Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy DIY Ribbon Display

I'm one of those showgals that saves all of her ribbons, and I do mean ALL of them.  I still have the first show ribbon I received from my very first class at my very first show - 5th place out of 5 in English Equitation on Dino. ONE of my ribbons, a 1st on Debon in walk/trot resides at his owner's house, but I have all the rest. I've been displaying all the ribbons (well, the ones from 2006-now) in my spare room (sewing room). There are three ribbons there that belong to Debon, otherwise they're all the ribbons Junior and I won over the 5 years we were showing together. The pre-2006 rosettes are packed away in a flat box and all the flat 4-H ribbons are in a scrapbook.

Five years ago when Junior and I came home with a handful of our first ribbons, I stretched a fishing line across the long empty wall of the room, and tied it around small nails.  It worked okay until there were too many ribbons to put on it (NOT a bad problem to have!) and it started to sag badly 'cause fishing line is meant to S-T-R-E-T-C-H so as to not break when you're fighting big fishies.

Ages ago I found a great blog post by Julia at Been There Dunne That about hanging ribbons using gimp and upholstery tacks.  BRILLIANT.  It's been on my to-do list for ages and I finally remembered to pick up the supplies on my most recent trip to the fabric store.

MONEY: The Gimp and Tacks were the only expense and with tax was about $13 because I had 40%off coupons for both items, otherwise it would have been about $20.  I forgot to measure the wall space so I overestimated and bought 10 yards of gimp, only using about 6 yards total for the three rows. I chose a color as close to my wall as I could get but you can, of course, choose any color you want.  Perhaps your barn colors?  Or fancy gold? I purchased 3/8" gimp, but I recommend the 1/2" instead. I chose brushed silver tacks, but there were many other color choices.

TIME: I have to admit I didn't time myself, but I think it only took about an hour and a half including gathering my supplies, moving the sofa out of the way, taking the fishing line down, and re-sorting the pile of ribbons, taking photos along the way, and the time I spent changing my mind about which ribbons went where.

You will need:
  • 1/2" Gimp braid 
    • The length of your display - the less stretch the better.
  • Upholstery Tacks 
    • Enough for one on each end of the gimp and one every 12-14" or so.
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Hammer (though they're pretty easy to push into drywall with just your hands) What's going on with that hammer, you ask? Aside from the fact that it's MUCH older than I am? It's wrapped in leather so as not to scuff the tacks, but it probably wasn't necessary, it was just still on there from putting together an Elfa cart.  
  • Level - I don't actually own a level, but if I had one I would have used it.  

 Step 1: Decide how far apart you want your rows and mark your end tack locations with a tiny pencil mark.  I measured first from the ceiling down to keep the rows level. The vast majority of my ribbons are 14.5" long so I put my rows 14.5" apart.   If you prefer, you could make the rows much closer, tucking the tails under the row below so that only the rosettes are showing on the upper rows.
Two variations of compact displays.
Step 2: Cover a raw end of gimp with clear tape if it isn't already - the cutter at the store will hopefully demonstrate this for you since that's usually how they sell it - this helps keep the gimp from fraying. Once you've got the end covered, fold the taped end under, stab a tack through the two layers of gimp/tape, and push/hammer the tack into one of your pencil marks.

Step 3: Pull the gimp over to your other end mark and make it snug against the wall, wrap where you will cut it with clear tape, cut through the tape, fold it under and tack the two layers onto the pencil mark.  The snugger it is, the fewer tacks you'll need to put in to prevent sagging, but don't pull so tight that you pull out the other tack, of course! The 1/2" gimp will probably sag much less than the 3/8" I used.

Step 4: Add a tack every 12-14", keeping the gimp level.  Keeping the tacks in the same spacing row to row will look best. The more tacks, the less sag.

Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4 for each row.

Step 6: Add your ribbons in whatever arrangement you prefer.  After a few trial versions I decided on the tri-colors in the top/center and radiated out from there, giving a bit more room to the higher placings and packing all the 4th-6th ribbons into the bottom row, overlapping outwards.  I'm saving the excess to add a 4th row if I start showing again.  It's hard to be reminded that Junior will never bring home another ribbon, but I'm so proud of each little victory we had, whether it was a blue in a big class, or a DFL in a class where he made some small improvement in consistency or manners.  Some of our best rides went un-pinned, and some pretty crappy rides placed high in smaller when I was the only one in a class.  Just the luck of the draw.  Some ribbons, like the 4th in Trail at our final show are so special because they were personal victories.  Each one is a memory.


  1. Very cool. I've been trying to decide what to do with my ribbons and this might fit the bill!

  2. You have a beautiful ribbon collection! This looks great.

  3. I had a huge ribbon collection and between moving all over everywhere, I lost it. :(

    But now I have one ribbon and I will rebuild and it will be just as pretty as yours!

  4. Back in the day, I used string and tiny nails... my mom got so mad at me for putting a thousand holes in the wall. Ahhh, memories. Your idea is so much better than string! I want to hang some of Lilly's ribbons up in my office. :)

  5. Looks great! I have mine in the barn for now - I'm pretty sure my crazy cats would take out anything hanging on the wall in the house like that!

    I wish I had the few ribbons I won as a kid - I had hoped that my Mom kept them, but they have all disappeared over a few moves.

  6. Very nice display! In my childhood room they were strung on wire that my dad hung up on nails, and they went almost all the way around the four walls (something like 110 total). Unfortunately, they're now all in a box except for the three most special/sentimental ones. I would love to have them made into a nifty wall hanging or belt or quilt or even one of these:

    1. That horse is so cool! I have a simply horse stuffed animal pattern I've wanted to try that with and I even got out my OLD ribbons but I didn't have the heart to cut them up after all!

    2. Wow lot's of ribbons! Thanks for the idea!