What is Rickrack?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Rickrack is a sewing notion which is designed to act as decorative trim on a wide assortment of craft projects. It is also sometimes seen as rick-rack, rick rack, or ricrac. In all cases, it is made by braiding thread into a flat tape with a zigzag shape. Typically, this notion is made from polyester, which is a highly versatile and cheap base. Other thread, such as silk or cotton, may be used, but the resulting rickrack may be more costly.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Plain rickrack usually is made from a single color, and it has a dull or matte finish. It can also be made metallic, glossy, or variegated with strips or gradations of color. Some manufacturers add decorative details in embroidery or paint to make the trim more colorful. All rickrack is flexible, so that it can be contorted in a number of ways for various sewing projects. It is also often designed to be washable and colorfast.

Clothing may be trimmed or decorated with rickrack, especially clothing for children. It is also used to decorate quilts, curtains, and an assortment of other craft projects. The notion does not always have to lie flat, either; some crafters make flowers and other fanciful shapes from the material. Many people associate rickrack with “Western” style crafts, which is why it pops on up vests and circle skirts quite a lot.

When rickrack is being applied to a craft project which will not be washed, many crafters attach it with glue so that it is seamlessly and invisibly attached. It can also be sewn on, and there are a number of sewing options. For a quick attachment, the trim can be machine sewn with a straight stitch which bisects the pattern. It can also be sewn on with a stitch which follows the pattern, creating a stripe of thread in the middle of the rickrack. Some crafters prefer to use hidden stitches, while others utilize decorative embroidery to attach it.

Most craft stores sell this trimming, usually in an assortment of colors and patterns to meet crafting needs. In some cases, the material is available by the yard, allowing crafters to select as much as they need. Other stores sell packages of prepackaged lengths, which can result in an excess of unused rickrack. Scrap materials can be turned into flowers or added to craft projects as extra decoration. It can also be given to children and beginning sewers, allowing them to experiment with braided trim without wasting usable material.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Where does the name Rickrack come from?


Does rickrack have a right and wrong side?

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