How to Make a Ribbon Shirt

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It has become traditional for Native American men to wear ribbon shirts at important ceremonies. Native American women began making ribbon shirts hundreds of years ago as a way to create beautiful and creative designs. Ribbon shirts are pullover shirts with a V-neck and long sleeves that end in cuffs. The beauty of the ribbon shirts is the intricate ribbon appliqué designs that are sewn onto the shirts. Designs are often passed from generation to generation and have no traditional meaning other than to demonstrate Native American art.

Things You'll Need

  • Shirt pattern
  • Material
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Threat
  • Sewing machine
  • Needle
  • Hook and eye
  • Buttons or snaps
  • Ribbons
  • Internet access
  • Look on the Internet for ideas for ribbon patterns. Many vendors sell ribbon shirts and their photos can provide ideas for ribbon designs.

  • Buy material. Three yards of forty-five inch wide material will be needed. Calico, cotton, rayon and taffeta are traditional materials used though other materials can be used as well. Solid colors, polka dots, paisley prints and stripes are all appropriate materials for ribbon shirts.

    Buy ribbons. Buy many different colors and widths to create vibrant designs and shapes.

  • Buy a pattern for a basic pullover shirt (yoke shirt) with long sleeves and a V-neck. Patterns may be purchased in a material store.

    Lay the pattern pieces out on the material.

    Pin the pattern pieces to the material.

    Cut out the material.

  • Follow the pattern directions to close the neck of the shirt and sew the front and back of the shirt together. Close the neck opening with a hook and eye.

    If the wearer will be wearing a breastplate, attach the collar. If not, there is no reason to attach a collar.

    Leave a four inch opening at the bottom of each side seam for the slit.

    Sew the sleeves into the sleeve holes.

    Hem the bottom of the shirt, the ends of the cuffs and the slit openings.

    Sew buttons and buttonholes or snaps onto the cuffs to close them.

  • Place ribbons on the shirt cuffs, neck, along the chest, down the sleeves, around the base of the shirt and wherever it seems that ribbons would enhance the shirt's design.

    Pleat or ruffle the ends of the sleeves. Use the ribbons to do this.

    Be creative. Cut out shapes from different-colored ribbons and sew them onto the ribbons that are on the shirt. Let ribbons hang down. Make multi-colored designs and shapes.

    If the shirt is multi-colored or the material has a design use monochrome ribbons. If the shirt material is a solid color, be exciting--create the ribbons with elaborate designs and shapes.

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