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Monday, January 21, 2019


Silk ribbon embroidered fashions from Godey's Lady's Book, 1876
Silk Ribbon Embroidery
Trends come and go. This is particularly true of crafting trends. Remember macramé? At one time it was everywhere—from plant hangers to vests. When was the last time you even thought of macramé, let alone saw a macramé craft?

One of the silk ribbon
applique prototypes
Silk ribbon embroidery was one of those crafty trends that came and went decades ago. Someday it may come back. But back in the day when it was hot, Lois Winston, she who writes about me, was commissioned to design a series of silk ribbon embroidered appliqués for a craft manufacturer. Lois recently came across some of the prototypes for the product line, and I convinced her to share them on the blog.

Silk ribbon embroidery first appeared in France in the mid to late 1700’s when the French court began wearing elegant garments elaborately decorated with embroidered ribbons. Eventually, the fashion made its way across the English Channel. From England it spread to various British colonies.

In the early 1800’s U.S. women were spinning silk from their own cocoons. Silk was in such high demand that by the late 1830’s silk factories were growing their own mulberry trees, which were essential to the cultivation of the silk worm. But mulberry trees were difficult to grow in the States, and as cheaper silk began to be imported from China, domestic silk production came to an end.

However, this certainly didn’t put an end to the demand for silk. French silk ribbons were being imported for use in clothing, millinery, linens, and crazy quilts during the Victorian era. It was the renewed interest in Victoriana that brought about the revival of silk ribbon embroidery toward the end of the twentieth century.

Silk ribbon embroidery is simply traditional embroidery stitches worked with ribbons instead of yarn or floss. The beauty of the technique comes from the 3D quality of the ribbons. Silk embroidery is also quicker and easier than traditional embroidery in that allows for more coverage with fewer stitches in less time.

Sell sheets, samples, and packaging
for the silk ribbon embroidered appliqués

The craft also adapts well to other forms of needlework. Besides its use in traditional crazy quilts, when silk ribbon embroidery once again became popular, it was combined with punch needle embroidery, traditional crewel embroidery, and counted cross stitch. 
One of the combination cross stitch and
ribbon embroidery kits Lois designed for
another craft company

At the time you could find many projects in craft magazines for embellishments on various wearables such as blouses, vests, and jackets. Smaller pieces were crafted into accessories like earrings, hair clips, and brooches. The company that hired Lois to design the appliqués went a step further by eliminating the need for the crafter to create the silk ribbon items. You simply had to stitch or glue them onto whatever item you wanted to embellish.

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