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How to Thread a Smocking Pleater

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Using a smocking pleater is a quick and easy way to prepare for smocking. Though styles vary, a basic pleater consists of four grooved, horizontal rollers secured between end plates. Specially shaped needles sit in slots between the two front rollers, while turning a handle draws the fabric into the rollers, forcing it onto threaded needles, where it emerges from the front side in uniform pleats. Threading a smocking pleater is essentially threading multiple needles one after another, and knowing the basics can help you accomplish this task with ease.

Things You'll Need:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Scissors
  • Quilting Thread
  • Smocking Pleater

Starting from the first needle on the left, insert thread into the eye from top to bottom.

Pull the thread through the needle’s eye until it reaches 10 to 14 inches in length.

Unwind the other end of the thread off the spool to desired length and clip.

Pinch the eye of the needle to prevent unthreading it as you pull both ends of the thread toward you.

Move this thread straight out or slightly to the left to prevent tangling with the next thread.

Repeat with subsequent pieces of thread, moving from left to right, until all needles necessary for your smocking pattern plus two holding rows have been threaded.


Placing your finger or a piece of white paper under the eye of the needle as you thread it will make the hole easier to see. The exact length of the thread is not critical as long as it is sufficient to pleat the fabric to the desired width and have enough left tie off both ends. However, longer threads have less chance of pulling out before you get them tied off. Threading the first and last needle (holding rows) with a different color thread makes identification easier.


  • Keep the "tail" of each threaded needle from getting tangled with its neighbor, or you may end up with knots and have to rethread some or all of the needles.
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