November 23, 2011

Petersham vs. Grosgrain

I remember the first time I handled petersham ribbon. It was on a skirt that I prize and still have and I went in search of the ribbon at my local Joann. Thinking it was just grosgrain, I bought a length of grosgrain, took it home and started sewing with it. I was disappointed to say the least with the result. Not knowing what to do, I went back the my favored skirt and took a closer look at the ribbon that was adorning the waistband and hem. Just judging from my own experience of working with both ribbons, let me enlighten you on a few key differences between the two.

Before we go any further, I would like to say that I don't feel that grosgrain is an inferior ribbon, even to sew with. In fact if you can lay your hands on some high quality grosgrain, there are some great uses for the ribbon and even benefits to using it over petersham for certain sewing projects. However, the grosgrain that I normally come in contact with is the cheap stuff that feels almost like paper and actually is something that would be ideal for scrapbooking, I think. Crunchy, itchy, and incredibly stiff.

First, let's start off with the key difference between grosgrain and petersham. Grosgrain has a finished straight edge, where petersham has a scalloped edge. This is a result in the different process each ribbon goes through to be made. Grosgrain has a ridge like texture which is produced from the particular weave of the ribbon (in other words, its woven ribbon) and has a bound edge. Petersham has a ridge like texture too, which results from the cording its made from being strung together through the middle by what seems like a million strands of thread that encase the cording, also creating that scalloped edge which is so pretty.

Usually in today's world, grosgrain is typically stiff - made from polyester, nylon or a blend - petersham is typically soft and pliable - usually made from rayon, though I've also seen cotton, polyester and acrylic and all of these can affect the drape, softness and pliability of the ribbon. Petersham is also strong and these two qualities together - the softness (rayon) and strength - is the biggest reason I love working with this beautiful ribbon. It's soft against the skin, creates a beautiful drape in complement with the fabric if used as a trim, yet can be used as waistband or waistline stay because of its strength too. It's also got a lovely sheen to it making it just that much more exciting to use in a sewing project.

A few things to keep in mind about petersham and grosgrain. Grosgrain is usually stiff and works great with stiffer fabrics. It also makes a great waistline stay because it absolutely will not stretch, the result of that great bound edge. Grosgrain also does not require pre-shrinking where petersham might if made with rayon, cotton or a blend of both. To pre-shrink petersham, soak in warm water for a minute or two, drip dry and press.

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of the differences between petersham and grosgrain. I'll be showing you my petersham waistband tutorial in a day or two (actually there are two waistband tutorials coming up + several other tutorials so stay tuned!). And as an added bonus, I've just added two new colors of petersham to the shop! Sky and Olive!

Have you used petersham before? What do you think? Which do you prefer?

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