What Is a Pleating Machine?

Updated April 17, 2017

Pleating is the folding of fabric or paper upon itself for decorative purposes. Pleating a fabric can adjust the fabric's measurement to fit into a smaller seam, such as a waistline, and create a skirt with a lot of volume. There are many types of pleats from fortuny to knife, box and cartridge pleats, each used for a variety of garments from skirts to trousers and dresses. Many types of fabric pleats can only be created by hand, such as box and cartridge, but some can be created by machine. Pleating machines are also used to create pleats in paper, mostly for decoration.

A Machine Used to Place Folds in the Fabric

A pleating machine is a machine used to heat-set pleats into fabric. The type of pleats made with a pleating machine are fortuny pleats. Flat fabric is placed in the pleating machine and ridges in the macine crimp the fabric using heat to set them. The pleats will only stay in the fabric as long as the fabric doesn't get wet.

A Machine Used to Create Smocking

A pleating machine is used in the creation of smocking on fabric. Using many needles, the pleater stitches elastic thread into the fabric while folding the fabric into very small pleats, gathering the fabric in. The elastic thread keeps the pleats in place. This can be done on a small area of fabric, such as the back panel or all over on a bodice.

A Machine Used to Fold Paper

A pleating machine is used to fold paper as well as fabric. The pleating machine works the same way for paper as it does for fabric, minus the heat. Flat paper is fed into the machine and is folded into knife pleats. This method is used for creating fans and other decorative paper.

The Alternative

The alternative to a pleating machine is to make the pleats by hand. For many types of fabric pleats, this is the only option. Fabric knife pleats, box pleats and cartridge pleats will not hold their shape without being stitched into place. Pleats are normally stitched into a seam, so the pleats are folded by hand, stitched down and put into the seam. In a design, pleats are a specific design detail, and the depth, length and method of folding are a personal design choice, making it more cost-effective to create custom pleats for the design.

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About the Author

Heather Berkowe is a fashion designer with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion design. She has more than five years of experience in the fashion industry, including design work for lingerie brands and owning the inner-wear company Soussuits. Berkowe has been writing since 1997, with work appearing in the "Journal News" and Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibitions.