During the late 1940’s, Mr. Stanley Herbert Read decided to invent a machine for his wife, to ease the boredom of having to pick up dots for hours on end before the smocking process could begin. He and his brother got together to invent the pleating machine. The inspiration for this machine came from the humble mangle with rollers for pressing and smoothing sheets, towels and various other articles of clothing after washing. It was this that gave them the mechanics for the smocking pleating machine. The modern mangle of the 1940s had four rollers and they coped this idea using four rollers in the pleating machine positioned at the same level. On several occasions, Mr. Read’s brother got into trouble at his job with the Railways when, instead of doing his work, he was found playing with mangles and rollers! They decided to bend the needles to fit the curve of the rollers and finally, in 1947, they patented the modern pleater, with four rollers and curved needles.
After the death of the Read brothers, Mr. Stanley Read’s wife and eldest daughter, Sally, continued to run the company, until Mrs. Read gave it to her youngest son, Andrew, after he finished university. In 1982, Sally and her husband moved to Durban and started the manufacturing of a new pleater, called the Sally Stanley. This pleater became very popular in the market-place but Sally and her husband retired a few years ago and the Sally Stanley is no longer being manufactured. The early Read pleater was the small 16-row, which was subsequently followed by the larger 24-row and 32-row pleaters in the early eighties and the 32-row is still the only pleater of this size being manufactured in the world.
After a somewhat indifferent period during the late eighties and early nineties, when the company experienced a lack of competent management, Al & Ann Leenstra took over the company in 1999. Although neither had any previous experience with pleaters or smocking, this soon changed after visiting some of the main distributors around the world. They found that there were obvious improvements that could be made to the original 24/32-row pleater range. After a comprehensive engineering exercise, the NEW 24./32-row pleater range was introduced in early 2003. The NEW Read Pleater range has become one of the most popular and reliable pleaters in the market-place. At about the same time, they introduced the NEW 24-row Maxi pleater, with half spaces across the full width of the pleater and supplied with 47 needles. After a short break in manufacturing the ORIGINAL 16-row, this pleater is once again back in production due to popular demand.
In addition to the obvious pleating of fabrics for smocking purposes, the pleaters are now also being used for the fabric painting process known as SHIBORI which demonstrates the versatility of the Read Pleater.
Read Pleaters are made in South Africa by the company now owned by Al and Ann Leenstra. The range of pleaters can be seen on their website - www.readpleaters.com. You can also find a local distributor and manuals for the pleaters on the site.