How To Make 18th c. Cockades

by Lauren Reeser

Cockades are so cool.  They add so much interest and texture to a hat, pinned to a jacket, even tied onto your shoes.  So here’s how to make them…

– about 1 yard of wide grosgrain/petersham ribbon
– pins
– corkboard (or something to pin into) – I like the cheapies from IKEA.  They have a hole in them, comes very in-handy.
– needle and thread
– iron for pressing flat
– a decorative “centerpiece” like a large button or brooch

Step 1 – Start.  Place one end of the ribbon, with the end turned under, on the board and pin it in place.  Next, take a small length of ribbon and make a little fold.  It takes some fiddling to figure it out at first, but you will get better as you go along.

 Use the pins to hold things in place.

Continue to pleat/fold in a circle, with the central “points” all matching up.  I place this axis over the hole in the board so I can sew through that hole when I’m ready to tack everything in place.

Step 2 – completing the circle.  This is where it gets tricky.  You are going to lift the starting point and tuck the ending fold underneath.  Adjust until everything is even.

If you are leaving the tail on, fold it back on itself.  This fold will be covered by the starting-end pleats.  If you are removing the tail, simply trim it off and fold it under.  

Step 3 – stitch things in place.  I go through the hole in the board and around the middle of the cockade, where the stitching will be covered by the ornament.  On the backside, I whipstitch the pleats to each other, since these won’t be seen.  I recommend stitching a felt pad to the back to lend the cockade stability and have a surface upon which to secure your pin back or clip.

 The back of the cockade, stitching things in place

Extras – I’ve made a double cockade for James’ hat.  All the same process, but the black ribbon was quite a bit wider than the blue, and more loosely pleated.  I stitched the two together through the middle.

Back of the cockade, showing stitchings.

Step 4 – ornaments and tails.  I used a button that matches Jame’s waistcoat, but this centerpiece can be anything of interest.  For the tails, the black tail is all of a piece with the black cockade, while the blue tails are just a short length of ribbon V-folded and whipstitched to the back.

And there you have it!  Cockades look fantastic while being surprisingly easy to make.  They do take a little practice, but soon you’ll be making them by the dozen and pinning them all over everything!

If you’re interested in ribbon work I can’t recommend “The Artful Ribbon” by Candace Kling enough. It’s a how-to book full of easy-to-follow instructions for making all sorts of ribbon flowers, leaves, and decorations. I’ve used it muchly over the years.


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