Wednesday, October 12, 2011

For the Love of Silk Ribbon and Lace

Last time I was preparing to visit my friend Jennifer to teach at her bead shop, Naturally Jennifer's Gallery and Beads, she asked me if I had any clothing that I wanted to tie dye.  See, Jennifer had something around 30 buckets of dye set up in her garage because she was filling a large order of tie dyed t-shirts for a local music festival.  As luck would have it, I had just won a HUGE lot of silk charmeuse remnants on Ebay.  The fabrics were gorgeous, but some of the colors were a bit boring, like khaki, pale lavender and tan, and this was the perfect opportunity to make them beautiful with some hand dying.  Could Jennifer's dyes work with silk?  Sure they would!

I wanted a mottled look rather than a traditional tie dye, so Jennifer taught me to "artfully wad" my fabrics in large plastic tubs.  With over 30 colors to choose from, I poured maybe six different, related colors of dye into each tub.  Here is a photo of one little corner of the purple piece.   Pretty, isn't it?
These dyed silks have been sitting in my closet since Spring, patiently waiting for me to figure out how to use them.  Last night, I was browsing hand dyed silk ribbons on Etsy, and I saw that a few different vendors were selling ribbon with serged edges.  I realized that I could make ribbon by CUTTING strips of of silk from selvage to selvage, and then SERGE a rolled hem on both edges.  OMG!  I CAN MAKE SILK RIBBON AS WIDE AS I WANT!  See, if you've ever shopped for wide silk ribbon, you know it costs a small fortune, often around half the price you'd pay for 45" wide fabric.  Silk ribbon is a real luxury item, especially the wide, hand-dyed stuff, and as a consequence, I don't own any wide silk ribbon... until last night!
On my first try, I made a gorgeous yard of silk ribbon in purple and burgundy with black serger thread.  At nearly an inch, it's significantly wider than the narrow ribbons I own, and the fabric is a bit thicker as well.   Once the machine was set up and the strip was cut, sewing it was pretty quick and easy.  It's a little under an inch wide, over a yard long and I tapered both ends to a point.  I strung some beaded beads on it, but didn't love the way they hung because they weren't heavy enough to weigh down the ribbon,  So, I ruffled the ribbon by sewing a zig zag like in my Doceri drawing below.

I rolled up my silky ruffle to make flowers, folding and twisting it, this way and that.   I made some wiggly lines with it.  I sat at my cutting mat, rather mesmerized by this little ruffle, all soft and squishy with undulating colors that shimmer in the light like only silk charmeuse can do.  I became inspired:  I dug through my bags of lace, cut some pieces, and arranged them under my ruffle.  I tried some ribbon flowers.  Deciding a cuff would be a good project, I found a scrap of black rayon jersey fabric leftover from the lining of my new mini dresses, and I cut a rectangle about 8 inches wide.  Starting with the bottom layers of lace,  I sewed my appliques to the jersey, layer by layer.  I started with hand sewing, and switched to my machine where I could.  After all of the lace and ribbon was attached, I sewed on a few pressed glass flower beads.  Then, like making up a pillow, I attached a lining made from some purple cotton corduroy.  The corduroy lining makes the back soft, adds a little warmth, and hides all of the stitches and thread ends.   I left open a side seam to add elastic button loops, pinned the loops in place and finished the last bit by machine, which you can see running vertically below in black thread.  I finished it by attaching the buttons, sewing through all of the layers for stability.
As I sewed, I just kept thinking about how super girly girl this cuff is.  It's purple and rosy, with flowers, ruffles, and lace.  It's beyond girly.  It's not my normal style for sure.  I've heard people call it a "romantic" style.  My boyfriend called it "too much," but the girly girl in me really likes this kind of explosive overabundance of ribbon and lace.  A little part of me wants to be dressed head to toe like this, maybe just for a little while.  Yes, this style is a bit out of my normal aesthetic, but I like that it all started with a piece of beautiful purple, hand-dyed wide silk ribbon.  Yeah for Etsy.  Yeah for silk ribbon.  Yeah for inspiration.  
Click on the photos for more photos and information about purchasing this cuff.


  1. I have to tell you that I LOL when I read: ...some of the colors were a bit boring, like khaki, pale lavender and tan... Sounds almost like my closet. They dyed silk is beautiful. I can totally sense your excitement with the ribbons- I don't own any silk ribbons but I have been thinking about buying some recently. I think I am tending more toward the cording though.

    Your bracelet is gorgeous. It sounds like you really enjoyed the creative process with this.

    Great post too.

  2. Color opinions are so personal. Hey, I like orange and lime, two underloved colors in my opinion. Anyways, I had a great time making this piece. Thanks for your comments. As always, I love reading your responses to my work.


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