Yes, they're back; and in strong force! They're that old window treatment staple that's been around for many more years than I. Pleated draperies always have been and always will be the most functional window treatment, providing light control, privacy, durability, the softness of fabric, sound deadening features, the amenities of color and the ease of opening and closing all in one.
But how can they be hauntingly delightful? Well, I'm not picturing just the same old three-section pinch pleat (Figure 1). I'm envisioning myriad distinctively ingenious pleats that have become so popular today and never even were imagined years ago.
Let's see if we can get in the spirit of this current trend and conjure up some intriguing new styles to wow our customers and fulfill our own needs for creativity.
Blessings Don't Just Come in Threes
A lot can be done with the age-old, three-section pleat, which usually has between four and five inches of fabric within it. Each of the three folds extends forward and back about 3/4 of an inch. How about putting only 1 1/2 to two inches of fabric in the entire pleat? This creates a very unique look, which I call a "no break" pleat (Figure 2).
When a typical pleat is folded into its three sections, it is called breaking the pleat. This no break pleat is great for using when a small amount of fullness is called for, including when the customer hasn't ordered near enough fabric. I like using the no break pleat in blackout liners to provide as little fullness behind the front drapery as possible. This technique also keeps the cost as low as possible.
Slightly more fullness -- about three inches of fabric in each pleat -- can be used and then broken into two sections. This will create another atypical look. Each section will protrude 3/4 of an inch front and back. Using a greater amount of fullness, but still using only two sections will create a pleasant variation.
Adding even more fullness and increasing the number of sections will concoct two more options: a four-section and a five-section pleat. These styles are especially effective with sheers. The added fullness may, of course, increase the overall cost of the treatment.
Even the typical three-section pinch pleat can be used to invent a new look by changing the amount of space between the pleats. Try placing two very close together for a double pinch pleat (Figure 3), or three for a triple pinch pleat. Typical pinch pleats can be embellished using a wide variety of inventive methods. The spacing between them can be scalloped as is often seen on café curtains. But they don't have to be the usual scalloped shape; be creative and try something more unconventional. You actually can create a shaped look without physically shaping the fabric. Just drape a decorative trim between the pleats and hand-tack it to the pleats.
Another effective look is formed by swooping the trim from pleat to pleat at the bottom of the pleat. A great application for window jewelry is placing one at the bottom of each pleat. These two methods can be combined for an especially terrific look, and we're still using that boring old three-section pinch pleat. Amazing, isn't it?
The relaxed look of the slant-top pleat (Figure 4) is created by scalloping the top of the pleat, rather than the space between the pleats.
The three-section butterfly pleat (Figure 5) is made by pushing back the top corners of the two outside folds of a typical three-section pinch pleat. These corners are hand-tacked in place. The two-section butterfly pleat is made using the same technique, but starting with a two-section pinch pleat.
Don't Get Boxed In
A lot also can be done with the age-old box pleat by making a few variations. Why not place one smaller directly on top of a larger one, forming a double box pleat (Figure 6)? Cut outs could be constructed between the pleats. This technique gives the illusion of combining decorative pleating with another hot style today: tabs. This also provides fullness in the tab itself, another feature that doesn't usually exist.
The fabric in box pleats can be gathered very tightly for a drastically different look. This look also can be changed, by pinching the bottom of the gathers into a very small point and hand-tacking them. Using a shape at the bottom of the pleat totally changes the geometric feel of box pleats. The pleat must be lined with a decorative fabric because it will now show.
Additional interest can be created by shaping the bottom of the space between the pleats. It can be scalloped in a gentle curve, pointed or any other shape you can think of. Another style shapes the entire bottom of a valance, rather than just the fabric between the pleats.
The top of the pleat can be shaped also. One exceptional look uses a diamond shape created by pulling the top of the box pleat forward and hand-tacking in place.
You might think that inverted pleats (which usually have between 12 and 16 inches of fabric) can't be embellished because they hide behind the face fabric. Not so! Adding a contrast color to inverted box pleats builds a pleasant shadowy or three-dimensional effect, depending on the colors used.
By changing the amount of fabric in the treatment from typical two times fullness to three times fullness (Figure 7), the pleats now are so close together they butt end to end, giving more of an in-and-out feel. A double inverted box pleat (Figure 8) is fabricated by allowing double the amount of fabric within the pleat and slightly staggering the folds so that both show. Additional attention can be created by using two different contrast colors in the pleats.
Color can be used in yet another way to embellish inverted pleats. When a contrast color pleat is folded, a small amount of the color can be left showing on the front of the treatment. Another strip of the contrast fabric can be sewn along the bottom edge and allowed to show. The contrast color now edges both sides of the space between the pleats and their bottom edges creating a framed in look.
The bottom of contrast-colored inverted box pleats can be folded back for a unique open look. The point of this same corner can be folded down again, creating yet another look. Either style can be embellished with fabric-covered buttons or drapery jewelry.
Knife pleats are simply folds in the fabric, all lying in the same direction. If the direction changes in the center of the treatment, a box pleat is formed and then knife pleats pick up again after that.
Cylinder pleats are sewn as a typical pinch pleat, but are not broken down into three sections. They are kept in a completely round shape by stuffing with pillow fill, quilt batting or cardboard rolls. A goblet pleat (Figure 9) is formed by bunching together the fabric just under the buckram of cylinder pleats. The fabric is tacked together by machine or hand. The bottom of goblet pleats can be embellished with many different types of decorative cords, buttons or drapery jewelry. You get the idea. Be creative and come up with something totally unique!
Pencil pleats are formed by shirring tape. They acquired their name because they are small and slightly rounded, giving the look of lots of fabric pencils standing side by side. Iron-on pencil pleat tapes are especially nice because no stitches show on the front of the treatment. The Bandex Co. has invented a delightful new twist on pencil pleats. Its shirring tapes pull up to form five or seven pencil pleats close together with a space in-between. The clustered pencil pleats (Figure 10) form the look of five- or seven-section pinch pleats without the sharp edge. They're fantastic!
You've probably guessed that some of the decorative pleats described and shown here are too bulky to use as traverse treatments. They would not draw or stack well. Use these pleats on valances with typically pinch-pleated draw draperies below. They also can be used on side panels, table cloths, or any other treatment that doesn't need to move.
A whole new world of decorative pleating awaits you, so dig up those old styles you thought were dead and buried and take advantage of this exciting revival!
Cheryl Strickland is owner of Professional Drapery Seminars. She is an internationally-acclaimed speaker with more than 20 years experience in the window coverings industry. She is the publisher and editor of Sew WHAT?, an international monthly newsletter for professional drapery workrooms. Strickland also is the author of A Practical Guide to Soft Window Coverings and the Designer's Sketch Pad, which are available through Draperies & Window Coverings magazine.