The Complete Pleat

I have spent the last few days leading Gift Wrapping 2.0 workshops in three capital cites and that means I have been working with wonderful wrappers who have been to one of my workshops before (good to see you back Alumni!!!) or who are in confident wrapping presents and gifts. It also means we can experiment with some more challenging special occasion wraps.

Gold Pleat 2.JPG
The pleated wrap using gold kraft as a base.

One of my favourite wraps in this special occasion category is the pleated wrap that uses some deceptively simple pleating to create a cummerbund look which can then be further embellished as much or as little as you want. I love seeing people work with this wrap because they can get a sophisticated presentation quite quickly thanks to the humble pleat. I have showcased some pleats before and I kind of like them – especially the jazz pleat – seemed somehow very Chicago cool to me.

Jazz Pleat.jpg
My Jazz pleat originally created for International Jazz Day

There are many sources of pleating inspiration – such as origami and paper folding and dressmaking, tailoring, costume design and home wares. Once you start concentrating on pleating, you see it everywhere  – a bit like when you start focusing yellow cars – suddenly you are surrounded by them.

According to By Hand London, “pleating is a way of folding fabric to create fullness, ease or texture in a garment and your choice and placement of pleat can have a dramatic impact on the shape and style of your handmade garments” Well  I think placement of a pleat can have a dramatic effect on a gift wrap.

Gold Pleat 4.JPG
Add in a bow, a bauble and even a second little cord bow.


According to Victoria Elliott, the author of The World of Pleats Explained, the main types of pleats are your knife pleat, your accordion pleat, your sunray pleat, your box pleat, your inverted box pleat and your godet (are you kidding me?). She says knife pleats are probably the most commonly used in the entire pleat kingdom. Consisting of two folds of equal width – an outside fold, which you can see, and an inside fold hidden behind – all pleats face in the same direction and are sharply pressed. That’s the pleat I use in my pleated wrap.

But of course depending on what you are doing or embellishing or pinwheeling you could use mini/thin knife pleats aka accordion pleats or crystal pleats or even sunray pleats which are narrow at the top of the pleat and widen towards the bottom. Don’t rule out a box pleats made up of two knife pleats facing away from each other (where the inside folds don’t necessarily meet) or the inverted box pleats which are a standard box pleat but in reverse! And don’t forget the godet which can be classed as a type of pleat usually found in skirts, wherein triangular panels are inserted instead of the fabric being folded.

As I found out, there is a whole pleated world out there – from 4 Key Moments in the History of the Pleat  to Pleats Now and Then to Egyptian Clothing Pharaohs to Commoners because it will come in handy somewhere in my life to know how rich Egyptian men pleated their garments.

Gold Pleat 1
The starry ribbon adds a touch of sparkle.

That’s before I even reentered the world of paper pleating often known as paper folding. Perhaps the best paper folding site is Paper Techniques is that produced by Paul Jackson – the author of over 30 books on paper arts and crafts and three on pop-ups. He has taught the techniques of folding on more than 150 university-level design courses in the UK, Germany, Belgium, the US, Canada and Israel.

Paul Jackson has also  been a ‘folding consultant’ for companies such as Nike and Siemens. He really is the complete pleat. I am so jealous – I want to be a folding consultant when I grow up too. In the meantime, I will settle for being a Gift Wrapper who loves folding. Not a bad substitute.


Leave a Reply