Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ribbon Dispenser Tutorial

I’ve often longed for one of those handy-dandy ribbon dispensers from the craft store, but I just couldn’t make myself splurge on one. The plastic dispensers are not really pretty, and the prettier versions are $15 and up! What’s a thrifty crafter to do? Fortunately, those handy photo boxes (which always seem to be on sale somewhere) have come to the rescue!

~ Photo Box (approximately 11 ¼” by 7 ½”)
~ 1 12x12” sheet of cardstock
~ Decorative paper -- 2 pieces 1x10”, 2 pieces 1x1 ½”
~ 1 piece of thin cardboard, 2 ¼” by 11”
~ Craft knife (must be able to cut cardboard)
~ Scissors
~ Glue stick
~ Pencil
~ Ruler
~ Spools of Ribbon!


1. Start with a plain photo box. I chose white, but you can go for any color or pattern your heart desires!

2. Remove the lid and pick one of the long sides to be your “dispensing” side. Mark 2” up from the bottom edge on both ends.

3. Mark 1” over from each side.

4. Connect the markings with a solid line.

5. Mark ½” down from your line on each side, and draw another line identical to your first line. Connect the two lines. You now have a long rectangle drawn on the side of your box.

6. Using a ruler and a craft knife, carefully score one of the lines. Continue scoring the line until the knife goes all the way through.

7. Once you cut all the way through one side, you’ll have a nice slit in your box.

8. Repeat the scoring/cutting process on the other line, as well as the short connecting lines. When you’re done, your rectangle will snap out (it may need a little "persuasion").

9. Measure your opening (9 ¼”).

10. Cut two strips of scrapbook paper 1” wide. To determine the length, add 1” to the opening measurement, bringing it to 10 ¼”. Trim your strips to 10 ¼”.

11. On the wrong side of your long paper strips, draw a mark ½” from the upper edge and the side edge. Repeat on both ends of the strips. Draw a line from the mark to both corners, forming a triangle (see below). Cut out the triangle.

12. Cut two small strips of paper, 1” by 1 ½”. Draw a line down the middle of the strip. Draw a mark ½” from top and bottom edges. Snip along your line from each edge to the ½” mark.

13. Fold your little strip in half along the line. Maneuver it into the opening on your box and position it as shown. Adjust if necessary. Apply glue to the “front” side and fasten to the box. Repeat on the inside of the box. Take your other strip and repeat on the opposite side of the box.

14. Time to return to the long strips! Draw a line down the middle of each strip (using the points of the “triangles” as guides). Use a bone folder to crease a line down the middle. Gently fold the strip in half with your hand, then use your bone folder to make a stronger crease.

15. Check the fit of your strip by maneuvering it into the box opening. It should lay flat against the box surface and touch the corners of the strips you’ve already applied (but it’s okay if it doesn’t quite match). If your piece is bubbling, take it out and make two tiny snips on each side, right on the fold. Repeat as necessary.

16. Apply glue to the back of one of the long strips. Replace in the opening. Adjust the piece on the outside of the box, press down firmly, and allow to dry. Now gently fold the remaining edge on the inside of the box. Apply more glue if necessary and press down firmly. Make sure the outside still looks good. Repeat process with the other strip. You can clean up the corners with your craft knife -- press firmly enough to cut the paper, but not so hard that you cut the box itself.

17. You now have a covered opening!

18. Now it’s time to make a divider that will keep your ribbons upright and organized. Measure the length and width of your box. Note the measurements on a scrap of paper. The average photo box is about 11 ¼” by 7 ½”. Subtract ¼” from both measurements (11” by 7 ¼”).

19. Trim one side of your cardstock to the longer measurement (11” – so trim 1” from a 12”x12” piece). Save the 1” wide remnant.

20. Most ribbon spools are 3 ¼” wide – if yours are smaller or larger, you’ll need to adjust the following measurements.

21. On the 12” side of your cardstock, draw lines at 3 ½”, 5 ¾", and 8". Use your bone folder to score each line. Carefully fold along the lines, using the bone folder for crisp creases.

22. Cut a piece of cardboard 11” long and 2 ¼” wide.

23. Apply glue to both sides of the cardboard and adhere to the penciled side of the cardstock (the edge of the cardstock will go right on that “center” line). Press down firmly until cardstock adheres to both sides of the cardboard.

24. Put your ribbon divider into your box to check the fit – the smaller side (3 ½”) will face the opening. Trim your divider if necessary.

25. Using your 1” wide cardstock remnant, cut four pieces 2 ¼” long. Fold each piece in half. Apply glue to the back of one of the pieces (notice how the piece makes a little “tent” – you want to apply glue to the top of the tent).

26. Affix one side of your piece to the divider wall, and the other side to the box itself. Make sure the divider is perfectly upright before pressing firmly to secure the glue. Repeat this on the back of the divider, and then on the other side of the box (see below).

27. Now the fun begins! Choose the ribbon spools that you want “dispensed,” and feed the ribbon through the opening. I suggest putting an extra spool on each end to fill up the space beyond the opening. There’s plenty of storage room on the other side of the divider for extra spools. For the ultimate ribbon dispenser, you could even make an opening on both sides, allowing for double dispensing power!

28. And, of course, every ribbon dispenser must be clearly labeled. Just in case those little strands of ribbon coming out the side weren’t enough of a clue…


  1. So creative and I love it! Thanks for sharing - I can't wait to make one!!

  2. What a great tutorial! I can't wait to try it. I'm sure baby girl will need lots of ribbon :)

  3. What a wonderful idea! Thank you so much for this tutorial. I just finished organizing my ribbon this morning and had no idea what to do with it, so I stuck it all in a big ziplock bag. This is a wonderful idea. Now I just need to get a photo box so I can try this!

  4. Great idea! I love to use ribbon in the handstamped cards I make. This will be handy to turn the mess into success.

    Your blog is very insightful and encouraging. :)

  5. It's lovely Shannon. All that working and figuring out really paid off!


  6. Very pretty and creative! I've always wanted one, but they are *so* spendy. I think now I will have to jut make it!

  7. Oh, what a smart idea Shannon! I always have spools of ribbon rolling around on the floor in my sewing room, and in bags getting tangled up in knots! I may have to try this out!

  8. Lovely! And what a thorough tutorial!

  9. What an excellent tutorial! You have created a great solution to the *problem* created by rolls of ribbon unravelling... YAY! :)

    A thorough tutorial with wonderful, helpful photos -- bravo!

  10. Hello Shannon!=)

    I would love to make one of these! I'll show this to my mom, she'll want to make one too. thank you for sharing this idea!
    Miss Hannah

  11. What a wonderfully clever idea! I have my ribbon spools in a rubbermaid clear sweater box, however it can quickly become unorganized when taking out several spools. I am going to have to try and make a couple of these boxes! Love the idea...

    Blessings ~ Jarnette @ Seasons of Life @-->------


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