Step #4 for the Cosmo Bag is all about making the decorative pleats on the external main panels. It’s actually pretty easy and simple! If you’re new to making pleats, just take your time and be sure to pin your fabric well so that you can baste the pleats in place for Step #5.
The first thing you have to do is determine your exterior main panel piece’s center line and the easiest way to do this is to fold it in half. You will want to fold your fabric piece with the wrong sides together and be careful to match it up so that all the points and edges match up evenly.
For real beginners, you won’t see this term used in the Cosmo Bag instructions, but in sewing there is a very simple technique called “finger pressing”. Finger pressing is just as it sounds… you press the fabric with your fingers and you get a very light pressing effect without using your iron. When working with cottons, and especially interfaced cottons like this bag pattern, finger pressing is really effective to get small steps completed.
I like to very lightly finger press my center line so that when I open the piece back to its full size, I’ll be able to reference the center line without the need for any chalk lines. The instructions tell you also place a couple pins on either end to help mark that center line.
Now that you know where your center line is on the fabric, you can more easily lay the pattern piece properly on the center line (remember we cut the piece on the fold, so our pattern piece is only half of the full fabric pattern piece). I like to line up my pattern piece on my fabric piece and then anchor the pleat lines with pins before I mark them.
The instructions in Amy Butler’s Style Stitches says to use tracing paper, but because these lines are so small, I find it easier to simply flip up the paper slightly and mark the lines (i.e. transfer the markings) with my water soluble chalk pencil. With my pins anchoring the pattern paper, I’m able to use this method and maintain accuracy of the pleat lines.
Then, to transfer the pleat marking lines to the other side, simply flip the pattern piece over, line it up to the center line, and follow the same procedure. The only difference is that you have to pay attention to the lines through the wrong side of the pattern paper and this is why I find my pin anchoring technique to work particularly well.
The instructions for the Cosmo Bag then tell you to match the pleat lines… except it’s not described very clearly. It’s also slightly confusing because the pleat lines are all solid. If I were to redraft this pattern, I would make the first external pleat line a solid line, the next line in a dotted line, and so forth. In dress making patterns, when we make pleats we become accustomed to bring the solid line to the dotted line.
In this case, you can pick either side of the center line and the line that is furthest out to the outer edge of the fabric is the one you will bring in toward the third line from the center. You’re making the pleat on the outside of the bag, so what I like to do is fold the fabric, right sides together, matching up those lines. When the lines are matched up, I fold back the top layer and pin it together to create the pleat. You can also gently finger press your material so that it lays flatter and you can check on your pleat alignment.
Since there are no illustrations in the book for this step, the following photo should help you determine if your pleats are folded correctly. If your pleats match the picture, you’re good to go!
If your pleats do *not* look like the picture above, take your time and re-do them until they do look like the picture above. It’s a lot easier to unpin and re-pin the fabric at this step… *before* basting. Speaking of which, that is our next step! I like to start at one end and use a long stitch to baste all the way across to the other end. Easy!
You will notice in the Cosmo Bag instructions that Amy Butler always instructs to back stitch at both ends, even when basting. It might feel tedious at times, but this is a small stitching detail that will help immensely! In future steps you will have so many layers and curves happening, that the last thing you will want is your basting unraveling on you. You will also want to pay attention to the seam allowance measurements for basting vs. stitching — they are important!
That’s it for step #4… up next is the step that *everyone* has problems with! I’m going to make sure you have some better visual reference for that step. If you have any questions about the pleating for this bag, post a comment and let’s start a discussion!
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