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Rosettes and cockades

Rosettes and cockade decorations can also be made from ribbons. Rosettes are not as complicated as the ribbon roses of later periods. Instead, they are simpler, circular embellishments. Cockades, on the other hand, can be very complicated, and often require steaming and stitching. They are usually quite flat, and so are especially suited as hat and shoe decorations. Both are often finished with a covered or decorative button in the centre – sometimes even with a brooch. The following is just a small selection of what can be created.

Gathered rosette

Probably the simplest of all rosettes, this type can be easily and quickly made.

 How to make a gathered ribbon rosette How to make a gathered ribbon rosette 
1. Use a running stitch along one edge of your ribbon  2. Pull tight to gather the ribbon into a circular shape and stitch the ends together.

This rosette can be used as it is – a rather unstructured rosette. However, you can use steam to fix the rosette shape in a more structured way. If done correctly, steaming will fix the shape almost permanently, so long as you take care not to wet or crush the shape.

 How to make a gathered ribbon rosette How to make a gathered ribbon rosette 
1. Pin the very edges of your rosette to a flat pincushion, shaping and arranging the gathers as you proceed. Take care to insert the pins at the edges, or in the depressions, so that you do not mark the ribbon too much. When you are happy with the shape of your rosette, steam it by holding your steam iron above the rosette and giving it a few ‘blasts’ of steam. Do not let the iron touch the ribbon. 2. Leave the rosette to cool and dry completely before removing the pins. The rosette shown above was created using a polyester ribbon. The steaming does fix the shape somewhat, but it does not create the very structured look that can be achieved using silk ribbon.  

The image below left shows a silk ribbon before arranging and steaming, while the next (below right) shows the same silk ribbon rosette after steaming.

 How to make a ribbon rosette  How to make a ribbon rosette

Looped rosette

The looped rosette is a little harder to create, but can be very effective, especially when finished with a smaller second or third rosette.

 How to make a looped ribbon rosette  How to make a looped ribbon rosette How to make a looped ribbon rosette 
1. Take a length of ribbon and create a loop in one end. This loop should be the size that you wish all loops to be. Pin the loop in place. 2. Fold the next section of ribbon up to create another loop the same size.  3. Turn the loop to the right of the first loop, holding the centre as you do so.
 How to make a looped ribbon rosette How to make a looped ribbon rosette   How to make a looped ribbon rosette
4. Pin the second loop into place 5. Continue in this way until you have created a circle of loops, all pinned into place. (the back of the rosette) 6. Stitch the loops into place before removing the pins and trimming the end. When you have had some practice with the method, you will be able to tuck the last loop under the edge of the first loop to create a uniform rosette. Initially, however, just practice getting the loops the correct size.

Pleated rosettes

In order to create pleated rosettes, you must first know how to create accordian pleats. The same method is used as for fabrics, but the job can be much more fiddly, as the narrow ribbon soon builds up bulk that makes it difficult to achieve a sharp edge. For those of you who have never tried accordian pleating, the flowing instructions should help.

 How to make pleated ribbon rosettes  How to make pleated ribbon rosettes How to make pleated ribbon rosettes 
1. Cut two pieces of brown paper, one (a) the width of your finished pleat, the second (b), double the width of your finished pleat. (NB. Widths less than 13mm (½") are usually too difficult to work by hand.) 2. Using (b), measure from the edge of the ribbon, all the way along the length. Mark each measure with fine pins top and bottom.  3. Fold the end of the ribbon over the paper (b) to the next set of pins. Using a damp cloth and a dry iron, press and steam the fold in place. (remember not to over-wet your cloth, especially with silk, and to leave the ribbon to cool before moving on).
 How to make pleated ribbon rosettes  How to make pleated ribbon rosettes How to make pleated ribbon rosettes 
4. When cool, gently unfold, remove the paper and the first set of pins. Fold the ribbon again – this time your fold will match to the next set of pins. Press as in step 3, taking care not to iron the crease made previously. 5. Continue in this way along the length of the ribbon. Your accordian pleats are now halfway completed.  6. Turn the ribbon over. Fold the end over paper (a), meeting with the first crease.
 How to make pleated ribbon rosettes  How to make pleated ribbon rosettes  How to make pleated ribbon rosettes
Press as before, taking care not to press any of the previously created creases. 7. If you are using a small length of ribbon, you can continue in this way, refolding the previously created creases to create a folded fan shape .  However, some ribbons (especially stiffer ribbons or very fine ribbons) quickly build up and become difficult to press. If this happens, gently unfold and press each crease individually along the length.

Your pleated length of ribbon can now be manipulated according to the following methods-

Basic pleated rosette

With stiff ribbon, this creates quite a solid rosette (as shown) .

 How to make pleated ribbon rosettes How to make pleated ribbon rosettes   How to make pleated ribbon rosettes  
1. Stitch the centre of your pleated ribbon through all layers to secure. 2. Pull out the sides, and pin the ends together  3. Stitch at the back to hold the ends of the ribbons together

Structured pleated rosette

The structured rosette can take many forms. It works best with ribbons which will hold well with steam, such as silk. In this example, I have used a penny to form the rosette around; you may choose not to use anything.

 How to make pleated ribbon rosettes  How to make pleated ribbon rosettes  How to make pleated ribbon rosettes
1. Arrange one edge of your pleated ribbon into a circle shape. As you arrange, gently fold the creases into place at an angle of your choice, and hold in place with pins. You can choose to steam at this point (holding a steam iron over the rosette and giving it a few blasts of steam – do not touch the ribbon with the iron if you wish to keep this effect). 2. If you prefer, you can now arrange the outer edge of the ribbon, again folding into place and pinning, for an even more structured look. Steam as before.  3. When cool, remove pins and stitch the two ends together. If you have chosen to create the structured look of step 2, you may wish to press the rosette using a dry iron and damp pressing cloth to further flatten the rosette. 4. Finish with a button, and, if required, additional ribbon ‘tails’.

Some other ideas for you to try

Remember, many of the fancy ribbon embellishments that you see depicted, especially during the Victorian period, are often created using separate elements that are then layered to create a new decoration. Don’t look at the decoration as one item. Instead, try to break it up to see how it can be made. Don’t be afraid to sew bows, rosettes and extra lengths of ribbon together. Many hats are decorated with ribbons which are carefully pinned and sewn into place. You can also make many of the bows with strips of satin - pink the edges first to create interesting shapes.

Layered bows

Try layering different types of bows for a new look. 


A simple cockade can be made by using a structured pleated rosette and finishing with a button at the centre.

Hand woven silk ribbon rosetteLooped Rosettes

Try layering looped rosettes, and finishing with a passementerie button at the centre. Try working a looped rosette without completing a full circle, then adding a button Add tails or bows to looped rosettes for more complex cockades. Using hand woven silk ribbon, the picture shows a rosette created using a looped rosette, and setting a smaller, gathered rosette at the centre.

Combination decorations

Combining all of the different styles to layer and create new shapes was very common during the Victorian period - try looking at images of bows, ribbons and rosettes by breaking them down into smaller elements.

With practice, you’ll be fully beribboned in no time!

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About Us

Gina-B Silkworks designs and produces a variety of craft kits, books, DVDs and other items with an emphasis on handwork & passementerie (textile trimmings). We also stock a range of tools & materials for these crafts. Gina also makes bespoke items to commission.