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Product Review: Beginner's Guide to Ribbonwork (DVD) by Helen Gibb
Ribbonwork, The Complete Guide (book) by Helen Gibb

Review by Lynn Holland

Among the most spectacular items at the Houston Market in 2005 were huge silk ribbon roses worn by many of the vendors. Since we did not attend Sample Spree last year, due to a long evening of being unable to find the right freeway exit and consequently taking a tour of the Houston area, I can only speculate that perhaps they were available there, judging by the number of them adorning the shoulders at the convention center.  But they were so remarkable that I became instantly inspired. 

My own life with ribbon roses began at least two decades ago when a friend of mine taught me to fashion them from sturdy grosgrain to use on my daughter’s clothing and hair bows. Bonnie (not her real name) made bows and roses for a local boutique in order to earn “pin money.”  She had a very traditional marriage which included the expectation that she not work outside the home, even though money for luxuries was not abundant. Her husband “Herbert” used to refer to her hand-sewn flowers as Bonnie’s “knitting,” and acted as though he were making some huge sacrifice by allowed her to continue this practice. Occasionally, when it didn’t conflict with her children’s schedules, Bonnie would go to the shop where her roses were used to decorate T-shirts, flip-flops, and belts to teach other women, mostly Vietnamese, to do the same piecework. Although we were acquainted mostly through our children, she agreed to show me how to craft the cute roses I admired, and I happily made cute flowers to adorn Pamela’s flip-flops and T-shirts. 

I had not thought much about Bonnie or the roses until Houston.  At festival, Helen Gibb had a beautiful booth of silk ribbon and assorted kits to make silk flowers. Although when purchasing one of the rapidly selling kits, I was assured that the included instructions would be sufficient to complete the project, I gravitated to the video that was playing on the display table. Helen walked over to talk to us, and began showing us and some other rose-smitten ladies her book and the DVD, which helped explain the various techniques. Although I generally experience problems with diagrams, I was surprised that  the sketches in this book seemed quite clear and explain the materials and methods simply. There is also a box showing how much ribbon in each width are required for each flower-type, so there is no confusion of how much of what you’ll need. Almost a paint-by-number for the spatially and mathematically impaired. 

DVDs are not usually my thing. I don’t do movies, and I have been known to use instructional videos as an insomnia cure. So I wasn’t immediately enthused by the DVD.

First, the nearly 40-dollar price tag raised my brow. After all, I can buy Oscar-winning stuff for less that half that! Rationalizing that even the simplest class in my area costs at least that, I tried to think with my intellect and not my wallet. Having gotten past the money hurdle, I watched. Amazingly enough, it’s pretty great viewing. Not that there’s a plot or chase scene, but the drama of watching those little beauties unfold is fairly spell-binding. The camerawork gets you in quite close, and Helen's instructional style is casual and breezy, without the monotone that many needlework teachers seem to think is required on an instructional video. The blossoms come together pretty quickly and you can follow along at home. Even my first attempts were beautiful.  

Since my job requires many nights away from home, ribbons and supplies are tiny and lightweight and can be worked on in whatever time you have wherever you are. Not to mention, you can always play the DVD on your laptop. Helen’s book is a compact 8x8 and is spiral bound—small enough to lay flat on the airline tray! Even a beginner can turn out some lovely creations and a couple of blooms and some fill in and you have a pretty impressive piece. Sew or glue a pin on the back and Voila! An instant designer touch for a plain outfit or purse. In under an hour, I made some ivory blossoms to adorn the ring-bearer’s pillow for my youngest son’s wedding, which I figured saved both time and money. That’s my kind of investment. 

Which brings me back to Bonnie. When her youngest went to college, she and Herbert moved to Arizona. There she re-invented herself and became activities director for a seniors community. Not long ago, Herbert moved back to town. And Bonnie? She’s found not only herself but a new husband. Talk about flower-power!

You'll find Helen Gibbs' book and DVD in our store. Or buy them together in our value pack.

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