Saturday, January 9, 2010


Ok, so I decided to make a tutorial about the “back-and-forth” pleats I showed in my last post.  Camera in hand, I pulled out a scrap of fabric, full of good intentions and cheerful optimism.

Now I know why I had made a firm resolution to never do tutorials.  Oh man.  The lack of coherency.  The weird pictures.  The “WTF?” of it all.  And all for a tutorial that no one is likely to read.

And then I thought to myself , “This will totally allow you to avoid taking down the Christmas tree and/or interacting with your miserable family for several hours… not to mention all the pattern-fitting that can be shoved under the sewing table.” 

A tutorial it is!

I’m calling these Back-and-Forth Tucks.  Well actually Katie is calling them that and I’m stealing it.  Gwensews says she’s heard them called “Mexican Tucks”, which when I Googled it came up with one hit from the now-defunct Creative Needle magazine.  I liked that magazine and was sorry it so precipitously went under, because they tended to have heirloom sewing techniques without the insane over-the-top weirdness that Sew Beautiful seems to go in for all too often.  It also means I can’t look up anything about tucks on their now equally defunct  website.  So, we’re going with B-N-F Tucks.

Step One:  Mark and stitch your pleats as normal.

Use whatever tucks or pleats your pattern calls for.  This method works on any type of pleats, but as you’ll see in a minute, it looks best on tucks/pleats that are set close together and are narrow.


Step Two: Start stitching the Back-and-Forth part


Start at the top of the pleats or wherever you want your b-n-f to begin.  Lower the needle into the stitching of the first pleat and then stitch across to the fold of the last pleat.  Be sure you have a tail of bobbin and needle thread on both sides when you start so you can tie a knot at the back.   Pull the threads to the back and tie off each row as you finish so that the stitches don’t pull out when you move on to the next row.  Here’s the back of the first row (sorry for the blurriness).

first row back tieoff

Step Three: The Next Back-and-Forth

Press or hold pleats in the opposite direction and stitch next row.  You’ll find that there’s a point of least resistance for where to place your second row of stitches.  The wider your pleat, the further apart your rows will need to be or the fabric surrounding your pleats will warp like crazy.



Keep working until you reach the end of your pleats or to where you want to stop.


You can see some of the warping on the surrounding fabric in this shot.  Here’s a set with narrower pleats:


The far right and far left rows are 1/2” and 1/4” tucks.  The center row shows actual 1/8” pintucks.  Pintucks work best for this technique because they’re so narrow.  However, in this example I placed the tucks quite far apart and there is a lot of “blank” fabric space in between.  This shows up the b-n-f stitching a lot.  If you don’t like this look, you can do this method in a different way that looks really cool with pintucks.  However, it requires hand-stitching.

Supplimental Steps: Handstitch the Back-and-Forth Tucks

hand tack start

To start, knot your thread and bring it up from the back and through the fold of the tuck.  Then take a tiny “bite” of fabric next to the tuck and tighten the stitch.  Take three or four more tiny bites in the same spot  (being sure to catch different threads of the fabric or you will make a hole in it).

Here are some finished rows with machine stitching,  hand tacks (in contrasting color—in a matching color they don’t show up much), hand tacks with a seed pearl attached and, at the end, french knots in 6 strands of embroidery floss.


The french knots are worked exactly the same as the tucks, coming up through the center of the fold and then down through the fabric next to the tuck.  These are really pretty and delicate and would be totally cute on a baby dress.  Or a grown-up dress, for that matter.


And that’s my tutorial.  Sorry if it’s not exactly coherent.  My miserable family figured out where I’m hiding and now they’re demanding food.  Sheesh.  So needy.


  1. Those are very cool tucks. I ike them embellished with the beads. Tucks and pleats are very fashionable now.

  2. You are awesome!! Thanks so much for the tutorial. I love this technique and as soon as I get done with my current (me, me, me!) sewing obsession I totally am going to try this out for Myra.

  3. Thank the miserable family for sharing you, I love the handstitching with beads method! I will tuck it away in the deep recesses of my mind now, for future blouse-making!

  4. Love the hand stitches with beading. I might even be able to get over my thing about a hand needle for this technique. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Great tutorial! I like all of the different versions! I love the little beads!(more effort than I normally put into my sewing.....)

  6. French Knots, Freakin' Fabulous!

    Big in Japan

  7. Whoa! You're blowing me away! The seed pearls too, wow, they are gorgeous. It's very coherent, and you took a lot of photos. Thanks for thinking of everything. And thanks to the munchkins and Mr Beangirl for letting your hunker down and blog. They wanted dinner? Nice--it could be a lot worse, you could be neither missed nor wanted. But you're loved and wanted by them :) Doesn't sound miserable in the least :)

  8. Oh hey! What's this? 6 lbs? Another slid off? Hey, good on you Beangirl!

  9. IMHO tuts are generally a PITA. This one is generally great, so there! Ohhh, the sacrifice made by Les Miserables...LOL

  10. I can see an Easter dress in the making with the pearl adorned BNF pleats!! Thank you.


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