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How to Make a Ribbon Cockade: Guest Tutorial by Elaine Schmidt

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We are in awe of Elaine Schmidt, secretly referring to her as "the ribbon whisperer" because we're so amazed by what she can get ribbon to do. The best part is, she's always ready, willing, and able to pass along her skills so the rest of us can tame our ribbon into beautiful trims, rosettes, sculptures, baubles, and more. Elaine's popular book, How to Make 100 Ribbon Embellishments is filled with amazing tutorials, one of which Elaine graciously agreed to share with us here at Sew4Home. She used some beautiful Amy Butler ribbons from Renaissance Ribbons to make a ribbon petal cockade... the same design featured on the cover of her book!

Historically, a circular ribbon embellishment was called a cockade. Cockades identified rank in the military and became symbols of allegiance to various political associations. These ribbon "fancies" evolved to become quite elaborate and continued to be used to decorate hats and other accessories of fashionable Victorian ladies. Today, cockades made with contemporary ribbons can be used to embellish a bag or tote or to accent a home décor project, such as a pillow or drapery tieback. 

You can find How to Make 100 Ribbon Embellishments at your local independent bookseller, or online at your favorite retailer. It's traditionall offered at or just under $20, and the value of the tips, ideas, and step-by-step instructional detail is worth ten times the cover price. You'll turn to it again and again for inspiration.

Our thanks to our friends at Renaissance Ribbons for providing the beautiful Amy Butler ribbon

You can see more of Elaine's work at her website, as well as access her blog posts and order her books.

The cockade finishes at approximately 6¼" in diameter.

Elaine Schmidt's Ribbon Petal Cockade

Supplies

You need three coordinating ribbons in three different widths.

  • 1½ yards (you need a total of 48") of ⅝" wide ribbon; Elaine used Pink Filigree from the Hapi collection by Amy Butler for Renaissance Ribbons 
  • 2 yards (you need a total of 64") of ⅞" wide ribbon; Elaine used Yellow/Pink/Blue Mosaic by Amy Butler for Renaissance Ribbons
  • ¾ yard (you need a total of 19½") of 2" wide ribbon; Elaine used Pink Blossom Pyramid from the Hapi collection by Amy Butler for Renaissance Ribbons
    NOTE: The 19½" length of 2" ribbon was cut so the pattern in the ribbon would be an exact match when the ends were stitched together to form the center rosette. If you do not need to exactly match the pattern of the ribbon selected for the center rosette, 18" (½ yard) of ribbon can be used.
  • ONE 4½" circle of buckram
    NOTE: Buckram is a crisp, coarse material stiffened with glue. It is traditionally used in millinery and to make books and draperies. It is also often used to stiffen the brim of baseball caps (I don't think baseball caps really qualify as part of millinery!). Buckram is sold by the yard and bolts can usually be found within the home decorator fabrics. A circle of stiff interfacing or a double layer of fused felt could also be used if buckram is not available.
  • ONE 1¼" button for the center accent
  • ONE 4¾" circle of felt in a color to coordinate with the ribbon to cover the back of the cockade (optional); Elaine used burgundy
  • Ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Scissors
  • Hand sewing needle
  • All-purpose thread to match the ribbon and the optional felt
  • Straight pins
  • Fray Check

Make the outer ribbon loops

  1. Cut the buckram (or similar) into a 4¾" diameter circle. 
  2. Cut sixteen 3" lengths of the ⅝" ribbon.
  3. Fold each ribbon length in half, wrong sides together, creating a loop. Pin to hold the loop in place. 
  4. Evenly position and pin the loops around the edge of the buckram circle. The loops should extend about ¾" beyond the edge of the circle. 
  5. Use small stitches (a slip stitch works well) to hand stitch each loop to the buckram circle. 

Make the inner ribbon loops

  1. Cut sixteen 4" lengths of the ⅞" ribbon.
  2. To make a petal loop, place a ribbon length on your work surface wrong side up. Position a pin at the center of each length. 
  3. Fold the left side of the ribbon down to the right. The point of the fold should meet the center pin. 
  4. Fold the right side of the ribbon down to the left, overlapping the ends. The center pin is at the top of the loop. Reposition the pin to hold the loop in place. 
  5. Place the first petal loop in place on the buckram circle, centering the point between two outer loops. Pin to hold it in place. Use small stitches to hand sew the petal loop to the buckram circle. 
  6. Continue to make petal loops with the remaining 4" ribbon lengths. Position and stitch each petal loop between two outer loops, as you did with the first loop, until you have created an entire inner circle of evenly-spaced petal loops. They will overlap one another around this inner circle.

Make center rosette

  1. Fold the 2" ribbon in half, right sides together. 
  2. With doubled thread and small running stitches, sew the cut ends together to form a hand-sewn ¼" seam, creating a ribbon circle. Secure the thread at the edge, but do not cut. To prevent the ribbon ends from raveling, place a line of seam sealant along the edges of the seam allowance. 
  3. With the same thread (remember, you didn't cut it after tying the knot above), sew long running stitches (gathering stitches) close to one edge of the ribbon. 
  4. Pull up the stitches to gather the rosette tightly in the center. Knot the thread to hold the gathers in place and away trim excess thread. 
  5. Hand sew the rosette to the center of the buckram circle. Also sew a few tacking stitches around the outer edge of the rosette to make sure all the raw edges of the inner ribbon loops are completely covered. 

Finish the cockade

  1. Hand sew a button through the center of the rosette to cover up the remaining center hole in the overlapped ribbons.
  2. The finished cockade can now be sewn or glued directly onto your project. Or, if desired, a circle of felt can be slip stitched to the back of the cockade, covering the buckram circle and all the hand stitches. 

Designed by Elaine Schmidt, author of How to Make 100 Ribbon Embellishments

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Comments (2)

Momo said:
Momo's picture

Thanks for the reminder!  I made these 30 some years ago! After making hats/caps for myself as I went through chemo last year, I now want to make them to donate, and I love cockades for making a hat look spectacular!  Some thrift store jewelry can provide just the right touch on a pretty cockade.  We Southerners always have a large collecion of sunhats, baseball caps, sun visors, and yes, sometimes even chemo hats.  A little draping or shirring, and a pretty accent on headwear can do so much for your spirits when you don't feel you look your best.  Even though my hair is all grown back, I still love wearing my cute caps.  My favorite grey one could use a yellow daisy-like cockade, I do believe.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Momo - We're so thankful to hear your chemo has ended and your hair has grown back. Congratulations! And, yes! these would be beautiful in varying sizes on hats