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Fabric pleating

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts


Fabric pleating


The hand pleating of fabric using cardboard moulds and setting the pleats with steam.


Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1-5
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees Not known
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Not known
Current total no. of leisure makers
Not known
Minimum no. of craftspeople required



The pleating of fabric goes back for centuries. Today, pleating is now primarily done by machine but there is still a specialist and couture market for hand pleated fabric.

Most natural fabrics will pleat well but the pleats can be lost in the washing process, so care has to be taken. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester are most suited to pleating as they can be washed and still hold a pleat.



The fabric is pleated using a pattern or mould and steam to set the pleats. Patterns are made from two pieces of card that are folded and fit together accurately. There is a considerable amount of skill and accuracy in making a mould, with some intricate patterns taking weeks to complete.

The fabric is laid between the two pieces of card, folded to shape and rolled up tight. It is then placed in a steam cabinet to heat set the fabric in to the required shape. When the pattern has cooled, the fabric is removed and retains the shape of the pleating pattern.


Local forms



Allied crafts:


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The current rate of inflation and the energy crisis has had an impact on small pleating businesses


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Individual craftspeople:


Other information