Sunday, 18 October 2015

Sewing secrets and ribbon cockades

Yesterday I was back at Hat Works in Stockport, for my final millinery course of 2015. It’s wonderful to have such a great resource almost on my doorstep, and I’ve loved every course I’ve done: a huge thank you to Meroe for letting me know about the courses in the first place, and to the fabulous tutors; Lorna, Marie and Sue.

This course was on making ribbon cockades. As ever, there were lots of examples for us to examine, both antique and modern.

Antique cockades

Modern cockades in black and white

Simple hexagon cockade

Some were made from a single, continuous length of ribbon, while others were made up of separate components.

Pleated cockades made from a single length of ribbon

Multi-part cockades

First of all we tried making the pleated ribbon cockades. While they look complicated, they are actually quite straightforward once you get started. I'll post a tutorial soon! (Now done, it's here.)

My first pleated cockade, lightly pressed

The black ruffled cockade above consisted of seven identical pleated sections, mounted on a scrap of buckram. Now this was tricky, especially getting the pleats right. My effort was definitely far better by the seventh section than the first!

My attempt at a ruffled cockade

This one was much simpler. I think that it would look great as a trim on a cloche hat.

Two-colour cockade in progress

All of the ribbon, in different widths and colours, was provided by the museum. I chose a purple for my pleated cockade, and this got me thinking. The current Historical Sew Monthly challenge is Sewing Secrets,
"Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance)."

The notes which Marie and Sue provided included some of the historical background of cockades, including the fact that they were worn by suffragettes. The suffragette colours were purple, white and green, so I decided to build on my cockade to give it a subtle suffragette message. I made a second, smaller cockade from a narrow white ribbon, but first I painted one edge of the ribbon with green fabric paint, and then soaked in water to give a slight ombre effect. Once the cockade was made up, the green only shows at the centre folds. The two cockades are backed with a buckram scrap, and the whole thing is held together with a fabric button marked with the small letters WSPU, one of the main suffragette organisations in Britain.

Completed suffragette cockade

The small print:
The Challenge: Sewing Secrets
What's the secret?: Suffragette sympathies. The cockade is only 10cm / 4" across, so the WSPU letters are actually tiny.   
Fabric: Petersham and grosgrain ribbons, cotton for the covered button, buckram scrap
Pattern: My own
Year: Early twentieth century
Notions: Button form
How historically accurate is it? Suffragettes wore cockades, and I imagine some of them made their own, so I'd say 80%
Hours to complete: 2-3
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: None, but only because the materials were either provided on a course or from my stash


  1. Oh how wonderful your cockades are! I am so jealous that you get to attend these millinery classes!! I think my favorite cockade is the black one! Very cool and spiky looking!! Can't wait for the tutorial!

    1. Thank you Gina! The tutorial is now up, do let me know how you get on!