Hello dear friend,
It’s back to the Garden Bouquet embroidery this week with Part 4, the ribbon lily! I have been so excited about the lily since the beginning. I knew I wanted to dive back into ribbon-work, and I just had this beautiful vision in my head of a gorgeous lily in shiny ribbon, full of life and bloom.
It’s a success, I think. I love my lily. It crowns the whole piece beautifully. Amazingly, this is the part that was the least time-consuming yet produced a most stunning effect.
I rummaged around for pale pink ribbon and found two different colours that go perfectly together in my stash. One is Celebrate It from Michaels, and I got the other one in a Dollar Tree years ago. The former is pretty wide, 2.2 cm large, and the latter is a bit smaller, at 1.9 cm large. They are both polyester ribbon.
The wider the ribbon, the wider your single-stitch petal will be. That’s the beauty of ribbon embroidery. You can use only one stitch and create a beautiful petal. The needle is admittedly harder to pull through the fabric than for embroidery, but you can also create a flower in a fraction of the time that embroidery takes!
Let’s Stitch a Lily
For ribbon-work, we generally use chenille needles. A chenille needle has a really big eye, thick shaft, and a pointy tip. You need a pointy tip to be able to pierce the fabric, unless you’re stitching on something with a really broad weave like Aida cloth. I’m using a cotton for my project that’s heavy enough to sustain ribbon-work, but the weave isn’t broad enough to use a blunt-tipped needle.
My ribbon was so wide that I couldn’t thread it completely through the eye of my widest chenille needle! But it’s ok, because I was able to thread enough of the ribbon so that it wouldn’t slip out. It just meant that I didn’t have a tail like you normally would with embroidery thread, but you don’t really need it in this case.
As well, I didn’t knot or anchor the end of my ribbon in any way. Usually for ribbon embroidery, you thread the needle through the end of the ribbon so it forms a knot on itself. This wouldn’t have worked with so wide a ribbon here, and would have created too much unnecessary bulk. So I just left a small bit of ribbon hanging from the back after each stitch, which I eventually secured with a sewing needle and thread at the end.
How to Start
Once the needle is threaded as best as you can, it’s time to take the first stitch!! The ribbon is very bulky where it sits in the needle’s eye, so you need a pretty big hole to be able to stitch through the fabric. I used a small tailor’s awl to poke a hole through the fabric first, before making a stitch, and it helped tremendously. I also used a gripper to help pull the needle through, since my hands were sweating uncontrollably. If you have dry hands, you might not have as much difficult pulling, although you will probably need to wiggle the needle quite a bit to make it come through.
I worked from the center of the flower to the tip of the petals, careful to leave a bit of space between the stitches in the center. You don’t want them all the same hole or too near the same hole, or they risk coming undone and you’ll likely pull the stitches out accidentally when making a new one.
Each stitch is basically just a straight stitch (it just looks so much more impressive because it’s wide ribbon!). You start at point A (flower center), and go back down at point B (petal tip). You can decide how much ribbon you want for each petal. The tighter you pull, the thinner the petal will look. The looser you leave it, the more the ribbon will arch to form the petal.
You can also place the ribbon however you want it before bringing your needle back down. For example, the second petal to the right (from the top) was folded on itself before I ended the stitch. This gives the flower more dimension and a more realistic appearance. I also alternated between my two ribbon colours to vary the petal shades.
Next, I added a little flower bud near the leaves. I also used straight stitches to create it, one stitch overlapping the other to create the appearance of folded petals.
I worked the two leaves with straight stitches again, but with a thinner ribbon (that actually fit through the needle’s eye!). The ribbon was from my stash, but it was exactly the shade of green I wanted. 🙂
Once I was satisfied with all this, I stitched the stem, using two strands of DMC #3346. I used long & short stitches with longer stitches than usual, and did a bit of whipping at the top where the stem was thinner. “Whipping” is when you weave your thread behind existing stitches without going through fabric. It creates a nice twisty look.
I also added a few straight stitches (in floss) around the bud for the sepals.
And finally, it was time to add more dimension to the flower and really make it look like a lily. I used one strand of DMC #734 and one strand of Brillanté d’Alger #511 (DMC #3779 is a close match) at the same time (so two strands in my needle, one of each colour) to create the filaments. I started from the flower center and just made straight stitches into the upper petals.
Then I used two strands of Anchor #357 (DMC #433) to make smaller, slightly curved stitches to create the anthers above the filaments. (Yes, I had to google all these flower parts :P)
To secure all my dangling bits of ribbon at the back, I un-hooped my work, threaded a sewing needle with matching pink sewing thread, and sewed down each bit to anchor it.
I also did a bit of sewing on the good side, to really place my petals as I wanted them, anchoring a fold here and there. To do this, you want to take very small stitches underneath the folds you wish to create so that the thread won’t be visible. It was also necessary to anchor a few petals down. Their arching form revealed the pencil marks underneath (and unfortunately this isn’t a piece you can wash easily – if at all).
Voilà!! Now you know the secrets to stitch a beautiful lily flower with ribbon. I used to do a lot more ribbon embroidery a few years ago, and hope to get back into it. Each stitch is so satisfying, so lush, so beautiful!
With the lily now complete, my bouquet is really starting to look like something! All we have left are the little yellow daisies, the title, and a few finishing touches. I’m already prepping Part 5 for you 😊.
If you need to catch up on Parts 1, 2, and 3, here they are:
I hope you enjoyed embroidering a ribbon lily with me! Which has been your favourite part so far? Do you prefer needle-painting, stumpwork, or ribbon-work? Let me know in the comments!