You know grosgrain ribbon, right? That sturdy multi-purpose ribbon with strong ribs going across it?
Striped, solid, or even printed with polka dots though it may be — yeah, you know grosgrain when you see it.
Grosgrain ribbon makes a regular appearance in our old family photo albums — mostly in striped ribbon belts with D-ring buckles, worn low on wide-belled hip-huggers or tight at the waist to cinch in a polyester shirtwaist dress. My mother had an apron trimmed with apple-green grosgrain at the hem and pocket, too, as I recall…
That’s no doubt why grosgrain ribbon says “1970s” to me, more than any other material — except perhaps Mylar wallpaper… and Formica surfaces with tiny metallic flakes… and guitar-driven rock, played very loud…
In short, it’s a shortcut to retro decor style, with a bright new twist.
All this comes to mind because I’ve been looking again through John Loecke’s idea book, Grosgrain Style: Quick and Creative Projects for Accessorizing and Decorating with Grosgrain Ribbon, dropped into my dainty white hands this week by Random House, the publisher, when it first came out.
Designer John Loecke shows how to use grosgrain ribbons to trim almost any item of domestic decor… from glassware to picture frames… from chandeliers to slipcovers…
He divides the projects up into chapters by room, essentially, but makes the point that a lot of cross-over is likely to happen, once your imagination gets playing with ribbons.
I think my favourite project of those showcased in the book must be the small-scale ribbon belts… used as casual napkin rings!
This comes from a designer whose own closet boasts a rainbow of ribbon belts, grosgrain ribbon watch bands, key fobs, you name it… So of course there’s even a chapter here on using grosgrain to funky-up your own personal accessories — necklaces, bangles, canvas sneakers, totes, and of course those classic D-ring grosgrain ribbon belts.
At the very end of Grosgrain Style is a section of Ribbon Notes and Resources — easy to find when you need to look something up, because the edges of the pages are printed as if bound with a bright green grosgrain ribbon.
And in here, in the Glossary of Basic Tools part, I found a piece of pure gold:
Sold on rolls and in a variety of widths, this double-sided, pressure-sensitive adhesive holds like glue without the mess… And, unlike glue, Sealah tape is washable, and because it’s both acid- and lignin-free, it will not yellow over time, changing the color of your ribbon.
Am I the only person on the planet who didn’t know of this magical Sealah tape?
But I digress…
This is intended to be more of an inspiration book rather than a step-by-step instruction manual, but I think the designer-author achieves both of those purposes to some degree. In Grosgrain Style, John Loecke inspires with a bright host of project ideas (beautifully photographed by Wendell Webber, by the way) and gives the basic techniques and materials information that you need to take those ideas as a starting point — to run away with the grosgrain concept, and make each project your own.
(Update: The book was published in 2007 and is now out of print, so you won’t find it in your local Barnes & Noble – but you can pick up the colorful paperback for next-to-nothing – pennies, seriously! – on Amazon … You’re welcome!)