Pleating, Embroidery and Quilting.

The Options are Endless.

Published On: April 11, 2023

Before you think these old-fashioned-sounding techniques are not for you, we invite you to open your mind just a little. Fabric treatment technology has come a long way since your grandma’s quilting and vintage skirt box pleats.

Taking advantage of new (and some not-so-new) fabric treatments can take your collection to a whole new level. In fact, the simple act of researching the available methods can be creatively inspiring. So read on; we promise there is a whole new world of surprising options you might have never considered!

Pleats, Please (with a nod to Issey Miyake)

Before we even start this discussion, we must take a moment to honor the contemporary master of the art form of pleating, Issey Miyake (born 1938).

Per The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Issey Miyake launched his Pleats Please line in 1993. To create the line, he used a patented process called “garment pleating” that involves pleating clothes rather than textiles. The process entails constructing garments at two or three times their intended size, then precisely folding, ironing, and lacing the sewn ensembles, sandwiched between paper, into a heat press.”

Think about this. He had to create sewing patterns that were two to three times the actual size of the garment, in order to accommodate the pleats that became the hallmark of his collection. If you want to see creativity and pattern accuracy at its finest, check out his work.

Maybe Mr. Miyake’s aesthetic will inspire you to try your hand at pleating for your collection. In essence, there are three basic methods used to pleat fabric: hand, pattern and machine. These methods can be used individually or in combination to yield different results and textures.

Hand Pleating. This method uses hand folding a piece of fabric, pleat by pleat. There are also other hand pleating methods such as shibori, which employs the use of ropes to bind and compress the fabric.

Hand pleating, fold by fold, becomes much easier with tartans, plaids or striped fabrics since the repeat in the fabric is used as a guide to assist in the folding.

Pattern Pleating. This method of pleating employs the use of a cardboard pattern or a tool referred to as a “pleaters board.”  Pleating boards are still used today. When using a pleating board, the fabric is stuffed into spaces and then pressed with a steam iron.

Machine Pleating. There are several different ways these machines can be built to accomplish the task of pleating. Generally speaking, machine pleating is the least expensive method when making simple pleats like side pleats, box pleats or crystal pleats because they require less labor than other pleats.

There are other couture type pleats that can be made by machine as well. These pleats are usually a combination of two or more of the processes described above. Since the possibilities of mixing different pleating techniques together are virtually infinite, you might consider a bit of experimentation.

The Art of Embroidery and Applique

Although hand embroidery and appliqué have been around for millennia, computerized machine embroidery is only about 40 years old. Prior to that, all the beautiful embroidery you see on vintage fabric was done by hand. Hard to imagine, right?

Today, appliqué and specialty stitches — beyond the satin and fill varieties — can help you break free from basic, flat embroidery and give your garment a higher perceived value.

Anyone can digitize a logo and add it to a garment, but there are so many other techniques to consider:

Bean. This stitch type is more common with thin script fonts or creating outlines of chunky fonts or motif designs. Options include a chunkier look with five to six passes to give the appearance of hand-embroidered thread.

Chain. This stitch type mainly was sewn by hand until the 1800s when a machine was created to replicate it. You need a special machine to create a true chain stitch, but a normal embroidery machine can create a faux chain stitch. It basically uses triangles layered on top of each other to give the appearance of a chain loop.

Whip. This is basically a satin stitch with multiple passes on the same spot. It resembles a “chunky” ladder and gives a more horizontal bar look compared to the vertical bean-stitch look.

Lofty and Loose Satin. This look is achieved by using washaway felt underneath the stitch, but on top of the garment. Burmilana or cotton-wrapped polyester threads give this stitch type a vintage, hand-sewn look.

Cross Hatch. Cross stitching is a popular technique for filling large areas with low stitch counts. Cross stitch is also sometimes combined with appliqué.

These are just a few of the embroidery techniques available to you. Do a little research and you’re sure to discover even more!

Quilting and Stitching

These days it seems quilting is everywhere! We’d venture to say there hasn’t been this much interest in the art form since quilting bees of the late 1800’s.

The word quilt is derived from Latin but it came into the English language from the French word “quite”. Quilting is a conventional sewing technique for clothing and furnishings; and has been used for centuries.

Two or more layers of fabric affixed together in a decorative pattern to make a thicker useful padded substance. A fabric structure consisting of a layer of cotton, goose down, fiberfill, feather or padding is sandwiched between two layers of material and held in place by stitching or sealing in a regular pattern across the body of the composite.

Classic quilting can be done by three layers: the top fabric or quilt top, batting or insulating material and backing material. The types of quilt stitch motifs are limited only by your imagination; just consider, as a starting point, diamond, diagonal, vertical, horizontal quilting etc. What’s more, recent advances in technology have made quilting even more precise and dynamic.

So we hope that this discussion has sparked a moment or two of creativity for you. We look forward to hearing what you think. Feel free to reach out to us at or give us a call at 800-916-0910.




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