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.


  • Olympe de la Tour D'Auvergne

    April 4, 2010 at 12:09 AM

    I had to make a bunch of cockades at Wolf Trap Opera a couple of years ago for military uniforms, and they were a pain. I wish I'd had your cork board then instead of just having to iron them to death.

    Thanks for the helpful tips!

  • Anonymous

    April 4, 2010 at 12:32 AM

    Tres stylish! Thank you for a very clear tutorial – had been peering at some others and was rather puzzled, but now I feel a lot more confident about starting work on that grosgrain stashed in my sewing box.

    Lovely work!

  • Angela

    April 4, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    Fabulous! Thanks for sharing. This is what I like about the blog community of costumers and lovers of the 18th century – the sisterhood is fabulous. The cork board was brilliant. Thanks

  • Anonymous

    April 24, 2010 at 1:10 AM

    I have cockaded – huzzah! Much fun and rather pretty! Thanks again for the tutorial, Your Grace.

    (Oh, and I linked to your tutorial on my blog post – hope that's OK!)

  • Hana - Marmota

    July 25, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    Oh, thank you very much for this! I'm not going to make 18th century in the foreseeable future (no use for it right now, really), but I have my eyes set on a Czech nationalist costume from 1848, and it could get useful there, too!

  • Unknown

    August 2, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    Fantastic tutorial! Have been trying to make good cockades for ages but this is so much more helpful than any of the instructions I've ever found in any costume/hat/fashion book. Thanks so much!

  • Emily Kate

    April 21, 2011 at 2:12 AM

    I know this is an old post, but I just had to come back and say how much I love cockades after finding these instructions and stitching some together! (Quite a while ago now, and I think how I first discovered your lovely blog!) You did not exaggerate about the "making them by the dozen and pinning them all over everything" bit… I now have a cheerfully cockade-covered existence 😀

  • Alynora

    June 12, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Likewise, I know this is an old post, but I'd like to ask your permission to repost on Facebook a couple of the photographs here (with a small alteration of the button image) to a group I know. The colors are spot on to the colors used by this group, and I found a beautiful button that is practically spot on for their "insignia" (a griffon). I'd like to combine these images so they can get an idea of what I will be making for them.

    Feel free to also contact me via FB!

  • lorrwill

    June 9, 2012 at 6:09 AM

    And I am not a spam bot, just another really late post to thank you for this tutorial. These do have potential for really cool embellishments far beyond their original use. I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to photograph and write these things up – a separate talent from the actual craft!

  • Anonymous

    March 30, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    Here is another way to make cockades.

    If you happen to lacking in a nice corkboard but can find a sizable piece of buckram, this also works. It's also a good technique if you want your cockade to be puffier and more feminine. It's a good technique for moire' and satin ribbons.


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