Anatomy of a Ribbon

“Ribbon. A strip of fine fabric, as silk, satin, or velvet, having two selvages.” (Cole, George S.. A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods and History of Silk, Cotton, Linen, Wool and other Fibrous Substances. Chicago: W. B. Conney,1892. Page 297)

Ribbon Weave ImageRibbons are woven similarly to silk fabric. Warp threads run the length of the ribbon. Weft threads run the width of the ribbon. In ribbons, the warp is also be called organzine; the weft is called tram. Marabout is used for gauzes. It is from fine white silk which has not had the gum boiled off.

The selvage is the edge of the ribbon. This can be plain or fancy

A ribbon’s appearance is determined by a number of factors:

  • The twist and thickness of the warp
  • The twist and thickness of the weft
  • The type of weave
  • The way the edge is woven
  • The finishing and blocking


Finishing a ribbon includes a process to smooth and stiffen them. For example “Satins are soft and flossy when taken out of  the loom; to smooth and stiffen them, they are calendered, or pressed between heated steel cylinders, and afterwards dressed, or passed over a small cylinder covered with flannel, which is moistened with a size made from buffalo hides, and then over a large one of heated steel. Gauzes also are dressed, and sometimes even lutestrings. The French goods are in general better dressed than the English.”

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