Bead Embroidery with Shibori Ribbon

Even the name sounds exotic: Shibori ribbon is the newest craze to hit the bead embroidery world, thanks to bead artist Sherry Serafini who began incorporating this hand-dyed silk into her bead embroidery pieces.Shibori ribbon is created by twisting, folding, stitching, and binding silk ribbon or fabric during the process of dyeing to create a pleated, vibrantly-colored piece of silk or satin that can be used to add an incredibly soft and organic look to your bead embroidery projects.


I'd been admiring bead embroidery using Shibori ribbon from afar (mostly on Facebook), until Lisa Kan sent me a sample of some of this intriguing new material so that I could experiment with my own projects! I have to admit that I was a little bit intimidated with the idea of working with Shibori for bead embroidery, but I got some great tips and help from some of my favorite beading friends before I started. Are you ready to dive in and try working with Shibori ribbon?

Shibori silk is usually woven loosely to show off those lovely silk fibers and colors, and that loose weave can get caught on things like rough hands or beading needles with rough surfaces or burrs. Spend a few minutes moisturizing your hands before you start working with Shibori, and use a new beading needle each time to prevent catching your ribbon.

Which beading thread should you use? I experimented with FireLine, Nymo, and Silamide beading threads and found that Silamide and Nymo worked the best with Shibori, resulting in less pulling and puckering of the ribbon as I tacked it down on my bead embroidery medium.

Begin by tacking down one end of your ribbon to your bead embroidery medium, using tiny stitches that you can hide in between the pleats and folds of the ribbon. If you want your ribbon to open up a bit more, you can "iron" it by passing it very gently over a warm light bulb. If you heat the ribbon up too much, you'll lose all of the pleats.

As you twist and turn your ribbon, you can temporarily hold down the twists using clothespins or small alligator clamps. Take care that the tips of your clamps and clothespins are smooth, or buffer them by sticking a small piece of bead embroidery medium between the clamp and the ribbon.

Once you love the way your ribbon looks, you can gently fold the ends of the ribbon under themselves and start tacking the ribbon down to hold it in place. Use a simple running stitch, using tiny stitches, to secure your ribbon to your bead embroidery medium. I took the advice of my friend Beki Haley of Whimbeads and adopted a "take no prisoners" attitude while tacking down my ribbon — if I made a small mistake or a stitch didn't come out exactly right, I made a mental note to just cover up that spot with some bead embroidery and kept plugging ahead!

The edges of Shibori ribbon are "raw", or unfinished, so I folded them under as I worked. You also have the option of leaving them exposed in your finished piece of bead embroidery, but remember that raw edges will fray and come apart over time.

I decided against using any kind of glue to attach my Shibori to the bead embroidery medium. When attaching my bezeled crystal rivolis, I decided to also forgo the glue and instead stitched the beads in the peyote stitch bezel to the bead embroidery medium through the Shibori ribbon.

I had a great time laying out the rivolis I wanted to use as design elements in my Shibori ribbon bead embroidery cuff. I wish I had had more time work on this piece before my deadline, but that led me to my most important discovery about using Shibori ribbon: don't do it on a deadline! Seriously, though, using Shibori ribbon for bead embroidery takes a lot of time! It takes time to tack the ends down, time spent twisting and turning and adjusting your ribbon, and time spent laying out each element of your finished piece. My best advice for using Shibori? Don't rush it. Slow down, enjoy the process, and let your imagination take over!


Looking for more innovative ways to do free-form bead embroidery? Kelly Angeley's fantastic book, Explorations in Beadweaving: Techniques for an Improvisational Approach will take your bead embroidery and bead weaving to new places with her innovative and awesomely creative projects. Learn techniques for incorporating found objects into both bead embroidery and bead-weaving, get inspiration for using some of today's most popular bead shapes like spikes and long drops, and let yourself play with color in each of these 19 beading projects. Get your copy of Explorations in Beadweaving and learn how to "bead" in the moment.

Have you tried working with Shibori ribbon yet? What are your questions or concerns about using Shibori ribbon in your bead embroidery projects? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog, and share your tips, advice, and questions with us!

Bead Happy,


A huge thank-you to Lisa Kan for providing me with the sample of Shibori ribbon; to Betcey Ventrella of Beyond Beadery, Beki Haley of Whimbeads, Nikia Angel, and Adele Recklies for cheering me on with their great advice and tips on how to use and handle Shibori ribbon! You can purchase Shibori ribbon from Lisa Kan (Aria Design Studio), Beyond Beadery, or Shibori Girl Studios.

One Comment

  1. Mark D at 7:49 am February 10, 2017

    Wow this bead embroidery is so beautiful, I’ll love to buy this as I think embroidery really makes any cloth look more beautiful attractive. I want to appreciate you for sharing and helping me out 🙂

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