Hints & Tips for Sewing with Ribbons

It’s that time of year again….almost Quilt Market…so I have been busy working on projects for the show.  I am super excited this year because I will be demonstrating for Renaissance Ribbons at both Quilt Market and Quilt Festival.  I’ll also be teaching a Schoolhouse Series class for them the day before Market opens.  More and more as I work with their lovely woven ribbons, I realize how much “wow” they add to a project.

Kaffe Fassett Ribbon Pillow

Sewing with ribbons is easy.  Just keep these hints & tips in mind:

– Most woven ribbons are polyester and will not shrink or fade.  However, the fabric you are stitching them to may, so it is always a good idea to pre-wash and dry your base fabric as you would the finished project.  Of course, if you are making something that will never be washed, that is not necessary.

– Be careful when ironing ribbons.  Set the iron temperature to a lower synthetic setting.  Before sewing any project, I like to lightly press the ribbons with a steam iron to smooth them and prepare them for stitching.  Once the ribbons are stitched to the base fabric, make sure you continue to press them with a cool iron.  Or, if the iron is on a cotton setting, press the ribbons from the wrong side of the fabric or use a pressing cloth to protect them.

– To eliminate the need for pins and to keep the ribbons from shifting as they are sewn in place, I like to use a little basting glue or strips of lightweight fusible web such as Steam-a-Seam.  Follow the directions on the packaging and apply the adhesive to the wrong side of the ribbon.  Make sure whatever adhesive you select is OK for stitching through.  – To sew the ribbons by machine, use a size 75 or 80 needle and make sure that it is sharp.  The needle should be fine enough so that the holes it creates in the ribbon are just large enough for the sewing thread.

– I generally use polyester thread and sew the ribbon close to each side with straight or zigzag or overcast stitches.  You might also want to experiment with machine embroidery threads and decorative machine stitches.  Match the ribbon color if you don’t want the stitches to show or select a coordinating and contrasting color for added interest.

– Always sew in the same direction on both sides of the ribbon.  This will prevent any shifting and puckering.  – Ribbons can also be sewn by hand.  Use a fine needle and sew slip stitches close to both edges of the ribbon.  For added “wow”, beads can be added to the slip stitches.  Hope these hints & tips will encourage you to start sewing with the pretty ribbons you might have in your stash.  And next time you are tempted at the store, go ahead and pick up a yard or two of your favorites.  I am sure you will find just the perfect way to use them to add that touch of “wow” to your projects.

I’ll be posting more ribbon project ideas and tutorials here soon, as well as on the Renaissance Ribbons blog.

8 thoughts on “Hints & Tips for Sewing with Ribbons

    • Good point. I usually match my bobbin thread to my top thread. Sometimes I will use a fine thread, like Aurifil, for the bobbin thread. I’ll select a neutral tone that will blend with the thread colors in the ribbons. You could also use a clear or smoke monofilament thread. With proper machine tension, the bobbin thread should not show on the top of the ribbon.

  1. This is great advice, thank you! I am sewing silk ribbons to a polyester fabric. Do you have any advice for what needle to use as well as the length and width settings on the machine? The silk is so delicate, I’m afraid to ruin it.

    • I can understand your concern. Some silk ribbons, especially vintage styles, are very delicate. I would definitely so some samples to find the best combination of needle size, thread and stitch type and size. I might start with a finer needles, 60 or 70. Also try a finer thread. If the straight stitch puckers the ribbon, one of the decorative stitches on your machine might work, if you can find one that goes over the edge and just catches the edge of the ribbon every few stitches. Good luck! Be brave and start with sample bits.

    • Thanks, Erin. That can be tricky if the ribbons are slippery ones, like satins. I would recommend hand basting them to the project before stitching them down permanently. If you prefer not to deal with hand stitches, you could try small basting drops of fabric glue or bits of fusible web, but that can add a bit of stiffness with the two layers of ribbon. Best thing to do is to make a little sample and see what works best for you and the project. Happy Sewing!

  2. I have to make a wall hanging with all My gr-granddaughter fair ribbons from when she was in 4H in high school. My granddaughter sent me a large box of all her daughters ribbons. I know what I want to do, a wall hanging but how do it, sewing shows fusing does not stick.

    • Hi Clairine. Sounds like an interesting project but a bit challenging. I agree with you about fusing. I think I hae seen hangings made with different types of award ribbons. Have you done online search of even checked Etsy? You may get some ideas there. My only thought is if you could create flaps with the ribbons by stitching the tops of the ribbons between fabric pieces and letting them hang down freely.

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