Every few decades, the choker returns to make us all hold our heads a littler higher! These simple ribbon necklaces are a striking accent that can be dressed up or down. In fact, the choker is trending right now as the statement accessory of the season, according to high-profile style watchers from Elle to Vogue to MarieClaire and all across the Pinterest universe. In honor of our popular Fast Fridays series, we show you how to make no-sew chokers, using beautiful ribbon and some standard jewelry findings.
The selection of ribbon on the market today will make your head spin (a choker may help prevent that!). Each choker takes well under a half yard of ribbon, which means you may even have the ideal ribbon just waiting in your personal stash.
The ribbon clamps used to finish both ends are available in a wide variety of sizes, so the width of your ribbon can vary. We used from ½" to 1½" in width.
Go casual, as shown with our woven Aztec style ribbon, or aim for full-on bling with something like our sequined collar.
Velvet is a classic, making the traditional single black velvet ribbon a must have. You can also weave together velvet and lace to create a unique look.
None of our sample ribbons required a backing layer, but if you feel your chosen ribbon is too rough or has too loose of a weave, you can add a matching length of satin or stretch lace to the back of your feature ribbon. Edgestitch the two layers wrong sides together or use a fusible seam tape or fabric spray if you want to maintain the no-sew vibe. As with all adhesives, always get a product formulated for fabric and test first on a scrap of the ribbon and backing to insure there will be no staining or other issues.
Full steps are shown below for working with the jewelry findings: jump rings, lobster claws, and chain. Good lighting, a magnifying mirror or glasses, and pliers are key to a professional result. Keep a steady hand and don’t rush; it’s really more about patience than skill.
We added pretty charms at the end of our neck chains. This is optional, but does add a sophisticated element – especially if your outfit plunges in the back. Charms are widely available at craft stores and your own box of broken earrings and pendants may hold the perfect touch.
Tools & Supplies
- Ribbon long enough to wrap around the neck of the person who will wear the choker.
NOTE: If your ribbons feel fairly smooth on the back side (all of ours did), you don't need to back them with anything. As mentioned above, if the ribbons you select have loose strands from weaving you could line the inside with stretch lace (the type used in lingerie making) the same width as your ribbon. Using a sewing machine, you would then need to edgestitch along both sides. Since this adds a level of complexity, and the possibility of edgestitching distracting from the ribbon, it's best to look for ribbon with a smooth finish on the back.
- Linked chain – about 4" in length is a good average, however, longer chain with a charm or bead can look striking on a dressy top with a low back
- Open-style jump rings that will fit through the ribbon clamp and optional chain
- Ribbon clamps (also called ribbon crimps) that are the same width as the ribbon. Be sure your ribbon clamps have a loop so you can attach a closure. Most clamps do, but not all.
- A small charm to add bling and a little weight to the neck chain
- Lobster claw or other closure
- Two pairs of small pliers. Most small pliers will do the job. You don't need the specific styles we used if you're just making a few chokers.
- One pair of wire cutters
NOTE: Junk or broken jewelry can be a good source for charms, beads, chain, closures, and even jump rings. All of these items are also readily available in many craft stores like JoAnn and Michaels, most all bead stores, and on Etsy. They are inexpensive, unless you choose sterling or gold-plated components.
- Measure the circumference of the neck and subtract 1". An average size woman's neck is 13½". If you add a chain, as in our examples, you can adjust larger but not smaller. In our samples, the neck measurement used was 14", therefore we subtracted 1" and cut the ribbon lengths at 13".
- Cut your ribbon to the proper length, taking care to make a straight perpendicular cut so the ribbon clamp will not be at an angle. Also make sure there are no loose strands or fibers along the cut edge; it should be nice and neat.
NOTE: To stop a ribbon from fraying, you can slightly melt the ends using a candle flame. This only works for synthetic ribbon such as polyester or nylon. Hold the ribbon near, but not in the flame, and move it back and forth until it ever-so-slightly melts. We didn't find it necessary on any of our sample chokers.
Applying the Ribbon Clamps
- Find two ribbon clamps that match the width of your ribbon.
- First, insert one end of the ribbon as far as it will go into one ribbon clamp. Make sure it is straight and not angled.
- Second, starting in the center of the clamp, use your pliers to gently squeeze the clamp partially closed.
- Third, do the same to either side of your initial center squeeze. Repeat, moving along the length of the clamp, gently applying pressure until the prongs grab the ribbon and stay put. Don't over-squeeze for the best smooth finish.
NOTE: If you are using metal jawed pliers, you can put clear tape on over the clamp to avoid any potential scratching.
- Fourth, apply the second ribbon clamp to the opposite end of the ribbon in the same manner.
How to Use Jump Rings
- Jump rings are wire rings that are commonly used in all types of jewelry to link components together. They come in a variety of sizes and are measured in millimeters. For our project, you'll use a jump ring in the loop on the ribbon clamp to attach the closure, chain, and charm.
- Jump rings can be purchased in "open" or "closed" styles. A closed jump ring comes soldered closed and it cannot be opened. You need an open jump ring for this project. Be careful to choose an open jump ring; they look very similar.
- To open a jump ring, rather than pulling the ends apart and stretching it out of shape, gently pull the two ends away from each other in a sideways motion. This is where having two pairs of pliers for griping, opening, and closing is helpful.
Adding a Closure and Neck Chain
- Find your closure. We used a lobster claw closure. Open two jump rings in the manner explained above.
- Loop one opened jump ring through the ring attached to your closure. Squeeze closed as explained above.
- Loop a second opened jump ring through the first jump ring and the loop on the ribbon clamp. Squeeze closed.
- Using your wire cutters, cut a four-inch length of chain.
- On the ribbon clamp on the opposite end from the closure, loop an opened jump ring through the ribbon clamp loop and through the first link of your neck chain. Squeeze closed.
Attach a Charm (optional)
- Loop one opened jump ring through the last link of the neck chain and your charm.
- Squeeze closed to finish.
Project Design and Sample Creation: Alicia Thommas