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Three Methods Used to Pleat Fabric
Author: Posted on:2013-6-26 16:45:29 Hits:

There are three basic methods used to pleat fabric, hand, pattern and machine.  These methods can be used individually or they can be combined in various methods to yield different result and textures.

1. Hand Pleating – This method would encompass folding a piece of fabric pleat by pleat to other hand techniques like shibori which employs the use of ropes to bind and compress fabric.

Hand pleating fold by fold becomes much easier with tartan, plaid or striped fabric since the repeat in fabric is used as a guide to assist in the folding.


Image courtesy of CMStewartWrite.


Today this process of hand pleating is still practical but only in certain situations.  Below is an example of pleating being draped on a dress form for a particular style.  This is most common during the designing process when a designer is experimenting and draping on a form.  If the dress will be duplicated a special pattern can be created to speed up the process during production.


Image above courtesy of Esayel


When the bodice of a dress is pleated and very contoured around the body a seamstress will pin the pleats one by one on the dress form with a piece of bias fabric.  The side pleated bodice below is an example of difficult hand pleating and cannot be duplicated by machine or pattern pleating.

 Image above courtesy of Nasya.


2. Pattern Pleating – This method of pleating employs the use of a cardboard pattern or a tool referred to as a “pleaters board.”  Pleating boards are still used and sold today but mainly for the home sewer.  Fabric is stuffed into spaces on and then pressed with a steam iron.

Below is an example of a DIY pleaters board.  (For instructions how to make one visit Lex.)  They are fairly simple to make but can be rather limited in use.  For smaller pieces or trimmings I can understand there use but for larger projects like skirts or dresses they can be very cumbersome.  If you are not very accurate you can start pleating the fabric off the grain.  When that happens your seams will be very difficult to sew from puckering and your pleats can start to curl.  If you  are the type of person that wants to do everything yourself then my advice is to go for it.  However, the pleat you can make with a pleater board is so basic we can save you a ton of aggravation and just pleat it for you for around $10 dollars per yard (depending on the fabric).


Image above courtesy of Lex.


Today the majority of profession pleating is done with the use of large pleating patterns spanning up to 4 yards in length.  Some of the more complex ones can take several months to make.  Certain types of irregular pleating can only be done by pattern pleating.  An example would be sunburst pleating or when a combination of two different types of pleating are used.  Below is an example of an accordion and herringbone (or chevron)  combination pleating pattern.



3. Machine Pleating – Last but not least is pleating with the use of a machine.  There are several different ways these machines are built to accomplish the task of pleating.  The machines we use at our factory have long blades that pinch the fabric across the entire width of the fabric and then folds it.  Generally speaking machine pleating  is the least expensive when making simple pleats like side pleat, box pleat or crystal pleat because they require less labor than other pleats. Another advantage to machine pleating is that the entire roll of fabric can be pleated and used for a variety of applications.  There are other couture type pleats that we make by machine as well.  These higher end pleats are usually a combination of two or all of the process just described.  The possibilities of mixing different pleating techniques are virtually infinite, and experimenting with then different techniques is something we love to do.


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