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Ribbon folding

Decorative ribbon work is found in many different cultures and historical periods. Some of the most interesting examples come from India where the technique is traditionally worked in metal ribbon called Gota. Folded ribbon trim is found in dress trimmings and hat decorations, particularly from the early 20th century. Look in museums or books of costume for ideas.

Material and Design Notes

  • These techniques work well with heavier ribbon such as grosgrain in silk or rayon.
  • True metallic ribbon, as used in India, is hard to get today but it is worth tracking down.
  • When working with thick ribbon, it is vital to use sewing clips rather than pins to secure the folds before stitching.

Prairie points

Prairie points are used in patchwork to create a decorative edging and they can be made in a variety of ways. The sample described uses ribbon and is particularly effective with striped ribbon or grosgrain.

1). Fold the end over at a 45-degree angle. Clip the fold.


2). Fold the long end over at the same angle so that the straight edges meet, and clip.


3). Turn the piece over. Fold the long end upwards and to the right so the straight edges meet and the ribbon folds at a 45-degree angle. Clip the new fold.


4). Fold the long end UNDER and upwards creating a point and a 45-degree angle, and clip.


5). Fold the ribbon at a 45-degree angle to the right, and clip.


6). Fold the ribbon under and down in the same way. Continue following the same pattern, keeping the piece the same way up from now on.


This technique is reversible so you may consider that this side, the reverse as you make it, is the front.

7). When the ribbon has been folded along its length, keep the clips in place until the work has been pressed to set the folds. Remove each clip one at a time as you press along the length. Alternatively, sew the pleats in place where the edges meet as shown with an ‘X’ in the diagram.


Either side of prairie points folded ribbon can be considered the front. Stitch on whichever side you choose to be the reverse.


Sew and fold prairie points

This technique can also be stitched direct to a base fabric and then folded. First pleat and press the ribbon then position the pleated ribbon trim on the base fabric, ensuring the ribbon is straight and that the base fabric is not puckered (either side of the trim can be the top). Machine sew along the centre line. Fold the pleated ribbon upwards so the points all face in the same direction.



Sew and fold prairie points in vintage grosgrain ribbon which shows the ribbing directions.


Using striped ribbon to make sew and fold prairie points creates an interesting design.

Pointed ribbon fold

This is traditionally used as an edging on Indian textiles. The front and reverse of the ribbon show, so it is best to use a double-faced satin or grosgrain ribbon.

1). Start by folding the ribbon into a V-shape with the folded edge at the bottom, long tail to the left.


2). Take the long tail, fold it across to the right so the bottom edge is horizontal.


3). Fold the long tail behind and down to create the first triangle. The tail should be hidden behind the first triangle and hang down at the same angle.


4). Loop the tail up under itself so it points upwards and to the left, ready to make the next triangle, and continue from step 2.


5). Sew the triangles together using hand stitching running along the back, making tiny stitches in the valleys between the triangles.


Pointed ribbon fold, front.


Pointed ribbon fold, reverse.

Arrowhead fold

This design was found used on a 1940s hat trimming, made from grosgrain ribbon. This sample is made in bias binding.

1). Start by folding a triangle at the end of the ribbon, with both lengths pointing down and the long tail on the right side. Clip.


2). Fold the tail across to the left creating a 45-degree angle. Clip the fold.


3). Turn the tail under itself and up to create the other half of the triangle.


4). Flip the triangle that you have just made upwards, bringing the tail out of the way so it points down to give you two triangles on top of each other. Adjust the triangles so that the top triangle is slightly lower than the triangle beneath. Reposition the clips so you have one on each side. (If required you can stitch the triangles together at this point, and directly onto a backing if you choose to.)


5). Fold the ribbon under and towards the right this time, then upwards to create another triangle. Flip the triangle up. Clip, stitch and continue. Press as you go; if pressing does not hold the folds in place, you will need to sew down the folds at each stage, and this may apply if using ribbons that have a lot of spring in them.



Arrowhead fold : you can sew it onto a backing fabric, another ribbon or straight onto the finished work.

Fabric Manipulation
150 CREATIVE Sewing Techniques

Ruth Singer