Inspiration and Education

Ribbon Materials

Written by Sue Huelsman, AIFD with additions from Sarah Botchick

Ribbon is a decorative product with an almost infinite variety of materials, sizes, styles, and colors. It is classified as a narrow fabric ranging from 1/16" to 12" in width.

Ribbon began when fabrics began. It is among the oldest of decorative materials. Modern ribbon with selvedges (finished edges) began by 1500. In the 1770’s, the Dutch engine loom was developed and six types of ribbon could then be produced. In 1813, picot-edged ribbon (scalloped along the edge) became popular. Ribbon diversified into braids, cords, fringes, silk pictures, and bookmarks.

Three Principal Categories of Manufactured Ribbons

  1. Shiny blue acetate pull ribbon


    Acetate cut by a hot knife that fuses the edges

  2. Light green satin ribbon in a bow


    Textile industry

  3. Wide wire-edged purple ribbon in a bow


Most Common Types of Ribbon

  • Acetate
  • Brocade
  • Brushed Sateen
  • Burlap
  • Grosgrain
  • Feather Edge
  • Jacquard
  • Knits
  • Microfibers
  • Moire
  • Ombre
  • Pellon
  • Satin
  • Sheers
  • Tafetta
  • Tulle
  • Velvet

Ribbon Textures

  • Rose pink ribbon in a bow


    Sheer and delicate

  • Double face dusty blue satin ribbon in a bow


    Single or double-faced

  • Red velvet ribbon in a bow


    Soft pile on one side

  • Pink bow with a slightly rippled texture and soft shimmer


    Woven blends

  • Sparkly gold sheen ribbon in a bow


    Woven from Lurex or metallic yarns

  • Burlap-based ribbon with rooster print and gold edges in a bow

    Natural Fibers

    Paper, cotton, jute, and linen

  • Wide gray ribbon with silver embroidery in a bow


    Specialized type of ribbon overlapping several textural types

  • Curling

    Bathed in glue and pressed which gives it its curling property

Ribbon Sizes

1/4" (#1)
3/8" (#1.5)
1/2" (#2)
5/8" (#3) — Commonly used for corsages
7/8" (#5)
1.5" (#9) — Commonly used for wedding bouquets and everyday arrangements
2.5" (#40) — Commonly used for event décor and funeral sprays
4" (#100)

Note: Ribbon diagram widths are relative to each other. Actual width may vary depending on your screen size.

Which Ribbon to Use

What you are doing with the ribbon will determine which type you use. Some ribbons are more accommodating to creating bows, wrapping around shapes, and using as other forms of decoration. Ribbon is said to have a “good hand” if the material is substantial enough to make a bow that will stand up and look pretty.

The most common uses for ribbon in floral design would be bow-making for arrangements and wreaths and tying ribbon around bouquet handles, containers and bundles. Ribbon can bring designs together through color, texture, and pattern. It adds an extra element that provides a finishing touch to designs.

ranunculus bouquet tied with satin ribbons of varied widths