Use this technique to add floral beauty—with silken stitches—to gifts and items in your home.

By Alexandra Churchill
June 12, 2020
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Embroidery with ribbons instead of floss, yarn, or thread creates designs with a distinctive three-dimensional quality. One of the many charms of this method is that the stitches, though simple, appear to be elaborate. As the silky strands are tugged through the fabric they twist and fold, resulting in lifelike petals, stems, and leaves. This translates into a technique that works particularly well for rendering flowers and vegetation. Keep the stitching loose for a soft, crinkled effect or pull the ribbon tight to produce sleek, straight lines. And just as real fruit or flowers may differ in size, similar naturalistic variations can be easily achieved by changing the width of the ribbon.

Anyone who has embroidered will find the stitches used for this technique familiar, and newcomers will find them easy to learn. Creating the botanical patterns is surprisingly simple, too.

Tools and Materials

Other than basic embroidery supplies, all you need is embroidery ribbon, which is fine silk ribbon that is available in a variety of widths and will slide effortlessly through fabric). You'll also need cotton or linen fabric, a disappearing ink pen, an embroidery hoop, an embroidery or tapestry needle.

Sketch a design onto the fabric with a disappearing-ink fabric pen, then fit fabric into an embroidery hoop. Thread the needle using the following technique, which lets you use most of a length of ribbon: Insert about 2 inches through the eye. Pierce ribbon with needle; tug on long end until the ribbon is secure in the eye (see illustration below). Knot the long end. Work with 10- to 12-inch lengths of ribbon to avoid fraying. When the ribbon runs out or you want to change colors, pass it through a few stitches on the back of your work and knot.

Stitches to Know

A few basic stitches can imitate the appearance of flower petals, leaves, and other nature-inspired designs. French knots create tiny buds and flower centers. Straight stitches are used to make simple leaves and petals. Ribbon stitches have curled edges that create textured petals. Stem stitches make straight lines that resemble stems and roots.

Add the motifs to pillowcases, handkerchiefs, and cloth book covers. Ordinary items become adorable keepsakes or gifts when embellished with ribbon motifs. To make sweet covers for jam jars, use six-inch square linen napkins and embellish them with the fruit contained within. You can also spruce up gardening journals by sewing a fabric jacket, or frame your finished designs. With this craft, you can putter in the garden no matter the weather or time of year.

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