A material embellishment embraced for its ability to infuse volume, texture, and dimension, pleats are an expressive element of design that hold a long history. The traditional techniques used to create this age-old motif can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and pleats have been reinterpreted in recent years across an array of applications. While the dynamic force of these folds extends beyond interior fabrics—to fashion, architecture, furniture, and more—pleats are perhaps best understood as a particular fold realized in textiles. “Pleated fabrics originally took their cue from architecture and have continued to be seen on the runways of the most iconic fashion labels throughout time,” says Diana Dobin of Valley Forge Fabrics. “The movement and dimensionality of pleats produce a fluidity and depth to fabrics which create a perception of rich thoughtfulness to interior spaces. Although pleat sizes and shapes can vary, they seem to be always be in style.” Pleats come in a variety of forms, shapes, and sizes. The information that follows explores a brief overview of the characteristics and construction of pleats while highlighting some of the most common types of pleats used for drapery headers.
Characteristics and Construction
In textile applications, a pleat refers to a type of fold in a fabric that is often used to add fullness, ease, or texture. Depending on the construction methods and materials used—as well as the particulars of its placement—a pleat can take on many forms with dramatic differences in shape and style. “Pleats can be woven, permanently pressed, or embossed using radio wave technology that includes a filling textile and special backing,” explains Dobin. “Different constructions are suitable to different end-uses such as upholstery, drapery, and bedding. Pleating creates a very different feeling depending on the fabric base. A linen-like upholstery with an accordion pleat can create a warm and inviting lounge chair back, while a velvet drapery with a random crushed permanent pleat adds a very tailored look to window treatments.”
Distinct Drapery Designs
Included amongst the most popular types of pleats that appear across interior applications are those that are utilized as drapery headers. When it comes to weighing the importance of functionality and aesthetics, it is worthwhile to attain an understanding of distinct drapery styles and the types of pleats they feature. Common folds featured in drapery include accordion pleats, cartridge pleats, flat pleats, inverted pleats, and pinch pleats, among others.
Taking cues from the bellows of an accordion, the fabric of this type of pleat is positioned into a sharp ‘Z’ shape, which can be made by sewing the top of the fabric together and pressing, or with the use of hardware. The narrow pleats create a raised zigzag pattern that flows from top to bottom. While similar to a knife pleat in that it has sharp creases that add volume, an accordion pleat is rendered on a smaller scale. The sharp crease that is formed at the header then flows to the bottom of the drapery, creating a uniform look from top to bottom. Most commonly, an accordion header is mounted with hardware just below an exposed track, to give the drapery an airy, floating feel. It can also be on a hidden track or a curved track and the drapery can be hand drawn, cord drawn, or motor drawn.
A cartridge pleat uses rolls to create a template for loose waves that extend across fabric, creating a layered and tailored aesthetic. From an aerial view, it appears as a zig-zag pattern with rounded edges. The pleats can be enforced using pleater tape and pleater hooks, which ensure that the pleat stays in place and lays properly. The pleater hooks serve a dual purpose, as they work to sync together the fabric to keep pleats in place, while also having a loop at the opposite end that allows it to be attached to a rod. Curtains with cartridge pleats can be hung using hardware such as rod and rings, an exposed track, a hidden track with cornice, or a curved track.
Featuring a flowing and fluid look, a flat pleat allows a textile to naturally hang with a relaxed aesthetic. A flat pleat is the most common drapery header as it requires no actual pleating. Curtains with flat pleats can be hung using hardware such as rod and rings, an exposed track, a hidden track with cornice, or a curved track.
Adding texture and depth while turning the fullness inward, an inverted pleat involves two fabric folds that are brought to a center point, sewn at the top, and pressed crisply together. In order to ensure that the pleat stays in place and lays properly, tape and hooks can be used for added assurance. Inverted pleats are the reverse of a box pleats, which are made while taking depth, underlay, and spacing into account. Inverted pleats involve two folds that are brought to a center point of a textile, sewn at the top, and pressed to make a crisp pleat. Curtains with inverted pleats can be hung using hardware such as a rod and rings, an exposed track, a hidden track with cornice, or a curved track.
A knife pleat has sharp pleats that are all pressed into one direction, which end up creating a zig-zag crease in the fabric. Similar to an accordion pleat in that it has sharp creases that adds volume, a knife pleat boasts both a larger scale and higher quantity of folds. fabric. The sharp crease that is formed at the top of the fabric flows to the bottom of the drapery, creating a uniform look from top to bottom. Most commonly, a knife pleat is mounted with hardware just below an exposed track, to give the drapery an airy, floating feel. It can also be on a hidden track or a curved track and the drapery can be hand drawn, cord drawn, or motor drawn.
Sewn together to be synchronized at the top, a pinch pleat involves pinching together two to five measured out pleats. The most common pinch pleat is a three-finger pinch pleat—also known as a French pleat—which pulls together a trio of pleats to form soft ripples. However, with printed drapery a two-finger pinch pleat is more common as it does not disrupt the print as much. The pleats can be enforced using pleater tape and pleater hooks which ensure that the pleat stays in place and lays properly. Curtains with pinch pleats can be hung using hardware such as a rod and rings, an exposed track, a hidden track with cornice, or a curved track.
While the pleats listed above are included the among most common drapery header styles, there are also many more to explore. An examination of the diverse design motif of pleats readily reveals how the term has come to be identified as a compelling texture of the contemporary creative world.