I went to my favorite boutique (the thrift store, of course!) and bought three articles of clothing. Usually if I’m going to tear it up for a craft anyway, I can go to the 50-cent sale bin and find something. This time I spent a little more money to get the colors I wanted which were almost Christmas colors of green and red plus blue, pink, and orange, but it was still less expensive and more eco-friendly than buying new fabric.
I had already bought three vintage, industrial spools for this project for 5 dollars each. I had been on the lookout for them, but really it was just a lucky find I stumbled upon at an antique store.
I gave the fabric a good wash, mostly because it smelled of heavily perfumed fabric softener. (My poor nose!) Then I tore the fabric into strips about ¾ inches wide, some a little wider and some a little skinnier. When you’re tearing up a piece of clothing, going around the curves of the pattern means you’re going to get irregular, triangular shaped strips at times.
Then I strung the strips of fabric with pony beads spaced about a foot apart. Every time a strip ran out, I simply tied on a new strip of the same color with an overhand knot and kept beading. Almost every crafter in America has leftover pony beads from previous projects, so it’s easy to find them at yard sales. But I specifically wanted to get beads that brought out the “almost Christmas” colors, so I grabbed a coupon and spent $2.50 at Michael’s.
When the fabric was stubborn and didn’t want to go through a bead, I used a makeshift needle: a piece of wire folded in half.
Eventually I ended up with three knotted strands of beaded fabric, and each strand was 27 yards long. (Can you believe just one dress and two pajama bottoms made 81 yards’ worth of fabric strips?!)
Then I braided. This sounds easy, but it took forever, seriously about 12 hours of work for one long braid. The threads from the torn fabric and the LONG strands of fabric kept getting tangled up. But I turned on some music, took breaks often, and got it done over the next several days. I kept the braids loose; otherwise it’d look like I was trying to make a braided rug for the living room! When I wasn’t braiding, I hung the partially completed ribbon in the laundry room so the nosy dog wouldn’t get into it. Haha, it looks like, I dunno, sausage curing or something!
I started with three 27-yard strips, but braiding kind of takes the length out, so I finished up with 25 yards total. That makes 25 feet of ribbon for each spool. To start wrapping the ribbon on a spool, I tacked down the end with a piece of artist’s tape so the ribbon would slip as I wound. Artist’s tape is like masking tape except it’s acid-free . . . and more expensive, but it lasts a super long time.
I ended up with three spools of upcycled ribbon that cost about $7.50 each (plus hours of braiding) to make.
Two spools will be donated to a craft fair benefiting the local art club. I’ll pair it with coordinating, hand painted wrapping paper (another post, later this year). The third spool will be a Christmas gift for my craftsy friend. (Shh! Don’t tell her!) I strived for the “almost” part of the “almost Christmas colors” so she could use the ribbon year round. What can she do with the ribbon?
- Wrap a present, of course. It’d be a really fun look paired with kraft paper.
- Use it as a garland.
- Tie it around a votive.
- Embellish a twig wreath.
- Use it as a 3D decoration on a handmade greeting card.
- And probably 10 or 20 other ideas either your or my super craftsy friend can think of!
Make this day even better. Consider:
- My craftsy girlfriend and I made an agreement several years back to only exchange handmade gifts. (It was her idea in response to a tough budget crisis my family was going through.) It’s SO fun seeing what she comes up with each year! Is there a friend with whom you can make a similar agreement?