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How to Make Ribbon Trim

Recently I purchased a stole at a vintage shop. I had to have it, just to get an example of this extraordinary trim, which I then had to figure out how to make. This post presents the results. Don't miss other Threads techniques like this by purchasing a print subscription which comes with FREE access to our tablet editions. 

Here's a detail, that shows how this sweet little trim can be used to good effect.

When explaining this trim, as well as other kinds of ribbon work, I will refer to the unit of measure as "ribbon width". I learned about this method of measurement from Candice Kling's excellent book The Artful Ribbon.

Using the width of the ribbon as the increment of measure, makes any work easily scalable, either larger or smaller. The trim on the inside of this stole was 3/8" finished width at its widest point.

Since you will lose 25% of the ribbon length when making this trim, make sure to cut your ribbon length 125% of the finished length you need.


  Mark dots along the ribbon selvages, one ribbon width apart, as shown. Do this along the entire length of the ribbon.
  Next, make a third row of marks between the selvage marks in the middle of the ribbon as shown. Make these marks the full ribbon length.
  This photo shows the stitching pattern that comes into play here.

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Comments (70)

Ali_J Ali_J writes: I just had a go at this and realized its basically the same as doing one column of canadian smoking. But all the same its a lovely trim and I alsways enjoy something new.
Posted: 4:20 pm on December 12th

chebre chebre writes: Love it!
Posted: 10:39 pm on April 1st

tasha111 tasha111 writes: Благодарю за подробный мастер класс!!!Так просто и симпатичною,лент полно..буду думать куда применить такое украшение.
Posted: 1:32 pm on December 6th

bushbunny bushbunny writes:
Posted: 12:42 pm on July 5th

bushbunny bushbunny writes: This technique created such a pretty trim that I stitched up 6m + 25% (1.5M)= 7.5 meters to trim a contemporary version of a quilted jacket.
...have also just completed a sample where the ribbon treatment is tacked into place between strips of mink trim and it looks very 'rich'. I have no idea yet where I will apply it, but I LUV it - thank you Mr. King
Posted: 12:42 pm on July 5th

dilly_dally dilly_dally writes: I am curious if anyone has ever seen this trim in a painting portrait. I am wondering how far back it goes...I do mostly 16th century stuff....

It is so pretty!

Dilly Dally
Posted: 3:15 pm on April 28th

Cleo_Elaine Cleo_Elaine writes: I hope you know I did not proof read my note. I wanted it to say attach a bead. Cleo
Posted: 1:54 am on February 20th

Cleo_Elaine Cleo_Elaine writes: Thanks Kenneth, This ribbon trim is beautiful. Thanks for sharing with your expertise how to make it. I thought I might put a bed in each little pocket as you attach the ribbon. Just a thought. Cleo
Posted: 1:52 am on February 20th

Luvtosmock Luvtosmock writes: Hello Mr. King.

I have ordered your book and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Thank you so very much for the ribbon trim technique. Really! It's been a huge help to me. I work a lot of three-dimensional ribbon embroidery - lots of flowers. I've been searching for a technique that makes very realistic Foxglove and this is it!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm so very happy with how it turned out. Upon completion of my blooming stalks, I pained some "freckles" and voilà - *perfect* Digitalis purpurea!!!

I am so very grateful to you for sharing this beautiful project - more than you'll ever know.

Kindest regards and much love, Pam.
Posted: 9:28 am on February 18th

KimsIdleHands KimsIdleHands writes: My biggest wish is that I could apprentice beside him.
Posted: 11:15 am on February 17th

lapark lapark writes: how cool! i can see this as an embellishment on so many dresses, art quilts, or even edging on a quilt, bags or purses...i am inspired!

Posted: 2:02 pm on February 15th

KennethDKing KennethDKing writes: In regards to my books, my current book, of which I'm most proud, is called "Cool Couture", and can be got on (Also know that in the UK, they re-packaged this book under another title, ISBN number, and cover--why, I don't know. Don't be fooled into buying both. Buy Cool Couture.)

I also did a book called "Designer Bead Embroidery" in 2006 (translated into French in 2007), and lastly, my first book was called "Designer Techniques" (I HATED that title and cover!) in 1996. That one is out of print, and Cool Couture is the book I wanted that one to be.

Thanks for asking!
Posted: 6:23 pm on February 11th

Eloralil Eloralil writes: This is absolutely beautiful. I love everything Kenneth does. I haven't seen any books by him though. Does anyone know of books he's written.
Posted: 8:28 am on February 11th

imlady imlady writes: I am not surprised that Kenneth King added another simple and elegant tool to our bag of tricks. I am grateful for your itchy brain Kenneth, which MUST learn something new when you see it.
Posted: 11:47 am on February 9th

stavolta01 stavolta01 writes: asolutely love the ribbon worl reminds me of pillows mun had when i was very young. Would like to know where to purchase "The Artful Ribbon" book. I am in
australia. Thanks
Posted: 2:08 am on February 9th

Bellbird Bellbird writes: This is just gorgeous! I am going to get out my box of saved ribbons and have a play. I can see this trim decorating the next clutch or handbag that I make. Thank you so much for your wonderfully clear instructions.
Posted: 1:20 am on February 9th

KennethDKing KennethDKing writes: For the question about only using silk ribbon for this trim--no! I use whatever will make up well, so, whether you like natural fibers or man-made, this will make up nicely!

And, I join my voice in another shout-out about Candice Kling's book "The Artful Ribbon", it is one of those that should be in everyone's library. She is the (for lack of a better word) Elder Stateswoman of this kind of work. She was researching these techniques and reviving them way before most of us knew they existed. That these techniques continue into the future is mainly because of her efforts.

Word has it from good sources, that she's working on another book. I'll keep you posted as to its progress...
Posted: 9:07 pm on February 8th

MizWoody MizWoody writes: Do you have to use silk ribbon for this to work? Thanks.
Posted: 7:11 pm on February 8th

Yumjo Yumjo writes: OOPS, Got mixed up about what to do or write! Anyway, this trim is already planned for the next Christening dress, scarf or embellishment I will be doing soon to present to my Fiber Arts Guild next week. Thanks so much for the fun, interesting and pretty trim.
Posted: 2:41 pm on February 8th

Yumjo Yumjo writes:
Posted: 2:38 pm on February 8th

lifelongsewer lifelongsewer writes: For anyone who wants to see more fabulous ribbon-work, as sculpture and as applied to surface, look for Candace Kling, who is a master ribbon-worker and has written at least one book on ribbon-work, which goes back several centuries, especially in historic European costume.
Posted: 1:28 pm on February 8th

Mexiricansister Mexiricansister writes: I sure wish I could "Pin it". Tried and tried, and no luck. Sigh.......
Posted: 12:16 pm on February 8th

Grandmagwen Grandmagwen writes: Thank you so much for this trim. I was just wishing for a creative trim to use on the neck line of a dressy but plain T-shirt. You answered now to attach but how is it laundered?
I'm sure by hand but does it get out of shape or ever look wrinkleld? I can't wait to start on mine!
Posted: 11:21 am on February 8th

Uglybeat Uglybeat writes: ACK! This is fantastic!!! I would love to make a whole dress based upon this idea. I'll need to become independently wealthy and quit my job first, however. Or start now, and wear it when I'm 70.
Thank you for the fantastic tutorial!
Posted: 10:25 am on February 8th

SewVegan SewVegan writes: I have this trim in a custom-made coat that my mother-in-law had made for her in the 1960s! It borders an inside pocket in the lining, and I've always loved it. Thank you!
Posted: 7:26 am on February 8th

CreativeKhadija CreativeKhadija writes: Superb..I love it :)
Posted: 7:25 am on February 8th

hifromdi hifromdi writes: I love this technique... haven't tried it, yet, but my head sure is spinning.....

Posted: 9:46 pm on February 7th

LuvThreadsMagazine LuvThreadsMagazine writes: Senor King continues to demystify the universe, when he isn't expanding it.

Posted: 8:37 pm on February 7th

Nannysc Nannysc writes: I am a huge fan of Kenneth King and loved this before I realized it was his...I should have known. Thank you again for sharing another of your spectacular creations!
Posted: 7:41 pm on February 7th

Belair108 Belair108 writes: I LOVE this. I'm don't usually have the patience for elaborate trims, but I am going to make a special trip for ribbon.
Posted: 7:36 pm on February 7th

nani nani writes: Every time we get a lesson or article from Kenneth King, I feel so lucky! Kenneth, I love how you share so much of your knowledge by teaching SO many people in the many ways that you do. For being so famous, you are incredibly down to earth and generous. Many thanks!
Posted: 7:33 pm on February 7th

fergus4 fergus4 writes: Thanks Kenneth - Another wonderful How-To from you! I love it and will be using it on a number of things for myself and for my DGD.
Posted: 7:25 pm on February 7th

shocreations shocreations writes: Thank you Mr. King. This is neat. I'm anxious to try it out.
Posted: 5:50 pm on February 7th

KennethDKing KennethDKing writes: Hello!

I'm glad that you all like this trim! It was lovely on the inside of that stole, and this is a trim that can go many places.

The question that keeps coming up--how to attach? I just slip-stitch it to the ground, tunneling the thread under the fabric between units and catching the trim at the stitching points.

And yes, if you use a decorative embroidery thread while working this, the back of the work will also look nice.

Another variation, is to make two or more lengths of this, and sew them together parallel at the stitching points--it makes a fuller trim, one that, if you use three lengths stitched together, would make a nice finish on an edge of, say a scarf, or, even a quilt.

Enjoy, folks!
Posted: 5:09 pm on February 7th

Djonee Djonee writes: oops i mean MR.King sorry typing without proof reading
Posted: 4:04 pm on February 7th

Djonee Djonee writes: Thank My King for this beautiful looking trim I going try this trim and expand on this by incorporating some bling to it...
Posted: 4:02 pm on February 7th

at_clearing at_clearing writes: Thanks ever so much for your generosity in sharing so much . . . and your brilliance in capably deciphering and presenting the "how to"s of so many things. Awesome!
In love light and healing~)
Posted: 3:37 pm on February 7th

FionaWest FionaWest writes: I love it! Thank you so much, I can't wait to try this.
Posted: 3:25 pm on February 7th

kaydeej kaydeej writes: I am making my first crazy quilt and this will make a stunning addition, it's so great looking and looks fairly easy. The directions are great and good pictures. I love Threads.
Posted: 3:15 pm on February 7th

marijim marijim writes: Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to seeing all of the projects via newsletter and my subscription to Threads magazine. I have been a subscriber since the first issue.
Posted: 3:09 pm on February 7th

LoraZ LoraZ writes: This is awesome. I am making doll dresses for my Granddaughters American Girl Doll and I can't wait to make this with a tiny ribbon to put on an old fashion dress. Oh the possibilities!!
Thank you so much for sharing.
Posted: 2:49 pm on February 7th

MaryGwyneth MaryGwyneth writes: Simply fabulous!

Posted: 2:47 pm on February 7th

Moonbeams Moonbeams writes: With a little work, it almost looks good even on the reverse. I'm going to try this. It is nice to be able to make something that looks so ocmplicated!
Posted: 2:44 pm on February 7th

Shadegardener Shadegardener writes: Can't wait to try this. The instructions are very clear.
Posted: 2:15 pm on February 7th

Hartline Hartline writes: Hi, My question is: how do you attach this ribbon trim. I am thinking of using wedding ribbon as a trim to a baby blanket.
Posted: 1:38 pm on February 7th

FelicityH FelicityH writes: This one has inspired so many people. I can't wait to try it on one of the Project 1912 projects.
Posted: 12:16 pm on February 7th

pchbch pchbch writes: Kenneth: I always loved the look of the trim. Thanks so much for the directions to make it. Best Regards Dianne Beach
Posted: 11:58 am on February 7th

arjee63 arjee63 writes: This reminds me of ruching; I have a pillow that was my grandmother's, and though it was an allover ruching, the technique is very similar.

What a wonderful idea! Thanks so much for this article. I can see many applications for it.

By the way, the "wrong" side has lovely folds as well. If a decorative thread were used, that side would also make for an interesting trim option.
Posted: 11:57 am on February 7th

kurlykue kurlykue writes: This was such a great embellishment. Thank you for sharing.
Posted: 11:38 am on February 7th

sewtherapeutic sewtherapeutic writes: wow this makes me think of the beautiful night gowns and robes my grandmother used to wear. They looked sort of like a négligé soft and billowy but not see through and the gowns were beautiful. In fact she would wear a lace "mañanita" or morning jacket for modesty sake when the Dr would come to see her either in the hospital or at home when such was the norm. mañanitas are waist length, the one i liked the most was dusty rose and pale gray lace over the top that draped very soft.
This article has brought back a flood of such pleasant memories.
Posted: 11:20 am on February 7th

copywriterMT copywriterMT writes: I wonder how the trim is attached to the garment? Hand-tacked along the underneath where the joining/forming stitches are located? One more pic would complete the instructions for me! Thanks, all, I appreciate the comments so much. Lantern and Shadows, YOU are the math wizard as you seem to inherently understand how to calculate markup.
Posted: 10:57 am on February 7th

nobodysgrandma nobodysgrandma writes: This appears to be counterchange smocking done only on the vertical. Don't worry about the math. You will probably just keep smocking until you have the length needed.
Posted: 10:37 am on February 7th

cynsew cynsew writes: I absolutely love this ribbon embellishment. Kenneth King you are my favorite designer and you have been ever since I saw you many many years ago on a Sandra Betzina sewing show. I also would like to thank you for sharing all of the fabulous information that you find and your many tips and techniques.

Unfortunately, some of us live where this kind of valuable information is not available and again I can't thank you enough for what I have learned from you!!!! Cindy
Posted: 10:04 am on February 7th

agatha44 agatha44 writes: Thank you for sharing this beautiful embellishment. This would be beautiful to enhance sleeves and neckline on a simple dress.
Posted: 10:04 am on February 7th

lvnvmarth lvnvmarth writes: Thank you so much!!! I am avid embellisher. I have always dreamed of figuring out this type of trim. You have made my dream come true. Thank you, thank you so much!
Posted: 9:56 am on February 7th

Mexiricansister Mexiricansister writes: Lantern and Shadows, thanks for the math as that is NOT my forte.

Barbara from Germany thank you for the wonderful lesson and links.

I can't wait to do this trim. I think I will do a baptismal baby bib first with it. Short and sweet project.

For some reason (and several tries) this is not pinning to my pinterest board :-(
Posted: 9:40 am on February 7th

kendell1964 kendell1964 writes: Thank you for sharing this project. It looks awesome and I trust I will find time to try it. Kindest regards
Posted: 9:40 am on February 7th

Carly_Sue Carly_Sue writes: This trim is just exquisite. I love you, Threads, for all of the wonderful information you provide on the net. It is great that you have the top notch designers like Kenneth King, on this site. I appreciate it so very much. The perfect directions make it so easy to follow and get beautiful results. Keep up the good work.
Posted: 9:37 am on February 7th

JeanSp JeanSp writes: Assuming that you do lose 25% of the ribbon's length, you would need to add 33% to the desired width. Chances are that's not a problem, because I expect Mr. King has done it this way with his measurements and it worked out fine.
Posted: 9:37 am on February 7th

nanacosta nanacosta writes: Lovely little detail Mr. King!!! thank you so much!! I could not wait and made it in a 2/8 of and inche ribbon and came out beautifully!!! Thank you, thank you again!!!
Posted: 9:02 am on February 7th

babsi1111 babsi1111 writes: Hi Kenneth,
thanks for always posting such interesting tips.
I wanted to share with you all, that this type of trim is a traditional embellishment of Bavarian and Austrian dirndl tops and jackets. It is mostly sewn around the neckline and we call it "Herzruesche" which means as much as "heart trim".
There are more trims similar to this one used in dirndls, e.g. "Froschgoscherln" which means "little frog mouths" and many others. Often there are several rows of different trims combined around the neckline to yield the impression of one broad trim.

You can see some examples here (click on the images to enlarge them)

and here:

It's very interesting to see our traditional embellishments being used in couture.

Greetings from Germany
Posted: 8:53 am on February 7th

etheldora etheldora writes: Simply beautiful, beautifully simple! I'm envisioning this trim adorning a satin, vintage-styled evening bag ... can't wait to try it. Thank you for sharing and for your very clear instructions!
Posted: 8:40 am on February 7th

KathfromOz KathfromOz writes: Thank you for your effort, expertise, and generosity that has led to your professional posting of this trim. I value it all.
I'd like to see it trimming a christening set. Perhaps wider ribbon on the edge of the bonnet and narrower on the dress but would need to give it more thought.
Flower girl dresses too would be given an extra special touch with this trim, including their head bands.
Christmas wreaths and tree decorations would benefit too, using appropriate colours. Can't you see it edging a star etc in the chosen colour scheme, silver on blue, cream on gold, red on green and so forth.
Thanks too, for the inspiration this post has given rise too.
Posted: 6:51 am on February 7th

maddie964 maddie964 writes: or onto the hem of a skirt!

Sincerely Always,
Posted: 9:52 pm on February 6th

maddie964 maddie964 writes: This is awesome! Absolutely charming! It would look great top applied onto the side seams of a pair of tailored pants!
Posted: 9:51 pm on February 6th

Sewista Sewista writes: I am so impressed with our math wizard here. I don't even understand what they are saying, just sounds good so I'll believe it, LOL!

I can't wait to try this lovely trim. Just put it on my pinboard. Thanks again for your expertise, Mssr. King.
Posted: 5:17 pm on February 6th

patsijean patsijean writes: I am not sure how I will use this trim technique right now, but I will used it. The ribbon is just too cool.
Posted: 1:57 pm on February 6th

abcameo abcameo writes: Thank you so much for posting the step-by-step process with detailed photos. I have a ribbon trim book with this design included, and this particular pattern was one I wanted to try. They call it "Shell Smocking." The instructions are written but the only stitch diagram shown is confusing to me. I've tried to figure it out on a few different occasions but never succeeded and remember feeling completely frustrated.

Your detailed diagrams make this design process crystal clear. So very much appreciated.
Posted: 12:44 pm on February 6th

Mahogany_Stylist Mahogany_Stylist writes: Wow! Thanks for posting this. It's a great way to embellish a garment.
Posted: 11:06 am on February 6th

LanternandShadows LanternandShadows writes: I love all the work you do Kenneth and I can't wait to try this. Sorry to be a math nerd here but I do have a question. If your work shrinks 25% wouldn't you need to cut your starting ribbon 133% of finished length. For instance, if you desire a 12" finished trim my calculation suggest that you would need to cut the ribbon 16" long. Once sewn up the 16" (12 times 133%) ribbon loses 25% and shrinks to 12" while a 15" ribbon (12 times 125%) would come up short at 11.25" Keep up the great posts.
Posted: 10:44 am on February 6th

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