Picture of Make a ribbon cockade
Making a cockade from ribbon or narrow fabric is a fairly easy thing to do once you know how, but I didn’t have any instructions when I figured this whole thing out. I had seen some lovely ribbon ornaments at a Renaissance Faire and wished I had purchased one- although at the time I couldn’t afford the $20 price! Eventually the question of how to make one worked its way to the center of my brain and I decided to research the technique.

At first I didn’t even know what the thing was called! This made Googling the info rather tedious. I started searching for “ribbon ornament– which is a pretty broad term. Lots of sites featuring ribbon roses and other stuff like that came up. Eventually, after sifting through pretty much the entire internet, I came up with enough information on ribbonwork to start experimenting. A few early attempts proved unsatisfying in their construction, not being regular enough or being too dimensional. I decided that a periodic folding pattern would best suit the cockade construction. Because I did not ever actually find instructions, the method that I demonstrate here may not be the way other people construct a ribbon cockade. I present this in the interest of sharing my method and to encourage an appreciation of handmade ribbon ornamentation- an artform nearly forgotten in this ready-made world.

Here’s a smidge of history: The cockade originally was used as a means for designating and identifying military personnel. The tri-corner hats favored by the British and French navies were all pretty similar in appearance, and when a deck was crowded, it could be difficult for the captain to tell where his officers were among the swarm of hats. A system of colored ribbons was thereby used, folded and tucked into a braid on the side of the hat. The captain, standing on the command deck, could look down and easily tell where his men were and what they were doing. Over time this type of simple ornament grew more elaborate and then was adopted by fashionable civillians. The word “cockade” comes from the same root as “cock” and if you think about it, a rooster has a similar ornament on his own head!

A cockade can be made from a single length of ribbon, four feet is plenty although more can be used– and depending on your design and the ribbon being used you may want to use more. A minimum of equipment is necessary, ribbon, needle, thread (quilting thread is best), hands. You may also want a measuring guide, beeswax and some straight pins. An Iron is good when finishing up, but weighing the cockade with a book for a few hours would work too.

In this demonstration I randomly chose a length to make the loops. they can be made longer than the ribbon width, equal to or shorter, the loop lengths could be varied in a repeating pattern (long-short) or the ribbon might be twisted or pinched. Doubling up a ribbon with a voile strip might also be interesting, certainly stacking them works well. Finish off the center with an ornament such as an antique button or jewelry filligree. Experiment with your materials and you will find you are able to vary the look of your finished cockades quite a lot. Use your cockades on hats of course, but also as lapel decorations, shoe ornaments, stocking flashes or prize badges. Cockades are jaunty things– have fun with them!
kdavidson811 months ago

I love this instructable! It took me forever to figure out the names of these beautiful accents, and yours was the first set of instructions to come up. Easy to follow, and given a little more practice, they will start adorning all sorts of my presents this Christmas.

Bully_4_You (author)  kdavidson811 months ago

Ah, yes I had the same problem when I started researching cockades! Not exactly a standard vocabulary word! :)

Enjoy! I bet your friends will ooh & aah over your fancy gift packaging! For more cockade fun, check out this San Francisco based Costumer's blog- be sure to click 'older posts' she has wonderful designs!:


ToveA2 months ago

Thank you so much for this easy to follow instructable! Here's a picture of my cockade I made by your instructions! It's my first ever and I am quite proud of how it turned out!

ToveA2 months ago
IrisB33 months ago

very clear explanations and I love the result. thank you.

trish.jonesburke made it!8 months ago

Hi, I made this cockade, using your tutorial, for the 150th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. There is a Facebook community called The Civilian Civil War Closet. A decision was made that we would wear white cockades to identify other "Closet" members at this huge event. The photo was taken at a luncheon that was hosted by one of the members in her camp. Thanks for the tutorial, I would never have been able to figure it out on my own.

Trish, Closet Luncheon.jpg
Bully_4_You (author)  trish.jonesburke7 months ago

It turned out super nice, and it looks right at home on your 1850s frock! Thanks for sharing!

I made mine a bit too big, but it was fun and didn't take long.
tillymint3 years ago
Thank you for this! I had tried with another couple of tutorials and hadn't figured it out but now I have a lovely cockade for a French revolutionary costume.
jhooper24 years ago
i am a 62 year old man who has little sewing ability (perhaps the odd button and bad darning) and made this cockade with a folded silk scarf because i didnt have the right colored ribbon.I should say i am trying to make a tricorn hat for a colonel in a play set in 1710 and he really should have a regimental cockade. I wish you could see what I made its not bad at all!!. because even after a second go at the stitching its ended up being a three quarter cockade but its looks fine with a black button in the middle and a sequin i found in my deceased mother's sewing box. I send this message from London. thankyou whoever you are for taking the trouble to post this. just to add that i think it a good idea to read all the stages through first which i failed to do. good luck and thankyou.
Bully_4_You (author)  jhooper24 years ago
I'm glad that your cockade was a success! I do hope that you steal the show with your finely festooned tricorn! All the best! -Jean