Friday, March 16, 2012

Ribbon Bargello Background Tutorial

I'm always on the lookout for unique ways to use ribbon and while I was looking at a quilting catalog I came across some beautiful bargello quilt patterns.  I thought that I could easily create those beautiful designs using ribbon from Really Reasonable Ribbon.  I showed you a few projects using this technique on the RRR February Blog Hop and you asked for a tutorial.  You will find the tutorial below.

Ribbon Bargello Tutorial

Supplies you will need:

A variety of ribbon (I used the March Ribbon Club Assortment from Really Reasonable Ribbon)

Therm O Web HeatnBond or similar product



pressing board or ironing board

small pins

cutting mat

acrylic ruler

rotary cutter

pressing cloth

I will give measurement based on the piece that I made.  I made a very big piece because I was planning a large project.  You can definitely go smaller if you are just going for a background for a card.  I typically go a little big and then you can use the leftover piece for other projects.  You can either cut shapes by hand or using Sizzix dies. 

1.  Cut a piece of HeatnBond 15" x 17".  Secure it adhesive side up on your pressing board with a few pins.  Using a collections of ribbons in 3/8" and 5/8" widths, cut three 15" pieces of each ribbon.  Figure out a pleasing order for the ribbons and begin pinning them to your pressing board over the HeatnBond, right side up.  Be sure the pieces are right next to each other because you don't want any gaps showing.  If you use short sequin pins, you can push them all the way in and you will be able to iron over them.

2.  Once all the ribbons are pinned to the board, you want to adhere them to the HeatnBond.  First cut off the excess HeatnBond that is not covered with ribbon so there is none showing.  Then follow the manufacturer instructions on whatever product you use to adhere the ribbon to the product.  You want to PRESS, not iron.  Pressing is placing the iron down and holding it in place for a few seconds, then lifting the iron and moving it to another area.  For this project I use a pressing cloth between the iron and the ribbon because certain printed ribbon styles would not do well with the iron placed directly on them.  (A pressing cloth is really any clean scrap piece of fabric you have laying around.)    Once the ribbon is adhered well to the HeatnBond, carefully remove the pins.  Re-press any areas that may have pulled loose while removing the pins.  Now flip the piece over and give it a quick once-over from the back to be sure everything is good and secure.

3.  Now we are going to take this finished piece and cut 1/2" strips across the whole width.  I square my piece up on my cutting mat and put a couple of pieces of tape on the left edge so it doesn't move.  Clean up the right edge and then begin cutting 1/2" strips with your acrylic ruler and rotary cutter across the width of the piece until you've cut it all.

4.  Now comes the fun part!  There are so many pattern variations that it's hard to decide what you want to do.  Now is the time to play around with your strips to plan your finished design.  Here are some variations I came up with using my strips (besides the one I used for my project).

5.  Once you decide on your pattern, but sure to keep it lined up on your cutting mat the way you want it to be, especially if you decide on a more complicated pattern.  It's easy to get confused once you start adhering the strips to your base paper.  Since I am creating such a big piece, I used a large piece of newsprint for my base paper because that's what I had on hand.  You can also tape regular printer paper sheets together to get the size you need.  Use whatever you have available.  Draw a line with a pencil and ruler for the first piece so it goes on nice and straight.  You're going to remove the paper backing from the HeatnBond on one of your strips and place it on the paper along the line you drew.  I pin this piece because it's important that you start out good and straight.  Use your pressing cloth and adhere this piece to the paper.  Carefully remove the pins and repress so it's really stuck down.

6.  Now you are just going to repeat this process with the remaining pieces, staggering the strips in whatever pattern you decided on.  For the pattern I decided on, I'm going down 3 and then back up and repeat.  I'm not sure if you can see if the photos, but I'm following the checkerboard ribbon and I'm lining up the edge of the ribbon with the bottom of one square down.  It doesn't matter what you line up with, but try to keep it consistent throughout.  You'll find if you work at a consistent pace, the residual heat on the paper backing will help temporarily stick the new strip down and hold it from shifting while you press it in place.  I don't pin at all after the first piece, but do take care that the strips butt up against the previous piece.

7.  Here is my finished piece.

Now you can cut this up and use it for card backgrounds or anything else you can dream up.  It also can be cut into shapes with scissors or Sizzix Dies.  I decided to use my finished piece for a couple of projects where I wanted a more durable surface, so  I covered my entire piece with Thermo Web iron-on vinyl.  You can easily find either of the HeatNBond products in any fabric store.  They are widely available.  One of the projects I made is a bookmark shown below.  The other project can be seen in the March issue of Paper & Pixels magazine.

A bookmark is a great project for your bargello scraps.  Even a narrow strip looks pretty nice.  I just layered two coordinating colors of cardstock below my bargello piece.  I rounded the bottom corners and punched a hole at the top.  I adhered the pieces together with Scor-Tape and treaded a ribbon through the hole in the top. With the vinyl covering, the bookmark is very durable.  If it gets dirty, just wipe it with a damp cloth.

I used a variety of widths of ribbon for my piece in the tutorial, so I decided to cut all the strips at 1/2" wide.  If you use ribbon pieces that are all the same width, you can add some extra design interest by varying the widths of your cut strips like what I did with the piece I used on my sample at the top of this post using RRR's Bright Diamond Satin Assortment.  Notice how the top points are a bit wider and each piece is a little narrower until the bottom point, then wider again back to the top.  It makes for a more interesting piece.

Below is a sample of what I did with some of the smaller leftover pieces of my ribbon bargello piece.  It can be easily cut with Sizzix dies, and if you use thinner ribbon like satin, it is possible to cut it with Spellbinder dies.  I don't really recommend the Spellbinder dies because the ribbon is a little thicker than what is recommended for these dies and you have to run it through multiple times, but if there is a shape you really want, give it a try.  The heart shapes are a Sizzix multi layer die and the black overlay on the two is just black cardstock.  The flower shape is the Dahlia dies from Spellbinders.

I am honored to also be sharing this tutorial in the March issue of Paper & Pixels Magazine.  If you subscribe to that magazine you will see another fun project I made using the rest of my ribbon bargello sheet using the March Ribbon Club Assortment.  I  have to recommend this magazine to everyone - it's just jam packed with great tutorials, freebies and coupons each month.  It's only $1.50 for an individual issue or $12.00 for a whole year (12 issues).  The beautiful sentiment on my card at the top of this post is from Quietfire Designs.  I was thinking of ordering from them for a while and just never got around to it.  I opened my February issue of P & P, and there was a coupon for Quietfire Designs!  I placed my order and my savings more than paid for the entrire years subscription to Paper & Pixels!  What a DEAL!!  Head over there and take a look today.

~ Bonnie ~

Ribbon:  March Ribbon Club Assortment, Bright Diamond Satin Assortment, 5/8" Black Double-Faced Satin
Stamps: Quitefire Design
Adhesives:  Scor-Tape
Other:  Spellbinders Nestabilities


  1. Oh Bonnie this is stunning!!!
    I just love this tutorial and know I will be trying this.
    What beautiful projects
    Thanks for sharing

  2. :thud: that was my jaw hitting the keyboard! WOWZA!!!!!

  3. Wow just amazing and so beautiful:)


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