A Lesson in Hand-pleating

Yesterday I took a trip to Potters Bar, Enfield to visit Ciment Pleaters. I had used this company a long time ago to pleat some rubber for me and to my regret I have never had the time to visit the company and see how pleating is actually done.

I was welcomed by Terry and Geraldine Weinert and as they weren’t to busy took the time to show me exactly how to pleat fabric and the thousands of different patterns that exist, some dating back 60 years and all made laboriously by hand.

If it was a surprise that the patterns were handmade, it was an even bigger surprise that the whole process is hand crafted. They do have a few machines which make basic pleats but anything with the sightest bit of intricacy cannot be automated.

I asked Terry if it would be possible to pleat my Transylvanian sacking cloth as looking at the intricate patterns, it seemed likely the fabric would be too heavy to respond to this delicate method. He suggested we try there and then and so followed an amazing lesson in pleating documented below in images.

First the fabric is placed between two scored card patterns which lock exactly on top of each other. The patterns are weighed down and the fabric between gently manipulated between the card.

The whole piece of work is then gently accordioned together.

At this point Terry bound the work together ready to put in the steam cupboard however this fabric had a lot of resistance, being very heavy and kept ‘popping’ it’s bindings. Instead Terry decided to steam it by hand on the industrial press.

The next stage was to take the fabric from the cardboard casings and steam it directly.

The fabric is compressed further between two slats of wood.

The final piece after about half an hour instead of two days doing each pleat individually with a domestic iron!

Here are some of the other card and paper patterns from the Ciment archives.

This is for a Tudor ruffle and is 60 years old.

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16 Responses to A Lesson in Hand-pleating

  1. rami dorrah says:

    hello i am rami dorrah ,and very interestied in your work , iserche to buy from you ,card pattern ,for pleating , i need essaxctly now the soleil pattern ,of 150 cm or more ,can you , make this tipe of patterns ? if so , we are waiting for your early reply , thank you
    rami dorrah

    • I am afraid I do not make commissions however Ciment Pleaters featured in the blog does take on work for people. You can find them easily on the Internet and they are very helpful. Thankbyou for looking at my blog!

  2. rami dorrah says:

    hello i am rami dorrah ,and very interestied in your work , iserche to buy from you ,card pattern ,for pleating , i need essaxctly now the soleil pattern ,of 150 cm or more ,can you , make this tipe of patterns ? if so , we are waiting for your early reply , thank you
    rami dorrah

  3. Hermoso, trabajo, esta muy bien explicado, Muchas gracias.-

  4. jagoda says:

    hello! could you tell me what the type this cardboard is? Is it a cardboard at all or some type of paper? πŸ™‚

    • Dear Jagoda, I don’t know the actual name of the paper but the process can be done with thickish paper or thin card. If you want to use the patterns again I guess you should use thin card as they won’t deteriorate so quickly. I have used cartridge paper before and that worked fine. Best of luck!

  5. Roxane Herbert says:

    Great to see how this pleating is done. So time consuming by hand.

  6. Irmgard Gilds says:


  7. Stumbled onto this through Pinterest. It is very interesting and may actually solve one of my problems. I am looking to permanently pleat some sleeves for a design I am working on for college. I know I can get stuff pleated professionally (and now I know where -thank you!) but part of the reason I wanted to do this design was to try something new. I made a pleating board (youtube) but my fabric, a crepe, was too soft to stay in place, but you have just solved that for me – I just need 2 boards (and a lot of patience). I notice that there was no mention of using chemicals. Would your pleats survive washing or isn’t that a consideration for this project? I would prefer not to use chemicals, but have had a white vinegar and water solution suggested. Others say no chemicals, but that the heat will ‘set’ the fabric but only if it is synthetic. Was yours synthetic? Sorry, lots of questions as I am all excited because you have taken me a step or 2 nearer my goal! And if my fumblings don’t work, I now know where to go to get myself some pleats set (although I wouldn’t use it for my project then.)

    Lovely article. Thanks

    • Hello @thebespokeseamstress!
      Thanks so much for your comments and questions.
      In this process steam is used to achieve the pleat and it is only permanent with wool or synthetics (such as polyester I think-I’m not an expert!).
      Any other fabrics will lose their pleating when washed as far as I know however there may be a process I have not heard of which uses chemicals and makes permanent pleats that way.
      My fabric was natural so will wash out on the first wash.
      Ciment Pleaters will happily take on pleating commissions and are very welcome to people wanting to visit or taking part in internships too.

      Happy Pleating and
      Kind regards


      • Thanks for the answer – I haven’t been on here for ages for various reasons. Hoping to pick my project up again shortly – good to know about wool as well as that opens up a lot of possibilities for the odd permanent pleat or 2 in winter skirts.

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