Gift Wrapping is like fashion, interior design and hair styles. Trends come and go. Some of the trends I connect with. Some not so much. But one trend that I am definitely loving at the moment is the use of bold striped grosgrain ribbon placed with a detailed patterned or floral wrapping print. It is a strong look and deserved nod to one of the most versatile embellishments going around. It’s no wonder I am on a campaign for more use of grosgrain.
The word grosgrain is French in origin. The adjective “gros” means thick or coarse while the “grain” part is derived from Old French graine meaning seed or texture. So think grosgrain, think course textured fabric.
Grosgrain has a distinct ribbed appearance. It’s all about the warp and weft which could in part explain why I like grosgrain so much. And not just because my friends tell me I am rather fond of using (and possibly overusing) the term warp and weft metaphorically. It’s because the weft (the threads that go horizontally) is heavier than the warp (the threads that go vertically) creating distinctive transverse ribs and a sturdy durable fabric. It was originally made from wool, silk mohair or a combination thereof.
Grosgrain fabric was originally made from wool, silk mohair or a combination thereof, was almost always black and was originally used waistcoats, jackets, petticoats, beeches, sleeves, jerkins and many other items of clothing, as a cheaper alternative for the lower socio-economic demographic than fine-woven silk or wool – so says Marieke de Winkel, in Fashion and Fancy.
In the early part of the 20th century, it fell out of favour as a garment fabric and that’s when grosgrain ribbon, edgings and facings stepped right up. Think grosgrain for lapels of dress coats, morning coats, dinner jackets, school blazers and tuxedos. Think grosgrain for bow ties, cummerbunds and watchbands. Think grosgrain for millinery, top hats, opera hats and even homburgs.
During the second world war, grosgrain hemp, jute and linen were used to make seat belts and military webbing.
These days synthetic grosgrain is used extensively as heavy-duty webbing because the unique warp weft things provides big strength and low curl. That’s why you see synthetic grosgrain around cargo, white goods and other packaging. If you have ever tried to rip it open with your bare hands rather than cutting it you will know what I mean.
But the main use of aesthetic use of grosgrain these days if for ribbon and unlike it monotone black forebears it comes in a range of fabulous colours and widths. It also comes in a range of styles – from a contrast stitched edged, to different levels of lustre and, in my opinion, to the cream of the style crop – pavilion stripes.
I have noticed a number of masterful wedding stylists and gift wrappers producing bouquets and wraps that pair striped grosgrain – predominantly black and white or navy stripe – with wonderful flowers and patterns. Rather than clash, the effect is strong and bold. I have included a number of my favourites and here are a few more from left clockwise Laribbonscrafts, Shindig Paperie and Pink Paddock Store:
And I should not forget striped grosgrain as an adornment of bonbonierre or produce gifts such as cookies, jam and relish.
So join my grosgrain campaign and use this fabulous ribbon – plain or striped, thin or wide, edged stitched or fluoro – on your favourite gift wrap and watch it draw the eye and steal the show.