Sunday, February 14, 2010

Striped Paper with a Smocking Pleater

Years ago I bought a Reed Pleater, a hand crank machine that’s loaded with threaded needles through which one runs fine cotton fabric to prepare it for smocking little girls dresses. I wanted to use it for dyeing fabric, sort of like Arashi Shibori, a Japanese resist method of dyeing where one wraps fabric around a pole and then squishes it down to make very tight pleats which are then brushed with dye or dipped into a dye bath.

Well, I never got around to doing faux-Shibori and a few weeks ago I sold my pleater on eBay. The sale fell through and the pleater came back home, but before trying to sell it again I had the bright idea of running paper through it to make lines of holes or parallel lines of stitched threads in paper and fabric which I will use in collage.

This project is just what I needed to get my creative juices going again. I’ve been working with the pleater and Japanese rice paper, Washi, and then spray dyeing the tightly pleated fabric. It works. It’s beautiful. I’m onto something, though it is labor intensive and right down my alley.

If you like to sew but don’t have a pleater simply get out your large eyed needles and some heavy linen thread and make lots of parallel running stitches in some lightweight paper. Pull the threads tight and dye the paper either with spray watercolor or calligraphy inks. Or use a brush and whatever water-based paint you have handy and paint the ridges on each side. Let it dry. Remove the threads. Voila! You’ll have unique striped paper.

Shall I tell you how many needles I broke trying to run a doubled sheet of paper through the pleater? Nah! Just don’t do as I did. Stick to thin paper and feed the paper or fabric through slowly.  I used color here, spray watercolors, but my next experiment will be with black ink to see what wonderful black and white images I can create. I'm thinking that if I gather the paper as above and then wrap the bundle tightly with some heavily threads before I spray the ink I'll have more uneven patterns that will be quite useful.

I’d love to hear about your experiments if you try this.

The well known teacher of Shibori, Anna Lisa Hedstrom, wrote an article for Threads about using a pleater for Shibori. Find it in Issue #69, March,1997.


  1. Wow Jo. How very creative! I look forward to seeing your next experiment!

  2. What an amazing machine, and your dyed paper is beautiful. I also love your journal in your video... thanks for your kind words... roxanne

  3. Just ran through some older posts on your blog. Thank you, thank you for reminding me to USE UP WHAT I ALREADY HAVE! It is such a bad habit to think that buying new baubles will suddenly make me more inspired. I already have too much.

    I have a Xyron that I will finally be putting to use- thank you for the wonderful tape idea. I've been wondering what to do with that little gadget.

    I'm going to be signing up for Remains of the Day. People are creating these wonderful, sparkling journals and I need in on the party. Everyone I've emailed says "sign up now! It's a great class!" I take it you would wholeheartedly agree. Your journal is absolutely fabulous.

  4. wow is all I can say. What a great idea. I love the green and yellow piece.


I appreciate comments and questions.

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