HOW TO: Make Those Streamer Barrettes From Your 70s Or 80s Childhood

Because nothing goes with plastic shoes like streamer barrettes. There's a lot of pictures in this one.

Jan 15, 2013 at 3:30pm | Leave a comment

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If you were a kid in the 70s or 80s, you might remember this style of barrette.

I really like being a grownup because I can choose what that means for me. Sometimes, that means getting really excited about appliances (I am soooo excited about the impending delivery of my red washer and dryer). And sometimes that means dressing like a six-year-old.

In pursuit of this, I sat down over the weekend to make sure I remembered how to make streamer barrettes. 

When I was legit a child, I had a fairly extensive collection of these ribbon streamer accessories -- I believe a pair of navy and white ones with white beads were my faves. My mom made them for me, and I loved them with all the passion my pre-adolescent heart could manage. Which was a LOT.

At some point, when I was young enough that the memory is still really vague, my mom taught me how to make them for myself. My college-aged self drew upon this primordial knowledge when I exploring a renewed love for jelly shoes. And now, as I sit here wearing pink spiky Crocs flats at 35, I am making them again. There's just something about a streamer barrette that goes with a plastic show, y'all.

I don't make these things up. I simply know them to be true.

If you are experiencing a similar fashion nostalgia -- or if there are actual six-year-olds in your life with a fine appreciation for streamers -- I am here to remind you of just how easy it is to make these awesome hair clips.

Here is what you need:

  • Split barrettes
  • 1/4-inch ribbon, two colors

That's it -- I seriously told you this is a low-intensity DIY. And if you're still nervous, well, it's going to be okay. I took a whole bunch of pictures to walk you through this. I'd have shot a video but I'm pretty committed to not having any pants on right now and I love you guys but I think it's the kind of love where I mostly need to have pants on.

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These are the barrettes you need. I got a four-pack of these at Target.

Check those barrettes out. They've got that weird open part in the middle. Any kind of barrette with that same open center can be used for this -- I know some folks are hopelessly devoted to, like, those snap barrettes. Those'll work, too. (You'll just need to anchor your ribbon with hot glue.)

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Pick two colors -- school colors, Hogwarts colors, favorite colors, whatevs.

For demonstration purposes, and because I thought it was a pretty combination, I grabbed some hot pink and lavender spools of ribbon from my stash of 1/4-inch ribbon. These are not precisely the same width because they are made by different companies. This is totally okay. But if that sort of thing bothers you, be sure to by from the same manufacturer.

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Layer your two pieces of ribbon together.

You're going to cut two pieces of ribbon, one of each color. I use the poor woman's yardstick -- I hold one end by my nose and then stretch out my arm. Depending on just how ridic I want the streamers to be, I do that twice or more, pulling the ribbon off the spool each time to vaguely measure a yard at a time. Most ribbon spools for this size ribbon will have about 9 yards on them. 

You could also simply unwind all of your ribbon from the spool and then cut the long length in half to make sure you have equal length pieces for your matched set of barrettes. But, you know, that's planning ahead and sometimes I'm just not into that.

Once you have your two pieces, lay one of them on top of the other and find the middle. This is easily accomplish by folding the lengths in half and then adjusting for better precision. Good times.

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I'd apologize for my messed up nail polish but I don't actually care.

Take your layered ribbons and position them at the clasp end of the open barrette, as pictured. Listen, this is important. If you end up on the open end, the knot will make closing the barrette more difficult. And there will be more wear and tear on the ribbon. Also, it will be backwards. But that's actually the least important reason because people get to do things their own way.

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This is the trickiest part, I promise.

As you might notice in the picture, I actually flipped my ribbon so that the pink was on top of the ribbon layers. That means the lavender is the first color that will show up in my weaving. Wrap the layered ribbon around the metal part of the barrette. Then pinch a fold and feed it through the opening in the middle. Pull that through.

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Pull it taut.

Once you've pulled the tails all the way through, you should have this on your hands.

Pinch it with your fingers while you work on the other side -- because now you're going to mirror what you just did.

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Pull that tail on through.

Pinch the ribbon on the other side and feed it through the opening in the middle. Yes, it's going to overlap and the ribbons are not going to be 100% even. This kind of injustice of the physical world is something we all must come to terms with at times; things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. But don't worry. In fact, think of this like a braid. Maybe a nice herringbone. Especially since that's, uh, what this is. Moving on.

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Pull the other side taut.

Once you've pulled the tails all the way through and pulled the ribbon fairly tight, this is what you should have. This is your first stripe of color. This is where I start to feel good about myself because I've remembered how to make these. It's the little things in life, right?

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Be careful to keep the ribbons flat so you get the color change.

Now the magic begins. And by magic, I mean the stripes. Because of the way you layered the ribbons, as long as you keep them flat, they will automatically swap colors each time you weave an end through. Be sure to alternate sides; if you started on the right, and then did the left, go back to the right side when it's time to weave your ribbon again.

You can see a tiny little bit of lavender ribbon peeking out from behind the pink. This is not a problem, because the weaving is going to get a little squinched up. Just make sure you pull your ribbons through with equal tension on both of them and you'll be golden.

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And again.

You're going to repeat this process. Alternate each side and keep your ribbons tight. I'd make a crass joke here but, well. These barrettes are for children so that hardly seems appropriate. Also, maybe the implication is enough to crack me up.

Look, this is yet another reason I'm a giant child.

You can adjust tension as you go if necessary. If only that were true of more situations in life.

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After a few more passes, your barrette will look something like this.

You don't really need to keep count as you go, but I like to pause every now and again and, starting on the side that I began my weaving, take a count of how many stripes there are. This is only important if you care about ending on the same color you began on and making the other barrette match. I care about these things possibly too much. With 1/4-inch ribbon, you're going to average between 10 and 13 rows of stripes. You can make more fit. But anything less and you wind up with bits of barrette glinting through. 

A note: grosgrain ribbon, the kind with the ridges, is my favorite for these. But what I'm demonstrating with is satin ribbon because it's a little easier to work with for your first pair. Grosgrain has more body, more stiffness. (I am so not commenting on that.) That can result in a thicker barrette but also gets a little iffy to work with towards the end.

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What now?

And what do you do when you are reaching the end? I mean, those stripes are looking awesome but I need a few more stripes and there's no more room to weave! I could simply place the back of my hand to my forehead and bemoan by crafting fate. 

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Because ribbons are flexible.

Or I could use my thumb to squinch the ribbon up higher on the barrette. I know how many stripes I'm going for, so I can count from this point on and then even the ribbon back out to check and make sure when I have enough. 

It's one of those simple things that I don't want to insult you by telling you about but then I forget about the simplest things all the time.

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Finished!

When you've got enough stripes, slide the ribbon back down and smooth it a little bit. It's not high-tech. Just use your fingers. The ribbon should fill the barrette, without any metal showing through. 

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I'm such a square.

I tie a square knot at the end to secure my ribbons. No glue, no pins, nothing fancy. But it's super effective. Pull each color of ribbon to make sure your knot is really stable if you're worried your knot isn't tight enough.

You're so close to being finished.

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Knotty knotty.

The only thing left to do is to figure out how you want your streamers to be finished. Because these streamers are really long, I just knotted the ends to make them look a little fancier. Also, it will help prevent fraying. 

But you can also add beads.

I have found that, if I put three tiny beads on the end of each streamer, it looks like magical fairy princess streamers. But also if I whirl around really quickly, the beads can hurt someone. So, you know, maybe it's a tactical magical fairy princess streamer barrette.

When you make the second barrette, start your weaving on the opposite side for a real serious mirror image. Or don't. Because, like I said, not everyone gets wrapped around the axle on these sorts of details when DIYing some ridiculous accessories.

Once you're done, give them to a child. (I gave two sets to a 7-year-old who looooooooooved them like you wouldn't even believe.) Or put them in your own hair. If that's the plan, I'd suggest pairing them with a tutu and plastic shoes for the full experience.

Marianne is making ridiculous shit on Twitter: @TheRotund.