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Use Grosgrain Ribbon For A Retro Look

Not everyone knows what grosgrain ribbon is, however, if someone pointed it out to you, you might recognize it.  A break down of the words “grain” and “gross” meaning large explains a bit of what grosgrain is.  For this material, the ribs are so dominant that it looks like small cords woven together.

While being heavy and stiff, this grosgrain ribbon is made from a particular weave.  Looking and feeling much like an old vintage blouse, it has a luxurious, non lustrous look about it.  Even when being very narrow in width, the stiffness allows a bow to hold.  This can give you a lot of latitude in the shape of the bows you create.  It also creates a beautiful large bow body, at the place where the material crosses itself.

This grosgrain material is applied to all kinds of apparel including jackets, waistcoats, sleeves, jerkins, breeches and petticoats while offering an old-fashioned look that interests many.  Fans of the movie The Newsies will recognize the look right away.  It started to be used in the 17th century and continued in popular use up until the 1920’s.  In those days, grosgrain was mostly relegated to ribbons instead of garments.

In some forms of modern clothing, grosgrain made of wool, silk, or other complementary fabric is used to make borders that must hold their shape.  If you have ever noticed, the sleeve of a polo shirt or some other style of athletic top, they too will have a thin grosgrain edge.  Simply because they must maintain their shape, vintage clothing uses a grosgrain at the joints of the apparel.  Not only will it match and set off the other grosgrain components, it is found in various parts of clothing because the ribbon can fit with a number of functions. Its texture forms a simple but definitive match with the other elements of the clothing.

Not only are you very easily able to experiment with this type of ribbon but you can do so and inexpensively.  Grosgrain can be purchased in measured lengths or an entire spool in many fabric stores.  Using grosgrain to form your own ribbons is also easy and can be a lot of fun.  You will want to deal with each cut ends of the ribbon.  Grosgrain is really pretty sturdy and many find that they can use it for long periods without any problems.

The whole ribbon could potentially start to come apart when the ends begin to fray so if you’re able to, ensure that you trim them.  Paraffin wax may also be used to secure the ends of the ribbon.  Some like to use candle wax.  Even though it a good idea to use a clear or soft white candle to secure the edges as to not draw attention away from the ribbon alternatively you could decide to use a color candle for a more unique look.  To help you have enough working space, usually a wider candle is easier to work with.  Light the candle and wait until a nice melted wax reservoir forms towards the top.  Then gradually dip the ribbon ends into the reservoir, making sure not to pick up any of the charcoal residue from the wick.

After the wax has dried, tie your ribbon anyway you decide.  There are lots of sites on the web to show interesting and contrasting designs.

Cynthia Smith