Pleating machine

It was back to school last week – or rather, back to Morley College for my weekly fix of textiles in a well-equipped studio. The building has been refurbished over the summer, with a new floor and decent loos (at last!), but the main attraction for me is the supportive atmosphere and passionate enthusiasm of the tutors.

Our class this term is much smaller, which is good for individual attention and space. The rest of the class are experimenting with mark making at the moment, but I have to get my head down and produce some stock for Lambeth Open on 6-7 October. I’m focusing on indigo and shibori – on felt, paper and fabric – and feel like I’m on a bit of production line at the moment!

Yesterday I dyed a couple of silk scarves, one using arashi shibori and the other itajime.

two silk scarves dyed with shibori indigo

Itajime can be a bit too regular and geometric for me, especially on such a fine silk, so I didn’t dampen this scarf after clamping, but put it straight into the vat instead. This meant that the indigo bled  more, creating softer outlines and a pleasing range of blues.

I also dyed some cotton lawn that I’m going to turn into pencil rolls – if my sewing machine hasn’t rusted up from disuse!

shibori dyed cotton

However, between indigo dips I did find time to have a go with a pleating machine that our tutor Debby found at the back of a cupboard. It’s a beautifully solid contraption, made in South Africa in 1948.

hand pleating machine

Although it takes up to 16 needles, Debby could find only three, but she’s ordered some more.

I threaded the needles, rolled the fabric around a chunky knitting needle, and fed the edge of the fabric between the mangle-like rollers. Then I cranked the handle slowly towards me, and the fabric emerged from the other side complete with three neat parallel rows of stitching.

Because there were only three needles, I fed the fabric through the machine twice. It was a bit trickier keeping it straight the second time because of the first set of pleating – this would clearly not be necessary with more needles!

pleating machine in action

I pulled up the two sets of pleats and dipped the fabric in the indigo vat. The result is a bit too regimented for my taste, but it could be combined with other forms of resist to make it more interesting.

shibori from pleating machine

On a completely different subject, many thanks to everyone who has voted for my Blog to Japan on Facebook. I’m currently in second place, though the person in third place is rapidly gaining ground, so every vote counts.

If you haven’t voted yet, please go to the Inside Japan Tours Facebook page and vote for Blog to Japan (the third one on the list in the first post). Voting closes tomorrow!