Petersham vs. Grosgrain

I remember the first time I handled petersham ribbon. It was on a skirt that I prize and still have and I went in search of the ribbon at my local Joann. Thinking it was just grosgrain, I bought a length of grosgrain, took it home and started sewing with it. I was disappointed to say the least with the result. Not knowing what to do, I went back the my favored skirt and took a closer look at the ribbon that was adorning the waistband and hem. Just judging from my own experience of working with both ribbons, let me enlighten you on a few key differences between the two.

Before we go any further, I would like to say that I don’t feel that grosgrain is an inferior ribbon, even to sew with. In fact if you can lay your hands on some high quality grosgrain, there are some great uses for the ribbon and even benefits to using it over petersham for certain sewing projects. However, the grosgrain that I normally come in contact with is the cheap stuff that feels almost like paper and actually is something that would be ideal for scrapbooking, I think. Crunchy, itchy, and incredibly stiff.

First, let’s start off with the key difference between grosgrain and petersham. Grosgrain has a finished straight edge, where petersham has a scalloped edge. This is a result in the different process each ribbon goes through to be made. Grosgrain has a ridge like texture which is produced from the particular weave of the ribbon (in other words, its woven ribbon) and has a bound edge. Petersham has a ridge like texture too, which results from the cording its made from being strung together through the middle by what seems like a million strands of thread that encase the cording, also creating that scalloped edge which is so pretty.

Usually in today’s world, grosgrain is typically stiff – made from polyester, nylon or a blend – petersham is typically soft and pliable – usually made from rayon, though I’ve also seen cotton, polyester and acrylic and all of these can affect the drape, softness and pliability of the ribbon. Petersham is also strong and these two qualities together – the softness (rayon) and strength – is the biggest reason I love working with this beautiful ribbon. It’s soft against the skin, creates a beautiful drape in complement with the fabric if used as a trim, yet can be used as waistband or waistline stay because of its strength too. It’s also got a lovely sheen to it making it just that much more exciting to use in a sewing project.

A few things to keep in mind about petersham and grosgrain. Grosgrain is usually stiff and works great with stiffer fabrics. It also makes a great waistline stay because it absolutely will not stretch, the result of that great bound edge. Grosgrain also does not require pre-shrinking where petersham might if made with rayon, cotton or a blend of both. To pre-shrink petersham, soak in warm water for a minute or two, drip dry and press.

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of the differences between petersham and grosgrain. I’ll be showing you my petersham waistband tutorial in a day or two (actually there are two waistband tutorials coming up + several other tutorials so stay tuned!). And as an added bonus, I’ve just added two new colors of petersham to the shop! Sky and Olive!

Have you used petersham before? What do you think? Which do you prefer?



28 thoughts on “Petersham vs. Grosgrain

  1. I much prefer petersham for sewing applications! I just love the look and feel of it. Grosgrain is fine for crafting however, and ties into a lovely bow on a package.

  2. Very informative. Now you’ve got me wondering, is muslin and pocket-lining fabric the same thing. I recently read about a fellow westerner living in India, who bought pocket fabric by the metre from a tailors supply shop.
    Mary in Thailand

    1. Now this I’m not so sure about. Although I do know that muslin and lining fabric are different. But muslin can be used as a lining too. Lining fabric, to me, always refers to the collection of fabrics that you can use as linings, which doesn’t even necessarily mean that you can’t exchange muslin for one of those slippery lining in certain sewing projects.

      1. I know this one! Pocketing is usually a poly-cotton woven fabric, super lightweight, and super cheap. We used to buy pocketing by the roll at my former job, it’s about a buck a metre or maybe even fifty cents. (Wholesale, that is.) If you have a pair of jeans handy, it’s that kind of fabric – jeans pocketing, either white or black, and sometimes with a bit of a stripe or woven texture but usually just a plain weave.
        It’s thinner than muslin and has no markings or flaws, and is meant for using in real garments, whereas muslin is thicker, coarser and the kind I buy has red marks and all kinds of little blips on the surface. Muslin’s usually beige or undyed, unless you buy bleached muslin (which is nicer although more expensive.)
        Hope this helps! 🙂

  3. Great post! I had always thought the terms were synonymous, although I was also aware of the differences between the straight-edged and scalloped-edge ribbon. Another thing about the scalloped-edge (Petersham) variety)—it can be pressed or otherwise stretched into lying smooth around a curve, which makes it really useful for reinforcing curved areas, or for a hem-facing on a heavy coating etc.

  4. There is a Burda skirt I have been wanting to mkae. It has a petersham ribbon waist band. I cannot find any in my area. Do you have an on-line source for pertrsham?

    1. I saw that skirt- a wrap thing no? And went to buy some petarsham, only to find, here in Beirut it seems only Grosgrain exists. I didnt know they were different until now so thank you for this informative post!

      1. I should have posted that many companies sell petersham under the name of grosgrain. I don’t know why, but they do. Just pay attention to the scalloped edge and the fiber content if you are buying online – rayon is the softest and would work wonderfully as a waistband!

  5. Sunni I had no idea thanks so much for this post telling us the difference between the two.
    I have both and some from you and I will get mine out to take a closer look. The Russian shop
    near me here in Homer Alaska has grosgrain ribbon now I will take a close look at that and see
    if it isn’t this Petersham. She told me she’s sell me what she has as the Russian ladies like to sew
    with the satin ribbon instead.

  6. Huh, interesting! I had a look at my ribbon stash and it seems that I also bought Petersham ribbon unter the name of grosgrain. Probably because I’m prone to fingering everything before I buy it, and it really is lovely and soft. 🙂

  7. Oh, that’s cool. I’ve never heard of Petersham ribbon, but it’s good to know what to look for 🙂

    What I want to know is, what do you do to stop that bloody ribbon from fraying like crazy when you use it in a waist stay? In the past, I’ve cut it on an angle and then folded the end over, putting in a couple of stitches to hold it, but is there a better way?

    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Amsterdam skirt!

  8. Thank-you so much for this! I have been hearing much about this petersham recently and didn’t know what the difference was! Also, very helpful to know that I may have to pre-shrink it. I never would have thought to.

  9. I think the Petersham I buy (it only comes in white and black) has two different edges. One is for the top of the waistband. I think that one edge doesn’t stretch and the other one does. This allows a curve to be pressed into the Petersham, making it perfect for faced waists. Well I think this is how it works. I dont have any at the moment, otherwise I would send you a photo.

    I just did a quick search and I did find curved petersham in a different brand to the one I buy. Just for your info.

  10. Thank you so much. It was the first time I read your blog. I didn’t know you had a shop. I am going to pick out the fabric I want to make my skirt out of and then buy some petersham for the waist band.

  11. Thanks a bunch for this post. I recently bought loads of Petersham ribbon from a thrift store, but didn’t really understand the difference between the two products.

  12. Thank you! I recently read David Coffins “Making trousers for men and women” and he talks a great deal about Petersham and I had absoloutly no idea what he meant. Aside from stores labeling it differently, it would also be translated to swedish. So a huge thank you! Now I have a clue what I’m looking for in the stores… =)

  13. Thanks! My sewing friend and I were in the city a few months ago, looking for petersham – the sales people had no idea what we were talking about and kept directing us to grosgrain!

  14. I can see myself sewing some A-Line skirts for my sister in the future. I am sure the Petersham will come in handy for the waistband.

    Looking forward to your tutorials.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you Sunni!

  15. I’d like to trim an upcoming Chanel-style jacket with petersham and I thought I could just pick some up at JoAnn’s. I had no idea there was a difference. Thanks so much for a very helpful post.

  16. Egad, this drives me nuts. I work in the fashion in the NYC garment district, and here the word “grosgrain” is commonly used to describe what you are refering to as “petersham”. Because of this confusing issue with the name, I have asked designers, production managers & shop keepers etc and I have not once found someone who refers to “petersham” as petersham. They look at me like I am from outerspace. As far as I am concerned (based on my experiences looking for “petersham”) it is easier to ask for cotton gross grain when looking for “petersham”. The polyester stuff I personally refer to as “faux-grain”.

  17. That’s what that lovely stuff is called. I found some petersham in the clearance bin at the fabric store and bought the lot. It felt so nice in my hand. I thought it was curtain tape. It’s nice to know the real name. Thanks 🙂

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