DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

The best material for ribbon embroidery, arguably, is considered to be silk ribbons. Finding them, however, can be a struggle sometimes... So, how about making some yourself?

Personally, in my place they don't sell them and ordering them from other places is quite expensive. It is just a hobby, after all, and I didn't want to spend too much money on a pastime. I tried ribbons which are a mixture of silk and satin one time because it suited my budget better, but wasn't really pleased with working it.

There are still affordable satin ribbons in a huge variety of colors, though, which also produce great results. But... hardly anyone can deny the attractiveness and charm of silk, right?

So the solution is to make silk ribbons yourself!

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

I had this one silk scarf for a long time which I was not going to wear anymore, so I decided to make ribbons out of it. It is a silk chiffon, delicate and flowy, sheer, very soft too touch fabric with machine finished hems. Dreamy material for ribbons :)

But there are few tricks to making them.


This point will depend on your material.

If it is not sheer, but rather a firm and strong length of raw silk, then preparing the ribbons will be easier. Just make a cut at the edge of your fabric, and then use all your strength to pull the two sides apart in one tear. This way the fabric will tear itself apart along the weft thread.

Repeat this as many times as you need until you have a number of ready ribbons that satisfies you. They usually don't fray excessively, but if you want to secure a clear cut then burn the edges if ribbons using a candlelight or a lighter.

If your material is more like mine, then here's what you need to know.

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

Tearing it along the weft thread won't really work, because the weaving is not as close and will fall apart. When we use ribbons in embroidery, they go back and forth through the fabric and this pulling causes damage to it. So, as you see in the picture above, on the left side, the ribbon starts falling apart. Even if you burn the edges, it still will warp and deform itself a bit.

So we need to cut the ribbons along the bias (diagonally). It also will fray (you can see it on the right side of the picture above), but it will still hold its form better.

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

Besides, to avoid fraying at all you can burn its edges. On the right, you can see the cut after having its edges burnt, ruffled and rubbed. As you can see, there's no fraying at all. The difference with the ribbon next to it is quite drastic, if I may say.

However, when the edges fray a little, it can actually be charming as well! If you like the effect, then don't burn the edges. But still, better to cut your ribbons shorter, so that they are still alive by the time you finish working them :)


I'm not calling it “dyeing” because this way of coloring is not as colorfast and not as thorough. It is not something you can do for selling handmade ribbons, for example. Nonetheless, it is perfect for ribbon embroidery and effective enough to provide you with a pretty colorful material for your projects!

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

So here are the stripes of silk that I'd cut (haven't burnt the edges yet, I usually do that prior to using the ribbon directly) and some more satin ribbons that I decided to color conjointly.

To prepare the space cover the table with plastic food wrapping paper. You will use a lot of water and paint. So if you want to save some time on cleaning up, covering the workspace with plastic bags/plastic wrapper paper is the best. After you finish, just carefully wrap it all up and throw away.

Things you need for coloring:

  • water spray bottle
  • paint: silk paints/fabric paints/watercolors. I've never used acrylic paint, so I'm not sure how it will work, especially after drying up. If you are going to try, I think diluting it generously would be a good idea.
  • all the necessary equipment for painting: brushes, water bottles, a spare piece of paper for mixing colors, etc.

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

Choose the ribbon you are going to color and spray it with water until it is soaking wet.

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

Then apply some paint on it. Because the ribbon is wet the color should spread itself, but depending on the type of paint you are using the spreading will be different. Silk paint spreads quite quickly and far. Watercolor paints need a bit of assistance. You will get the gist as you go.

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

You can add extra spots of color here and there to make the ribbon more splashy and vibrant.

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

Here are my finished colored ribbons.

Now we need to leave them overnight to dry. Take some spare newspapers that you aren't afraid to stain, put the ribbons on it leaving some space between them: they are still soaking in paint and it can spread from one ribbon to another if they touch each other.

DIY silk ribbons: cutting & coloring

After they are completely dry iron them carefully and they are ready to be used!

Extra tips:

  1. Depending on the paint you are using the color might not be as bright after drying. Usually, silk paint stays pretty vibrant, but watercolors grow a bit pale. This is something to consider as to what will fit your project better. I like the pastel palette of watercolors, but if you fancy bright colors more, better go for silk paints. You can buy yellow, blue and red paint and mix them to get the necessary hues.
  2. If you only have watercolors but prefer brighter colors, then you can paint your ribbons after they are already worked in embroidery!
  3. Painting on a wrapper paper is not the only way to do that. You can take large glasses or bowls, put soaked ribbons in there and add color, turning the ribbon over to make sure the paint spreads to its whole length. After you finish coloring the ribbons, take them out to air dry and wash the dishes you used.
  4. If you are in a situation of hurry where you need colored ribbons RIGHT NOW and can't afford to wait for them to dry overnight, here's what you can do. Take a plate suitable for using in a microwave, put a ribbon and a filled glass of water on it and put it in the microwave. Warm it up like you would warm up a dish. Don't leave it for too long there, we don't need the ribbons to burn, right? We already will have water evaporating from the glass, protecting the ribbons from scorching, but still be careful. It's better to do it in shorter intervals checking if it is dry after each one.

Now that we have some colored ribbons, let's do some simple but pretty ribbon embroidery this week, hm? :)

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