In Ancient Egypt, pillows were a sign of wealth and prestige and were often used to carry ornamental items, such as precious jewels. The amount of money a family had determined the number of jewel-covered pillows on display. Similarly, the Romans used pillows to present precious items to a bride and groom during the wedding ceremony. A page would be selected to bring in pillows laden with gifts during the ceremony. Royal families would present the couple with crowns brought in on a pillow. Today, the pillow continues as the traditional way to transport wedding rings down the aisle, usually in the shaky hands of the bride's or groom's youngest male relative. This pretty version is made from intricately woven ribbons.
Today's project comes to us courtesy of Elaine Schmidt, a long-time Sew4Home friend. We first met Elaine through, The Complete Photo Guide To Ribbon Crafts, which is simply the best book on working with ribbons. More recently, we were wowed by the creativity of her follow-up book, How to Make 100 Ribbon Embellishments.
Elaine's process always shows an easy way to get a great result, and this ring pillow is no exception. She's given clear, step-by-step instructions for a stunning weave that is very easy to achieve. Her sample pillow uses three grosgrain ribbons in a neutral palette with a simple muslin backing. It's a perfect muted background on which the rings can sit as the stars of the show.
Although these exact ribbons are not currently available, any ⅝" ribbons would work, along with a coordinating 1½" ribbon for the center bow accent.
We found a pretty pastel combination at The Ribbon Retreat, featuring a ⅝" Bonnie Christine Jacquard Ribbon by Renaissance Ribbons surrounded by three grosgrain ribbons: ⅝" TRR Grosgrain in 03 Ivory, ⅝" TRR Grosgrain in 07 Pearl Pink, and 1½" Schiff Grosgrain in 042 Banana Cream.
The steps below show sizing when working with the recommended ⅝" and 1½" ribbons. You can certainly choose a different width, simply remember that all three of the weaving ribbons should be the same: eg. all ⅜" or all ⅞", etc. Once your weaving is complete, you'll need to confirm the finished size of the top prior to cutting your backing fabric.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome DC2015)
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 5¼ yards of ⅝" wide ribbon for the main weave of the pillow top (cream gingham in our sample)
- 3⅓ yards of ⅝" wide ribbon for the complimentary weave of the pillow top and the center bow (cream polka dot in our sample)
- 2½ yards of ⅝" wide ribbon for the complimentary weave of the pillow top; we used (cream stripes in our sample)
- ½ yard of 1½" wide ribbon for the center bow accent; we used (chevron twill in our sample)
- ⅓ yard of muslin or similar coordinating fabric for pillow back; we used a simple natural muslin
- ONE 1½" button for the center flower
- ⅓ yard of lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shir-Tailor®
- One small bag of polyester fiberfill; we used Poly-fil® Premium Polyester Fiberfill by Fairfield
- All purpose thread to match fabric and ribbon; we used Cream
- ONE skein of pearl cotton specialty thread; we used DMC Pearl Cotton Size 5 in White
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Pressing cloth
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Tape measure
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Long, sharp long-eyed sewing needle
- Seam sealant, such as Fray Check by Dritz
- From the main ribbon (the Gingham in our sample) cut SEVENTEEN 11" lengths
- From the coordinating ribbon for just the weave (the Stripes in our sample) cut EIGHT 11" lengths
- From the other coordinating ribbon for the weave and the bow (the Polka Dot in our sample) cut the following:
SIX 11" lengths
ONE 24" length
TWO 15" lengths
- From the center accent ribbon (Chevron in our sample), cut ONE 15" length
- From the interfacing, cut ONE 11" x 11" square
- From the muslin/backing fabric, cut ONE 11" x 11" square
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Weaving the ribbons for the pillow front
NOTE: For our instructions, we will be referring to the ribbons we used for our sample by name. If you wish to change out the ribbons to your own selections, simply substitute three coordinating ribbons as described above, keeping all the lengths and the positioning the same.
- Place the 11" x 11" square of fusible interfacing, adhesive side up, on your ironing surface.
- Starting from the left edge the square, pin one 11" Gingham ribbon to the top edge of the interfacing. The ribbon should be positioned ½" in from the left edge of the interfacing. Smooth the ribbon vertically to the bottom of the square, being careful to keep the side of the ribbon evenly ½" from the edge of the interfacing from top to bottom. Lightly pin in place. It's best if you can stick the pins in place to hold the ribbons, as shown below.
- Starting to the left of this first Gingham ribbon, butt additional 11" ribbons in the following order:
Stripe, Gingham, Dot, Gingham
Stripe, Gingham, Dot, Gingham
- You should end up with 15 vertical ribbons across the interfacing square. The right edge of the last Gingham ribbon should be ½" in from the right edge of the interfacing.
- To weave the first row of horizontal ribbons across, start ½" down from the top RIGHT corner of the square with a Gingham ribbon. Weave over the first Gingham and Stripe ribbons, then under the next Gingham and Dot vertical ribbons, then over the next Gingham and Stripe ribbons. Repeat this weaving pattern (over two, under two) across the square, ending with the ribbon going under the last Gingham ribbon at the top left. Pin the ribbon at each end.
- To weave the second row, start at the right side with a Stripe ribbon. This ribbon should butt up against the first horizontal ribbon. Weave under the Gingham ribbon, over the Stripe, under the Gingham ribbon and over the Dot. Repeat this simple over/under pattern across the square. If need be, adjust the ribbon when done weaving so it still butts right up against the first ribbon. Pin the ends.
- To weave the third row, start at the right side with a Gingham ribbon. Weave under the first Gingham vertical ribbon, then over the Stripe and Gingham, then under the Dot and Gingham. Repeat this over two/under two pattern across the square, coming out over the final Gingham ribbon. As above, adjust the ribbon when done weaving so it butts right up against the second ribbon. Pin the ends.
- To weave the fourth row, start at the right side with a Dot ribbon. Weave over the first Gingham vertical ribbon, then weave under the Stripe ribbon. Next weave over the Gingham, Dot and Gingham. Repeat this under one/over three pattern across the square. When you get to the end, you'll go under the Stripe ribbon per the pattern, then over just the final Gingham ribbon. As above, adjust the ribbon when done weaving so it butts right up against the third ribbon. Pin the ends.
- Repeat this weaving pattern three more times, working your way down the square. The very last set will only have three horizontal ribbons rather than four; you won't add a final Dot ribbon.
- Place a pressing cloth over the ribbon weaving, and following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the ribbon weaving to the interfacing.
Stitching the ribbons in place
- Using an approximate ½" seam allowance, carefully stitch around all outside edges of the weaving. We say "approximate" because you are stitching right next to the edge of the outer ribbons - but not on the outer ribbon itself. Adjust the seam allowance slightly larger or smaller as needed.
- Each vertical and horizontal ribbon row is then secured with a zig zag stitch. Set up the swing of the zig zag to catch both adjacent ribbon rows. To prevent any shifting of the ribbons, start stitching at the center of the weaving and work out to the sides.
- You'll have a wonderfully textured pillow top when done.
Back ribbon "handles"
- You should have one remaining 11" length of Gingham ribbon. This will be sewn to the backing fabric square to form handles for carrying the pillow.
- Place the 11" x 11" backing fabric square right side up on your work surface.
- Center the ribbon through the middle of the square. Pin and baste the ribbon at the either end and then stitch across the ribbon at the exact center point.
- The ends will be secured in the pillow side seams, allowing the attendant's little hands to slip under the ribbon and hold it steady as he/she walks down the aisle.
Stitch front to back and turn
- Place the front weaving right sides together with the pillow back. Pin around all sides, leaving a 3" - 4" opening along one side for turning.
- Using an approximate ½" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides, remembering to pivot at each corner and to lock your stitch at either side of the 3" - 4" opening.
- If you sew with the weaving side facing up, you can use your previous 'approximate' ½" edgestitching as a guide. This will also insure you don't catch the edges of the ribbon weaving, causing an odd bend.
- Clip the corners at a diagonal and turn the pillow cover right side out. Using a long, blunt-end tool, such as a knitting needle or chopstick, gently push out the corners to create pretty 90˚ angles.
- Using a pressing cloth, press well, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Stuff with fiber fill.
- Slip stitch the opening closed.
Center ribbon bow
- Find the 24" length of Dot ribbon. Overlap the ends to form a 3" loop with long tails. Pin the loop to center of the pillow front.
- Thread the long, sharp large-eyed sewing needle with a double strand of pearl cotton. Sew the center of the loop to the center of the pillow.
- Bring the needle all the way through to the back of the pillow, at the exact center point of the ribbon handles (at the seam line). Take a stitch, then bring the needle back up to the front, coming back out at the exact center point where you entered.
- Pull gently to cause the pillow to "dimple" at the center. Secure the thread and trim.
- Find the two 15" lengths of Dot ribbon. Form each into a figure eight bow.
- Place these loops at diagonals across the main loop, one to the left and one to right to form a flower shape as shown. As above, hand stitch the loops in place all the way through the center of the pillow.
- Find the 15" length of 1½" accent ribbon (Chevon in our sample) to make the center gathered rosette. Fold the tape in half. Edgestitch the ends together, forming a circle.
- Thread a regular sewing needle with standard sewing thread. Sew long gathering stitches around the circle, close to one edge of the ribbon.
- Pull to gather, creating the rosette. When gathered to the desired shape, knot the ends to secure and trim the thread tails close to the knot.
- With pearl cotton and the larger needle, sew the button to the center of the rosette. Then, sew the finished rosette to the center of the pillow. The rosette is not sewn through the pillow; it is simply sewn to the ribbon loops.
- Tie the wedding rings onto the ends of the center loop's ribbon tails. We simply finished the raw ends of these tails with Fray Check by Dritz.
Designed for Sew4Home and Fabric.com by Elaine Schmidt