Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Now that your pleater is cleaned......

You are ready to start pleating!!

Here are a few tips to get you going.
(Photos in this blog have been taken using the ComPleater Box available through Amberlane
16 Row Read Pleater and ComPleater Box

Begin by removing all needles not required for pleating your fabric from the machine. This saves wear and tear on the needles not being used and could prevent breakage. It also allows you to check these needles for a bent one or other damage.

Needles for most projects are positioned at the ‘non-handle’ end so only the fabric being pleated passes through the machine. To thread, pull the thread up from under the needle. Pull through the eye of the needle sufficient thread to reach the table top. By allowing this amount of thread, you are far less likely to have the thread pull out of the needle(s) when clearing the fabric. Threading from the bottom up allows you to easily clear the thread from the needles when pleating is complete. But more about that later.

On the right is a side view of a Read 16 row pleater mounted on a ComPleater box, pleater tipped up for ease of pleating. The fabric is rolled onto a dowel and has started to pass through the machine.

Here you can see that the fabric was positioned to pass through the pleater  rollers so the first gathering thread is one full space down from the raw edge of the fabric. This allows for a ½” seam allowance which will fall just below the first gathering thread. Passing the fabric at ½ space from the raw edge would allow you to use a smaller seam allowance. 

The needles in this photo on the left are full and need clearing. When this happens, you will find the handle harder to move and the machine will sound like it is starting to ‘thump’. Do not force the handle any more. Stop and gently ease the fabric off the needles.

Below you see that the fabric has been cleared from the needles so you can carry on pleating.

Here the pleating is done and the last of the fabric is cleared from the pleats. If you slightly raise the fabric you can slip a finger in between the threads in the needles. Keep in mind that the thread on the top of the needles is the short end (not attached to the thead spools) Gently pull up on each of these threads to remove them from the fabric. See the close-up below. You may wish to put a thumb nail on the needle to give some support while pulling the thread out – just to prevent bent needles.

Once the threads are released from the pleater, you can simply pull up and give yourself enough thread to accommodate the letting out of pleats for smocking. More will be needed for a bishop but once you have spread the pleats and tied off the threads, you can trim the unwanted ends. You will learn to gage how much thread you need but it is better to have more than insufficient.

With the Read pleater you will find that the pleating rolls so that the wrong side is the ‘inside’ of the roll. The long stitch is on the wrong side. When you pleat with a Read pleater place the fabric so that the wrong side of the fabric is ‘up’ or next to the roller. This allows you to see a seam more easily if you must pass one through the machine. 

24 row Sally Stanley pleater threaded to pleat an insert.

The fabric is positioned to hold 13 rows of gathering threads centered on the fabric. Leaving the extra two needles on the ends, ensures more even pleating. (I cheated for this and eft all the needles in place.) Below the fabric has been cleared from the needles. The pleating is evenly centered.

On the right you see the difference in the pleating from the Read to the Sally Stanley. The needles of the Sally Stanley are much closer to the center of the pleat and it is more difficult to identify the right and wrong sides. The long stitch is still the wrong side. Just note that fabric should be pleated with the right side facing up so the gathering threads are slightly to the back of the fabric.

Here is another type of insert done on a 24 row Read pleater. Sometimes you want to pleat a piece of fabric with the pleating centered in the middle of the fabric, leaving a ruffle on each end (e.g. for decorations).

Lightly press the fabric in half so you can line up the fabric to a needle or a half space while you are pleating. In this example six needles have been threaded up and the fold is lined up to a half-space needle as a guide.

Whatever you choose to pleat, a light shot of spray starch will give you better and crisper pleats. Keep your pleater clean and pass some waxed paper through occasionally to lubricate it. And most of all, check your needles often for bends or damage. Needles should be sharp; keep in mind they don't last forever.

I  hope this is a help to those of you who might have questions about pleating for smocking.
So until next time, keep on stitching!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring is here - it is time to clean your pleater!!

Cleaning your Pleating Machine!

Bet this job rates right up there with cleaning your sewing machine and/or serger. (And when was the last time you did that little job?)

Never fear, cleaning your pleater takes only a few minutes when you have everything organized.

You will need a clear space to work some Q Tips, a few facial tissues, an old tooth brush, some sewing machine oil, the right kind of screwdriver to fit all the screws in your pleater, and a sheet of waxed paper.

So let’s get started….
First you will need to loosen the screws that hold the toggles in place to secure the removable roller.
Don’t take the screws out just loosen them enough to remove that roller. Some machines do not have a screw but a ‘pin’ that holds the bar in place.

                                    Lift or roll out this bar. And set aside. This is roller #1.

Next remove all the needles. Line them up or ‘nest’ them to check for any that are bent and discard those needles in a safe manner. Set the remaining needles aside on a tissue.

Now turn the machine over to remove the feet which hold the end bracket in place. You are going to remove the ’non-handle’ end bracket.  Unscrew the feet and set them aside also. Grasp the bars as you turn the machine upright again.

Slide the bracket and bars apart and set the bracket to the side. Now you can remove the two removable bars. Set them aside along with bar #1.  Note that with most machines the length of the end pieces (the part that fits into the brackets) is longer on the last two bars so it is harder to

mix these up. Set the bars so the double spaced needle holes are at the same end. If you have a machine that is double space all the way, try to keep the bars in the same order as they were in the machine.

To clean the ends of the bars, remove any threads that have wound round them and moisten a Q Tip with oil. Wipe the ends with the Q Tip and then with a tissue. There will probably bel lots of black from the brass transfer to these two. Clean the non-removable bar in a similar manner. Brush the rollers with the toothbrush to remove any lit or other bits.
See what kind of  'black' you can get and all the bits of thread
Next clean the holes in the brackets where the rollers sit. Swab them out with a Q Tip loaded with oil. These will probably blacken the Q Tips as well. 
Wipe the base and if necessary moisten a cloth and wipe it down.

Now you can start to reassemble the pleater.

Tip the pleater up on the handle end to reposition roller the three rollers starting with #3.

Replace the bracket by slipping the roller ends into their holes. (This can be tricky but take your time.)

Grip the bracket to the base and tip wrong side up and replace the feet. Tighten the screws that hold the feet in place.

Turn right side up. Check that all the double space needle holes all at the non-handle end and give the handle a twirl. It should move smoothly now that everything is clean and oiled.

Load the needles. Wiggle the handle slightly to settle the needles in place then replace the last roller (the removable roller). Turn the handle once more time then tighten the screws that hold the toggles in place (or slip the pins in place). You might want to back off the screws a bit from tight so the rollers turn freely.
Run a tissue through the pleater to absorb any excess oil lest some soil your fabric.
Lastly run a piece of waxed paper through the pleater to lubricate the needles. Be gentle removing it though lest you bend a needle.
And now your pleater is ready to get to work!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The new pattern, "Spring, A Lady's Nightie", is ready!!

It's ready to go, ready to ship at long last!
My newest pattern,
Spring, a Lady’s Nightie,
is back from the printer,
folded, stapled and stuffed into the zip-locked bags a labour of love.
Inspired by beautiful Victorian corset covers,
this nightgown offers a view for both heirloom sewers and smockers.
You will work with beautiful French Val laces and exquisite Swiss embroideries
to create a gown of quiet elegance. Choose fine batiste, luxurious silk
or delicate handkerchief linen for a gown with custom fit.
Tucks, gathers, entredeux and reverse lace shaping
are all employed in this design.
Suggested stock numbers are listed in the pattern
but you can use antique laces or other laces that match the widths.
View A, the original heirloom gown, features tiny tucks across the front.
The same scoop-neck back is used for both views.
View B has been added for smockers.
There are three designs requiring only double fullness.
For a regular smocking design,
it is easy enough to increase the width across the front.
The pattern instructions are filled with lots if illustrations and a few unique tips for construction.
Give it a try and see if this doesn’t become one of your favourite gowns!
This is an intermediate to advanced pattern and makes a wonderful class. 
I taught it several times before turning it into a pattern.
Students came back to make a second or third gown
having worn out the first they had made!
I will be adding it to my SAGA approved class selections.
And yes I do travel to teach!
Visit my website, www.amberlane to order.
So until next time,
keep on stitching!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What more can you do with a Ruler?

Back in the days when I was learning about pattern making and drafting we used a transparent flexible ruler with red lines forming a grid of eight inch increments. They have become my favourite type of ruler and are much more accurate than the thick and ridged quilting rulers.

These were most handy for many jobs and now they are available in more sizes. Whenever I am near a drafting store, an art supply store, a fabric shop or a sewing machine store I always check out their notions wall for more of these wonderful rulers. I am forever hopeful of finding yet another size or the opportunity to stock up on a couple of sizes. These rulers do become brittle and darken with age so that they are subject to snapping if bent.

The most common size is 2” x 18” but you will find 12” x 2”, 12” x 1” and 6” x 1”. I’ve even found a right angled ruler like you might find amongst a man’s work tools. One ruler I bought years ago was half metric and half imperial. The rulers with red markings seem to show up much better than the occasional rulers you might find with blue markings.


I love the little 6” ruler for small jobs and drafting doll patterns where the 18” or even the 12“ might seem too big.

So, you say, what can you do besides measure with them and draw straight lines?
First, if the ruler you purchased has pinholes down the centre, you can use it to draw circles or arcs. And since it is a ruler you can so easily calculate the radius and circumference of the circle you have drawn.

If you wish to measure a curved line the ruler bends allowing you to measure at a glance (depending on how long the line is and how tight the curve). You can only bend it so far but you can ‘walk’ it around a really tight curve.
You can easily find the centre point of a line (if it is less than 18”) by using the markings that measure from 0 down the centre of the ruler.
Not centred yet...
Done and centre is marked.
It is great for marking a right angle for short distances. For longer lines use a right angle ruler.
Drawing a right angle to a line.

Verify with a right angle ruler if available.

Add ¼” SA
Add seam allowances to a stitching line. Match up the line for the width of the seam allowance to the stitching line and pivot along this line, drawing the cutting line as you go.
Add 1/4" or 3/8"

Smooth the line when finished, if necessary.
Here ½” is being added with the right angle, all in one step thanks to the ruler’s transparency.

The only weakness I’ve found is that if I use these rulers with my rotary cutter, they can become nicked or the blade can cut into them. Then they no longer give smooth, perfect lines. I keep old rulers for just this purpose and make sure they are marked so I know which one is which!
There are probably more ways to make use of these wonderful rulers. But this is lots for now.
Next time you are shopping in the notions department why not pick one up and start experimenting!
Be sure to keep stitching! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Closing of Grace L. Knott

The company “Grace L. Knott Smocking Supplies Ltd.” is closing on April 30, 2015. This space in normally reserved for creative things but I need to put this posting out there to set a few things straight. 

There seems to be a misconception that I own GLK or that the company owns my patterns. Neither is correct. If I may give you some history perhaps this will set the record straight. 

Back in 1988 I went to work for GLK and three other Canadian companies as a sales representative. Shortly afterwards George (Grace’s grandson) asked me if he could publish a Christening Ensemble I had designed to feature the fabrics and laces from Capitol Imports. That began a 27 year long relationship during which I designed new patterns or reworked Grace’s old patterns to bring them up to date, add new views and add smocking designs to them. 

In 1998 I created the Grace Knott Doll’s Clothes Collection – miniatures of the GLK children’s patterns and a dress form pattern all to fit the very popular American Girl Doll. I owned these patterns but because I was working for GLK it seemed the natural thing to let my patterns be distributed through the company. This was my first endeavor and I continued on using my company’s name, “Amberlane & Amberpetites”. This was before company web pages took off and people were buying ‘on line’. Over the years my patterns were usually listed as being GLK patterns. Try as I might, no one was interested it seemed in correcting the situation on their web pages. 

When George decided for the second time that he was retiring in 2015 he asked if I would take over distributing his patterns and I agreed. Then he received an offer to buy his stock and the rights to his patterns in early March 2015. He took back his goods and I no longer am his distributor as of that date. Out of respect for the negotiations between George and the new owner, Maureen Marian of California, I chose not make any announcement regarding this matter. 

So yes it is true. George Webb, Grace's grandson is retiring and closing the company Grace L. Knott Smocking Supplies Ltd. April 30 – forever, sad as it is. The company has a history of over 80 years in business. This ends our 27 year working arrangement and I am sad to see the company close. 

I hope this clears up some of the confusion regarding this transaction. Maureen now owns patterns, books and rights to all his patterns. I wish Maureen, 'Katie & Claire", every success and the best of luck in her new venture. I look forward to doing business with her and you, of course.

I am still in business under the name Amberlane & Amberpetites (

And you can still order dots and GLK patterns from “Creative Sewing and Smocking” (


Thank you for taking the time to read this little post.
Judith Marquis

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fun Ribbon Headbands for Infants

These little headbands are so easy to make and all the rage. You can have one in every colour to match or coordinate with every outfit! The more you do the faster and easier it gets……

I was doing a little housecleaning of file cabinets and drawers the other day and came across the instructions for making the braided ribbons. I had made a headband with this technique a few years ago when silk ribbon first came on the scene and tucked it away – I keep everything hence the need to deep clean!!

So for 18” of ‘braided’ ribbon you will need about 4 yards of ” ribbon - I chose a lightweight double-sided satin Offrey ribbon which I purchase on a roll at “Michael’s”.
Find the middle of the ribbon and hold it with the ‘tails’ hanging down. Fold it in half with the left side crossing over the right side. [I’ve used pins to hold the ribbon so I can photograph the steps. I did find it was easier to start the procedure with a pin to hold the ribbon for the first few loops then pick it up in your hands and work ‘free hand’.]


Now slip a loop of the ribbon that crossed over through the main loop – see the photo. This is the only hard part of the ‘braid’.
Next step is to fold a loop of ribbon from the left ribbon (see photo) and slip it through the previous loop. Gently pull down on the right ribbon tail to tighten it around the new loop.


So basically all you are doing is creating continuous loops through which you are slipping a new loop.

When folding the ribbon loops simply fold the ribbon back on itself – don’t let it twist.

Be gentle with the ribbon – don’t crush it when you tighten the ribbon tails.

Keep the tension even and occasionally give the chain or braid a little tug to pull it into a straight line.

When you have enough braid or have reached the end of the ribbon, pass a straight end of ribbon through the last loop. With needle and thread (to match the ribbon) take a few stitches to secure the end of the ‘braid’.

If you know the head size of the child double check the measurement and join the ends of the braid – if possible overlapping them. Take a few stitches to be sure they are securely joined.

The braid will have a natural stretchiness that won’t ‘die’ the way elastic will over time. This is good as you don’t want the headband to be too tight – it should sit on the child’s head so the she forgets it is there!!


Now you can add a decoration such as a circular ruffle of lace with a concertina ribbon rose in a contrasting colour stitched to the centre.

Or you could attach a pompom over the join; perhaps a pretty bow or a button.

If you quilt, make a ‘yo-yo’ to match or coordinate with the outfit.

Just don’t have anything hanging down that will tickle or draw attention to the fact that she is wearing a headband.

There are so many ways to finish the headband that each one you make can be different. Have fun with these!!
Afterthoughts: I found some beautiful variegated ribbon that would make an amazing headband but th piece was just a bit too short! I’ll keep a look out for more like this and other interesting ribbons.

That led me to wondering what would happen if I used two colours of ribbon.  This gives a sort of checkerboard pattern.
Imagine all the trims you could make with two colours!
Wider ribbon makes a much wider trim and there are lots of places besides headbands to use it such as necklines, hems, even napkin rings – let your imagination run wild!!
So till next time, keep stitching…..