Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ribbon Dresses & How-to Select Ribbons for Sewing

The inspiration for these dresses came from a few sources, particularly the Great British Sewing Bee, Kids Clothes Week & a series on sewing from Japanese sewing Books!

Kids Clothes Week at the end of April gave me the push to start sewing the dresses but it was the wonderful series on sewing from Japanese Pattern Books that helped me decide to sew a Japanese pattern. I used a pattern from this book, bought from an excellent eBay seller. The fabric for these dresses is quilting cotton, the blue is from Oliver&S and the yellow/lime fabric is from Heather Bailey.

I loved the BBC's recent TV series about sewing and watching Lauren's approach to adding details & embellishment on the Great British Sewing Bee confirmed my own love of adding fun elements like ribbons, facings and other details to what I sew. The haberdashery and fabric showcased each week on the show (and linked to by the Sewing Directory) was impressive, in particular all the beautiful ribbon which was supplied by Jane Means.

I had fun picking ribbons for these dresses, so I listed what I consider important when I'm selecting ribbons, though it may be obvious!

How to Pick and Choose Ribbons for Sewing:

There are no simple rules for selecting ribbon types and colours when sewing dresses like these.

  • Ensuring the ribbons are pretreated (eg by washing) in the same way as the fabric is important, so that the finished garment will be washable.
  • Picking a theme is helpful, especially here as so many ribbons were being used. I chose striped ribbons for one dress & the other has spotty ribbons (see above).
  • Deciding on ribbon colour can also be complicated, but keeping with Colour wheel recommendations, I like to keep to 3 main colours. These can be complementary or contrasting - as you can see below I initially considered raspberry as a strong contrast.
  • Focusing on colours in the fabric that can be matched is also a good start.
  • Use ribbons to highlight a specific feature. As these dresses have square hems, I chose ric-rac and decorative ribbon to create a focal point on the garment.
  • Personalise and add fun elements, especially when sewing children's clothes. These dresses were for two 6 year olds, so the music and dog ribbon were added to personalise the dresses to the girls interests.


Trust your instincts when choosing ribbon colours for sewing projects. Lay your ribbons out on the fabric for a day or so. Swap, move and change ribbons around until they begin to look and feel right to you. Aim to enjoy the process, rather than putting yourself under pressure to find the 'perfect'' ribbon. There really is no 'right or wrong' ribbon!


I used quite a selection of JaneMeans ribbons on these dresses, but also included details like Liberty bias binding, flat-felled side seams and ........

....... an exposed zipper. These have been around the fashion world for a few years, and I've finally decided I like them! I've seen them sewn a few different ways in tutorials, but generally followed this tutorial from BurdaStyle

I love the simplicity of these dresses, which look like a regular a-line style, when hanging.

However the unusual shape isn't fully evident unless the dress is being worn, or is spread out fully.

I sewed the lime-coloured dress first to help me with sizing for the blue dress (for my niece). The lime dress ended up being a little short so I sewed up leggings for my daughter to wear with the Riviera pattern from the Sewing Clothes Kids Love book.


Pin It Now!  


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Kathy :-) for such a simple shape, they make a big impression!

  2. Helpful tips! I often over think embellishments and then end up stressed out over what should be a fun process. The dresses are pretty!

    1. Cindy thank you & I'm glad you think they're helpful :-) I used to struggle a lot more with adding ribbons, but now I just enjoy it because I know it will eventually just feel right! If anything, I have to restrain myself ;-)

  3. Really turned out cute! Love the ribbons.

    1. Thanks Olga! They were fun to sew & I'm glad you like them :-)