Monday, November 3, 2014

A Cautionary Tale: All Ribbon Is Not Created Equal

I just realized that I never posted this when I took all the pictures at the same time as the actual photos of the sweater. Oops. 

Beware! A cautionary tale and ugly, cringe-worthy images to follow!

Back when I finished my Minty Miette cardigan, I mentioned how I had stabilized the button band with ribbon. I had seen this technique mentioned by many, and when Lauren posted her wonderful tutorial I finally knew the ins and outs of what to do. I went to Walmart and bought what looked like grosgrain ribbon to match my buttons - this should have been my first big warning alert ... it came from Walmart.
Once I sewed the ribbon on, I was thrilled - it looked great and definitely kept the buttons from pulling. Mission accomplished, I thought.
Looking at this original photo from the day after I finished the sweater, I can already see the tell tale signs of what came next. The two photos above are from before I wore the sweater more than just to try it on, so at the button holes pictured here had only been used maybe 2 times each. Even where the buttons are - see how there are little white dimples in the ribbon? And the edges around the button holes are also white? Well, after wearing this sweater the first time for only a few hours, I took it off and saw this:
My button holes are actually SLIDING OFF my ribbon! This was when everything finally clicked and I looked at the ribbon spool - this was polyester ribbon. Not actually grosgrain. It sounds incredibly naïve of me looking back (and I can't believe I'm actually admitting this here), but I had no idea that there were big quality differences in ribbon. I thought ribbon was ribbon, and if it looked kind of ribbed, it was 'grosgrain' ribbon. Not so, dear readers! Learn from my mistakes!

Not all ribbon is created equal.

The sad thing about this realization is that I had already purchased the ribbon to back the button bands on 3 other sweaters. The other ribbons were bought at Joann's, but it's still the same poly-acetate crap. Even sticking a sewing needles through this stuff leaves a weak spot because it's literally putting a hole in a piece of plastic. Real petersham and grosgrain ribbon are made of real fibers like cotton or silk or even rayon. It is a woven item, not "poured" into a mold to look like it's woven, lol. I learned this lesson after hours of wasted work, and even though it's honestly embarrassing to admit here, I hope this can help at least one other person not have the same thing happen to them.

I haven't redone this yet or even taken the bad ribbon off the sweater since it's just on the inside and I don't often button my sweaters anyway. I've searched locally, but no "craft stores" seem to carry the real deal ribbon - everything is polyester. I've found some online sellers, but I just can't bring myself to pay more for the shipping than the item itself, you know? I plan on stocking up on real petersham ribbon at The Sewing Studio on my New Year's trip since they are the only local-ish place I know will have it. Until then, I will just live with pulling at my buttons, or wear them open, lol.

I'll be sure to post how this goes when I finally get the right ribbon at the New Year!


  1. Well I just learnt a lot about ribbon!

    1. Good! I'm glad at least someone else can benefit from my mistake :)


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