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 beautifully decorated 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. 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 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.

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.


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?



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  1. I am rushing to finish a halloween banner for a party I’m having on Sunday, and found your website. I definitely bookmarked it because I know I’ll be referring back to it again and again!! Thanks!

  2. Jane @ Finding Fabulous says:

    Wow…Diane amazing rooms and decorative trims! You are such a wealth of knowledge…thanks for sharing!

  3. What cute and inexpensive ways to add to pillows and curtains. Very crafty.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Heidi Roylance says:

    The little cedar room looks so cute! I love the hat shelf, and the window. It doesn’t have that 70’s look at all. And I’m loving the idea for the button tassles!

  5. Thanks! I so needed a way to dress up some boooring lamps!

  6. I love you Little Mommy room. It’s a wonder they ever let you paint the cedar board..but it looks absolutely darling! LOVE IT! And I like all your trim ideas too. Darling darling ideas. I have been using a hot glue gun since they first came out…my girlfriend and I were using them before people even knew what they were~sounds like you were too! Hugs- Diana

    1. Hi Diana-
      I didn’t paint the cedar boards – I covered big pieces of cardboard with fabric and stapled them to the walls. I then used the ribbon/rosette treatment to cover all the joints. I did the walls and the ceiling this way. The walls with purple fabric and the ceiling – white fabric. I did paint the vinyl floor. When the Show House was over, I stripped it and the room looked like a cedar closet again. I wish I had more photos, but this is the only one I could find.

  7. The Polka Dot Closet says:

    Those are wonderful ideas! I love your 1997 room redo. I get some of my best ideas from old craft books, they are timeless.


    1. Hi Carol-

      I love going to my local library and looking through all the old craft and decorating books. If you dismiss the fabric and colors and focus on the actual techniques- there are tons of great ideas to be found.

      1. I attend auctions and buy boxes of books there for a buck. Keep a few recycle most through lonly people who come into my life. Great way to make friends. Get skad of wonderful ideas and have fun along the way. Still cannot go the fashions of the 70 or 80 but then who is looking.

  8. Jane's Junk and Treasures says:

    I love the purple room!
    I’m going to save this blog page!

  9. Amanda @ House Revivals says:

    These are just darling ideas, and you are so right that these ideas are just as great today as in 1997. Love this post!

  10. 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.

  11. Marty@A Stroll thru Life says:

    Great ideas. I love them all. Looks fabulous. Hugs, Marty