As part of my preparation for my recent workshop, Shaping With Stitch Patterns, I did a bit of examination of pleating patterns: stitch patterns that create vertical folds.
They’re rather like cousins to rib patterns. Pleats share the elastic nature of ribs. Indeed, many of these patterns are just uneven ribs. In rib patterns, the knit stitches come to the fore and the purl stitches recede. To get the pleat – or fold – effect, it’s necessary that there be a gradation of knit and purl stitches so that the knit stitches build up and act like a wave breaking over the purl stitches.
I shared the Knife Pleating pattern earlier. Pennant Pleating is another wonderful example.
(multiples of 10 sts)
Row 1 (RS): * k2, p2, k6, rep from *.
Row 2: * p5, k3, p2, rep from *.
Row 3: *k2, p4, k4, rep from *.
Row 4: *p3, k5, p2, rep from *.
Row 5: *k2, p6, k2, rep from *.
Row 6: *p1, k7, p2, rep from *.
Row 7: *k2, p8, rep from *.
Row 8: *p1, k7, p2, rep from *.
Row 9: *k2, p6, k2, rep from *.
Row 10: *p3, k5, p2, rep from *.
Row 11: *k2, p4, k4, rep from *.
Row 12: *p5, k3, p2, rep from *.
The gradation of knits and purls is easy to see when the pattern is charted:
The result here is a “wave” of knits that builds up and folds to the left over purl stitches.
If you want the wave to break to the right, simply reverse the order (L to R) of the knit and purl stitches.
When you see these patterns in stitch collections, the pictured example is usually strongly blocked so that you do not see the pleating effect. To get the pleats, you need to let the fabric relax. And, to get the best pleats, you need to be judicious in your choice of yarn. The curliness of the pleating is dramatically influenced by the yarn you use. Wool yarns are more likely to highlight the pleating effect, especially if you use very elastic wools (e.g., Cormo, Targhee, Babydoll Southdown). Yarns that are from non-elastic fibers will show the stitch pattern more than the pleating pattern. I knitted several swatches of Pennant Pleating, using different yarns. The most pleat-like was from a handspun yarn from Ile de France wool (the swatch above). There were several swatches that showed no pleating at all: brushed mohair, cotton, bamboo, silk (swatch below), some wool blends. So, if the pleats are an important design element, then you need to also consider the yarn you use.
Although I did not do a systematic analysis, I suspect that needle size also influences the magnitude of the pleating. My hypothesis is that smaller needles (tighter gauge) will produce more dramatic pleats, and larger needles will show off the stitch pattern more than the pleats. Yippee! Another reason to knit more swatches!