If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to use ribbon to embroider, look no further! This comprehensive guide will walk you through some silk ribbon embroidery techniques. Even if you’re a complete beginner, you’ll be stitching in no time.
Ribbon embroidery is unique because you can position ribbon to lay on the fabric in ways that regular embroidery thread will not. It’s a beautiful style that is well known for the luscious 3-dimensional floral arrangements you can make with it.
Supplies You’ll Need
Similar to embroidery with cotton floss, you’ll need all of the supplies that are normally used with a couple of exceptions.
- Embroidery needle
- Chenille needle – size 20 or 22
- Embroidery hoop
- Embroidery fabric
- Silk ribbon in assorted sizes
- 6 strand cotton floss
- Embroidery scissors
Silk ribbon is the best kind to use because it is softer, more pliable, and easier to stitch through than other ribbons made of synthetic materials. You can use synthetic ribbon such as satin or rayon but it can be a bit more challenging to work with.
Ribbons come in different sizes and they are usually measured in millimeters. The millimeter sizing refers to the width of the ribbon. It’s nice to have a good variety of different sizes to choose from.
Some common ribbon sizes to use are 2mm, 4mm and 7mm.
You can purchase silk ribbon from Etsy shops or even on Amazon. Here are two kinds of ribbons I’ve purchased from Amazon that are good quality listed below.
You’ll want to have two types of needles on hand, chenille and embroidery needles.
Chenille needles have a long, slender eye and a sharp tip. The size and shape of the eye will make it easier to thread the ribbon through. Silk can be fragile so this needle will also prevent the ribbon from becoming damaged while you are using it.
Size 22 and 24 Chenille needles work well for most sizes of ribbon.
You also need an embroidery needle because some embroidery stitches will use cotton floss to work the stitch or secure the ribbon to the fabric.
Natural fabrics such as linen, cotton, and canvas material work well. If you’re using wider ribbon, you may want to test out a few stitches. Sometimes it can be hard to pull the needle and ribbon through, but in most cases the 2 and 4mm ribbon will work just fine with most fabrics.
I like to have available 6 strand embroidery floss that matches the colors of the ribbon I’m using. You’ll need to use it for certain ribbon embroidery stitches.
To make it easier to thread, cut the end of the ribbon at a slant.
Silk can be slippery, which makes keeping the ribbon on your needle while you’re working a struggle, so you’ll want to secure it in a special way.
- Trim the end of the ribbon at a slant to make it easier to thread.
- Thread the end of the needle.
- Then, take the sharp end of the needle and pierce through the very end of the ribbon.
- Pull the needle and ribbon through until the ribbon is securely attached to the needle. This may require a bit of adjusting to get the ribbon to pull tight.
Starting and Ending Stitches
Ribbon can be a bit harder to secure, but the techniques you use for starting and stopping embroidery stitches is similar to when you’re using regular embroidery floss.
Here are a few different ways:
- Leave a tail to start and then tuck it underneath your stitches when you’re finished.
- Tie a knot at the end of the ribbon
- Make a stitch through the ribbon on the back.
- Secure the ribbon by making a few tiny stitches on the back with embroidery thread.
Ribbon Embroidery Stitches
Ribbon embroidery can use many of the same embroidery stitches that are normally stitched with cotton embroidery floss. However, there are a few stitches that are unique to ribbon embroidery.
The ribbon stitch is the most basic of stitches that are special to ribbon embroidery. A stitch is made through the ribbon, which makes it slightly fold over itself. This stitch can be great to use for flower petals and leaves.
- Come up through the fabric.
- Flatten the ribbon at the base of the stitch you just made.
- Leave some space between the first stitch and place your needle down through the ribbon and the fabric.
- Pull the ribbon through to the back, but make sure not to pull it too tight. Pulling the ribbon too much will pull the stitch through to the back of the fabric.
Side Ribbon Stitch
This is the same as the ribbon stitch except the needle pierces the ribbon towards the edge instead of the center, which makes it fold over on itself to one side. It’s another great option to use for flowers and leaves. Using a mixture of side ribbon and ribbon stitches will add a lot of movement to florals and greenery.
Folded Ribbon Stitch
Another stitch that adds more interest and movement is the folded ribbon stitch. You’ll need an embroidery needle and matching color of embroidery floss for this one.
- Come up through the fabric.
- Fold the ribbon over and hold with your finger.
- Pierce the ribbon near the part of the ribbon that is folded under.
- With embroidery floss in a matching color, secure at the corner of the fold with a small stitch.
Rolled Ribbon Rose
This is a super fun way to make roses. You kind of have to fold and roll it a few times until you’re happy with the shape, but these roses really add a lot of depth to any embroidery.
- Fold the end of a wide piece of ribbon at a diagonal.
- Roll once over itself.
- Twist once and then roll the ribbon again.
- Secure the ribbon at the base with embroidery thread.
- Continue twisting and rolling, securing with a stitch after every roll.
- Once you are happy with the size of the rose, attach to the fabric with embroidery thread.
- Make ribbon stitches around the rose to add more petals.
After I surrounded the rolled rose with some ribbon stitches, I added some leaves using fishbone stitches.
Silk Ribbon Embroidery Flowers
It can be really fun to use traditional embroidery stitches with ribbon. The thickness and dimension it creates makes traditional embroidery stitches look very unique and even more beautiful. Here are a few you can use.
The woven wheel translates really well with ribbon. You’ll need a matching color of embroidery floss to create the 5 initial spokes.
The key to making a plump rose with this stitch is to not pull too tight on the ribbon while you’re weaving in and out of the spokes. You can use your needle to plump up the ribbon as you go.
Lazy Daisy (Detached Chain Stitch)
Another great stitch to use for the leaves of roses is the lazy daisy stitch.
The stem stitch is great for stems and outlines, this stitch is much thicker with ribbon, but the way the ribbon twists and folds really adds interest.
French knots are great for adding little flowers or buds.
Ribbon Stitch Flowers
Finally, I added some simple flowers using the ribbon stitch.
I hope this guide helped you learn some of the basics so you can stitch your very first silk ribbon embroidery! If you’re looking for even more ideas, Sew Guide has a very informative post on all sorts of different stitches you can use for flowers.
Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.