Paper and pleats

After a somewhat uncreative week, it was a delight to spend Sunday back at Morley on a short course with Bridget Bailey called Introduction to pleating.

Bridget’s work featured on the cover of the first book I ever took out of Morley Library, a volume called The New Textiles (left). I was enthralled by the movement and colour she created in fabric, so the chance to do a course with her was too good to miss.

We started by dyeing a couple of pieces of cotton of different weights, because Bridget hates working with white. It was the first time I’d used Procion dyes on fabric, and it made me realise how quick and easy indigo dyeing is by comparison – no waiting around for an hour for the mordant and fixer to work. Obviously, however, you are not limited to blue with Procion!

After dyeing it, we coated the cloth with diluted PVA and left it to dry.

Then the fun part – making the paper moulds. To save time, Bridget provided a template, which we had to transfer to two pieces of cartridge paper by pushing a pin through both sheets, rather like artists used to do when making a cartoon. We didn’t sprinkle with soot, however – we joined the pinpricks by scoring with a scalpel on both sides, depending on whether the folds were mountain (folding away from us) or valley (folding towards us).

This is a bit tricky to explain if you’re not very familiar with origami, but the photo below shows one of the final bits of scored cartridge paper lying flat. Behind it is the other piece folded along the score marks.

We then put a piece of fabric between the two bits of cartridge paper, folded them up, secured with an elastic band, and steamed for about 5 minutes. After drying, we undid the moulds to reveal a crisply pleated piece of cotton that had taken on the exact shape of the moulds. Magic!

Below is another, simpler mould of diagonal parallel pleats, so they run on the bias. We folded the fabric in half before putting it in the mould, which results in a chevron pattern when it’s unfolded.

Bridget had also brought various pieces for us to see that combined screen printing and discharge dyeing with this technique. Great potential – very exciting!

Published by


Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

6 thoughts on “Paper and pleats”

  1. Smashing article I had this book in the 90’s and used the ideas a lot and in fact when displaying small pieces of work I always turn to this for folding /pleating ideas and to attach my work to always makes eye-catching display boards.

  2. Yay – love the result!

    Btw, I love procion dyes. I do not take a scientific approach but a bit of random dying with uncertain results is certainly a great way to reuse a bit of old shirting from the charity shop! This looks all much more controlled!

    1. Actually, the dyeing wasn’t that controlled! Bridget was pretty relaxed about exact quantities – said it doesn’t matter too much unless you need to reproduce exactly the same colour every time. Also, we were there to do pleating rather than dyeing, so I don’t think she wanted to spend an age measuring everything to the nearest gram!

      By contrast, making the templates does call for a reasonable degree of precision… 😉

  3. Hi, may I know why do you coat the cloth with PVA glue? Is it to add plastic content (just like polyester) so as to allow the fabric to retain its shape?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.