Zoe’s post on Constructing Sparkle inspired me to finally write a post about pleating. Pleating is yet another of my perseverations. First I’d like to draw your attention to a book entitled Haute Couture: Tradesmen’s Entrance. I love this book (only available from Amazon UK but it’s not expensive for what it is). The Tradesman’s Entrance is about the supporting cast of artisans who support Haute Couture; you may have heard of some of them such as the House of Lesage (interesting article). In today’s example, haute couturiers don’t do their own pleating, they outsource it to Lognon. This book covers haute couture artisans working in embroidery, shoes, haberdashery, hats, feathers, lace, enamel and nacre, pleating, costume jewellery, dyeing and fabrics. It’s quite a lovely book, enormous pictures, oversized (10″ x 13″). A tragic and recurring theme of the book is that these artisans are quite elderly, and with the increasing costs of handwork and too few skilled replacements, it’s likely their businesses will eventually close. I’ll be including some of the photos from the book in this post.

First, there are three basic kinds of pleats. They’re either machine or hand set. Below is a photo of a machine pleater, courtesy of Jesse Heap who sells refurbished pleating machines.

This kind of machine does the very fine pleats you see below (from the book).

On Jesse’s website, you can see photos of sewing machines (called “Box” pleaters) that form and sew pleats. These are pleats that are formed during the sewing process and they aren’t heat set like most of what we’d describe as pleating. Speaking of pleating machines, I found two additional pleating equipment sellers. I’ll close this post with their contact information in addition to the list of pleating services I know of. Before I forget, since this post really isn’t about how to do pleating, I won’t be listing any links for instruction. That’s not to say that I don’t have any. Get my related pleating links here (via Unfortunately, there aren’t many.

Back to pleating. The hand made pleats are made by using a mold (also called frame or form), of which there are two layers, inside and outside. You lay the fabric in between the scored and folded oak tag, roll it up and steam it in an oven. On some fabrics, chemicals are used to enhance the effects. Below is a photo of a skirt lying in a mold.

Pleating molds are expensive and time consuming to make and one tiny mistake in one fold ruins the whole thing and you have to start over (don’t ask how I know). Below is a photo of a bunch of pleating forms from the book.

Most of the time we think of pleats as being straight lines but that is not true of all pleats, particularly machine set pleats. It’s much easier to form patterns with machine set pleats. The example shown below comes courtesy of F.Ciment in the UK.

While shaped pleats are largely unknown among the hand made variety, they aren’t impossible (my topic of perseveration). As an example, below is a photo (again from the Tradesmen’s Entrance) of a shaped hand pleating mold (sometimes called “frames”).

I’ve made several different kinds of shaped pleats. Forgive me for the photo below, it’s a terrible sample (a cat peed on it before I could set the dye) but perhaps you can pick out the lines of it. I had better ones but those were lent out and never returned ~sigh~. I was experimenting with painting the fold lines in case you wonder why dye is involved.

An illustration of a more successful design is below. The black lines are raised folds. The grey lines are the under folds. Oh, and I did come up with a way to set these chemically. I’m pleased with how well that works.

It’s only been since I started playing with shaped pleats (it’s easiest to set these chemically) that I’ve become interested in origami. Also, I’ve found a lot of shapes that lend themselves to the process. An example is below. This is an illustration of the electrodynamic properties of a vacuum. Who knew it could also be used as a pleating pattern?

Below are the resources I’ve collected. The first three are equipment suppliers in case you ever need a pleating machine. The resources following those are pleating contractors. By the way, it is rare that a pleating contractor just does pleating only. Rather, these guys are what’s known as “novelty houses”. These people also make custom buttons, belts (out of your fabric to match) and trims of all kinds.

Jesse J Heap & Son Inc
576 South 21 St
Irvington, NJ 07111
Jesse also sells fusing machines, heat transfer and dye sublimation equipment, inspection machines, cutters and other interesting stuff.

Sewmaster Incorporated
P. O. Box 432
Hinton, West Virginia 25951
Phone: (304) 466-3936

Chandler Machine Sales Co, Inc.
690 N. Queens Avenue
Lindenhurst NY 11757
(631)-5861557 (site is not live)

Pleating and novelty contractors
Accurate Pleating Co
445 Richmond St W
Toronto, ON , M5V 1X9
Phone: 416-703-2813

Acme Pleating & Fagoting Corp
147 W 26th St,
New York, NY 10001+6817
(212) 674-3737

Advance Pleating & Buttons Co.
750 Florida Street
San Francisco, CA
415.648.3111 or 415.648.7284.

Alexander Report has seven other pleating services not included in my list. From the link page (free access) type “pleat” in the search box. I’d give you a direct link but there isn’t one.

F.Ciment (Pleating) Ltd.
18a station close
Potters Bar
Herts EN6 1TL
Phone : 01707 661 311

Koppel Pleating, Inc.
890 Garrison Avenue, 3rd Floor
Bronx, NY 10474
718 893-1500

Metro Novelty & Pleating
3030 E. Vernon Avenue
Vernon, CA 90058
213 748-1201
213 582-3248

Perma Pleating & Trim Corp
2171 Anderson Road
Greensville, SC 29611
864 269-0840
864 269-5804

Pleats Plus
867 Isabella Street
Oakland, CA 94607
510 625-8050
510 986-1402

Regal Originals, Inc.
247 West 37th St.
NY NY 10018
212 921-0270
212 302-0809

San Francisco Pleating Company
425 2nd Street, 5th floor,
San Francisco, CA

Stanley Pleating & Stitching Co Inc
242 W 36th St
New York, NY 10018
212 868-2920

US Apparel Solutions
249 West 34th St., Suite 506
Manhattan, NY, 10001
Tel: 212-868-1700
(and a toll free number for customers)

If none of these resources are of use, you might consider searching for a business by SIC code 2395 (NAICS code 314999). This SIC code also includes the following kinds of businesses:
* Quilted fabrics or cloth–mfg
* Quilting, for the trade–mfg
* Appliqueing, for the trade–mfg
* Art needlework–mfpm–mfg
* Buttonhole making, except fur: for the trade–mfg
* Crochet ware, machine-made–mfg
* Decorative stitching, for the trade–mfg
* Emblems, embroidered–mfg
* Embroideries: metallic, beaded, and sequined–mfg
* Embroidery products, except Schiflli machine–mfg
* Eyelet making, for the trade–mfg
* Hemstitching, for the trade–mfg
* Lace, burnt-out–mfg
* Looping, for the trade–mfg
* Needlework, art–mfpm–mfg
* Novelty stitching, for the trade–mfg
* Permanent pleating and pressing, for the trade–mfg
* Pleating, for the trade–mfg
* Ruffling, for the trade–mfg
* Scalloping, for the trade–mfg
* Stitching, decorative and novelty: for the trade–mfg
* Swiss loom embroideries–mfg
* Tucking, for the trade–mfg

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  1. ShannonG says:

    Several years ago, I did alterations work on a Jeanne Marc evening gown with starburst pleats very similar to the hand-set photo. The effect was stunning, and I attempted to replicate it, to no avail.
    There are ‘pleating boxes’ available for home sewing use. They are, sadly, often too short to be used with yardage of any substantial width. I’ve also attempted to make one, based on instructions I found in a book. You are correct; one slip and the whole shebang is ruined.
    Now if we could just figure out how Fortuny did them in silk and had them hold their shape permanently…..

    • Carter Smith says:

      I believe Fortuny altered the weave of the fabric by suspending the fabric with heavy weights and twisting the fabric and setting the whet fabric with heat in order to hold the pleats.
      I call it a twist pleat which I use to create something like a twist pleat. I do it with a power drill

    • Laurel says:

      It’s been years since I read my Fortuny book, but as I recall, his pleats were permanent (though dresses needed to be stored loosely knotted). His patent was not legible (forgotten why), so his method was lost. About 40 years ago, I had a hunch – silk is protein. So is hair. Why not use permanent solution on silk to get the pleats to stay? I tried just once and failed. I believe I made several errors: I should have used untreated silk. I should have made sharper creases, should have found a way to get heat into it. As I recall, I knotted it and didn’t give it a chance to thoroughly dry. I used home permanent solution and perhaps I needed something stronger. It’s worth noting that Fortuny’s experiments coincided with the invention of hair permanents. He might well have read about that industry and thought “Huh. I’m going to try that on silk”, just as I did, after attending a lecture on hair history. Fortuny had a chemistry background, so news of this hair invention might well have struck his interest and he’d have understood it. 40 years later, I am still thinking about his genius and maybe it is my passionate belief in simple solutions, but I still believe I was on the right track. Anyone else want to give it a go?

  2. Kathleen says:

    Now if we could just figure out how Fortuny did them in silk and had them hold their shape permanently…..

    I can’t resist showing off but I’ve been able to do Fortuny pleating. You wrap it on a pole (or pvc pipe) like you do with the Shibori method and steam it, honest. I played a lot with that. I even used slinkies in my experiments.

  3. Ann Katzen Hand Dyed Studio says:

    The Fortuny pleats came out in the wash (or the rain). I believe Fotuny offered a re-pleating service for his dresses way back when. Some years ago Yoshiko Wada—she’s the prime force on Earth keeping traditional shibori-like techniques of many countries alive and active in the world-wide textile community……Anyway, she worked with very old weavers in Gunma Province, Japan, on hundred year old looms to perfect a new weave with a special twist that lets a shape put into the dry cloth keep its form FOREVER once a wet process is applied. It’s called Gunma silk and was available direct from Yoshiko at about $30 a yard (the price I paid about 6 years ago). Several weave patterns were available though I couldn’t find a source to buy it on her current website. You can google Yoshiko Wada or go to and there may be a link to contact her. It’s a beautiful cloth.

  4. Ann Katzen Hand Dyed Studio says:

    Allow me to correct myself! I’ve just dug out my old Fortuny book and find that he did indeed have a patented (1910) method for heat stamping the cloth into pleats. Now I’m wondering if his cloth was pure silk. Does anybody know? When did polys come into use?

  5. Judith says:

    Fascinnating post today. Thank you Kathleen for posting this information. I love pleats in skirts. I did not know anything really, about pleating till today. That first machine in the pictures is fabby. I probably could not fit that pleating machine in my living room. I could see Jesse in N.J. becoming my new best friend. LOL

  6. J C Sprowls says:

    Wow! This looks like it would be a lot of fun. I’m intrigued to know more; but, already have my hands full.

  7. ShannonG says:

    My resource (an old article) indicated that yes, Fortuny’s garments were all pure silk. That’s what made the fact that his pleats stayed sharp during wear a unique thing. The same article indicates that the pleats remained sharp even after the fabric was wet….which, if true, makes his genius more evident.
    There are a few Fortuny pieces that show up on vintage sites from time to time. It’s a treat to see good photos of them.

  8. Karen C. says:

    How timely. I just purchased a pleater board (only 8-1/2×11″) and a “special” chemical setting cloth. I’m going to try to set pleats in jersey! Might not work, but I’m gonna try it anyway. Very interested in Shibori and trying to incorporate more of a “wearable art” into my RTW (i.e., not kimono-style). And so happy that there are TWO pleating companies in my neck of the woods. I’ll let you know next week how successful I was with the knit pleats.

  9. Andrew says:

    I know that many of the readers of this site are in the US, but I can highly recommend Ciment Pleating to anyone in the UK. They’re a small family-run operation that can do 24hr turnaround if required. They do all of my pleating, along with many of the other UK based designers.

  10. jinjer says:

    Awesome post, Kathleen! now I have “make a pleating mold” on my list of “things to do when I have time to waste on nearly impossible tasks” (that list is LONG)

    I remember reading that Fortuny dyed his fabrics dozens of times to achieve his subtle colors. I wonder if he heat-set the pleats every time. If here stressed the fabric out enough to separate the threads in the folds, it seems like the pleats would be permanent.

    I’ve seen that Gunma fabric–in both silk and rayon–really beautiful! I have a teeny sample of the rayon I kept after a client brought me some to make a shirt from.

  11. Natasha says:

    I hope Lesage doesn’t go out of business any time soon. I was fortunate to be able to take a one course from one of the instructors there. She had just finished up working on the dior collection

  12. KellyTygert says:

    Wow!! I thanks for the information on the pleater mold. I have been experimenting with Shibori for about a year. Which lead me to think of the pleatter boards for home sewers. These interested me but they are so small. Not very practical for using on cloth. I came up with “my” own Pleater board in May, a lass before reading this post. I used foam for the base and 1″ balsa wood for the pleat part. I like the idea of being able to roll up the pleating and put in in a steamer to set the pleats. I put my silk in the pleatter slightly damp and ironed dry.

    Karren Brito’s book Shiibori – Creating Color & Texture on Silk has information on setting pleats perminately in silk. I have not tried it.

  13. Miss Judy adjei-Twum says:

    im doing a project regarding pleating, i have found your websit very interesting if possible can you please send me some more information about pleating. thank you
    judy A-Twum

  14. sdevries says:

    I realy like to learn more of the pleating.
    And wonder if there is anybody in Holland who knows more. The chemical setting of the pleats
    is what I am most interested, so please…..

  15. Debra says:

    I am planing a project that requires a mass of sunray pleats. I am going to do this by hand and try to make it work.Wow, it is a bit daunting. Is it possible to get “how to” instructions from you?

    Can you please email to me?

    Thanking you in advance,

  16. Herion park says:

    I am a fashion design and an artist. I would like to learn more about fine pleats on silk for my hand painted fabric, maybe like Karen Brito’s. Please help me to learn. Thanks. Herion

  17. We have been profesional pleaters since the early 1920’s and have thousands of different pleated forms or molds that we have made, some dating back to those times. We can give any information about pleating you require.

    Regards Terry

  18. Would a pleating board have been used together with machine stitching to “hold” the pleats in place? For example a 1950s cocktail suit has oblique box pleats, and then machine stitched across every 2″.

  19. Lal says:

    we are one of the washing unit here in sri lanka, may l know shall we use this machine for denim garments ( get pleating design ) please reply,


  20. Babita says:

    I am into embroidered cushions…my client wants some pleated cushion covers…can the sun pleats be done by hand?I am located in India ….can I make moulds at home ?

  21. Aslam says:

    Yes madam you can make molds by hand we are working in Doha Qatar molds work making sunray
    Pleating by hand and I am also from India and Nepal border

  22. I’m having issues with my current pleater and while googling different places in NYC stumbled upon a few and this article. Not sure if the cross-outs above indicate they’re out of business/website no longer works or if they’re no longer a recommendation. I’m assuming it’s the former, and wanted to add an update to Regal Originals, Inc. Looks like they have a new website and are now in Long Island City – right across the river from the Garment District.

    Regal Originals, Inc.
    43-01 22 Street 5th floor
    LIC, NY 11101

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