Monday, June 25, 2012

Sewing with Ribbon - Straps for a dress/tunic

After my last post I got a couple of e-mails asking about sewing with ribbon, and specifically the straps of the O+S Swingset tunic.

It seems a basic sewing technique, but I remember before I started using ribbons, not knowing where to stitch, and being afraid that I would ruin the look of the ribbon, especially some of the patterned Farbenmix ribbons.

Below are some of the general points that I follow when sewing with ribbons, and the pictures are of how I sewed the straps of the O+S Swingset tunic with some ribbon from janemeans

  • As the ribbon is being used on a garment that will be machine-washed, Pre-Treat in the same manner that you will treat the finished garment.
  • First I zig-zaged the ribbon ends to prevent fraying. Some ribbons are loosely woven, and are more likely to fray - as in the picture below. The Music ribbon is much more tightly woven.
  • Then I washed the ribbons at 40*C and put them in the dryer. If the ribbon is going to shrink, this is the best time for that to happen.
  • Iron the ribbon to ensure it is smooth and not crumpled. This will make sewing easier.

  • Measure the width and length of ribbon needed, to ensure you have enough to complete the project.
I chose the ribbon for this project because the colour matched perfectly with the fabric. But I had to fold the ribbon in half along it's length, to make it fit the width of the pattern piece.

It is also possible to use a narrower ribbon (1/4 of the width of the pattern piece) for these straps. Then the steps below would not be needed.
If using a narrow ribbon, ensure it is tightly woven, otherwise it will pull through the stitching where it is attached to the bodice, and will not stand up to any wear and tear.

  • Change your needle before sewing the ribbon. A new needle will prevent damage, by not leaving large holes in the ribbon and by not pulling or tearing the threads of the ribbon.
  • Match your thread carefully to the colours on your ribbon so that the thread blends with the design on the ribbon
In the picture below, yellow thread is in the bobbin to match the yellow strip on the back of the ribbon. Orange is the top thread which matches the orange line of colour near the edge of the ribbon.

  • Because of the width of this ribbon, I folded it in half to make it fit and to provide strength and structure for the straps.
I sewed the two sides of the ribbon together. A long stitch works well for applying most ribbon, and I sewed slowly near the edge of the ribbon.

If your thread colour is matched carefully to your ribbon, the stitches will be almost invisible.
I also sewed another row of stitching near the folded edge of the ribbon. This gives more structure and support to the straps and keeps them lying flat.

There are 2 rows of stitching on each folded ribbon below. The orange stitching is particularly difficult to see, which means the colour of the thread doesn't interfere with the design on the ribbon.

  • The straps are attached as per pattern instructions. Use a smaller stitch length when attaching them to the bodice to hold them more securely.
  • Make sure they lie the same way/ direction. I wanted the dark stripe on the ribbon to be seen, so I placed that side of the ribbon against the main fabric.

And these are the finished straps. The topstitching around the edges of the bodice, also make the strap attachment more secure.

There are many other uses for ribbon in dressmaking (e.g. hems, waist stays, seam finishing), but the pre-treating, new needle and matching thread colour - as described above - are always necessary, especially if using ribbon for embellishment on the outside of a garment.

I hope this helps. If I think of anything else to add, I will come back and edit the post.

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