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Prep for Permanent Pleating 101

Saturday, January 09, 2016

I've always had a fascination for what can be achieved with a little heat and some petro-chemical fibres.  Permanent (heat-set) Pleating is the use of heat on polyester/nylon fabrics to set a pleat that will survive the rigours of wash and wear without the need of re-pressing.

'Pleats are categorized as pressed, that is, ironed or otherwise heat-set into a sharp crease, or unpressed, falling in soft rounded folds.'  wikipedia

Permanent pleating was developed after the second world war to exploit the thermoplastic nature of the newly invented nylons and polyesters.  Katie Davis Designs blog post: Pleats now and then covers a nice bit of fashion history and features some contemporary designers.  My experience in this field is with polyesters and polyester blends and they will be the focus of this post series.  

Although it's not my favourite fibre, polyester does have a set of unique properties that can be used to great advantage when making clothing.  For heat-set pleats to be successful, the fabric should contain a minimum of 45% polyester.  The best results (sharp pleats) are achieved with 100% polyester.

Your polyester of choice maybe anything from a chiffon (light, semi-transparent) to a light weight suiting to a duchess satin (medium weight, satin or de-lustred satin finish).  They'll all respond to the pleating process differently depending on their individual characteristics.  Polyester blend suiting will give you a crisp, sharp pleat and the chiffon will give you a soft but sharp pleat (see below). 

Duchess Satin (or de-lustered) is an industry favourite for evening and prom dresses.  Especially the 100% polyester version because it's a robust fabric that washes well at home.  Considering that I'm not a fan of satin shiny fabrics I always source the de-lustered duchess with a softer sateen finish.  The example below is a half circle skirt with gathers at the waist and an organza underskirt.  The Sunray Crush pleating further breaks down the shiny sateen finish.

If you would like to join me on this pleating journey, here is a list of things you will need to start:

  • Polyester fabric - no loose weaves!  150cm wide
    • half circle - 1m for knee length(ish) - suiting or de-lustred duchess satin.
    • rectangle for mushroom pleating - 2 x (skirt length + hem/seams) - chiffon.
  • Matching thread, zip, button and waistband interlining for the circle skirt.
  • Matching thread and waist elastic for the rectangle for mushroom pleating.
  • Pattern Paper
  • Pattern rulers, pencils & eraser.
  • Access to a pleating company that will work with single orders.  Most large cities with clothing manufacture will have one.  Some offer a pleating service via post.

I plan to investigate and demonstrate the Sun-ray Circle and the Mushroom Pleat Rectangle in this first series (second photo).  We'll be drafting half circle skirts and calculating three times our hip measurements to develop our pleated patterns.  Jump over to FB to chat about pleating and your pleating projects.  Join us if you have any questions or are simply curious. :)

Pleating Links:

The Cutting Class have many great posts about pleating.  This one is my favourite: Graphic Movement at Issey Miyake

Katie Davis Designs blog post Pleats now and then covers a nice bit of fashion history and contemporary designers using pleats.

If you would like to try this at home;  Nicole from the Beaufrog blog has a great post and video.

Sun-ray Pleating Video  Not the best quality videos but nonetheless it's useful to see the machine working.

Kathleen Fasanella (Fashion Incubator) has a very informative post on Pleating.

An article from Schon Magazine about Issey Miyake's Pleats Please range. 

International Pleating in New York have some great resources.  Checkout the samples gallery; it's amazing.  :)

Share this blog post:

Quaintrelle Georgiana commented on 10-Jan-2016 08:46 AM
I love pleated skirts, I am planning to try the technique someday on my own, wish me luck! What is fashion and what makes it fashionable? Find out in my new blogpost.
Anita commented on 10-Jan-2016 11:34 AM
Hi Quaintrelle, thanks for dropping by. I love your vintage sun-ray pleated skirt on your blog. In general I think fashionable just means currently popular. So many different looks, so many possibilities. :)
kofoworola Agboola commented on 11-Jan-2016 05:41 AM
Hi Madam Anita! you have a heart of gold! thanks for all your generousity! am still making money from the draped skirt I learnt from your blog! about the pleating...we dont have a pleating company in my country..couldnt we DIY? perherps with an hair straightener? lol
Anita commented on 11-Jan-2016 10:09 AM
Hi Kofoworola, thanks for dropping by. I'm so pleased to hear the skirt is working for your business. I would love to see your work. :) Do you have any photos you could send me to share on the post? I love to feature works that have been inspired by my blog and have a dedicated pinterest board where you can see the work from all the makers using my posts - https://www.pinterest.com/studiofaro/studio-faro-makers/ I've found a video that shows one method to make knife pleats at home and have included the link above in the post. I'm sure there are other references on the web and will include any I find. :)
Mioara Cretu commented on 12-Jan-2016 12:22 AM
I like very much the skirts with pleats! I found an interesting tutorial:
Anita commented on 12-Jan-2016 10:56 AM
Thanks Mioara, I have included the link at the end of the post. :) It's a great tutorial for knife pleats.
Lauriana commented on 12-Jan-2016 11:17 PM
Pleating... I had already saved that link after I found it on the We Sew Retro Facebook group.
Here in the Netherlands, there is just one company left which does custom pleating. I've been thinking about it for years but I still can't justify the expense...
Anita commented on 13-Jan-2016 12:39 PM
Hi Laurianna. It's a shame to hear it's expensive for you. Here the permanent pleating charges are around AU$15-20.00 per metre/piece. So not so expensive. Do you think we are talking about the same process?
Anita - studiofaro commented on 25-Jul-2016 12:43 PM
Hi Sarah Brightmore, I'm so sorry but I managed to delete your comment with some spam. :/ I hope there is some way you'll see this answer.

However I do remember your question: I don't know of any chemical methods for pleating fabric. I'm only aware of heat used to pleat polyester fabrics. I do know that you can have silk pleated and I'm told they have to crack the silk yarn to make it work. Perhaps they use chemicals to do that?? Maybe someone reading this post and comment has more information they're willing to share on this issue. :)
joan commented on 08-Dec-2018 09:21 AM

Can I expand the size of a dress made of mid-weight polyester that has fine pleats? In other words, the top of the dress fits, but it is a tight fitting from the hips down to the midcalf, and that area is too tight and looks bad on me. I am not trying to flatten the pleats, but to expand and relax the hips down to the midcalf so that it doesn't cling. But I don't want it to hang either.
Please advise.
Anita - Studio Faro commented on 08-Dec-2018 10:28 AM
Hi Joan, thanks for dropping by. I'm not sure you can expand the size of the dress in the pleated area. If I understand your question, the fine pleats are opening up and not looking so good because of the fit. If they are knife pleats then I do understand the issue. As far as I know, there is nothing you can do to increase the size unless you have big seam allowances in the pleated skirt and you can let them out.
Grace commented on 03-Apr-2019 12:04 AM
Hi I am a designer now i am stressed about the Sunray pleating is for long 1st dressess I have 2 weeks left,please help.
Anita - Studio Faro commented on 03-Apr-2019 12:23 PM
Hi Grace, thanks for dropping by. I'm not sure how I can help. There are a few more posts on the subject on this blog. Sunray pleating is for circle skirts and you would need access to a professional pleating business to have the pleats permanently added to the fabric. If you are able to ask more specific questions I may be able to help.
Menna commented on 21-Apr-2019 11:30 PM
Hi all
I need your help answering my question
What is the required parameters for the steamer to fix the pleat in the fabric (time, tempretute, pressure) and is it adjustable according to the % of the polyester in the fabric ??
Thank you in advance
Anita - Studiofaro commented on 22-Apr-2019 12:05 PM
HI Menna, thanks for getting in touch. You would need to go to a professional permanent pleating company for these details. I always get my pleating done through a professional pleating company. Let me knwo how you go with your research. Anita

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All images, designs, photos and layouts on this blog are created and owned by Anita McAdam© of Studio Faro. They are available FOR HOME AND PERSONAL USE ONLY.  If you would like to use our content for teaching or commercial purposes please ask.  I have some amazing resources for teachers and manufacturers. ;) enquiries@studiofaro.com

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