How to Decorate a Christmas Tree with Ribbon

Try a cinched garland, loopy bows, or vertical draping technique—all will add an extraordinary touch.

Think of your Christmas tree as a canvas. Decorating your pine or balsam fir is fun, but it also gives you an opportunity to express your creativity. You can show off your design personality with lights, ornaments, and toppers. But spools of ribbon also make beautiful additions to your tannenbaum. So, how can you incorporate some Christmas tree ribbon into your seasonal vignette?

Ribbons are quite versatile for Christmas tree decorating. Whether you want to go with traditional embellishments or create an elaborate wonderland, you can use some Christmas tree ribbon to set the stage. These loops come in many different colors and materials, too, so your options for working some onto your Christmas tree are truly only as limited as your imagination. Follow our tutorial, then consult some of these tips and techniques from decorators and interior designers for inspiration.

Choose the Right Christmas Tree Ribbon

Ribbons come in all colors, measurements, and materials, but wired ribbon works best for this project—when formed in loops and bows, it will hold its shape. As for the width? Two-and-a-half inches to five inches is ideal. In terms of quantity, a general rule of thumb is at least nine feet of ribbon per foot of tree—so a seven-foot Christmas tree will need 63 feet of garland. Consider scale and your personal preference, too: Depending on the size and shape of the tree, you may need more ribbon for a fuller, rich look. And if you have any leftover Christmas tree ribbon, use it to decorate wrapped presents below.

Prepare the Tree

Start with a tree that's already been strung with lights, but not yet decorated with ornaments. If you have an artificial iteration, fluff the branches and test the pre-lit lights; if you have a live Christmas tree, prune the branches of any small growths. The lights will act as your guide for placing the ribbon, pointing to spotlights and darker gaps in the boughs.

christmas tree decoration with white ribbon

The Basics of Decorating

Two of the simplest techniques to working with ribbon involve either cutting it or not. To keep ribbon uncut, anchor your garland by twisting one end around a branch at the top of the tree; then, wind your way down by weaving the ribbon in and out of the branches. Repeat this in-and-out looping pattern all the way to the bottom, stepping back every few loops to ensure that the garland looks evenly distributed. If you'd rather go the cut-ribbon route, Cynthia Sheen, interior designer and owner of Cinzia Interiors, prefers to shorten ribbon into lengths, pinch them into bundles, and, working from the top of the tree downwards, tuck them into the boughs to create smooth, loose tufts. "Take pieces of ribbon that are 24 to 36 inches in length and cinch in the middle with a pipe cleaner," she explains. "Then roll up and unroll the ribbon in a spiral. It looks like a big curl, creating a very pretty, flowy ribbon." If you want to try vertical draping, anchor the lengths of ribbon at the top of the tree and let them drape naturally towards the base.

And if you suddenly don't have enough ribbon? "Cut the ribbon into 20-inch sections and pinch at each end," she recommends. "Tie the ribbon [sections] to the tree. It saves on ribbon and makes it appear as if it were woven through the tree."

Play with Color, Pattern, and Texture

When it comes to putting ribbon on your Christmas tree, interior designer Kade Laws suggests considering colors outside of the traditional holiday palette. She has used combinations of lime-green, cerulean blue, and metallic silver to great effect. Red, green, and black are a tried-and-true palette of tradition—reminiscent of the buffalo plaid found in farmhouse-style decorating. Do you prefer the sweetness of Candy Land? Laws recommends hot-pink-and-orange ribbons that can be draped or cascaded down the tree to resemble ribbons of candy. You can even use multiple options, Laws says, to create a depth of dimension in your tree's design. "I've mixed Christmas plaid ribbon with a solid color ribbon," she says. "Using wired ribbon with silk and another shiny material can add some dimension to your tree."

Complement Your Home's Holiday Design

Darryl Carter, an interior designer based in Washington, D.C., takes a more modernist approach: He recalls once using an orange burlap ribbon that cascaded down the Christmas tree to complement an installation of wall art—a large orange disc. The orange elements added a pop of statement color to the white, beige, and marbled décor in his home. "I responded to a piece of art," he says. In more modern settings, Carter recommends sticking to a monochromatic palette for a bold look that is stylish and contemporary.

Coordinate a Theme

Choose ribbon based on the theme of your Christmas tree. When Sheen designed a coastal tree, she used burlap ribbon that she tied down the tree amidst the blue nautical ornaments and white sailboats with blue hulls. And a jewel-toned tree boasted shimmery green lattice or mesh ribbons woven throughout the Christmas tree with brilliant purple and green ornaments that sparkled in the room. Use the theme of your Christmas tree to inspire you, and choose ribbon that coordinates with the rest of your holiday decorating.

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