Sewing With Striped Fabrics: Sunburst Pleating

Hi Everyone! In Part 4 we wrap up the topic with a fun tutorial showing how to use pleats combined with stripes to create a beautiful sunburst effect! Shari is joining us to demonstrate this technique. Follow along and the try it on your own! 

Stripes are a naturally bold design element that can be manipulated with dramatic effect. This week, we are going to show you how you can actually bend stripes in a fabric by sunburst pleating a circle skirt. The illusion of bending the stripes doesn't require pleating, but the pleating gives a more dramatic effect.

This method will work with just about any circle skirt pattern. I will be demonstrating on three variations from the Pixie Faire catalog. Keepers Dolly Duds 1950s Circle Swirl pattern has a wide circle skirt that is gathered into the waistline of the dress for added fullness. Forever 18 Inches Not! For Knits Circle Skirt has a fitted waistline. Sew Urban's Handkerchief Skirt is a circle skirt where the hemline is cut in a square. Many of you just picked up a copy of the Handkerchief Skirt pattern on Freebie Friday a few weeks ago, try it our on that pattern to see how easy this project can be!



  • Fabric and Notions from your patterns Materials List
  • A piece of thin cardboard, like from the back of a notebook or cereal box
  • Ruler
  • Fine line permanent marker
  • Pushpin
  • Freezer paper, enough to cover the entire skirt when laid flat
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Fabric starch – Use your preferred commercial starch or homemade version to lightly starch your skirt fabric. Here are the recipes for my two favorite homemade starches for this project:

Homemade Fabric Starch Version 1
In a saucepan, dissolve 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch in 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cool before using. This starch produces a nice crisp pleat that isn't overly stiff. Increase or decrease the amount of cornstarch for more or less

Homemade Fabric Starch Version 2
Mix 1 part white distilled vinegar with 1 part distilled water. This is a very light starch that makes nice crisp pleats with minimal stiffness to your fabric.
Follow along in the video below to watch the entire process of creating the pleating template ad setting the pleats. 



Here's a breakdown of the entire process as well:
Step 1: Assemble you circle skirt, following the pattern instructions. This includes any hemming, stay-stitching, gathering stitches, or facings that can be done
before attaching the skirting to the bodice or waistband. One edge needs to be left open as this makes it easier to pleat. For the handkerchief skirt, I needed to add a cut line at the back of the skirt.

Step 2: For nice crisp pleats that hold their shape, it is important to treat your fabric with fabric starch. Dip or spray your circle skirt thoroughly with your preferred fabric starch. Lay the skirt flat on a towel, smoothing out as many wrinkles as possible. Allow it to air dry.

Step 3: While your skirt it drying, make your Sunburst Pleating Template. Measure the diameter of your skirt and cut a piece of freezer paper large enough to cover the entire skirt. If the freezer paper isn't wide enough, you can fuse pieces of freezer paper together by overlapping the pieced edges of the freezer paper plastic side down by about 1/2” and pressing with a hot iron. Do not use steam. Do not use tape as the tape will melt during the pleating process.

Step 4: Measure the diameter of your skirt to find the radius (½ the diameter) and cut a 3/4” wide strip of cardboard that is at least 1” longer than the radius to make a scriber.

Step 5: Use a push pin to poke a hole about 1/2” from one end of the scriber, this will be the pivot point.

Step 6: Measuring from the pivot point, mark your scriber at 3/4” 2”, 7”, and the length of the radius of your skirt. Use a thumbtack to poke a hole through each

Step 7: You will be using the thumbtack to hold the scriber in place at the pivot
point while you work, so be sure your working surface is protected with a cutting mat or a thin piece of cardboard. With the paper side facing up, tape the corners of your freezer paper to your working surface.

Step 8: Push the thumbtack through the pivot point and position it on the freezer paper where you want the center of your template to be. Starting with the outermost hole on the scriber, poke the tip of a fine tip permanent marker through the hole. Holding the thumbtack firmly, draw the first circle. Repeat for the holes at the 7” and 2” marks.

Step 9: Line up a ruler with the center of the circle and use a permanent marker to draw a diameter line. This line will mark the center front and center back of your template.

Step 10: Position the thumbtack in the pivot point of the scriber where the diameter line intersects the 7” circle. Use the marker in the 3/4” hole to mark the position on the circle. Move the thumbtack to the mark you just made and make another mark. Continue this process until you reach the other side of the diameter line. With this many lines, small human errors can add up so that the last section ends up being a little small. This is a minor issue that can be remedied by splitting the difference with the previous mark.

Step 11: Draw diameter lines through each mark by lining up the marks with the center of the circle.

Step 12: Cut out your template out along the outer and inner circle lines and the center back line.

Step 13: Once your skirt is dry, lay it right side up and lightly press to smooth out any wrinkles. With the plastic side down, center the template over the skirt, aligning the center front . Press with a hot iron to adhere the template to the skirt. This template can be reused, but if the bottom edge is longer than the skirt, trim off the excess paper along the hemline so that the paper doesn't get fused together when pressing the pleats. Extra freezer paper at the waistline and back edges can be left as they usually don't pose a problem.

Step 14: Fan fold the skirt along the marked lines, pressing as you go. Once you have fan folded the entire skirt, take the time to press both the front and back to set the creases of the pleats. When you are finished pressing, fold the skirt up and set aside for at least 15 minutes to cool and set.

Step 15: Carefully peel away the template. If necessary, do some touch-up pressing to sharpen the creases.

Step 16: Follow the instructions to finish your skirt or dress.



July 02, 2021

I haven’t tried laundering any of my pleated skirts yet, but what I gathered from all my research is that the starch makes the pleats permanent on most fabrics. Now, this doesn’t mean that they will look clean and crisp after laundering, but the crease lines should remain. Kind of like the creases in a pair of dress pants. You’ll still need to take the time to iron each pleat, but the crease lines will make it easier.

Pamela W
Pamela W

June 22, 2021

This is a really wonderful tutorial, but I’m left with one question. If you need to launder the skirt at any point, would you be able to preserve the pleating at all? The starch would wash out I would think. Would spending time pleated for a while be sufficient to maintain at least some pleating after washing?

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