ictorian ladies sometimes used narrow silk ribbons in their embroideries to give an attractive three dimensional effect and subtle shading. They could make up flower shapes and sew those down but often they were used as threads in simple stitches such as french knots, bullion knots and lazy daisy stitch.
These traditional designs are still popular today and ribbons can be found in many more shades than were available to our great, great grandmothers. This craft can be used for very decorative items from brooches and lavender sachets to large pictures and cushions. Ribbons can be used in widths from 1/16' to 5/16' (2 mms to 7 mms) but the most common width is 1/8'.(3 mms) Try to work with short lengths, no more than 12' as that will keep the freshness of the ribbon and prevent twists. When you begin, thread the needle and then take the point of the needle back through the ribbon approximately 1/4' (6 mm) from the end. This will allow you to use more of the ribbon and save you searching around on the floor should the needle fall.
Daisies and leaves are easily worked using lazy daisy stitch. Roses can be worked by making a french knot followed by straight stitches around using the same shade or lighter shades of the same colour. Another version uses fly stitch and is also known as spiderweb rose.. A daffodil can be worked with four lazy daisy stitches for the petals and four buttonhole stitches for the trumpet. Tulips can be worked with two or three ribbon stitches and crocuses with two lazy daisy stitches slightly overlapping and a bullion knot in the centre. Detailed diagrams for all these stitches can be found in the glossary.
As well as giving shape and texture to a picture, ribbon flowers will vary in shape slightly to give a more natural look. It's important to keep the tension light, the looser the stitches the more elegant the finished work.
We have found a few booklet with designs combining cross stitch and ribbon embroidery in a variety of projects including pictures, greetings cards and cushions. The patterns all have detailed instructions and stitch diagrams. In particular there is a 'Basic Stitches' booklet from Jeanette Crews Designs which will give you the opportunity to start with a small article and progress to bigger things. If you would like to look at the details click here.
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