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We love embellishing projects with gorgeous ribbons. One reason is that we have such amazing choices from our friends and sponsor, Renaissance Ribbons. Another is because ribbons inject wonderful color and texture. Third, they’re very easy to work with. Since we use them often, we’re always thinking about new and unique ways to apply them. Today’s quick tip shows you how to use standard piping cord to make ribbon pop off the surface.

We show a variety of widths and positioning below, but the basic technique is the same on all. You’ll need a Zipper foot. And, if your machine allows you to easily adjust the needle position, like many of our Janome studio models do, you’ll be ahead of the game. This feature makes it faster to move from the outer edge stitching to the inner edge stitching along the piping cord.

We held our ribbons in place with pins, removing them as we stitched. As shown in the ingredients photo below, you could also use a fusible seam tape.

Our preferred thread for ribbon application is an invisible thread. We feel it gives the best look, and you don’t have to re-thread when changing from one color of ribbon to another.

For best results, you may need to loosen your upper tension slightly. It’s also a good idea to lengthen your stitch and sew at a slow and even pace. This type of thread does not stretch as well as regular thread and can break more easily under pressure, especially if it accidentally slides off the spool and wraps around the spool pin. Using a spool cap against the spool helps hold it in place on the pin, and again, going slowly and evenly helps the thread to feed correctly off the spool. Finally, always sew in the same direction along both sides of the ribbon. This will help prevent shifting and puckering.

If you’d prefer not to use invisible thread, choose colors to very closely match your ribbon, and take the time to re-thread as often as needed to maintain that perfect match.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • Because of the combined weight of the cord and ribbon, this technique works best on a heavier fabric; we used a soft denim
  • Ribbon of your choice; we used Renaissance Ribbons 
  • Piping cord; we used ¼” cord for the narrow ribbons and ½” cord for the wide ribbons – these measurements reflect the cord’s diameter, as measured across the cut end of the cord.
  • Invisible thread or all-purpose thread to match each ribbon
  • Straight pins or fusible seam tape

Getting Started

  1. Cut lengths of ribbon to fit your embellishment plan.
  2. Cut lengths of piping cord just a bit longer than each length of ribbon.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Place your fabric right side up and flat on your work surface.
  2. Measure and mark each ribbon’s position. Place the ribbon right side up on the fabric.
  3. We used pins to secure our ribbon samples. If you’d prefer to use a fusible seam tape, adhere one or more lengths to the wrong side of the ribbon and lightly press the ribbon in place on the fabric.
  4. Using a Zipper foot with the needle position set for the outside edge of the foot, edgestitch along one outer edge of the ribbon.
  5. Lift up the ribbon and center the piping cord underneath.
  6. Place the ribbon back down into position over the cord.
  7. Secure the opposite outer edge of the ribbon.
  8. Edgestitch the opposite outer edge of the ribbon.
  9. Change the needle position to hit the inside edge of the Zipper foot.
  10. Place the foot as close as possible along one side of the cording.
  11. Stitch along the length of the cording. Repeat to stitch along the opposite side of the cording.
  12. As mentioned above, it’s best to always sew in the same direction along the ribbon to help prevent any shifting and puckering. This means some additional adjusting of your presser foot and needle position, but it’s worth it to achieve a smooth finish.
  13. This technique works great for ribbons spaced apart…
  14. … ribbons that butt together…
  15. … ribbons at angles to one another…
  16. … as well as repeating rows of contrasting narrow ribbons…
  17. … or repeating matching ribbons. When complete, trim the ribbon and cord as needed for your project.
  18. When doing multiple rows, it’s best to do it in an assembly line fashion. In other words, stitch all the initial outer edges, then insert all the piping cord lengths, then stitch all the second outer edges, etc.
  19. Next time you want to add color, texture and dimension, try our corded ribbon technique.
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