A ribbon is primarily a decorative strip of fabric that can also serve a purpose such as holding materials together. There are so many different types of ribbon out there in all kinds of fabrics, right from satin and velvet to the synthetic types such as rayon and nylon. They can be printed, patterned, plaited, woven, embroidered, decorated with sequins or pearls, made to resemble lace, shaped and even molded. The textile factories classify ribbon as a narrow, thin fabric.
Ribbons first appeared as soon as early civilizations started to make fabric. They are one of the oldest forms of decoration for clothing and hair. Of course, the finest fabrics were the most expensive whereas the coarser materials were cheaper. People, therefore, adorned their cheaper clothing with ribbon to make it look more individual and elegant. Peddlers used to travel throughout Europe and sell their ribbons on their journey. Even the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer talk about “ribbands” adorning garments.
Modern ribbons, the ones with finished edges, first arrived in around 1500. They were still thought of as a luxury item. Over the course of the next couple of centuries, ribbons became accessories in many forms and they were even given as gifts.
The industry (and the first ribbon manufacturer) came along with the silk trade. The merchants traveling the “Silk Road” sold the raw silk to people in Europe who then cleaned and dyed it and made it into ribbon. This growing demand from ribbon was a spark in the Industrial Revolution.
Ribbons today are made in much the same way as ribbons were during the industrial revolution. The process does vary widely, however. As a general rule, once the thread of choice has been spun and subsequently dyed and treated, it is then rolled on a bobbin. These are then placed on a special “ribbon loom”. These are like miniature looms which have their own lengths of yarn (also called ‘warp’) to produce the chosen ribbon width. A ribbon loom can even weave up to 144 fabric pieces at the same time. Today, the looms are computerized and can produce very detailed designs than were ever possible in the past. Modern looms also work at an incredibly fast rate.
The threads from the bobbin follow a series of hooks which hold each thread in place and raise it and lower it as it is woven. Another name for these bobbins is “cheeses”. They also control the beam for the warp. The tension is kept right by a pulley system.
Fancy effects are produced by different weaving techniques as well as ingenious devices. They include different fibers and different colored threads that are woven together. After this weaving is complete, the ribbon goes onto rollers. The rollers move it along for any other products that are needed such as stiffener of glue. The ribbons are then dried and pressed before being collected on large reels.
Finally, the ribbon is wound onto a spool. If it is then going to be embossed or printed, it passes through a special calendar to smooth its surface and then goes through a stamping or printing machine. Finally, it is wound onto spools to be packed and sold. Who knew that a ribbon factory could be such a complex place?
Let’s have a look at some of today’s types of ribbon that are available to buy pretty much anywhere.
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I think it is safe to say that, given the length of the ribbon’s history, it is here to stay. Nowadays, a ribbon manufacturer can produce such a large variety of different ribbons in their ribbon factory that they will no doubt continue to be popular in all sorts of ways. The infinite combinations created by computers have made intricate and unusual designs so accessible that the even designs that used to be too expensive to produce are now commonplace on the ribbon market.
These days you can even have ribbons with your face imprinted on or ones featuring your favorite quote. The possibilities are endless. I even had ribbons made for my wedding (with our names on and the wedding date printed on), which were then attached to our wedding favors. Who knows what the future will bring for the world ribbon factory! We could have 3D printed ribbons, hologram ribbons and even ribbons that are somehow linked with virtual reality and augmented reality. The ribbon world really is open to a realm of ribbon possibilities!