More on pleats

There’a a whole new world out there. When I went online to get other ideas for possible pleat moulds, I came across some very advanced origami tessellation techniques. And I realised that some of the techniques used by artists I’ve previously written about, like Polly Verity, could be adapted to make pleat  moulds.

However, their folding skills are far more advanced than mine – I got very confused in discussions about iso, 64-pleat grids and 12.12.3 tessellations!

Then I came across this piece about the Miura Ori map, a type of origami pleating that minimises the stress on paper where folds intersect and is also easier to fold and unfold (anyone who has ever tried to refold a map in a confined space like a car will know what I mean!).

So in class this week I made my own Miura Ori mould from cartridge paper, plus a longer parallel pleat mould, and used them with synthetic fabrics and the heat press.

First, I steamed some sheer polyester organza in the Miura Ori mould and then put it in the heat press, still folded with some disperse dye paper on either side. As you can see, the dye did not penetrate very far through the fabric folds:


I also repeated this with the diamond pleat mould:


Then I dyed the fabric in the heat press before steaming it in the mould:


Similarly, I dyed a piece of shiny polyester in the heat press and steamed it in the longer parallel pleat mould. Unfortunately, I clamped the fabric and moulds between two plastic rulers to keep it straight before putting it in the steamer – mistake!


Finally, I steamed a couple of pieces of cotton muslin coated in PVA in moulds, before clamping them and putting them in the indigo vat. Obviously, dunking the fabric in more liquid means the pleats are lost, leaving just the dye pattern where the indigo penetrated:



Eggs-perimenting with the heat press

I seem to have acquired a bit of a reputation for putting strange items in the heat press.

Last year it was sunflower seeds and pearl barley. Last week I was playing around with the turtle shape (hexagons, pentagons and quadrilaterals) in pelmet Vilene and wanted to introduce some more texture. So I added some cloves to the pentagons and eggshell to the hexagons.

The eggshell was really interesting. I put quite large pieces on the Vilene, and because it’s slightly convex there’s a satisfying crack as the heat press flattens it. It also means that the final shape is unpredictable – it depends on how it fragments. And as you can see from the white patches in the photo, the main problem is that some of the eggshell falls off as it cools.

So this week I coated the inside of the eggshell with PVA and experimented with different fabrics – felt, cotton scrim, lace, polyester organza with and without dye.

Of these, I think the felt was most effective – I like the contrast between the fragile hardness of the shell and the softness of the felt (although it tends to go quite papery in the heat press). The PVC definitely helps the shell stick more firmly, especially where there was still some membrane attached to the inside.


Shibori in a heat press

When using the heat press last week, I suddenly wondered whether it might work with stitched shibori. After all, we were using it as a method of dyeing, transferring colour from dye papers to fabric.

So I stitched three concentric hexagons over folds in a piece of polyester satin, but didn’t pull the stitches tight, unlike with indigo dyeing. Because the fabric is being pressed flat, the stitching alone should prevent the dye from reaching the fabric caught within the fold.

Then I tried to lay the fabric as flat as possible on the heat press (not very easy, as the stitching causes the fabric to pucker around the edges), put a piece of dye transfer paper on top, and pressed for 30 seconds.

The photo above shows the fabric after removing the stitches but before pressing.

The photo above is after pressing; the photo below is a close-up.

As you can see, even after pressing, the fabric retains a furrowed texture, and you get some interesting puckers around the stitching and the edges where it refused to lie flat.


Pelmet Vilene bowls

I was going to write about this last week but had a bit of a technical disaster (think tea + keyboard). Plus I had a sudden rush of paid work, which rather sapped my creative energies. Still, I shouldn’t complain – it pays the bills and will run out soon.

Back to the point. During the second half of last term at Morley College we were experimenting with textiles and heat. One of the most popular pieces of equipment was the heat press, which we used to transfer dyes from pre-printed papers onto thick Vilene (pelmet or craft Vilene), polyester and fleece. Apparently synthetics are much better than natural fabrics for this. Some students also used dye to paint their own patterns onto paper, which they transferred to fabric using the heat press. Colours that looked quite sober on paper came out much brighter on the fabric, so the results were always unpredictable!

Our tutor provided a handout with diagrams of how to make 3D hats out of Vilene, by scoring it and folding along the score lines. I have to say I found it very difficult to see how to get from a flat semi-circle to an amazing sculptural 3D form – I just don’t have that sort of mind! So I decided to stick to a simple bowl.

First I cut out a circle of Vilene and then removed a slice before dyeing one side purple, using pre-printed paper, in the heat press.

I dyed the other side red, then scattered a few sunflower seeds on top before dyeing again with blue.

(The first time I did this I put too many seeds on top. As a result, despite the pressure, the dye paper didn’t touch the Vilene, and I just ended up with a pile of sunflower seeds that were blue on one side!)

As expected, sunflower seeds prevented the blue dye from reaching the Vilene, so the area around them remained red. More unexpectedly, the red areas seemed to be linked, so they look a bit like a matrix of neurons. The seeds also left small indentations, adding texture as well.

The final stage was to score two circles into the Vilene on different sides, fold along the scores and stitch the edges together to form a bowl.

Finished bowl - inside
Finished bowl - outside

It was a bit tricky trying to sew the bowl together with the folds – as you can see from the picture above, the stitching isn’t quite straight! But I made a better job of the second bowl (below), which I dyed re-using the blue dye paper from the first bowl, to get a positive print where the sunflower seeds had been rather than a negative print.

A trio of starfish

One of my latest themes is starfish – I’ve been experimenting with the shape in various forms, as you can see from the picture above. They could be used as pincushions, or just as decorative objects in their own right. More details on each below.

I made this felt one by wrapping merino wool around a bubble wrap resist. When it was felted and started to shrink, I cut a small hole in the back to remove the resist and put my finger in each of the legs in turn to rub and full completely. In the centre are a few grey silk threads, though they don’t show up very well against the orange.

When it was dry, I hand embroidered the pattern, stuffed it and patched up the hole with a small piece of felt.


This was made in the same way as the other one, except that I added some leftover scraps of embroidery thread along the legs at the felting stage. After removing the resist and fulling, I created the little spikes in the centre by threading a large-eye needle with a wisp of merino, pushing it in from the outside and bringing it back out about a quarter of an inch away. Then I trimmed both ends to about half an inch and rolled them together between wet and soapy thumb and finger until they felted.

I really like the concept of felt spikes/protrusions – I think I shall be experimenting a bit more with these.


This came out of an experiment from using the heat press in class. I cut out a starfish shape from white polyester fleece and dyed it yellow in the heat press, using dye transfer paper. Then I put some grains of pearl barley on top and dyed it again with red transfer paper. The fleece seemed to melt slightly against the bits of barley, making them stick, but when I was sewing it together a few of them came loose, so I had to add a couple of stitches on top of each grain to make sure they didn’t fall off.