pleat right sides together, sewing from the waist down to the hip if so desired.


Machine baste the pleats in place.

Sew the hem of the garment first and press the pleats using a press cloth.

Edgestitching can be used as a decorative feature.  The stitching is done on the right side, up to the required length.  Pull the thread ends through to the wrong side.  Hand-sew or make a knot for a neater finish.

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