There are actually a couple different ways you can accomplish perfectly pleated polka-dots, but I am going to focus on the method that I recently discovered that worked like a charm for me!
Sooo, just how did I accomplish that?!? Well, it's really quite simple, but you are going to have to step outside the box to accomplish it!
I used the Children's Corner Bishop pattern and this brown polka-dotted fabric by "Brother Sister", available at Hobby Lobby.
The first thing I did was clip the fabric and tore it on the straight grain to see how straight the fabric was printed.
Not too bad, but if you look closely, it is just a little off - keep in mind that just this tiny bit of being off will reek havoc for you if you tried to pleat it. So here's the secret:
Fold the fabric on the bias and look how the dots line up magically!
I have placed my pattern piece on the fabric that is folded on the bias (45-degree). Notice how the pleating dots are all running perfectly straight with the dots on the fabric. This is very important because if those pleating dots don't line up with the fabric dots, then it won't pleat with the dots running straight around the neckline.
Also take note how the side seams are also running straight with the fabric dots.
Before I cut my sleeves out, I laid my cut front (and back pieces) on the fabric to make sure that I cut my sleeves out on the same dotted rows as the front (and back) pieces. This will guarantee that my dots will run evenly all the way around the neckline.
I have positioned my sleeve piece where it needs to be cut and now I am ready to cut them out.
I am now ready to sew the shoulder seams and I am making sure that the dots will all line up before I stitch the seam.
I like to use my serger to sew up a bishop, taking a really small seam, which will keep me from getting those ugly seamline bumps - check out my no bump bishop tute for more information about that.
I have pressed my seam open and look how nicely the dots lined up in my seam! Once all the pieces are sewn together, you are ready to run the dress thru the pleater. Once pleated, it should look like mine!
Remember, the entire dress is cut on the bias, which is how I got all my polka dots to run in a nice straight line all the way around the neckline. Another thing to keep in mind, depending on the pattern that you use, is to make sure the fronts, backs and sleeves are all cut straight across the top. Some patterns have a bit of a dip - you will need to ignore the dip and cut it straight. When the dress is pleated, everything will be nice and straight and the eye will be drawn to both the beauty of the smocking, as well as the beauty of the polka dots running straight all the way around the dress!
This method is not only for a bishop - try it with a yoke dress too! You might ask "Why not just cut not on the straight grain, but following the dots to keep things straight?" I guess you could do that, but if the printed fabric is off by quite a bit, you are going to notice the fabric grain running crooked when you cut out your pattern. Cutting on the bias keeps it all on the bias and the fabric will lay very nicely and the grain lines will look nice too! Call me a perfectionist, but little things like that bug me and I always strive to have grain lines looking good!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial - I would love to have some feedback on what you think and please share my blog with your sewing friends!