Ribbons, Ribbons, Ribbons!

For most of my life, I have been a crafter. By the age of 9 I was actively entering into my local fair, and although I don't always win, I do love the thrill of competition...and the ribbons are a great incentive :)

Earlier this year, I showed you this ribbon pillow I made from ribbons and my only rosette. I am not an accomplished baker/canner/maker of anything incredibly delicious, but I did win for a unique craft using a Mason jar. I created a baby survival kit with all the little things you need for a diaper bag.

Today I have two new projects to share. The first is one I have been dreaming about making for 20 years....

My Canada flag wall hanging made from first and third place ribbons

I don't know why it took me 20 years of thinking about making this! OK, I do know why, I was intimidated to sew with the prize ribbons. I like sewing with cotton, I'm good at sewing with cotton. I have tried using shiny, slippery fabrics (some polyesters and nylon blends, even silk once) before with poor to OK results. And these are MY prize ribbons. Validation of my success as a creative person. These ribbons represent 30 years of achievement. I didn't want to ruin them.

And all that worry was for naught. It wasn't easy to make the maple leaf - I had 2 tries before it looked right. But that was more of a design problem than an execution one.

I didn't want to iron the ribbons at all because I'm not certain of the fabric content and it's reaction to the hot iron. I also don't want any of the lettering to shrink or crack under the heat. That meant I wasn't sewing anything with right sides together. Instead, I topstitched each ribbon to its neighbour. 

attaching the binding and label

The label reads: "30 Years of Firsts. A prize ribbon quilt designed, assembled and quilted by Denise Finucane July 2016 St.Charles, ON. 90% of the ribbons were personally won between 1984 and 2016."

I will confess that not all of these ribbons are mine. After making the pillow with the rosette which took 50 ribbons, I wasn't sure that I had enough ribbons to make the wall hanging. My mother-in-law has been entering into the local fair for a couple of years now, and she offered to give me a pile of hers.

My most special ribbon is on this quilted ribbon flag. The stem of the maple leaf is the only first place award I ever received for athletics. It was high jump in fourth grade (1984), it was the only time I got to compete against other schools as an individual. Some of these ribbons have writing on the back of what I earned it for. One says 1988 crocheted doll outfit, another 1988 calligraphy. Every fair I entered into is represented: Arthur, Elmira, Mount Forest and Warren, all small towns in Ontario.

This wall hanging will be in my dining room (as soon as I find a drill, or convince my husband to help). I have a collection of Canadian glassware on display that will be greatly enhanced by this new flag!

Maple Leaf pillow

This leaf is actually the first try at making a maple leaf for the flag. The prize ribbons aren't all the same width and didn't look full enough with just the standard 9 points, so I added 2 smaller points. As a leaf, it's a good design, but it's not true enough to our flag to use it on the wall hanging. I also had a lot of second place ribbons, so I used the blue as a background and appliqued the leaf on top.

I should have made full width blue panels as the background, but I didn't want to have ribbons underneath the applique - it seemed wasteful of a pretty ribbon. The problem then was keeping the whole thing oriented to lay flat. I didn't take any pictures of the progress, but it doesn't quite lay flat. Fortunately when it's in place on the pillow form you can't see any wobbles in the fabric.

I'm also not totally happy with the ribbons I chose on the leaf. I don't like the two trophy girls side by side on the left arm. All good information for later projects and designs.

side detail of pillow

In this photo you can see how I appliqued the leaf motif onto the blue background. I didn't do an expert job at matching up the width of the points to the width of the leaf arm.

Also shown is how I used topstitching to connect each ribbon. I had to be careful when stitching near the ends of the ribbon as they tend to fold over.

reverse side of leaf pillow

I had an idea of random vertical ribbons to have a scrappy look. The difficulty is holding the ribbons straight when sewing. The short ends were very tough to sew together evenly and the vertical stripes aren't completely straight. I didn't use any pins to hold while I was sewing, but I think to sew the short ends in the future I'd use a glue stick to hold them together.

All in all, I think this was a very successful summer for sewing with ribbons! I love my quilted Canada flag wall hanging, my rosette pillow and the leaf pillow. Now I have all my achievements out where I can enjoy them :)

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