CB21-056 - how to curl ribbon with scissors

How to curl ribbon with scissors

To curl ribbon with scissors, you will simply drag the dull or flat side of the ribbon firmly over the blade of a pair of scissors. Make sure to go along with the natural curl of the ribbon and repeat the process if you desire a tighter curl. 

Although it’s easier to buy a bag of bows with tape attached for all of your gifts, there’s something special about a gift that is wrapped with a personal touch. A perfectly curled ribbon can add sophistication to a present or craft and is actually easier to create than you might think.

The best way to curl a ribbon is with a normal pair of scissors, but it can take some practice. So let’s take a deeper look at how to curl ribbon with scissors! 

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How Do You Curl Ribbon With Scissors?

If you’ve never curled ribbon before, it almost seems like magic to watch someone make a perfect curl in mere seconds. Curling ribbon is a lot easier than it seems, but there are definitely some tricks to get the perfect curl every time.

In order to get gorgeous curls, we’re going to need curling ribbon. Curling ribbon, unlike silk or fabric ribbon, is made of polypropylene plastic. Having the right ribbon is imperative when making ribbon curls because it’s the layers of plastic in the ribbon that become deformed to create the curled shape. 

Curling ribbon comes in a large spool and can be almost any color you can imagine. Some curling ribbons may even have glitter or a metallic sheen. This ribbon will either be flat or crimped and if it’s flat, one side of the ribbon will be duller than the other. 

To curl ribbon with scissors, follow these steps:

  • Gather your supplies: All you’ll need is a pair of sharp scissors that are comfortable enough to hold in your hand and curling ribbon.
  • Find the natural curl of the ribbon: Depending on the way the ribbon was wrapped around the spool, it will have a slight natural curl. Unspool some of the ribbon and lay it out so you can determine how it will loosely curl naturally. This, along with whether the ribbon is crimped or flat, will give you a hint on which way to curl it. 
  • Prepare your ribbon: Cut the length of ribbon that you want, remembering that it will be significantly shorter once it’s curled. If your ribbon is crimped, the flat side will be on the blade of the scissors. If the ribbon is flat, the dull side will go against the scissors.   
  • Curl the ribbon: Drag the ribbon across the sharp part of the scissor blade. Maintain a strong grasp on the ribbon’s base by keeping the bottom scissor blade in contact with it. Your thumb will hold the ribbon in place on the dull edge of the scissor blade. Pull the scissors up and away from the base with your dominant hand. As you do this, the open blades will be facing you.
  • Slowly finish curling the ribbon: Make sure that you drag the whole ribbon across the sharp part of the scissor blade. Use slow and steady pressure. If the curl isn’t tight enough for you, you can repeat the process a second time. 

A few notes: For safety, always pull the ribbon away from your body.

For the most part, slower is better, but if you go too slow, the ribbon may become flat. Practice with a few extra pieces of ribbon to figure out the perfect speed. 

If you’re planning on making an enormous bunch of curled ribbons for a large decorative bow, cut them all the same length before curling for a uniform look. Each ribbon will look different, but you won’t have any pieces that are too short or too long. 

Why Can You Curl Ribbon With Scissors?

Crafting and science intersect more than you think, and ribbon curling is no exception. A psychicist from Harvard University researched the science behind ribbon curling to find out exactly why scissors have the effect they do on the ribbon.

The findings show that the ribbon curls after being dragged across the scissor blade because the part of the ribbon held against the blade deforms as it comes into contact with the blade while the outer side does not, causing the curling shape. 

Stretching the ribbon and pressing it against the scissor blade basically breaks down the molecular structure of that side of the ribbon enough to change its shape. Since the outer side of the ribbon is unharmed, its shape won’t change, and the differences between the two sides will cause the entire ribbon to curl around itself. 

Can You Curl Fabric Ribbon With Scissors?

No, you cannot curl fabric ribbons with scissors. Curling ribbon with scissors is dependent on the ribbon being made of polypropylene. 

As we discussed before, it’s the warping of one side of the curling ribbon that makes it curl so easily. Since fabric ribbon isn’t made of the same type of plastic as curling ribbon, it won’t curl when it’s dragged across scissors.

Not to worry, though! Fabric ribbon can still be curled, and you won’t need anything but a pencil or dowel rod, tape, and starch spray.

Here’s a quick rundown of how to curl fabric ribbons:

  • Cut the length of ribbon, then tape on end to the top of the pencil or dowel rod.
  • Wind the ribbon around the rod or pencil, closer together for tighter curls are farther apart for looser curls.
  • Tape the other end of the ribbon to the pencil or rod once it’s all wound. Spray the ribbon until it is saturated with the starch spray. 
  • Let the ribbon dry. Once it’s dry, the tape can be taken off and the ribbon will be curled!

Why Won’t My Ribbon Curl With Scissors?

Ribbon that isn’t the right material, was pulled too fast or too slow, or is too short, might not curl correctly.

If you’ve tried to curl your ribbon and it remains frustratingly straight, then there are a few things you’ll need to troubleshoot!

If the first point, that your ribbon isn’t a proper curling ribbon, is correct, then you might be out of luck. Fabric ribbon and any ribbon made from alternative materials won’t curl with the scissor method. The scissor method only works when the ribbon is polypropylene.

Next, pulling the ribbon too fast or too slow over the scissors can cause it to not curl. Too fast, and the ribbon’s structure won’t be warped enough to curl. Too slow, and the ribbon can become too damaged and refuse to curl. This is why it’s so important to practice on spare ribbons before making the bows for your gifts.

Lastly, if your ribbon is too short, it may just twist into a C-shape instead of a lovely ringlet. This is because there wasn’t enough ribbon to complete a full curl, just the beginning of one. In this case, just use a longer ribbon.

Summary: How to curl ribbon with scissors

 Curling ribbon with scissors might take some practice, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be able to make bundles of multicolored ribbons to top your gifts in no time.

 Making ribbon curls does require a certain type of ribbon, but you can use almost any pair of household scissors, making this an easy and approachable craft. We hope you enjoy your crafting!