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Beginners’ Silk-Ribbon Embroidery: Five Easy Stitches

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Vests come to life with asymmetrical floral designs embroidered with silk ribbon.

Silk-ribbon embroidery is a romantic, old art that uses ribbon, embroidery floss, and perle cotton to work beautiful floral motifs and decorative stitch patterns by hand on garments and accessories. Don’t miss other stitching tutorials like this one by purchasing a print subscription of Threads magazine which comes with FREE access to our tablet editions.

I love the antique quality of this form of embroidery, and I use it to embellish crazy-quilted bags and purses, as well as contemporary garments cut from a single fabric. Silk-ribbon embroidery is easy and fun to do, and even a novice embroiderer can create elegant floral arrangements and beautiful patterns with some simple stitches.

There are many different embroidery stitches, but I’ve found that just five basic stitches, used alone or in various combinations, can create a large array of floral motifs and stitch patterns. The ribbon stitch is for ribbon only, but the lazy daisy, straight stitch, French knots, and stem stitch can be made with ribbon or thread. Try them, and you’ll see that the ribbon produces a different effect with each stitch.

Straight stitch
The most basic of stitches can be used for numerous effects, some of which are shown below.

Straight stitch


1. Bring up at A, pull through.

2. Insert down at B, pull through.

Ribbon stitch
This stitch makes great leaves or petals, and works only with silk ribbon.

Ribbon stitch


1. Bring up at A, pull through.

2. Lay ribbon flat on fabric and insert needle at B, piercing ribbon and pulling through slowly. Ribbon will curl into B, so don’t pull tightly, or effect will be lost. To vary curl, pierce B to right or left of center of ribbon width.

Tip: If ribbon appears straight and narrow, make another stitch on top of first one.

Lazy daisy
Use for petals or leaves with ribbon, floss, or perle cotton.

Lazy daisy


1. Bring up at A, pull through.

2. Make loop in direction of other end of stitch and insert at B, a thread or two to side of A. Pull out at C, in direction needle points until loose loop is formed, then stitch back down at D.

Note: To prevent ribbon from twisting when it’s drawn through fabric after pulling out at C, arrange it around needle so it’s flat. Gently hold in place with thumb while sliding needle and ribbon through.

French knots

French knots


1. Bring up at A, pull through. Holding ribbon or thread, lay needle on top.

2. Wrap ribbon or thread around needle two to three times. Insert needle at B a thread or two from A. Gently slide wrapped ribbon/thread down needle to rest against fabric, and pull through.

Stem stitch
Use this stitch for flower stems and outlining.

Stem stitch


1. Bring up at A, pull through.

2. Insert needle at B on stem line. Holding thread below line, pull out at C directly in line with last stitch (not above or below) and 1/8 in. from B, pull through. Continue to end of line, making sure thread is always held below line of stitching.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, take a look at more of my favorite stitches, with examples of how I use them in designs.

Embroidery supplies by mail
Country Stitches
2200 Coolidge Rd.
East Lansing, MI 48823

Granny May Company
1528 Gilcrest Ave.
East Lansing, MI 48823
[email protected]

Nordic Needle
1314 Gateway Dr., SW
Fargo, ND 58103

Ribbon Smyth
PO Box 416
Fountainville, PA 18923

Vintage Vogue
712 June Dr.
Corona, CA 92879

by Karen Kieppe
from Threads #92. pp. 56-59

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  1. User avater
    SusanGayle | | #1

    I would love to take this up again but I can't find the ribbons anymore. I see some 2, 4, & 7mm but not 9 & 13 and no organza. I used Bucilla last time. That was all the was available in our area. Now the isn't any. Even the ones that pop up an a search don't seem to have many (or any).

  2. Peeshy | | #2

    I have never done SRE but would love to learn - what kind of a needle should I use?

  3. dearly | | #3

    thanks its really help me

  4. shifa | | #4

    hi! i love embroidery works very much i would like have more of these and ofcourse its really helpfull thanx

  5. kpop_princess | | #5

    this is so helpful!!!!!!

  6. user-3606258 | | #6

    I have just joined. I see questions here that I would like to know the answers to also but, I do see any answers. Where can I find them?

  7. User avater
    WillowMchenry | | #7

    This is so pretty and i like this embroidery

  8. kayem818 | | #8

    I have a ribbon embroidery quilt that has been damaged by my pet (long nails caught the ribbons). Is there anyone in Washington County, Maine who would be interested in repairing this quilt? It was very expensive and is still very beautiful. I don't know how to repair it, but hoping there is someone out there to do it.

  9. PassiveLead | | #9

    It was so nice to see this type of embroidery

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