Fabric Origami

Have you ever randomly folded a piece of fabric or clothing in a cool origami style and wondered to yourself…’if only I could get it to stay like that?’ Well what if I told you that there was a way to fold, crease and manipulate a piece of fabric and then have it stay that way!

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Permanent pleating and other structural techniques applied to cloth have been utilised in all leaves of fashion and fibre arts for many years and perhaps has been put in the category of the ‘advanced’ or ‘unattainable’ for those of us who like to dabble in making our own clothes or fabric art pieces. But it can be as uncomplicated as using a bamboo steamer and boiling water!

basic pleating example

Simple box pleating (think Scottish kilts) is only the start of where this could go. By drawing on traditional shibori techniques of tying fabric as a resist and then by steaming the bundle, you can create interesting three dimensional works of fibre art in their own right.

High end fashion houses use these types of permanent fabric ‘bending’ utilising silk as their fabric of choice. Silk pleating, and other structural modifications, require a specific chemical applied before steaming to make the changes permanent. Fashion gods like Issey Miyake and Alexander McQueen have perfected the art of this technique in their haute couture ranges and fibre artists such as Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada inspire with the endless possibilities of this technique. Using silk can be luxurious and special, but with the use of chemicals in can get messy and potentially hazardous. Polyester on the other hand, as well as other synthetic fibre fabrics can have the same treatment, with only the tying and steaming involved, and this is what makes this technique so accessible to all.


unfolding - Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada


Polyester and many other synthetic fabrics constructed with a polymer base can be altered by heating and cooling. When heated, the fibers soften and basically liquify and then when cooled, those fibers then harden. This means that if the synthetic fabric has been manipulated using a shibori tying technique, heated using steam and then cooled, when the bundle is untied, the pleats, folds and creases will remain…forever!


Giovanna Imperia Designs

black cascade neckpiece – Giovanna Imperia Designs


Couple this with up-cycling, recycling and reclaiming fashion movements and the options are only limited to your imagination and knowledge of knots! Just think about all the polyester that thrift stores have on offer that you’d normally pass on by, now you could create an amazing set of textural cushions or art pieces. Or take that slinky poly shirt from the 80′s, crush and crumple it into and enviable bespoke piece that will have you the talk of the hipster event that you attend.


Giovanna Imperia Designs

klinghon collar – Giovanna Imperia Designs


It would be great to at the end of this to point you in the direction of  a thermoplastic class at The Textile Arts Centre, but alas we’re only just getting excited about it’s possibilities, so check back in soon for updates on this topic. In the mean time brush up on your sewing skills to ready yourself to use them in conjunction with your folding ideas, or learn embroidery techniques or felting and then get crazy with ideas about how to incorporate this with some crazy pleating…looking forward to seeing you at the center!


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  1. Pingback: Fabric Origami | She Who Dies With The Most Fabric Wins | Scoop.it

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