January 27, 2013

Tutorial: Make a Lanyard and Key Chain from Fabric and Ribbon

I lock my keys in my car way too often.  I always have.  I have spent more on locksmiths and gas for people to come and unlock my car than I care to think about.  After my most recent incident, I decided to follow the annoyed advice of those closest to me and start wearing my keys around my neck.  A lanyard would be just the thing, I thought, but to my surprise, there really weren't very many around here to pick from. The ones I found in stores either advertised a football team I wasn't interested in, were too long, or made from flimsy, scratchy materials.

So I decided to make one myself and searched the internet for a guide.  Once again, nothing.  The only tutorials I could find were for those braided plastic lanyards, and I had decided that if I was going to have to wear this thing around my neck every day, it would have to be something I actually wanted to wear and didn't mind being seen wearing.  In other words, neon plastic was out.

"It can't be too hard!" I exclaimed, deciding to figure it all out for myself.

Guess what?  For once, I was right!  Mine did not turn out quite so perfectly as I had hoped, due to a sewing machine with a mind of its own, cheap thread, and my own stupidity.  However, I am satisfied with the results and want to share the process with you in case you too need to wear your keys around your neck.

First, pick out your ribbon.  I found my goth/emo/punk Hello Kitty ribbon on sale at Wal Mart for $2.50.  It is 7/8" wide and 9 feet came on the roll--enough to make three lanyards and three key chains!

Next choose your fabric.  You will need at least a yard.  I raided my stash for some (not very good) fake Burberry plaid flannel, which will be soft and comfy on my neck.  Be sure to choose a fabric that is sturdy (if you can see through it, forget it!) but soft.  If your lanyard is irritating to your skin, you will not use it and then your keys will be locked inside your car again in no time!

Now for the actual making!


2.  Cut your ribbon to the length you want your lanyard to be.  To figure this out, try hanging it around your neck and crossing the ends, leaving about 4 inches hanging down.  Now add about 3 inches to this length just to be sure you have enough.  If you have too much, no worries--you can use it for a key chain   For me, the best length was 36 inches.   

3.  Lay your ribbon down on top of your fabric and decide how wide your fabric rectangle will need to be.  For me, the answer was 4 inches.  You will need the fabric to be at least twice as wide as your ribbon for best results.  If you want more fabric to be showing on either side of the ribbon when it is finished, you might want to add more.  

4.  Cut your fabric into a rectangle as long as your ribbon.  Do not do as I did and cut messily.  I did not follow rule number 1 and was tired and in a hurry.

5.  Center your ribbon on your strip of fabric and pin it down.  

6.  With a fine needle (I used a number 11) in your sewing machine and matching thread, sew the top edge of the ribbon down, adjusting the pins as necessary.  Be careful not to let the ribbon pucker!  When you get to the end, sew across the end, back up, and sew across again before turning and continuing down the bottom hem of the ribbon.  Repeat this step when you return to the place where you started sewing.  This will ensure that your ribbon is anchored well.  Remove all extra threads.

7.  Carefully fold the strip (which now has the ribbon firmly sewn on) in half, trying to match the ribbon seams on each side.  Pin as you go.  Make a seam that goes the length of the strip--do not sew the ends!  If you have pinking shears, pink the raw edge of the strip so that the fabric will not ravel.  It is unlikely that it will  but I think it never hurts to be safe.  DO NOT PINK THE FOLDED SIDE--YOU WILL CUT YOUR RIBBON STRIP IN HALF!

8.  Now comes the fun part--turning the tube right side out!  I say this sarcastically of course, because this is often the most annoying part of the process.  However, I now have a special turning tool that makes it relatively quick and easy.  You can find these at Wal Mart and many craft stores for about $3. There are other methods of turning--I don't have time to talk about all of them here but I'm sure that Youtube has the answers!

9.  Now you have a nice strong string for your lanyard.  However, it is likely very wavy and funny looking, so you will need to carefully press it with an iron.  I recommend either using a pressing cloth or turning the tube upside down so that the hot iron is only touching the fabric, not the ribbon.  This is because the ribbon will melt!  I found out the hard way.


10.  Now you need to take your nice toasty lanyard string and wrap it around your neck again in a Y shape.  See where the joining of the two ends needs to take place and be sure to leave at least 4 or 5 inches hanging down so that your key ring can be attached.  VERY IMPORTANT:  make sure your lanyard is not twisted at any point!  Double check this or you will regret it.

11.  From the back, sew one piece of the string over the other to make a Y shape.  I chose to stitch diagonally.

12.  See where this is going now?  Before you sew any more seams, check again and make sure your lanyard isn't twisted.  It's way easier to remove one seam than 20.  Good? Okay, now reinforce that seam by sewing over it again and again.  Cut off any excess fabric--I had a good 5 or 6 extra inches of tube.  Do not throw this away!  You can use it to make a key chain! Zigzag the end of the piece that hangs down, where the key chain will go.

13.  Thread a key ring onto the bottom length of lanyard string stuff.  I chose to add a clip to the ring so that I can easily remove my keys if I need to.

14.  Fold under the raw edge and sew to the back of the lanyard where the other two pieces meet, making sure that the key ring does not fall off.  Reinforce this seam by sewing diagonally across the original seam so that both seams together form an X.  Move down to where the key ring now hangs from its little section and sew an X in a box near to the ring, leaving just a little wiggle room.

15.  You are done!  Cut off all of the little extra bits of thread and enjoy.  
Remember step number 1?  In case you've forgotten, it is 
1. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS IF YOU ARE VERY TIRED.  I ignored this and ended up with a twisted lanyard.  

It still works just fine though so I am just going to wear it and be happy.

Now, remember that extra bit of tube that I told you to save for a key chain?  Now's the time for it, and I promise that it won't take long.

1.  Thread the tube through a key ring.  Make sure that you thread it through so that the ribbon is on the inside or you will end up with your lining permanently on the outside for all to see. 

2.  Sew the ends of the tube together with a zigzag stitch, backing up and going over the seams over and over to make it sturdy.  Turn right side out.

3.  Close to the ring, but leaving a little wiggle room, sew a box with an X in it just as you did on the lanyard. Make sure to use a straight stitch and to sew each seam back and forth several times for stability.  Clip your extra threads and you are done!

Now that wasn't so bad, was it?  I found it very fun and can't wait to make more!  Next time, though, I will use better quality thread, make sure my ribbon seams are nice and straight, iron only on the fabric side of the tube, and most of all be sure I haven't twisted it all around.  Once I perfect my techniques I hope to start making some of these for my Etsy shop.  


  1. is the fabric still pinned as your turning it right side out?

  2. Sorry! I didn't think to mention that. I always take the pins out as I come to them on the sewing machine, so there shouldn't be any pins left by the time you go to turn it right side out! Thanks so much for asking so I could clarify that.

  3. Tutorial: Make a Lanyard and Key Chain from Fabric and Ribbon ... animelanyard.blogspot.com


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