One of the things I’m most frequently asked is where I source the ribbons, binding and tape that I use as facings for the inside front bands and / or steek edges of designs such as Epistrophy or Ursula.

(on the Epistrophy cardigan, the raw steek edges are covered by a decorative facing. I found the bee tape somewhat randomly in the furnishing section of Plumo)

I don’t have much of a yarn stash at all – in fact, apart from a few precious precious skeins of this and that, and a bag of self striping sock yarn (with which I churn out vanilla socks in my non-thinking knitting time) I only retain the yarn I’m about to use in a specific design or group of designs. But as well as a sizeable hoard of buttons, I also have a reasonable stash of ribbons and tapes and bindings. These things don’t take up much space, and I really like having several options for finishing touches to choose from at the end of my design process. Stitching on the perfect ribbon or buttons really is like wrapping up the design! Anyway, after having a good poke through my ribbon collection this morning, I thought I’d share some of my top trim tips.

1. Salvage


Many things come wrapped in ribbons, and it may surprise you to learn that quite a few of my favourite ribbons were salvaged from things like cakes and gift boxes. The three examples above are all from cakes, while this webbing was once the handle of a bag that has long since worn out . . .


. . . and this ribbon was once tied around a Clothkits purchase.


So if something comes tied with a ribbon, I never throw it away, and I now have a shoebox full of ribbons which remind me, in a rather pleasant way, of the treats and gifts they once adorned. It is also rather satisfying to eventually be able to put them to good use – as we did with the ribbon we used on the inside facing of Fintry, which once adorned a delicious package of baked goods from Betty’s.


I was thrilled to find the ribbon was such a perfect match for the yarn and worked so well with the finished garment!


2. Seek them out in person

Self explanatory, really. Wherever I go, I seek out haberdashery. As ribbon and trim doesn’t take up much space, its no problem to transport or store, plus, its a nice souvenir.


From Millie Moon, in Frome.


From A Rubenesque, in Dublin. (Eventually used on Ursula cardigan, and Scatness tunic)


From the Peerie Shop in Lerwick.

3. Seek them out online


If you need tape or binding in a specific style or colour, often a simple keyword search on eBay or Etsy will turn up what you are looking for. And the interweb is chock full of terrifically tempting emporia, such as Clothkits or Rosa Pomar’s shop. . .

(I just love these chickens)

4. Gifts

If you are a haberdashery obsessive like me, there is no better gift than some ribbons or trim!

Mel gave me these lovely ribbons

and this superb owl trim was a gift from Suzanne.

5. Prepare to retain your haberdashery stash for a while
This morning’s brief investigation of my stash revealed items that have been there for seven years or more, including this delicious linen trim from the Japanese shop, Linnet (warning! that link leads to Japanese haberdashery heaven!). Frankly, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that this tape has been in my stash for 7 years, or indeed if stays there for another 7. Its purpose is bound to be revealed at some point, and at such time, I will be prepared. . .

I actually purchased the (drool, sigh) Linnet tape in a couple of shades, and used the other (which has a greenish hue) when finishing Deco.



So: 1. Salvage; 2. Seek out in person; 3. Seek out online; 4. Receive trim and ribbon as gifts; 5. Be prepared to keep hold of your ribbon stash for a while and, if all of these tips fail you can always:

6. Make it yourself
If you find you still lack trim or binding for the inside of your cardigan, you can always make some lovely bias binding yourself (in the same way as you’d produce the binding for a quilt), either by hand (with care, with your iron) or by using one of the many different bias tape-making devices that are now available.

Now I’m off to put my ribbon box away. Have fun!

38 thoughts on “ribbon and binding and tape and trim

  1. Totally love this, I have a large haberdashery box where I keep my ribbons, buttons, threads, sequins and anything else I might need to finish off an item! It is made from a large pretty box and I cut down the inside of a cardboard wine box so I could have different compartments for each item. I love seeing your ribbons and reading the comments here too, great to know I’m not alone in loving haberdashery! I’m going to put this post on my FB page as I know my followers will enjoy it too!


  2. I always save ribbons, buttons etc. and this is a treasure for me. Therefore I seldom have to buy some haberdashery. But sometimes I look for something very special. I would like to send you my preferred supply source in Germany. Some years ago I visited this ribbon-weaving in Wuppertal – they produce the ribbons on enormous historical looms – very impressive (and very noisy)!

    Kindest regards and thanks for so many wonderful posts


  3. Such beautiful ribbons! I got a good chuckle at the mention of your “sizeable hoard of buttons”. I am the same, and for some reason I just can’t stop making more to add to the collection.


  4. I admire your ribbons. I wonder if ribbons can fix a sagging front edge of a long coat I have just finished (Design Sylvi on Ravelry). I really should not have followed the pattern and follow my instinct to knit the button bands after finishing the body. And bind off the neck before proceeding with the hood. Tool late now.

    Have you ever used ribbons to keep a too long button band from sagging and stabilize the neckline?


  5. I really enjoyed this post Kate. I’m a ribbon magpie too. I am now newly inspired to add a beautiful ribbon trim to my own newly finished cabled cardi


  6. Haven’t started steeking yet – not that brave! but I do love the way ribbon looks on the inside of a cardigan, would make me want to wear it open all the time just to show it off!
    Practicing my color work at the moment on a scarf of different scandinavian motifs – when I get a bit better I’m treating myself to your two books!!!!! I can’t wait!
    Kindest regards from Chamonix


  7. I’m linking this posting to my husband, my mom, my sister, anyone who might conceivably wish to buy me a birthday present, because. . .YAY, RIBBONS!


  8. I collect ribbons off everything as well. I store mine in little glass jars sorted by colour and they really brighten up my workspace. I even keep the ones with company names printed on them (chocolatiers are the main offenders) although I’ve yet to come up with a way to use those.


  9. Thank you so much for getting all these out and photographing them for us! And clothkits – I remember them from the 80s, I thought they’d gone bust but just having visited, I’m happy to see they’re going strong!


  10. Hello Ms Kate, ah, trims. Before I was a knitter, I crazy quilted and layered ribbons in my designs. There is something about a beautiful ribbon that just thrills me. I found a ribbon that was chocolate brown with pink polka dots to finish a zipper in a brown cardigan for my sister – I love how it peeks out at the top. So another commonality to celebrate. Thanks for this post.


  11. Your lovely article really brightened my day and made me feel very much like Spring is on it’s way! Thank you so very much for all you share so beautifully. Thank you.


  12. We are kindred spirits-I am unable to toss out ribbon from packages and also have an overflowing box full! I have recently asked myself why I have to hoard every useful thing I come across. I think it’s the curse of the genes! My Grandmother was a creator of all sorts of things (she was a farmer’s wife) and I think my habit comes from her. Love your ribbons as well.


  13. Don’t some of the gift wrap type ribbons or furnishing tapes shrink when washed? Or bleed dye? Back in the dark ages when I learned dressmaking I was taught to pre wash and pre shrink all my tapes and trims appropriately to the washing method of the finished garment, do you do the same for knitting trims? And if so, how? Quick dunk in warm water and air dry/press with a warm iron?

    They do look very pretty. The most I’ve ever used is plain grosgrain ribbon. I must branch out a bit. :)


  14. I have always loved ribbon but have not yet used it on any of my knitting. This will be changing and I am going to start my hunt for good quality ribbon. I agree the word “Haberdashery” is just a gem!


  15. This is a great post. I’ve always loved the word “haberdashery” it’s pleasant to see it written so many times. When I purchased my sewing machine I inherited quite a lot of ribbon as well, not certain what I’m going to do with it – but it’s a great starter stash!


  16. A question: when building a ribbon stash, how much of each ribbon do you buy?

    Love the haberdashery! Over Christmas, I was allowed to go through my great aunt’s old sewing box, now in my mother’s possession and choose what I wanted. Lots of buttons and tons of seam facing. Wonderful to be able to use these, many from the 40s to 60s.


  17. A third request for advice on buttons / snaps – what size are the snaps you use? The ones I see here in the US are quite small – even at specialty fabric stores.


    1. So true ! When I was a child my grandmother gave me her sewing bow and let me play with the ribbons. She kept evrything, and I particularly enjoyed rolling them neatly and putting them in order of colours. She died at 97 years old in 2005 !
      In Paris there is an amazing place for ribbons, very expensive and also very beautiful, called Mokuba. They don(t have a web site. The shop is rue Montmartre, Paris 1er. It’s like entering a temple. I prefer simpler places, but it’s an interesting experience to make if you come to Paris !
      Thank you Kate for this beautiful piece on ribbons !

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is, indeed! I haven’t been there myself yet, but some day I surely will. I love to see old machinery still in use and admire the spirit of people who manage to keep an old family business going.

        Though I had no textile background yet (just learned knitting and finished my first Toatie Hottie yesterday, after reading Kate’s Blog for two years) I nevertheless own quite a few of their ribbons, just to admire their beauty!


  18. I would second the comment of The Other Kristen. I would be pleased to see some conversation on the Proper Sewing On of Buttons. I am never totally pleased with my buttons. Have tried sewing a smaller, plain button beneath the outside one, but still not really satisfied. Love the ribbons. Am working on an Ata Sollilja sweater, and enjoying it tremendously! A wonderful sight on a grey wintery day.


  19. I’ll bet that a lot of us fiber people collect ribbons!! They also come in handy for woven clothes seams and if our threads are fine enough we weave our own ribbons. The Japanese website is very dangerous!!!


  20. Kate, I will be revealing myself as a sewing novice, but would you say a little bit about the reinforcements/backing pieces you use on your buttons? (I mean the possibly plastic pieces behind the buttons, on top of the facing on the wrong side — not the facing itself.) I have some commercial garments where I seem to lose a button a week (and I do know how to sew a button on properly, thanks, Mom), but it didn’t occur to me to seek out some kind of backing for the fabrics that just won’t support a button on their own. Even just the proper term would send me in the right direction.

    About the ribbons I’ll say nothing except that they are lovely!


    1. Wow, what a yummy post! I’ll have to keep an eye out and start collecting! I can find Liberty fabric here in a select few quilt shops as fat quarters. You can buy a little device from JoAnns that lets you create your own seam binding with any fabric you have. I have yet to use it, but as you said, I know it will find its place in a project at some point in time!


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