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DIY: Using Dowels to Organize Your Ribbon and Washi Tape

Have more than a few rolls of ribbon lying about? A somewhat sizable collection of washi tape? Here’s a quick how-to that will help you get everything organized lickety-split!

By A Little Birdie | Posted on September 4, 2018 in Gift Wrapping


Our finished ribbon dowel - it makes organization and storage super easy.

Our finished ribbon dowel - it makes organization and storage super easy.
© Little Birdie Me

One day, we reached a breaking point. Being the gift-oriented folks that we are, various rolls of ribbon had accumulated over time, stacked in rather unstable little towers - and, our burgeoning collection of washi tape was well on its way to similar precariousness.Tired of accidentally knocking over a stack of ribbon, or sending our washi tape rolling all over the floor, we made a decision: no more crawling around on our hands and knees looking for stray rolls, no more awkward piles on our work surface. We put our thinking caps on and ultimately came up with a pretty easy solution to our problems in the form of ribbon/tape dispenser dowels.

There are multiple benefits to creating a dispenser dowel. First up, you can easily port your ribbon and/or washi tape collection to wherever you would like to store it (we tuck ours in a closet now, whereas before our ribbon stacks took up a fair bit of workspace real estate). Second, you can now store your ribbons and tape in much higher vertical stacks for greater storage efficiency. Third, if you prop up your dowel securely, it’s easy to dispense your ribbon and/or tape directly. If one or more of those benefits appeal to you, read on. Here is the super-simple way we got organized:

  1. Head on over to your local hardware store and pick up however many dowels you think you will need, based on the size of your ribbon/tape collections. In terms of dowel width, we recommend measuring the spool with the smallest center hole and getting a dowel just slightly smaller than that. At the risk of seeming obvious, if your dowel is too thick, you might not be able to accommodate your entire collection - too thin and they will be jiggling all over the place. For ribbons, we found a ⅜” dowel was perfect as some of our rolls (we’re looking at you satin ribbon!), came on pretty narrow spools. For washi tape, however, we were able to go for a ⅞” dowel which has the added bonus of being a bit more heavy duty. Add some drafting tape and the smallest hose clamp you can find (getting one hose clamp per dowel) to your shopping basket and you’re ready to check out.

One end of our dowel, neatly wrapped with drafting tape.

One end of our dowel, neatly wrapped with drafting tape.
© Little Birdie Me

  1. At home, neatly wrap one end of each dowel with the drafting tape. The idea here is to create a slightly cushioned surface to which you can secure a hose clamp. Without the tape, the risk of your hose clamp not fitting and/or simply sliding off is practically 100% as far as we could ascertain. With a bit of tape on there, our hose clamps had something to grab onto and even if they didn’t clamp in evenly, the tape helped fill the gaps, making them secure.

  2. You guessed it, once the taping is done, now’s the time to get those hose clamps on there. This might take a bit of levering, a few grunts of effort and some good ol’ elbow grease, but try to get them as tight as you can.

A hose clamp tightened over the drafting tape.

A hose clamp tightened over the drafting tape.
© Little Birdie Me

  1. Et voilà! You are basically done. Just slide on your rolls of ribbon and/or washi tape, being sure to leave enough dowel exposed at the top that you can easily grab it to move it wherever you like, or to prop it up for easy dispensing.

Final thoughts: we don’t have a work surface with a sufficient overhang to attempt a hanging dowel ourselves, but we raise the possibility in case it might suit your workspace. Based on our experience in the retail world, if you are dispensing your tape/ribbon often enough, you may wish to explore permanently slinging your dowel up over your workspace for even easier dispensing. When we worked in a shop that offered gift wrapping, we benefited from just such a set up. You may have seen a similar set up too in many a florist’s. Invariably the dowel is either set into wooden handles, a bit like a paper towel dispenser, or strung up into two cloth handles.

If we had the space to cobble together a permanent dispenser, we’d probably try to do so with a dowel thicker than ⅜” as they are fairly thin (we accidentally snapped one quite easily thanks to some carelessness on our part). Of course, that would mean we wouldn’t be able to sling up all of our rolls. However, your space availability and spool widths may be quite different so we wanted to mention this as a possible way to take this dowel project one step further.

Lastly, we’d also suggest that if your collection is large enough (i.e. if you need more than one dowel to accommodate your ribbon), you may wish to try sub-sorting your rolls by spool size. This could potentially enable you to get two dowels of different widths, ensuring a respectively snugger (i.e. better) fit for all of your rolls.

Whew! Well, that’s all folks. We hope that you find this little tutorial helpful when it comes to getting your gift wrapping station and/or your washi tape collection into easily accessible, easily dispensable order.

Tags: diy project, organizing

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