How to Make Decorative Trim with Buttons + Ribbon

Who needs hoity-toity passementerie when you can trim your drapery panels, a bed skirt, your bookshelves, pillows…anything! with inexpensive buttons and ribbon that look just as nice as expensive decorative trim.

Back in 1997 I decorated a room for a local Decorator Show House and had the opportunity to work with many high end designers. I was new on the scene. My room was literally a cedar closet that I was turning into a room.     I got to know one of the designers, Bill Bellis well.  His room ended up on the cover of Traditional Home Decorator Show House magazine that year.  A Butler’s Pantry that I did for another Show House that year made it into the magazine, too – but not on the cover.  I wrote about it here and here. He had an array of contractors, real antiques, and purchased all of his fabric and trims from high end manufacturers that only sell “To the Trade” to help him complete his room.


On the day before the Show House opened, Bill was frantic when the $68 a yard – beaded trim he ordered just arrived.  The treatments were already hung and he brought in a sewing machine as he planned to take it all down to sew the trim onto the bed hanging and drapes himself, as the seamstress he used was not available on such short notice.   I told him he was crazy and that he should just hot glue it on.

If he wasn’t so desperate, I don’t think I ever could have persuaded him to the dark side easy way.  I ran to my Show House room to get my hot glue gun from my toolbox.  Twenty minutes later his expensive trim was up.  I worked on another Show House with Bill after this one and smiled when I saw that he added a hot glue gun to his toolbox.  You can see the hot glued on beaded trim on the bed hanging and drapes in the photo above.

Here is my cedar closet turned into a little gir’ls dress up play place. We had to name the rooms – I named it “Little Mommy”.

Remember this was 1997 before hot glue was used the way we do now – for everything.    I bought my fabric at my favorite $1 a yard bargain basement place – no  “To the Trade Only” for me.


I completed the room with lots of cardboard, fabric, ribbon and hot glue.  Hubby made the window seat and everything else was from flea markets that I painted and glazed.

Fast forward to 2011 and some of the button and ribbon trims I made for this room will still look perfect trimming a drapery panel, a set of towels in your powder room, or a pillow on your sofa.

I have created 5 inspiration boards to show you the techniques I used. – If you are proficient at sewing – don’t laugh as I am sure there are better ways, but these methods work for me.

  Grab your glue gun and go.

Easy to make drapery and curtain trim and tassels

1.  Cut 4” pieces from ribbon and line them up on a piece of ribbon  that is cut to desired length needed for your project. You can stitch or use glue (hot or fabric glue) to attach the loops to the length of ribbon.  Space evenly or overlap the loops for different looks.

Hot glue or sew on to the edge of your project.  Variation: Use cord and add buttons for a fun and whimsical touch.

  Photo:  Woman’s Day

How-to-make-Pleated-Ribbon-to trim a table cloth or lamp shade

This trim works well on a tablecloth or pillow.

1.  Measure the length of trim you need for your project.  Multiply that measurement by 3 and cut a piece of ribbon to that measurement.

2.  Using your hands, pleat the ribbon as shown.  You need to pin and sew along the top edge of the ribbon on a machine – glue won’t work.

3.  Once you have it sewn and have created your pleated ribbon – you can leave it plain or add a little bead above each pleat.  Hot glue or sew onto your project.

Photo:  Pottery Barn

How-to-make-a-Fabric-Yo-Yo Rosette

Yo-Yo Rosettes provide lots of impact when added to ribbon. I covered the walls and ceiling of my Show House room with this trim.

1.  Cut a 3” diameter circle from fabric.

2. Thread a needle with matching thread and knot the end.  Sew around the circle as shown and then pull tight. This will make the fabric bunch up and form the YO-YO.  Secure the thread by making a few knots and cut the excess thread.

3. Hot glue a button to the center of the gathered side.

4.  Hot glue a Yo-Yo Rosette every few inches along a ribbon cut to the desired length of trim needed.

5.  Hot glue onto your project.

Variation:  Use ribbon instead of a circle of fabric to make a rosette.    Sew a line of stitches along bottom of ribbon. Pull taut and keep sewing until the rosette is formed. Knot thread to secure.  Hot glue a button to the center.

I have a few left over that I have hot glued to thumb tacks. They look nice holding up stuff on my bulletin board.

How-to-Make-stacked-button-tassel for pillow or drapery trim

  You can thread a stack of buttons on thread with a knotted end at the bottom to hold the buttons on or use jewelry making endpins to create these cute little tassels.

-If using thread – leave enough thread at the top of each stack to sew onto the edge of your project.

-If using an endpin. Create a loop with the excess wire on the top of the stack of buttons.  Use thread to sew the tassel to your project.

Photo:  Womans Day


How to embellish a towel in a decorative way

1.  Hot glue a collection of buttons along a length of ribbon or sew on individually spaced.  Hot glue the trim to your project.

Do you have any decorative accessories that you can embellish with some buttons, ribbon, and hot glue?

Photo:  House Beautiful




  1. says

    Diane, I wish I liked to sew. I do need to start some time. I have a machine. I just need to clean up the room it is in and finish all my paint projects. Thanks for sharing these great tutorials.