Getting somewhat realistic looking pleats on drapery for dollhouses without a miniature pleater can be a challenge. It’s difficult to get fabric to conform to a 1/12 inch scale.
This DIY dollhouse curtain pleater is made using bamboo sticks mounted onto a a board. It is inexpensive to make and can be reused indefinitely. The finished pleater is 11 inches long and 1 inch wide, which is the width needed for one curtain panel. You can make your pleater as wide as needed, but it is easier to work with smaller pieces.
In the picture below, the finished window treatment is 4 3/8″ wide with the drapery panels on either side being 1″ inch wide and 7″ inches in length. Both drapery panels as well as the sheers were pleated.
There will be additional tutorials posted for making your own dollhouse miniature window cornices, twisted cord trim and tassels.
Supplies Needed To Make DIY Curtain Pleater
- Bamboo sticks
- 1″ x 12″ hard, waterproof strip of board (as backing to mount bamboo sticks)
- Adhesive spray
- Polyurethane spray
- Hot glue
- Large binder clips
- 4 credit cards
12″ Bamboo sticks
Bamboo is less likely to absorb water and swell than standard wooden dowel rods. The quality and smoothness of the the bamboo sticks varies; the ones at the grocery store seem to be the roughest. Surprisingly, the ones at the dollar store have always been smoother, straighter, and worked best.
Hard, waterproof board sections
The board is used for mounting the bamboo sticks. It needs to be waterproof so that it doesn’t lose its shape after repeated uses and washes. Thick plastic rulers or kitchen cutting mats work well. I used the extra slats from faux wood blinds.
The adhesive spray is used to mount the bamboo sticks to the board. Having tried several brands of adhesive spray, the 3M 77 spray adhesive has held up the best.
The brand probably doesn’t matter, but it should be oil-based. I prefer Minwax oil-modified polyurethane. The polyurethane spray is used to seal the pleater as well as smooth out any small gaps between the bamboo sticks and the board. It also makes for a smoother, non-stick working surface that is less likely to snag fabric. The spray will need to be gradually applied in several coats and allowed to fully cure between coats.
If you used enough polyurethane spray, you might not need to use hot glue. It’s actually better not to use hot glue, especially if you’ll be heat setting the fabric. But after repeated uses, the bamboo sticks will shift a bit and/or lift up at the ends. Securing the sticks at the ends with hot glue is one way I found to extend the life of my pleaters.
Large binder clips
Large binder clips will help clamp the bamboo sticks into position until everything has dried. I also use the binder clips to combine several pleaters together when I need to make a wider curtain panel.
4 Credit cards
All those fake credit cards that come in the mail and empty gift cards will finally come to good use. The credit cards are used for spacing the bamboo sticks. I’ve found that the ideal distance between each bamboo stick is the thickness of two plastic credit cards. The spacing has worked great for cottons, satin and silk. If you will be using a heavier fabric, you will need to adjust the spacing of your bamboo sticks so that they are further apart. You’ll use the credit cards to even space out your bamboo sticks.
Assembling the dollhouse pleater:
- Cut the bamboo sticks to 11 inches in length.
- Cut a board or slat to 11 inches in length and apply a heavy coat of adhesive spray to the top.
- Place the bamboo sticks on the board. Use 2 credit cards as a spacer guide between each bamboo stick.
- Place a large binder clip on each end of the board to hold the bamboo sticks in place until the adhesive has cured.
- Once the spray adhesive has fully cured, begin applying several coats of polyurethane. Allow each coat to cure before applying the next coat.
- If necessary, apply a heavy strip of hot glue over each end of the board to prevent the bamboo sticks from shifting during use.
Tips for using your dollhouse curtain pleater board
Stiffen your fabric before pleating
If you add your stiffener after you’ve pleated your fabric onto the board, there is a good chance you’ll have uneven coverage.
By stiffening and drying your fabric first, there’s a lower likelihood of shrinkage during or after the pleating process.
Some stiffeners literally just glue your fabric to the board, making the curtain almost impossible to remove. That’s less likely to happen if the fabric is stiffened first.
Hem the bottom and one side of the curtain before pleating.
Use a small mister bottle to wet your stiffened fabric as you press it into your pleater.
Pin the hemmed side of your curtain panel to the edge of your pleater, then begin pressing in the pleats using a pocket ruler.
Use the pocket ruler to continue pressing in each pleat. Use the bottom hem as your guide to keeping the fabric straight.
Once the curtain is dry, gently lift it out of the pleater. You can now gauge whether you need more hairspray. Press the curtain back into the pleater and use an iron to heat seal the pleats and to create a crease for the unseamed side of the curtain panel. You can hem the unseamed side after removing the curtain.
For more information on stiffening your fabric, see How To Stiffen Fabric For Dollhouse Curtains
Use credit cards or small pocket rulers to press your fabric into the pleater
I started off using credit cards, but they were a little cumbersome to hold down one pleated section while working on the next. It worked, but it was a slower process. I now use two 6″ stainless steel pocket rulers as pictured below (after removing the pocket clips) to gently ease the fabric in between the bamboo sticks. The rulers make the process so much easier and the results are always consistent.
You will want to work with the fabric and let it guide you during pleating. If the fabric stretches too much, some pleats will look gathered or bunched up.
Test how well the curtains hold their shape by gently lifting up a small section of the fabric to inspect the pleating. You should be able to push the lifted section back into place fairly easily. Repeat this for the remaining sections of the curtain until you’ve confirmed that everything has been pleated. This process also helps unstick any stubborn sections of fabric from the pleater board before you apply the final stiffening method.
Once you’ve lifted off your entire curtain and replaced it on the pleater board, apply a final stiffening method. This will vary depending on your fabric, but is usually either a heat set with an iron or a light coat of hair spray.
If your fabric isn’t holding its pleat
Some fabrics, especially thicker synthetic or stretch fabrics and laces are harder to pleat than natural cotton or thin satins. You may need to try a different stiffening method, combine stiffening methods or also try heat setting the fabric.
If the fabric is even slightly damp when you remove it from the pleater, it will lose its pleats. The fabric should be completely dry before attempting to pull it out.
Don’t force the fabric into the pleater. If you stretch the threads of the fabric too much, it’s harder to retain the pleated shape after drying.
Don’t forcibly pull the fabric out of the pleater. Gently ease and lift up small sections of fabric at a time.
Wash your pleater board in between each use
If your fabric is getting harder to lift off the board, there’s probably a built up layer of stiffening agent.