Working with Petersham

Many thanks to Gail Nicholes for demonstrating these steps while I took pictures.

Shaping sweatbands and hatbands: Unlike modern grosgrain ribbon, millinery grosgrain can be shaped. If you steam and stretch it you can get it to arc. This is important, when using petersham as a hatband or sweatband on hats where the crown either gets smaller or larger towards the tip, such as the Elizabethan tall hat. To shape a petersham hatband I lay the pattern piece as a guide on the ironing board. Steam the ribbon and stretch to form it while warm. It is important not to touch the iron to the ribbon as this will bring out a shine. Modern petersham is a rayon and cotton blend and unlike vintage petersham ribbon is more sensitive to this problem.

Using petersham on the brim edge: When using petersham as the finished edge of a brim edge it looks better not just to press in in half. This will leave a sharp crease, if you don't shape it unlike using bias binding it will pucker along to edge and be difficult to sew. It is best to shape it to a round object with a smooth edge like a dinner plate or large kettle lid. Here we have used the edge of a stainless steel sieve. The first step is to secure the edge of the ribbon with tape and a large binder clip.
Stretch out the ribbon evenly along the edge of the sieve holding it in one hand. Pull it as tight as possible.

Steam the ribbon being careful not to get too close to your hand.

Pull on the ribbon, it will stretch maybe one half an inch or so. It will stretch only in the middle and not along the edges so, it will take on the shape of the rounded edge of sieve.


Continue steaming any areas that did not stretch.

Repeat those steps until you reach the other end of the sieve.

You can order petersham ribbon from many hat suppliers and some high end fabric stores. I have found more and more regular fabrics stores are carrying petersham. Look for two things one is the fiber content, it should be at least 50 percent cotton. Two, the edge of the ribbon is a simple U. This means the warp thread just goes back and forth it doesn't make a extra loop on each edge, forming a ridge on the edges.

Last Revision: 12 Feb 2005

Copyright Lynn McMasters, © 2007
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