Katherine Gustafson’s copper ribbons running through trees at the Gardens of the Imagination in Terrasson, France are pure delight.

 1. A long, flat and narrow strip of anything that can be used for wrapping, to decorate and to create design.

Materials that we might use are: thread, wool, leather, copper, gold, raffia, and these can be flat, plaited or twisted – they just need to be long and thin, ribbon-like.

2. Fabric ribbons are made in a variety of weaves including grosgrain, satin and velvet,and usually from silk, linen, cotton, sometimes wool, hessian or jute types and often one of the synthetic fibres.

Whether as closures or as design elements, ribbons may be more or less formal depending on the project, the room, and the item of furnishing involved. Ribbons and bows do tend to contribute some element of femininity, usually with some sort of flourish: thin ribbons with long tails, double bows, oversized bows, or pretty tiny bows; wider ribbons that concentrate on the centre knot and perfected bows and tails.

Other than for pure decoration ribbons can be used to close cushions, to tie and gather bolsters, to attach curtain headings to poles, to cover seams or joins, to change the line, to direct the eye.

3. In textile design the ribbon-bow motif is versatile and typical of 18thC French style and occurs in both woven damasks and embroidery work or printed onto fabric and wallpaper.

 Ribbons for decoration:

* Ribbons come in widths from 2 mm to 18 mm. The same colour is often available in a multitude of widths, which can make for interesting monochromatic decoration.

* Silk ribbons are the most beautiful type, used for ribbon embroidery, couture, in appliqué and fine furnishings.

* Satin ribbons are manufactured with the shiny satin finish on one or both sides ( double satin ribbon), and are readily available in many colours and patterns from haberdashers, even florists.

* Velvet ribbons have the pile on one side only, the reverse is matte and in plain weave.

* Petersham and grosgrain ribbons ( think medal holders and formal hat bands ) is made in a stiffer, ribbed weave. Petersham ribbon is always completely reversible, showing the same texture, colour or stripes on both sides.

* Fabrics cut on the bias and frayed are technically ribbons, as are the long lengths of flattened rouleaux.

* Paper ribbons are used for party decorations, within party poppers and to wrap up flowers.

* Ribbons can be translucent and light as a feather or opaque and heavy.

* Wired edge: fine wire woven into the side of ribbon allow bows to be set perfectly using the strength of the wire, or scrunched up informally, using the wires to form and to hold random shapes.

* Fun: rows of ribbons in multi colours, widths and finishes add a lively child-like sense to decoration.

* Gravitas: a plain ribbon can add gravitas, e.g. a petersham ribboned border following a greek key pattern… even a single inset or in a strong colour.

* Recycling: Ribbons are most useful to conceal joins of two fabrics added together, or one fabric patched by seaming, in rows to hide fading colours, to create borders or design strategy to direct the eye.

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