Project 6 Stage 4 – pleating

Following gathering, pintucks, piping and slashing I turned to pleating. I’ll say upfront that the results are much less dramatic than earlier techniques.

I wanted to continue with my study set of seven fabrics, and also chose a technique that captures organic pleat-like texture rather than formal measured pleating. It’s based on my memory of a technique in McGehee’s “Creating texture with textiles”, although I didn’t go back to the book to check details.

This photo was taken partway through the process. Each fabric sample was thoroughly wetted, then squeezed out and twisted tightly. The twists were held in place using elastic bands while the fabrics dried – which turned out to be a mistake as a number of the samples show stains which I think came from the contact with (old) elastic.

Some days later when they had dried, I opened out each piece of fabric, carefully keeping some of the pleats and folds in place. I recently got a steam press, which really sped up the steps of first flattening the fabric, then applying a bonding layer (misty fuse for most, and a heavier product for the heavier materials), and finally bonding the pleated material to a flat piece of the same fabric type.

This is the organza, photographed on a matt black surface to help show up the effect of the pleating. The organza gives a lovely crisp effect and the overall look is very textured even though the piece is in fact pretty much flat. As always, I like the way different numbers of layers of fabric causes varying opacity and colour. This particular example looks like a rough sea. It would be interesting to try a piece pre-dyed in a range of sea colours, possibly layered over other fabrics or items.

The tissue silk has a soft texture. It could work very well to suggest the mossy surface of a tree. In the photo above the sample is draped over the nozzle of a bottle of glue. I hope you can see that it drapes and folds softly, and certainly feels a very stitchable surface although I haven’t tested it.

In the smaller photo you may be able to see some of the unfortunate staining I mentioned.

The paj silk maintains its customary sheen, although being basically flat I don’t see the amount of movement in light that has been in previous samples. On the plus side, it doesn’t have the same issues of crushing. I wonder how well this light fabric would stand up to stitching. I think in the right colour it could really add to the surface interest in the work we did in Effie Mitrofanis’s class (blogged here, 27 July 2012). Perhaps I could experiment with one of the stitches that are mostly worked above the surface, like raised chain band, and try to put the base stitches in areas closely bonded to the supporting fabric.

Cheesecloth. Look at those interacting grid lines of the cloth! In my first set of photos I actually had the sample upside-down, and didn’t realise until trying to follow the lines. The sample is light and airy, but much more stable than the original cloth. It looks good layered over other things – concealing, revealing, distorting… It’s very light, so could be used to create texture or modify colour without weighing down a work. Perhaps it could create the impression of the haze of distance, giving depth to an image.

The cotton shows deep texture – but also unfortunately bad staining. After the other results it feels heavy and dull. Handstitching would be close to impossible, and machine stitching would be challenging. I think it would be easy to break a needle or get the foot caught in a pleat. Playing with the sample in my hands, it becomes more interesting when curved around so that some of the pleats stand away from the surface. I suppose if one wanted to create a very 3-D tree bark effect it would be worth trying.


The final two samples, the panne velvet and hessian, are just plain dull. Dull, dull, dull. Possibly it’s the scale of the samples – it was difficult in such heavy materials to get pleating in that space. Also using the same fabric as the base doesn’t make much sense in these heavy materials.

McGehee, L.F. (1998) Creating texture with textiles, Krause Publications.

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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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