Ribbon Crafting

In Millinery Class #7 we worked on fabric roses, and were supposed to work on ribbon flowers in class #8, but we ran out of time.  Once a number of my hats were constructed, I kind of felt at a loss sometimes on how to embellish and decorate them, so I decided to do a little ‘research’ on ribbon work, to see if I couldn’t get inspired.


First off I found another blogger who loves ribbons; Kate O’Brien has a quick post with some great links.  That being said, I can’t imagine ordering ribbons online – I need to touch-and-feel things that are new to me.  (I could totally see myself ordering broadcloth or something though – something where I know what it will look and feel like, and where a slight colour discrepancy won’t really matter…)

She recommended the Artful Ribbon – now.. I’m not entirely eager to buy a book sight unseen either – especially about a subject like this, where it could be all fluff and pretty photos… OR could be really good useful instructions.  So, my first stop was the Calgary Public Library… hahaa, yes, they actually have this book in stock, so I placed a reserve and took a look when it came in.  My intention was that if it was super-useful I could purchase it, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite what I was looking for…

Linked to and from the source. Sorry if this link breaks in time! Click for source.

Kate O’Brien also mentioned being inspired by the ribbon on the House of Nines millinery designs.  They have an Etsy store  with gorgeous mini top hats, mini wellingtons, derby hats – all very Victorian-inspired but at the same time very modern.  Beautiful!  They also have a blog – click the link for the cockade-specific thread… and then go back and take a look at the blog in general!

Another Etsy seller of note for beautiful ribbon cockades (or Cocardes, which I guess is the French term) is Monsiuer Cocarde.  I especially love the swirly ones (I hesitate to name or link, because by the time anyone reads this, they’ll no doubt be sold out…).  The really nice part – he has some really clear, up-close photos so you can really get an idea of how much work goes into all of the pleating (not to mention the yards of ribbon required!)

Another (very) notable Etsy seller is Clytemnestra’s Closet – there are some amazing designs here – and it turns out I am pretty sure that the artisan is the author of the Artful Ribbon – because I found the same photos being used in a class she taught as are displayed on the Etsy page.  Hmmm I wonder if the book will have some of the designs like the Nautilus?  (My favorite, by far!)  One thing though, she really takes advantage of different ombre-effect ribbons, striped ribbons, etc… and I find them very hard to find locally.  I don’t have a trip planned to Vancouver any time soon to hit Dressew, but perhaps a visit to one of the specialty fabric stores in town is worth consideration. Perhaps after I pick up the book….

Finally, as far as inspiration, I found this instruction image on Pininterest, and followed it to the source – How Did You Make This? It’s a very neat visual instruction to make a lovely feathered brooch with a ribbon cockade accent – what fun!  I’ve copied the image, but please click the link to get all of the instructions as well!

From How did you make this. Click for original source

So now what?

So I’ve had the chance to look at a number of different books, but none of them are really giving me what I want!  The topic seems to be a bit too obscure, because there aren’t a lot of Google hits on the search term either, and I’m not really close enough to Berkley, California, to go to a class held at Lacis.  (Ok.. the class was in 2011, but presumably at some point there might be another..)

So – dear readers… do you have any suggestions?  I want to make something more complicated than the photo above… but I just don’t know how, and can’t seem to find any instructions.  Help!

Book Review:The Secrets of Fashioning Ribbon Flowers

Image from Chapters/Indigo. Sorry if the image breaks in future - click for original or to purchase.

So, I’m still on the hunt for a good book that can teach me more about ribbon cockades and ribbonwork, in particular for millinery.  However, while there are a lot of books with instructions about ribbon flowers, there doesn’t seem to be much on what I’m really looking for at this point.  Boo!

The Secrets of Fashioning Ribbon Flowers by Helen Gibb is exactly that – a book on making fake flowers from ribbon.  The book has clear illustrations and inspiring examples (mostly of examples using a LOT of individual flowers = time-consuming!) but the focus is entirely on flowers.  The book starts off with some background, history, and supplies, then goes into individual flowers (sweet peas, cherry blossoms, gardenias, fuchsias, roses, etc.) and then into projects – bouquets, framed bouquets, lampshades, wreaths, topiary trees, broaches, pillows and more.

It’s a well-written and well-organized book.  While a few of the designs relies on having access to a certain kind of ribbon or fabric (ie: off-white bias cut pink/peach ombre-dipped frayed silk for the carnations), many of the designs are shown in a variety of materials – for instance the folded roses are shown in a simple fabric ribbon, a metallic striped ribbon, and a metallic sheer ribbon – which I really appreciate because it shows how the same style can look very different when made up in something less than the expected fabric.

However, despite how good the book might be – it’s still not what I’m personally looking for.  However, if you’re on the hunt for a good ribbon-flower-making book, with clear examples and good inspiration, consider picking this one up.

Book Review: The Splendor of Ribbon

Image linked from Amazon, sorry if the link breaks in future! Click for original

While looking for ribbon working books, there were also a bunch of books I didn’t find as useful for what I was looking for, such as The Splendor of Ribbon published by Ofray (a ribbon manufacturer) written by Ellie Schneider.  The book starts out with a bit of history about ribbons, and then goes into general techniques.  While the techniques are illustrated –  the illustrations and instructions don’t really help one another, and are somewhat confusing.  I’m sure that some trial-and-error could be used to work out what the instructions are getting at – but there are other books out there that are far less confusing.

There are a number of projects in the book, ranging from tiny pillows to lampshades to decorative mini topiary trees.  There is also a section on gift wrapping and a bridal section with a number of projects.  Each of the projects refers back to the general techniques however, which makes the possibility of recreating the projects more difficult.

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend this book (certainly not sight-unseen).  Maybe check it out in-store first, or see if your local public library has it before making it an addition to your personal craft library.

Cut! – Portrait of a Lady – Isabel

The poster, click for the full version

Not far from the tiny little dress worn by petite Renee (Beatrix Potter), was a dress worn by tall, statuesque Nicole Kidman in the Cut! exhibit.  It was kind of interesting to see the contrast between the two costumes, since on-screen I can’t say I’ve ever really noticed the difference.  (Mind you, I’ve only watched about 10 minutes of Cold Mountain, (a movie they were both in) and wasn’t watching for that either…)

So, next up in my photo-spread of costumes from the Cut! exhibit is from The Portrait of a Lady (1996).  I feel that I should have seen this movie, but, looking at the trailer, it doesn’t look a bit familiar, so I guess I haven’t!  Not surprizing; if you have noticed from my previous posts about costumes from the Cut! exhibit, there are a LOT of movies – even costume dramas- that I haven’t seen!

Side view of Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

The poster describes the movie and the costume as (click the poster above for a larger photo):

“The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

A dramatic Victorian tale of betrayal based on the novel by Henry James

Set in Europe, 1880s

Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer

In this film the costume designer shows us many beautiful an evocative outfits that follow Isabel Archer’s Journey of self discovery.  This white gown with its pinkish hue and pearl bead embroidery is a fine example of the layers of detail and the fine fabrics that reflect Isabel’s inheritance and new-found wealth.  The beaded front panel of this skirt is an original piece from a time when such an elaborate panel would have been made up and sold separately to have a dress created around it.  This panel was four inches too short for Nicole Kidman, so it was lengthened with fabric inserted at the waist which is covered by the jacket.”

Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

A beautiful shot of the back of the ‘jacket’, showing the seaming to go from shoulders to an amazingly narrow waist.  While the lace works on the back collar because of the front of the bodice, I have to say I don’t care for the bow at all!  I imagine that the designer saw Nicole with her hair up for this gown, because it would be a huge fuss to have her hair down with this silly bow at the back!

In this photo I can also see the shoulder seam shifted far back – this could just be a design/fit solution for a curved shoulder blade, or it could actually be a shifted shoulder seam.  Without seeing the top of the shoulder, it’s hard to say.

I’d also point out the horizontal waist seam in the side panel of the jacket as well.  All of the other panels are long without the horizontal interruption, which makes me wonder why this line is here.  It could simply be a matter of piecing fabric… since there doesn’t seem to be a design reason for it.

Lastly, I’d like to point out the gathering on the sleeve, above the cuff.  Very pretty….

Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

The lower part of the back of the outfit, lots of lace, trim, ribbons, flowers.. etc.. wow.

Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

Aaother shot heading down the back of the dress.

Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

So finally the front… the false waistcoat in what looked a lot like wide-wale peach corduroy, false buttons, lace and ribbon collar, ruched trim… etc etc etc.  I have the sneaking suspicion that the closure is hooks and eyes under the false buttons.  There don’t appear to be any button holes, so that’s what would make the most sense to me.  In this photo you can also see the top of that pearl beaded panel for the skirt.

Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

Here’s a close up on those false buttons, the peach corduroy (or maybe it’s a figured velvet in stripes?  Up close it looks more like velvet than corduroy…), the lack of buttonholes, and the pearl beading.  No real conclusive proof of a hook and eye front closure though.  However that ever-so-slight gap at the very top of the photo makes it look as though this certainly is where the opening is.

Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

The ruching from the ‘jacket’ front continues down the length of the dress to the floor, where it meets more trim.  Here you can see the full length of that pearl beaded panel.

Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

Closer shot of the elaborate trim, pleating and ribbons on the hem of the dress.

Isabel's costume from Portrait of a Lady

Finally a  close up of the sleeve that I pointed out earlier.  What confuses me is that little hint of silver glittery ribbon/elastic at the wrist.  It really did look like wide elastic (like from elastic belts from the 1980s) and colour and fabric-wise it didn’t really seem to suit the rest of the outfit.  However, I do love that gathering!

The Costumer’s Guide doesn’t have a write up for this costume itself, nor any photos that I could see when I went to look – other than this movie still.  However there are a number of other costumes from the movie that have many photos – and many of them look incredible!  This looks like it might be a great movie to watch on DVD, pause button at the ready!  For more screen captures check out Period Movie Caps.

So… is this dress inspiring?  More so than the Beatrix Potter dress for me, certainly!

Cut! – Little Dorrit – Amy

Photo of the poster - click for a larger view.

Set in 1820, this movie takes place in the very last decade of the Georgian period and although I didn’t care for the dress itself, I did like the structure of the hat quite a bit.

I also was amused that I have this fabric!  (But in the red colourway, vs. the purple.)

From the costume’s poster: (click for a larger version)

“Little Dorrit (2008)

Television miniseries of Charles Dickens’ powerful novel of love, honour, debt, and hope. 

Set in London, 1820s

Amy, the Little Dorrit of the title, is a bit of a paradox.  She cares for her father while he is in debtor’s prison and later bears, uncomfortably, his fortunate change in circumstances.  This costume is worn by Amy after the family comes into money, but the dress reflects the rag of a dress she previously wore: the fabric of this dress is much richer and the shape has been updated, but the colour, the stripes, and the bodice detailing are very similar to her previous wardrobe.  It tells us that Amy Dorrit is paying lip service to her new wealth while her heart leans towards simpler times.”

Amy Dorrit's costume

Above is a full-length photo of the dress along with the almost-matching hat.  The fabric is made of a bunch of very tiny narrow (single thread) stripes in colours from greenish-brown to dark purple, and the overall effect is almost like a shot fabric – with the colours sort of moving between brown-purple and purple.  It is striped, but since the stripes are so narrow, the effect is very subtle.

Waistline of dress

The waistline of the bodice is very interesting – It makes me think that the collar is a over-lapping piece, held down by the belt.  It’s interesting – but I imagine it would be difficult to wear neatly – every time you moved, the fabric might come untucked just a little – so perhaps there are also unseen buttons or snaps holding the “collar” ends down?

Another shot of the outfit

More interesting to me, as I mentioned, is the hat.  It’s completely a wire-frame bonnet with white wire, covered in a purple ruched sheer fabric.  The whole thing is topped off with a hatband/ribbon/bow in purple, mauve, and brown to coordinate with the dress itself.

Side of bonnet showing the wire frame

The wire was VERY visible in the museum exhibit.  Check out a screenshot from the miniseries on the BBC America shop.

Under side of bonnet

I wondered why the hat needed to be a wire frame rather than a covered hatform. Did the material really need to be sheer?  I think that the ruching really shows up nicely in a shot like this – seeing through the sheer fabric and seeing all of the pleating involved, but is it necessary?  In a shot like this (click for link to feminema on WordPress) the bonnet brim is very visible, and the benefit of the sheer fabric is more obvious, while the wire frame is less important and less visible.

Of course, Little Dorrit is yet another one of the films/miniseries/etc featured in the Cut! exhibit that I haven’t seen.  What do you think of the costume nonetheless?