Pleated fabrics refers to fabrics with permanently set pleats. Entire rolls of fabric are available pleated perfectly in beautiful varieties of pleats. Pleating gives the fabric volume without it being too obvious. The creases are made in regular intervals creating a beautiful symmetry and a dimensional effect. The movement of the pleats according to the movement of the body is seductive.
Related post : 10 different types of pleats
Usually thin fabrics are pleated this way and available in beautifully bright colors and fabric patterns.
Pleating is done on fabric by many means. Hand pleating – you can just stitch the fabric in pleats as you need, pleated either randomly or in a regular pattern- the way we sewists do it. The alternative way is how the pre-pleated fabrics are made either using chemicals to pleat the fabric or using heat and pressure with specialized machinery that folds and creases and sets the pleats at the same time. The fabric is pleated using pressurized steam and heat.
Heat and pressure used with specialized equipment is the preferred way of making pre pleated fabrics today. Pleats made this way are very durable (if you do not severely abuse it).
Polyester is the favourite for making the pre-pleated fabric. On polyester, the pleats formed remain the same for the life of the fabric. The soft, smooth and lightweight and flowy nature of polyester fabrics, especially polyester chiffon fabrics makes it a popular choice in dressmaking. Other best fabrics preferred for pleating are silk and wool.
Chemicals are used on natural fabrics like cotton and silk for pleating them. Thin and Lightweight fabrics like silk georgette silk taffeta, silk organza, china silk and cotton voile etc are used for pleating as you will need them to drape well. Along with chemicals, heat and pressure are also used as per requirement.
Beautiful skirts, evening gowns, kids dresses, pillows are made with prepleated fabrics.
Caring for the pre pleated fabric
You need to take a little extra care of the pre pleated fabric – Be careful when giving for dry cleaning (the chemicals used may flatten the pleats, so you need to give special instructions) and No tumble drying and No wrong pressing.
Problems in sewing with pre-pleated fabrics
It is also not easy to sew with pre pleated fabrics as it is with flat fabrics. For one, the pleats get in the way of cutting and sewing.
You should lay the fabric flat on a large cutting area and carefully cut without distorting the pleats at all. Cut pleated fabrics in one single layer.
Seams are stitched in the space between the pleats so that it is not too obvious and pleats are avoided.
Also as you sew ensure that the pleats are not getting in the way of your stitching. You can attach the pleats in place with hand basting hand-basting on both sides of the seam (if big pleats) or using tape. When sewing across the pleats ensure that you are sewing in the same direction as the pleats. You can use a tight zig zag stitch to sew the pleated fabric.
Sewing a hem on a skirt made of pre pleated fabric can soon turn to be a disaster. The best way out is to use the natural edge (selvage) of the fabric as the hem, so that you do not have to finish it.
Designing clothes made of pre-pleated fabric requires some caution. As it is difficult to sew you should choose simple designs without too many seams.
It is difficult to sew interfacing or even lining on garments made with the fabric. But you will need to, as polyester chiffon pre-pleated fabrics and other pre-pleated fabrics are usually thin and will need lining. Usually an underlining is sewn with garments made with pre-pleated fabrics.
Yardage requirement for pleated fabrics – Because of the reduction of length due to pleating you will have to buy 3 times the normal length for any particular garment.
The fabric can be pleated before or after the garment is cut. If the pattern pieces are pleated the second way, first the pattern is cut, then the pleats are made, heat set and then final sewing work is done. Some garments are cut and sewn before being pleated.
The pleats can be made with the help of professional pressing companies (pleating contractors) with specialized equipment – They use machines with blades that press the fabric and fold it in place. Sometimes pleating paper is used.
These services are very useful to fashion designers as they can cut pattern pieces the way they want and then pleat as per their special design.