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!