|This tip was requested when I mentioned using my homemade pleater in a recent purse review.
I'd seen the commercial pleaters for sale, and thought they were neat, but I didn't want to spend that much money, especially considering how seldom it might be used. So I decided to make one. If you'd like to make one too, you'll need:
heavy duty foil
duct tape [thick heavy tape that can withstand heat]
thin cardboard [like a file folder]
see-through ruler [as long as the foil is wide, or you'll also need...]
a yardstick or other straight edge as long as the foil is wide
a dull pencil or a nail file, for "scoring"
The first step is to pull out a good length of the heavy duty foil. The pleater can be as wide as the foil is wide [18"]. The length you pull out needs to be three times as long, as you want the length of your pleater [the length of the pleater determines how many slats or louvers it has, and therefore how many pleats it can make].
As you can see in the link above, you'll need to decide how wide you'll want your pleats, and the return between each pleat. To keep it simple, I made mine with 1/2" pleats and a 1/2" return.
Now this next step will take some time and patience. Using your see-thru ruler, near the beginning of the edge of the foil, score a straight line across the width of the foil. If your ruler isn't as wide as the foil, slide a yardstick up against the ruler, so you know it's straight, then use the yardstick to run your dull pencil or nailfile against, to do the scoring. You want the scoring to leave a nice dent in the foil, but don't press so hard that you make a hole in the foil.
Using the see-thru ruler to measure, slide it over 1/2" from your first line, and score again. Repeat this, every 1/2", for the whole length of your piece of foil.
Once it it completely scored, using the ruler or yardstick as a helper, start to fold the foil into the pleater board slats or louvers. Skip the first line, fold the second line down, then fold the third line up. This makes one louver. Then skip a line [4th], and fold the next line [5th] down, then the next line [6th] up, forming the second louver...repeat for the entire length of foil.
I found it easiest to fold against a yardstick, lifting the foil up...this means I flipped the foil over every other time I folded. Run your finger against the yardstick, to help form the foil into each fold.
Cut the file folder into 1/2" wide strips that are as long as the foil is wide. You'll need one strip for each louver.
Turn the foil over so the louvers are on the bottom. Carefully slide a cardboard strip inside each louver. This is to reinforce the foil. Once all the strips are inside the louvers, cut pieces of duct tape to lay over the entire back of the board, covering it completely. This will hold the strips in place, and reinforce the whole thing, making it sturdier.
Trim off any excess tape, so none of it shows on the front. Remember that you'll be pressing on this with your iron, so the only thing that should be on the front of the board is foil...and the fabric you're pleating.
Tip...I also made a 1/4" version of this, with a 1/4" return. This one doesn't work very well, because a 1/4" return just isn't quite enough. It's difficult to get the fabric to stay under the louver. So this board is really only good for the finest or thinnest fabrics. Learn from my mistake...if you want a board that makes 1/4" pleats, make it so the return is at least 3/8", so it'll be easier to use.
Tip...the straightness of your lines, and the spacing between them, directly corresponds to the straightness and spacing in your pleated fabric. If you're picky [or nuts ;)] like me, you really need to be patient and measure/score the lines as perfectly as possible.
3-11-08 Updated to add...the thicker the fabric, the more difficult it will be to pleat. Thinner fabrics stay under the louvers better. Some fabrics need to be pressed in place each time it's tucked under a louver...other fabrics can be tucked several times before pressing. Practicing on scraps [of different types of fabric] will help you to learn how to use this tool.