Tips on Sewing with Ribbons

Aug 27 2015 0 Comments Tags: anna maria horner, tutorial



A touch of ribbon adds color and interest to all sorts of DIY projects. Sometimes the ribbons can be simply glued in place, but sewing is often the better way to go. Today’s blog post includes tips for sewing with ribbons.


  • If you are making a project that will be laundered, such as a skirt or placemats, make sure to pre-wash and dry the base fabric as you would the finished project before you begin sewing. Fabrics can shrink quite a bit when laundered, especially cottons and linens, and that can cause the ribbons to not lie flat after the project is washed.


  • Since Renaissance Ribbons are woven of polyester that will not shrink, it is not necessary to pre-shrink them, although you could certainly pre-wash and dry them with the fabric. Just make sure to machine zigzag stitch across the cut edges so they do not unravel. I find that lightly pressing them with a steam iron and pressing cloth also works to smooth them and prepare them for sewing.


  • Take care when ironing polyester ribbons as they require a lower ironing temperature than cotton and linen fabric. When sewn to the fabric, I like to press the ribbons from the wrong side of the fabric or use a pressing cloth to protect them from the heat.


  • Use a see-through quilting ruler to position ribbons onto your project equal distance from an edge. Dressmaker’s chalk or an air or water soluble marker are helpful for marking placement lines.


  • To eliminate the need for pins and to keep ribbons from shifting as you are sewing them in place, apply a little basting glue or strips of lightweight fusible web, such as Steam-a-Seam, to the wrong side of the ribbon. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and test to make sure the ribbon can be easily stitched without the adhesive gumming up the needle. Some adhesives are not meant to be sewn through.


  • Use a sharp hand or machine needle that will not snag the ribbon when it is stitched. The needle should be fine enough so that holes it creates in the ribbon are just large enough for the sewing thread.
  • Stitching ribbons to the flat fabric before the project is constructed allows for the raw edges of the ribbons to be caught in the seam allowance. If trimming a ready-made article, open up the seams a little to allow the ribbon joins to be hidden inside. Or, add a seam allowance to the ends of the ribbon and turn the cut edges under before stitching in place.


Machine Stitching Ribbons:


  • I use a size 75 or 80 needle in my sewing machine when stitching ribbons.


  • Use polyester sewing thread. Machine embroidery thread may also be used for more densely sewn decorative stitches. Coordinate the thread color with the ribbon. Match the ribbon color for a less visible attachment or select a contrasting color for added interest.


  • Always sew in the same direction on both sides of the ribbon. This will prevent any shifting and puckering.


  • Make a sample to test the stitch length and machine tension. You can use straight stitches, narrow zigzags or overcast stitches that will just catch the edges of the ribbon. Check out some of your machine’s decorative stitches when making your sample. You might find one that really enhances the design of your selected ribbon. Experiment with the width and length of the stitches and different types and colors of thread. If decorative stitches cause puckering when sewn, add one or two layers of stabilizer under the fabric.


 Hand Sewing Ribbons:


  • Hand sewing is best when sewing velvet or intricate jacquard ribbons or when machine stitching may show and interfere with the design of the ribbon.


  • Use a fine needle and select a thread color that matches the edge of the ribbon.


  • Sew hand slipstitches close to the edge of the ribbon to provide an almost invisible finish.


  • To form slipstitches, bring a threaded needle to the front of the background fabric. Take a tiny stitch just into the edge of the ribbon. Bring the thread back into the fabric, making stitches every ¼” and spacing them evenly along the length of the ribbon.
  • A small bead can be sewn in place with each slip stitch to add additional detail to the ribbon.
  • Add a tiny ric-rac along the edges and embellish with contrasting color thread and a slip stitch!


Have fun sewing with ribbons!



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