Years ago when I was a college student, I had a part time job in a card store. One day on the job, I was fiddling with the curling ribbon we used for balloons. As I twisted and curled it in my fingers, I found myself rolling it into a tight spiral. As it grew and I added more colors, I soon realized I had a really cool design forming, and without too much effort I would have a spiral of color large enough to use as a coaster. I bought some rolls of ribbon and that weekend I sat down and made several fun coasters by carefully coiling the ribbon around itself.
Ever since then, whenever I get balloons or gifts that are tied with curling ribbon, I save the ribbon in a special box in my craft room. When the box gets full, I pull it down and make more coasters. What a fun and easy way to recycle ribbon into a real conversation piece on your coffee table!
Selecting the ribbon
You probably haven’t been saving up used curling ribbon from balloons and packages (not yet, anyway), so you might need to buy some new ribbon to start on this project. You can use any curling ribbon you like, in as many colors as you like, as long as they’re all the same width (standard size is 3/8″). Fortunately, curling ribbon is the cheapest kind of all. The best way to go is to buy 500-yard spools of curling ribbon, which you can get for just a few bucks each. Six or eight of these large spools will give you enough ribbon to make one or two dozen coasters, depending on how big you make them. You’ll also have a great stash of ribbon in your gift wrapping supplies box! If you want to start small, look for an assortment of several colors, or shop the clearance shelves after big gift-wrapping holidays like Christmas.
Winding the ribbon
To start your coaster, just grab a piece of ribbon and roll the end up as tightly as you can. You have to have nimble fingers and be patient, but eventually you’ll get a nice tight spiral of ribbon. If you have trouble starting the coil, try wrapping the ribbon around a toothpick and pulling it tight. Once you’ve got a coil about a half inch in diameter, cut the ribbon off and use a tiny piece of tape to tape the ribbon on the side of the spiral. Now breathe a big sigh of relief, because the hardest part is done!
Now for the fun part. Pick your remaining colors and tightly wind them around and around the coil. Each time you want to change colors, cut off the current ribbon and tape the end in place, then attach a new end with another piece of tape. The tape you use should be regular household tape, and you’ll need to cut it into tiny strips that are more narrow than the ribbon itself. You need to make sure the tape doesn’t stick out past the ribbon on the top or bottom of the coaster, or else you won’t have a nice smooth surface. Once the coil gets about an inch wide, you’ll find it’s too hard to hold in your hands and wind, so just place it on the table and keep on wrapping. You need to wrap tightly, but don’t strain or pull hard, Just make it tight enough to be able to pick the coaster up without the coil falling apart.
You can see a lot of potential fun here with patterns and colors. You can make each stripe the same width, or random. You can use a couple of colors or many. Your only limit is your imagination! You can stop winding ribbon whenever you reach the size you like (4 or 5 inches across is a good range).
Coat the coasters
These coasters won’t last very long as they are, so we need to protect them. The easiest and most effective way to do that is to coat them with polyurethane. You can find polyurethane in the hardware store or the craft store, and it’s available in spray or brush-on varieties. You’ll want to apply several coats, until you get a nice, thick, glossy finish and the ribbon is sealed together very well. Coat the top and bottom and don’t forget the sides!
Let the polyurethane dry thoroughly before using the coasters. It will be dry to the touch after a few hours, but it may take 2-3 days to fully cure and be rock hard.
Apply the cork
To finish off the coasters and make them really look like coasters, you can add some cork to the bottom. Place your coaster on a cork sheet and trace around it with a pen. Then use scissors or a utility knife to cut about 1/8″ inside the line.
Now use your hot glue gun to glue the cork onto one side of the coaster. Press into place.
Voila! You’re done! Just wait til your friends see these awesome coasters on your table. It’s fun to see people guess what they’re made of.