1.4; Sampling: Twisted Pleats

Since pleating interests me, I took it in two parts: Incremental Pleating can be found in my previous post. I looked forward to subverting the technique with Twisted Pleats.

SAMPLE 1.4.8 (a) & (b)

Starting with white copy paper, I made two samples with very subtle differences

(a) on the left, has pleats the same width as the spacing between them. It secured by folding the perpendicular edge under the sample (to the reverse)

(b) on the right, has much narrower pleats than the distance between them and is secured by folding toward the top.

The difference between the two sets of measurements was quite pronounced. I think the depth of the pleats in (a) caused it to curl and twist. At first I found this quite upsetting (because I was still in rigid mode) but actually it has an architectural, sculptural appeal that suggests stored energy. dscf3697The flatter sample (b) is a better vehicle for displaying the effect of a twisted pleat. Photographed from above with a directed light source the pleats seem to dance, I feel a real sense of movement when looking at them.

SAMPLE 1.4.9

The paper I selected next was much thicker, it was soft and pliable like fabric but was stiff enough to retain the pleats. I used a design similar to the Kyyro Quinn wall hanging I looked at in my research but whereas her stitching is invisible, I made mine a feature.

This paper didn’t fight the folds like the copy paper did, it is supple and more forgiving which means it lays almost flat. The twists are regular, first to the left then the right. The ripples remind me of marks left on the beach as the tide goes out, in addition the colour and slightly grainy texture of the paper also reminds me of soft sand. 

Lighting the sample has created a gentle ombre effect, in the fore the paper appears a rich, sunny yellow, which recedes to tan followed by a coffee coloured brown. This analogous palette is created by shadow- amazing when the paper is actually a dull buff!


I thoroughly enjoyed securing the pleats with rows of hand stitching: it felt good to be sewing, even if only on paper! I chose a beige linen thread to match the paper; the fact it blends in means that it doesn’t detract from the pleats. I like stitches that are functional as well as decorative.

SAMPLE 1.4.10

After the sheer joy of stitching the last sample I ironically decided to staple the next (below left). I used a fairly heavy cartridge paper, alternating the direction the pleats were secured formed twists.


The sample has rolled inwards, toward the pleats, in a semi-circular fashion. This was unexpected- I had previously observed quite flat samples (1.4.8 b and 1.4.9) and have included a photograph (on right) of 1.4.8 (a) where the sample twisted diagonally, from corner to corner. I would conclude the different effects are not only determined by the depth of the pleats but by the rigidity and thickness of the substrate.

Next, I soaked the sample in a tea ‘bath’; I had noticed on Pinterest people using staples for rust dying and thought I would see what happens. I predicted there would be a deepening of colour around the metal staples caused by rust and lighter areas along the pleats where the paper was pressed together and offered more protection from the tea.


At this point, I thought I had lost this sample! It came out of the tea, very soggy and fragile- as it dried it became much firmer and the pleats regained their definition. What didn’t resolve was the all-over brown colour, the sample unfortunately remained a solid buff colour. However it now had the soft suede-like appearance I have come to associate with rust-dyed paper.

I was curious to find out what was going on under the staples and in between the pleats, so I unpicked some of them. Doing this redeemed the sample some what: the staples have left indentations, pierced holes and a small amount of rust. There is lots to look at, if I ironed it flat it would be less clear how the marks were created, this could be quite intriguing. If I did do this again, I need to be careful when marking: the pencil lines (right) are a distraction.

SAMPLE 1.4.11 (a) & (b)

I decided to try alternating the twists in pairs and selected an envelope from my pile of scrap paper. The pleats are secured with tailor tacks usually associated with dressmaking; it strikes me now that staples may have been a more appropriate device?

The envelope behaved in a similar way to the cardboard in previous samples: it had a wrong/right side that tried to dictate which way the folds wanted to go. The double sided nature of the paper provides softness and pliability from the underside and strength and rigidity from the shiny outer. This combination of qualities and slightly different configuration of pleats has produced a sample that lies very flat.

I am generally not keen on the inclusion of printed text within Textile Art but I was able to appreciate the fragmentation of the address an postmark. I am a keen proponent of maintaining standards of handwriting in a computer driven society, so decided to copy the definition of pleating to explore my response to hand written text in my work.

I really like both sides of the sample, writing on tracing paper was a good choice because you can appreciate the marks from all angles. Whether upside down, back to front, reversed or fragmented by the pleats, the marks remain quite obviously writing but their meaning has been obscured. I am drawn into the sample by what remains of the words, I want to look closer, I want to figure out some hidden meaning. I think the fact the text remains in straight lines helps and adds to my understanding of it. I’m not convinced the machine stitched rows, which secure the pleats (and were supposed to emulate the light blue of lined paper) was the right choice?

SAMPLE 1.4.12 (a) &(b)

This sample came about because I was still thinking about Jiri Kolar’s ‘prollages’, I couldn’t shake the idea of looking at something from a renewed angle and it becoming something else. After a drive in the countryside, where I observed the changing of the season in multiple colours, I began thinking of the transient nature of Autumn in relation to twisted pleats.

I actually started my experimentation thinking about the relationships of colour, firstly analogous colour and them triadic colour. My interest in the secondary triad orange/purple/green was inspired by previous study of O’Keeffe’s landscapes. Sharpie pen has been used on tracing paper.

The sample is quite unsophisticated but provided a good opportunity for exploring the relationships between the colours as they twist into one another. A useful exercise with an uninspiring result.

I continued with (b), this time using Autumnal colours; I hoped the translucency of the tracing paper would echo the fragility of the leaves. I was really disappointed with the childlike and unnatural result (although not especially surprised given the materials I was working with!) However, when I looked at the photographs I was pleased, the highlights on the metallic areas draw them forward and shadow pushes the bolder colours back. At the same time the twists are mixing the colours so you see more of one and less of another.  

SAMPLE 1.4.13 (a) & (b)

I started thinking about the twisted pleats as channels, like boning in corsets. For both samples I used a narrow strip of laminated paper, one side red, the other orange. In sample a, left, it is encased in a tracing paper fold; in b, right, between muslin.

I was again disappointed, I liked my ideas but the materials I selected just weren’t right. My joy had gone. I had a sense that maybe I had pushed the technique of pleating too far! I had made so many samples for this exercise I decided: ‘enough is enough’ and moved on!

1.4; Sampling: Incremental Pleats

Inspired by the simplicity of Kyyro Quinn’s designs I began my exploration of Incremental Pleats using plain, white copy paper.

SAMPLE 1.4.1

The pleats are the same distance apart but get incrementally larger.


This sample is clean and crisp, the sharp edges are well defined. I like the simplicity, complimented by the use of light and shadow.

SAMPLE 1.4.2

The same pleats as previous sample have been recreated, this time the v-shapes have been glued together, more like a pin-tuck than a pleat.

The photographs above show how the addition of a directed light source can make a dramatic difference.This sample is very similar to 1.4.2 but gluing the pleats together has made it even more simple. I like the regimental nature of these verticals, combining regular spacing with incremental growth creates a formality that conversely makes me want to run my fingers across the edges (much like a child has to run a stick along railings!)

SAMPLE 1.4.3

This time the pleats remain the same height but the space between them grows incrementally longer.

I like this sample less that those before it. Since the pleats remain the same height there is less drama, especially as they get further and further apart. I do not experience the same desire to reach out and touch it.

What I do like is that it reminds me of  Jiri Kolar’s Flowers of Evil ‘prollages’. When I saw these at the Tate Modern I enjoyed the interactive dance we shared. I stepped one way then the other, I tilted my head from side to side, I moved forward and then back again, it was a whole body experience. It might be good to explore how pleating could be used to fracture a photograph?


I used the method for recording the folds as suggested by the course-notes (mountains in green, valleys in red), although I considered using broken lines of a variety of thickness, shape and colour as found in maps and dress making patterns.

As I recorded the samples above, I noticed the grids were similar to the broad horizontal bands seen in Agnes Martin’s paintings.(You can see a good overview of her work here). Even though I preferred the first sample, the two dimensional representation of the third attracted me more.

Having added shadow to the 3-D samples using directed light, I began to wonder: What if you could adhere the tonal graduation to the sample and unfold it? Obviously impossible but I used this idea to produce the Martin style composition (below right). I used pencil to record the gradation of shade.

At this stage I found that the drawings I made were more interesting and important to me than the three-dimensional samples. I adore Agnes Martin’s work for it’s regularity and stillness, I really wanted to develop these ideas my trying gouache, collage or stitch but was very aware I was at such an early stage of sampling. I may well return to this idea of unfolding shadow to create a flat painting.

SAMPLE 1.4.4

I was interested to discover how a reflective material would react to being folded so light would bounce from one surface to another so I tried pleating kitchen foil.


The result  was not as exciting as I thought it would be, I was expecting a complicated image like a Hall of Mirrors or a multi-faceted gem stone. Perhaps kitchen foil is not shiny or reflective enough? The result is dull, I wish I could fold a mirror. Or glass… What I did discover was a manipulating kitchen foil is accompanied by a rather satisfying crunchy sound which made me wonder if I was being to rigid with it, maybe it would respond better to crumpling or twisting?

SAMPLE 1.4.5 (a) & (b) 

(a) Tracing paper was chosen to investigate the effect of pleats in a translucent material.

I felt that I didn’t learn much from this sample, it is only marginally different from the white copy paper. It wasn’t until I tried to record the sample with a photograph that I realised the effect could be enhanced by using a contrasting colour as a background. The incremental widening of the pleats means each one folds progressively further and further over the next. In some places the tracing paper is of single thickness, then doubled, eventually there are four layers. This effects the transparency of the paper, creating light/dark stripes. Subtle but interesting.

(b) As I tidied the edges of Sample 1.4.5 (a) I happened to notice the trimmings curled up on the table.

This sample occurred quite by chance and because of this does not carry the same rigidity of the earlier ones. In this case the sample is much lighter, perhaps even whimsical. I like the delicate way the very thin slices form curves against the background. The curl sits in opposition to the tightly regimented creases and folds.

Again, adding a light source adds to the sample, I like the way the pleats prevent as much light coming through as it does in the straight sections. The shadows add another dimension.


I used the camera to record the arrangement, it seems an obvious way to portray the three-dimensional qualities. I considered sticking the slithers down but faced the difficulty of securing a horizontal to a vertical. Eventually I drew the composition in black pen.


It seems disappointing to lose the three-dimensional quality of the sample drawing it in such simple terms, but I actually quite like the simple lines. They remind me of cogs and wheels. I think there would definitely be mileage in developing this, perhaps as a print? Maybe I could use it in a later exercise: embossing or scratching?

SAMPLE 1.4.6

As I manipulated both the kitchen foil and tracing paper in quite a controlled manner I sense the need for chaos. The repetitive motion of folding and pleating suddenly made me want to crumple, not in frustration or anger but I wanted to FEEL the whole surface. The resulting paper was loosely pleated rather than tightly pressed.

Since I allowed the crumpled paper to dictate the form I made, it looks more organic. The texture of the paper softens the edges but the weight of the paper helps it maintain its solidity and shape. I like the dichotomy of the hard metal paper clips holding the soft folds together. This sample is very tactile, the deep folds look inviting yet the the colour suggests purity and chasteness. 


The pen and ink drawing I made of the sample is disappointing, I think the angles are all wrong but the process of looking and drawing did help me to understand the shape better. Incidentally, I also discovered the joys of Quink, I love the softness that can be achieved by adding water and the way the black splits into orange and blue .


This sample reminded me of the billowing folds of fabric that I had seen in photographs of Issey Miyake clothing. What I like about the images (you will need to scroll down, toward bottom of linked page) is that the models are often holding dynamic poses and the soft, loose clothes form dramatic shapes around them. To form these shapes as a sculpture would require a strong or reinforced material, yet photography captures a single moment of movement created by lightweight, pleated polyester. This inspired me to use the same drawing technique to record some of the images.


This was probably one of the better drawings, they were very small and fast and I think that helps to express the speed of motion in a static image. I am pleased I discovered this application of Quink, I think it is something I can use more often.

SAMPLES 1.4.7 (a), (b) & (c)

After working with such malleable materials I felt I needed to explore a stronger, firmer surface that I could work against rather than with. I selected this thick cardboard (the back of an old sketchbook) largely because the colour and non-woven structure reminded me of Kyyro Quinn’s application of felt. Obviously the cardboard would respond to folding in a very different way to felt.

(a) Scoring and folding the pleats still resulted in surface distress. The cracks and creases can be clearly seen in the photograph (below right)

I find the cracks and creases endear me to this sample. There is something interesting about a strong material bearing scars and revealing its limitations. This would be a good concept to explore on a deeper level.

(b) I tried distressing the cardboard further by soaking the surface with ink and water. I hoped the ink would highlight the damage.

I like the idea of a strong material bearing its wounds, but unfortunately, this didn’t work out. Firstly the ink was too thick and just made the sample very black. Once diluted, it looked a bit ‘wishy-washy’. Perhaps the cardboard remains too intact to portray the idea?

(c) Instead of sharp pleats, I made soft curves that contrasted with the straight falt spaces between. The arches need to be secured to stop the sample falling flat, so I punched holes and used a black linen thread to stitch the channels.

I found that as rigid an methodical as I am, I didn’t mind the crossover of exercise here (there are close links to Exercise 5.1 &5.2) I see this combination of techniques as inevitable.

The separation of the cardboard into layers under the arched areas surprised me. It also seemed that the cardboard preferred to be rolled one way rather than the other. Is this because of the direction the holes were punched? Does the card have a wrong/right side? (both looked and felt the same). I was able to exploit the natural bend by folding against it, creating more distress, as I did this I noticed the card became softer and more pliable, although I’m sure there is a limit to this.


I am really pleased with this sample, I finally felt like I had created something that was ‘my own’. Is this moment of recognition a part of developing a style of my own? 

I like the regularity of the incremental spacing and the stitching which is offset by the sense of movement created by the loose threads. The sample can be stood on end and it naturally coils upon itself, it appears to be organically growing. It can also be forced to curl in the opposite direction where the stitching becomes the key feature and the channels are obscured from view.

The sample makes me think about towers and castles but also corsetry and life-jackets. I would love to revisit this idea of being strong and upright, maybe straight-laced and bound in combination with earlier thoughts about visible stress and damage. 

1.4; Initial Thoughts and Research

I chose 1.4: Incremental and Twisted Pleats, to be my first exercise for Part One: Surface Distortion. I was excited to be starting work on Mixed Media for Textiles, my second OCA Course, but at the same time felt apprehensive and nervous. I have come to the conclusion that when I feel like this I won’t necessarily produce my best work. My mind is ten steps ahead of my hands and it is difficult to prevent the controlling part of me taking over, when what I really wants is to allow the materials to dictate the investigations.

My initial thoughts about pleating were that it was a comforting technique, its regularity and repetitive nature appealed to my jangling nerves! I have some experience with smocking and found that very satisfying. I hoped the precision and measuring involved would allow me to work through this phase until I fell back into the routine of working on the assignments.

Anne Kyyro Quinn

I began by looking closely at the work of Anne Kyyro Quinn, which really excited me. She takes a conventional technique to another level by producing it on a grand scale particularly suited for wall panels. Her chosen medium is felt, which I would not normally associate with smocking  (although now I come to think of it it reflects the choice of wool for pleated kilts.) I would have thought felt too soft and floppy to achieve the crispness I would expect from cotton or linen, however, it holds the shapes well.

There are of course many benefits from using felt for a decorative wall hanging: it is non-woven (meaning no distraction from the structure of the weave), it takes colour well (the monochromatic designs are often very rich and deep colours) and it has sound deadening properties (useful for high traffic areas that require a quiet environment, banks, offices and atrium). I also observed that the softness of the felt makes you feel safe, warm and protected which makes Kyyro Quinn’s designs a good choice for businesses wanting to portray a certain atmosphere.

The designs that the felt is sculpted into also create a certain ambience; as well adding a sense of movement that draws the eye, the panels are a single colour, with no additional surface embellishment. They are deceptively simple and fairly conventional but give the impression that the company cares enough about its customers to provide something more interesting to look at than a flat surface but is trustworthy and not frivolous with money. This makes the panels popular with banks and insurance companies.

The three-dimensional textures created by pleating and folding are very tactile, they invite you to touch them. I amused myself at the thought of important and well-behaved business executives wrestling internally with the urge to reach out and touch the walls- maybe they can buy a Kyyro Quinn cushion on the way home?

How is Kyyro Quinn’s work relevant to me?

Looking at the designs made me appreciate that it’s ok to keep things simple, not everything needs to be complicated with colour or additional embellishment.

Light and Shadow can be used to create tonal differences that interest and movement.

She demonstrates how an unexpected material, with its connotations of crafting can be successfully integrated into seemingly unfitting locations.