Silk ribbon embroidery for beginners: how to get started

20 May 2021
silk ribbon embroidered garden by Tanya Haines Go gardening with Tanya Haines in issue 131 of Stitch. Learn how to transform silk ribbons into a beautiful border bursting with gorgeous summer flowers.
Wondering how to do ribbon embroidery? Wonder no more! With just a little effort and a few stitches a beautiful result can be achieved in no time at all, as shown by Tanya Haines...

The good news is that ribbon embroidery is easier than you think and very forgiving. If you can thread a needle, you can do silk ribbon embroidery! Here’s how to get started, complete with a quick tutorial showing you how to stitch a tulip!

Tanya Haines

Top tips when working with silk ribbon

  1. Try to keep the length of your ribbon to about 12-14 inches. This prevents it from running a seam down the middle and fraying on the edges.
  2. It's important to use a large, sharp-pointed needle with a large eye. This means the needle makes a big enough hole in the fabric for the ribbon to pass through without snagging. The large eye prevents the ribbon from folding on itself.
  3. Ribbon is used just like thread, but it's a softer and more pliable material.  
  4. Make a mistake? In most instances there's no need to unpick – simply stitch over it. The 'mistake' will be hidden, and it'll add body to the stitch.  
  5. Work with a gentle tension – keep stitches soft and unfolded, allowing the ribbon to spread out on the fabric before starting the next stitch.
  6. The majority of stitches used in silk ribbon embroidery, such as lazy daisy and French knots, are formed exactly as basic embroidery stitches. So, stitching with silk ribbon is very much like stitching with thread. But, part of the joy of working with silk ribbon is how quickly your embroidery grows – with only a few basic stitches you can create something really beautiful and in no time at all.
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How to make ribbon embroidered tulips

Learn just how easy it is to form flowers with silk ribbon with this quick tutorial!

You will need

  • Fabric –15x15cm
  • Muslin – 15x15cm
  • Silk ribbons – 2mm green & 4mm green & deep pink
  • Embroidery hoop – 5in, ideally bound
  • Chenille needle – No22

stitching silk ribbon tulips


  1. Mount your fabric in your embroidery hoop with the muslin backing fabric behind. 
  2. First, stitch the stems using the 2mm green silk ribbon. Come up from the back of your work at the base of the stem. Twist your ribbon – quite tightly. Take your needle down to the back of your work at the base of the flower head. 
  3. The tulip head and leaves are stitched in a ribbon stitch using 4mm silk ribbon. Start by bringing your ribbon up from the back of your work. Manipulate the ribbon so it lies flat – without any twists and making sure it’s not taut. Now take your needle back down into the ribbon where the stitch will end. Finish by gently pulling the ribbon through the fabric until the tips of the stitched ribbon curl in at the top.
  4. Stitch the tulip heads with 4mm deep pink silk ribbon. First, lay down a short ribbon stitch in the centre and then place another stitch on either side of the centre stitch. If you feel that your tulip needs more 'body' simply work a few more stitches over the top of the existing stitches.
  5. The leaves are stitched in ribbon stitch using 4mm green silk ribbon. Start by coming up at the base of the stem and going back down at the tip of the leaf. 

Spring-themed silk ribbon embroidery by Tanya Haines

Enjoy a festival of spring flowers worked in silk ribbon decorating this exquisite necessaire. It’s got space to organise needles and a handy pocket for your scissors. Issue 129 of Stitch shows how you can make one for yourself.

More top tips for even better results!

To be completely sure your finished ribbon embroidery looks its best, it’s worth taking care along the way…

  1. Bind or cover the inner ring of your hoop with a tape or strip of bias-cut cotton. This prevents the work from slipping in the hoop and keeps the tension of the work firm.
  2. Never leave your work in the hoop as the fabric will become stretched and marked. Plus, there are natural oils in the wood that can seep into the fabric and don’t wash out.
  3. Place a piece of muslin behind your main embroidery fabric. The muslin reinforces the embroidered fabric and prevents the shadow of threads and ribbons showing through on to the front of your work. It's also a handy place for you to start and end your ribbon. 
  4. Once completed, your stitching can be washed if necessary. Use cold water, wash by hand and do NOT use a biological washing powder or liquid. Don't soak and rinse well. Roll in a towel and gently squeeze out excess water. Then dry flat on a towel out of direct sunlight
  5. If the silk ribbon has been flattened a gentle steaming, or spray of water, will return it to its former glory. 
  6. And NEVER iron your finished piece of work.

Find out more:
Instagram: @thecommonthread1  

There are so many other embroidery techniques to explore... Why not take a look at more exquisite embroidery techniques and see what else is possible with a needle and thread?!

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