What is Ribbon Embroidery?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Ribbon embroidery involves the use of delicate and beautiful ribbons to create exquisite sewn designs. Like traditional embroidery, ribbon embroidery is often used to decorate a base piece of fabric, such as a quilt, piece of clothing, handbag, or handkerchief. Ribbon is often used to embroider flower patterns, as the color and sheen of the ribbon can draw attention to the design.

There are countless varieties of ribbon available, varying in color, design, thickness, pattern, fabric, and flexibility. Some include stiff wire to help ribbon maintain its shape, while others are made from silk for superior sheen and a pleasant softness. Ribbon embroidery typically uses non-wired ribbons to ease the sewing process. Silk is popular, but acrylic, rayon, cotton, and satin ribbons are also good substitutes.

Embroidery requires mastery of a few basic stitches in order to create magnificent patterns and motifs. With ribbon embroidery, one of the most important stitches is called the ribbon stitch. After stitching a whip or straight stitch, pull a length of ribbon out behind the needle. Laying the loose ribbon on the base fabric, create a curled petal by stitching back through the loose ribbon, about halfway along its length. This simple stitch can be learned in moments, and allows the quick and easy creation of basic flower petals.


One of the advantages of ribbon embroidery is that it gives stitching a three dimensional effect. Depending on how loosely the material is stitched, flowers and designs can truly pop out from the base fabric through the use of stitches such as the ribbon stitch. To gain this desired effect, it is key never to pull stitches through too tightly, as this will flatten the design and lessen the dramatic look.

There are a few basic supplies for ribbon embroidery that can easily be found at sewing or craft stores. In addition to base fabric and ribbon, embroidery will require embroidery needles, a hoop or frame to keep fabric taut and steady, and possible a thimble to protect from needle pricks. Experts suggest beginning with silk ribbons, as they are easy to work with and look lovely even with beginner's designs. Basic embroidery patterns and helpful books may also be available at bookstores or sewing supply shops.

Handicrafts such as ribbon embroidery can turn an ordinary gift into an extraordinarily personal memento. Consider buying plain handkerchiefs, shirts, or fabric purses and embroidering them to give as gifts on special occasions. The art of embroidery dates back thousands of years and has a long and romantic history. Spending careful time to master the craft and hours creating a beautiful gift for a loved one can mean more than the most expensive present in all the world.


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