Arts

The Art of Pleating

Three women standing next to a table holding a piece of pleated fabric

Trust u3a Fashion (Hybrid) group had a wonderful opportunity to discover the art of pleating fabric at Ciment Pleating. Some members visited the factory and the remaining members attended on Zoom.

They met Matt Weinert the owner who explained that Ciment pleating was founded in 1925 and is the oldest and sadly the last remaining pleating company in Britain. Originally based on Oxford Street, they have now been based in Potters Bar for 15 years. Matt considers Ciment a family business. His grandfather bought the business from the founder’s successor Mrs Dennison back in 1977 and has since been passed down through generations of the Weinart family name.

One Fashion group member, Jennie from Sturminster Newton u3a, had an interesting story to start the meeting. Her partner knew the Ciment family well as they lived in his road in Hendon when he was a boy and he used to play with David Ciment. Many years later his brother who had a clothes making business used to buy from Ciment. What a coincidence, Matt said he had never met the Ciment family and would love to hear more.

A piece of pleated pink fabric

Pleating is a highly skilled art form and takes years of experience to master. Ciment pleating is a small team of four. Besides Matt there is Joleigh, a Fashion Contour graduate from De Montfort University who is the manager, Jacqueline and Sophie who are experienced very skilled pleaters. With credit to the highly skilled team, Ciment Pleating pride themselves on providing the highest quality pleating. They use the traditional process of hand pleating as well as machine pleating in a variety of styles. The majority of the techniques use original equipment from when the company was first started. A 100-year-old pleat machine has been with them through all four factory moves. Matt says his engineering background particularly comes in handy when this machine breaks as they have to work out how to fix it themselves.

A woman looking at a wall filled with rolls of cardboard

They have over 300 different types of patterns and pleats stacked up and ready to use at their factory which have all been handmade using cardboard and a scalpel by one of the team. Our group was amazed at the rolls and rolls of cardboard patterns stored there.

Woman next to a machine which has a roll of cardboard clamped down

The pleat process starts by clamping the selected pleat pattern to the workbench and evenly laying the clients fabric on top. Another identical piece of card is then laid on top of the fabric and the pattern is carefully folded into the shape (shown in our photograph) and then bound tightly together.
The folded pattern is then placed in a steam cabinet for 30 minutes to heat set the fabric into the pleated form.

A piece of pleated cardboard being lifted above a piece of pleated fabric

After the pattern has been left to cool outside the steam cabinet the fabric can be removed from the cardboard and will maintain the shape of the pattern used to pleat it. Synthetic fabrics are particularly effective for pleating as they are made from plastic and means when they are exposed to a heat source their shape becomes permanently altered. Synthetic pleats can be washed easily and don’t require any ironing. Wonderful!

 

Ciment primarily work with high end clients who are prepared to pay higher prices for their skilled craftsmanship. In addition, they can offer their clients a very quick turnaround that the lower cost pleating services in other countries are unable to provide which is why they are successful in the UK. They will do a sample pleating in your chosen fabric which is inexpensive and can also do repleating on an item if needed. Do contact them if this appeals to you.

We had a wonderful time and felt very privileged to be there and see the process and samples of so many pleating styles. Jaqueline said she would love to join our group; we said when she retires, she is very welcome!