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How to use old show ribbons to make ribbon quilts

Updated April 13, 2018

The collection of ribbons you have tucked away in a box or pressed in a scrapbook can be put to better use. Get your ribbons out and put them on display by using them in a quilt. Colourful show ribbons make excellent pieces to appliqué on a quilt or use the ribbons as fabric to make a pieced quilt. The style and size of your quilt depends on how many ribbons you have and how much additional fabric you want to use.

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A quilt made from award ribbons is not practical for everyday use as a bed quilt. However, it is ideal for use as a display quilt or as a wall hanging.

  1. Lay out all the ribbons you want to use on a large area of clean floor. Assess the colours, types of ribbons, whether they have rosettes, and if the ribbons have printing on them. Plan to preserve the printing and as much of each ribbon as possible.

  2. Take apart rosette ribbons if you want to use the flat ribbons as fabric pieces and the rosettes as decorative embellishments. Place the ribbons in different configurations until you find an arrangement that is pleasing. Incorporate additional fabrics to complete your design, if necessary.

  3. If you have enough straight, flat ribbon material to work with, try creating frames around the rosettes. A traditional log cabin quilt block design, which uses strips of fabric, also works with ribbons. Any traditional quilt block that uses strips or rectangles of fabric as pieces is a candidate for a ribbon quilt.

  4. If you opt for an appliqué quilt, try placing your ribbons as "spokes" in a wheel, or in rows of spokes to create a starburst. Try placing a few rosette ribbons in the centre, with their long ribbons extending toward the quilt edges. Add additional ribbons between the rosettes to create another starburst design.

  5. Make a reference sketch or take a picture of your ribbon arrangement, because you will displace the ribbons from the layout as you assemble the quilt. Measure and mark the ribbon placement on a quilt top fabric, referring to the sketch or picture. Since ribbons may not be strong enough to support a quilt, attach them to a supporting fabric quilt top to stabilise them.

  6. If your ribbon quilt design utilises separate quilt blocks, cut the quilt top fabric into the correct block size before you begin sewing on your ribbons. An option to using several quilt blocks is to make a wholecloth quilt top. Use one large piece of fabric as the "whole" quilt top, and sew the ribbons in place on it. (Ref 1)

  7. Begin basting your ribbons in place on the quilt top fabric. Reposition them as needed until your design is the way you want it.

  8. Stitch the ribbons in place. Hand stitch if you prefer, or use a sewing machine. All ribbon edges should be stitched to the fabric.

  9. Use the batting and quilt backing of your choice. Layer the ribbon-adorned quilt top, batting and backing, and baste them together.

  10. Hand or machine quilt as desired. Apply fabric to bind the edges, and your quilt is finished.

  11. Tip

    Since stitching through your ribbons makes needle holes in them, don't quilt through them. Use quilting stitches between the ribbons or just along their edges. Another option is to "tie" your quilt. To tie your quilt, use yarn or heavy thread to make one stitch, knotted and trimmed, at intervals throughout the quilt. On a ribbon quilt, where the information on the front of the quilt is important, make the tie knots and trimmed tie ends on the back of the quilt, so only the small stitch loop is visible on the front. Use the new printable fabric sheets to print photographs to accompany your ribbons in your quilt. Photos enhance the ribbons, especially if they are of the event, such as a dog show, horse show or sports event. Craft stores and fabric shops sell printable fabric sheets.

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Things You'll Need

  • Show award ribbons
  • Fabrics
  • Sewing machine
  • Basic sewing supplies
  • Quilt batting

About the Author

Fern Fischer

Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.

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