How to Make Ribbonwork – Straight Dance Ribbonwork Tutorial

Posted By Paul G September 18th, 2012 Last Updated on: June 2nd, 2020

The form of ribbonwork in this tutorial is an art used in Straight Dance and Southern Cloth outfits.  This style is done by several tribes including Osage and Ponca.

This tutorial is for the cut and tuck method with a template.

Making the design and cutting the template is probably a whole tutorial by itself!  For my ribbonwork, I use metal templates.  The pattern shown below is done using 2 different metal templates.

When I first attempted ribbonwork, I was in awe of the details of the designs.  After you learn the basic concepts of how ribbonwork is make, however, the process is quite simple. 

You are layering or singling stripes of ribbons on top of each other to product a design.

Native American Ribbonwork

Above is the base design I started with.  As I progressed the design did change slightly.

Using this design I was able to cut the 2 metal templates needed to make the ribbons.

Ribbonwork Templates

Ribbonwork Templates

These two templates are cut out of metal flashing.  You can find this material at your local home improvement store.  Ask for the metal flashing used in roof repairs.

With these templates you can create the individual ribbons that will be layered to create the pattern.  It is helpful for me to break the design down into each ribbon.

Individual Ribbons for Ribbonwork

Now that you have your design and templates made, you need to get your fabric.  My ribbonwork is made fro moire taffeta.  I buy it by the yard and cut it into stripes.  There are some suppliers that sell fabric pre-cut.

To begin cutting the fabric, I wet the ribbon, then place it on a board.

Native American Ribbonwork

Making Native American Ribbonwork

Clamp the template on top of the fabric.

The use a razor blade to cut a line from the bottom of each template valley to the end of the fabric.

Cutting Ribbons for Ribbonwork

After each cut is made, fold the fabric back onto the template and iron down.

Cutting Ribbons for Ribbonwork

Cut and Folded Ribbonwork

The above photo shows how the fabric will look after ironing.

Remove the clamps and set the fabric to the side to dry.  I usually let mine dry overnight.

Next step is to begin sewing.

Sewing Native American Ribbonwork

You will sew down each piece one at a time.  I use fabric glue on the tips of the fabric to hold it in place while I sew.  You will sew along the edge of the new fabric using the same color thread.

Leave the last piece's edge to mount that to the wool.

Here is a photo of the finished set.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Have you made any ribbonwork suits?  Please share your work!

Here is the finished suit being worn!


Design was done by Orville Gates.


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Katherine Sinclair

Very useful. I’ve always wanted to try ribbon work. This gives me courage to try

Muriel Fite



A couple of questions, please.
First question, do you use a straight stitch or a zig-zag stitch when you are sewing the ribbon down? Second question, where do you purchase the taffeta for your ribbonwork?

I have a suggestion. There is a product called ‘Fray Check’. I have used it to help keep the edges from fraying . Plus it is washable & non-staining.

Mary Green

Oops…Flower Moon!

Mary Green

Just beautiful. I finished read8ng Killer of the Moon Flower and have been look8ng at various Indian arts. I believe I may be a smidgen Native American thru my Canadian French maternal grandmother. I am a quilter and think I shall have to give this a try. Thank you for your great tutorial.

Darlene anderson

I really love ur work awesome stuff i hope to be as good as u


Does it have to be tin, because when I do my I use card board, or file folders?
And I use wonder under, some people use heat and bond, but that become too thick when u stack them.
Another question is why do u wet the fabric?

Rita Gonsalves

What’s the length and width of the templates? Thanks for the tutorial -Rita

Mikki Kas

I have made myself a couple of ribbon dresses with the hanging ribbon streamers. My question is, how do you (or maybe you don’t) finish the end of the hanging ribbon streamers without it unraveling in the wash. The dresses and the ribbon used is washable but I’m afraid of the hanging pieces all coming apart with unraveling. I would appreciate some ideas here. Thank you!

Faith Pegahmgabow

I am going to try this.

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