An apparatus for producing an absorbent article includes a holding tool, a female tool disposed along a machine axis, and a male tool disposed along the machine axis. The holding tool has an aperture aligned along the machine axis and means for holding a flexible sheet across the aperture. The female tool has at least one folding element extending in a direction radially away from the machine axis, and the male tool has means for holding a fluid storage element and at least one pleating blade extending in a direction radially away from the machine axis. At least two of the holding tool, female tool, and male tool are capable of relative motion along the machine axis. Further the at least one pleating blade and of the male tool and the at least one folding element of the female tool are aligned to permit manipulation of the flexible sheet about the fluid storage element.