Why Does Curling Ribbon Curl?

Have you ever looked at a beautifully wrapped gift and wondered… ‘How does that curling ribbon stay so curly?’ Well, you’re probably thinking ‘I can’t wait to see what’s inside!’ but if you have ever debated this idea, have no fear!

A group of UK based scientists have crossed over into the crafting world and have explored the Physics of ribbon curling… (Bear with us! It’s better than it sounds.)

Did you know that our much loved curling ribbon is able to make such lovely spirals because “as the ribbon bends around the blade, its outermost side stretches and permanently deforms, producing curls.”


In their experiments, a thin ribbon – made in this case from a transparent PVC film – was draped over a blade and a weight was hung from the end. The ribbon was then wound onto a cylinder in order to drag it across the blade.

The team measured the width of curls produced by different weights and winding speeds – and also created a mathematical model to show that these could be explained by predictable changes in the structure of the ribbon.

After a number of attempts (and a whole lot of curling ribbon), they claim to have found the way to achieve the ‘perfect’ curl. Their findings will be helpful to any crafty gift wrappers out there as they say that “sharper blades and slower movement make tighter curls – but the pulling force has an ideal strength, above which the curls become less pronounced.”

So to put it simply, for the perfect curls use a sharp pair of scissors to slowly curl your ribbon and don’t pull too hard on the ribbon!

Did you also know that the make the ribbon straight again, all you have to do is curl the ribbon on the other side. Of course, it won’t ever go back to being completely straight, but if you make a mistake it’s worth knowing that you can try and reverse it.

If you’re a lover of gift wrapping looking for some funky ideas for any occasion, don’t forget take a look at our gift wrapping inspiration board over on our Pinterest page.

You can read the full article on the science of ribbon curling here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35809116