BACK TO THE FUTURE: Cream City Ribbon is run by
women, who work with vintage German machinery.
ribbons at Cream City are not petroleum-based, a a challenge to find people with good machine
big draw for Russenberger. In addition, the factory repair and machine shop skills,” she says.
uses water-based dyes for the cotton, post-consumer Making cotton ribbon is different than making
cardboard for spools and cartons, and degradable any other ribbon on the market. Strands of cotton
steel for its spool plugs. In fact, most of their packing yarn are bonded together with glue, rather than
materials are biodegradable. woven. Spools of colored yarn are fed through eye-
Housed in a brick warehouse near downtown lets to form the ribbon’s width, in an infinite variety
Milwaukee, the company’s headquarters is packed of colors, stripes, and borders. The strands are run
full of loud, giant, beautiful, 1920s German ribbon- through glue, then fed through rollers, dried, and
making machinery. Only women work in the factory, spooled. With options that include adding text,
overseeing the production of endless yards of ribbon. patterns, and images, Cream City Ribbon creates
“I think it’s because women are patient and a completely custom product.
detail-oriented, and maybe guys find it hard to go This entire process happens in the small ware-into the bar on Friday night and tell people they house, where ribbon is laced, looped, and strung
make ribbon for a living,” Russenberger says. everywhere, looking like chaos to the untrained
Russenberger learned to use the vintage equip- eye, yet magically ending up as perfectly wound
ment from a man who had worked for the previous spools of all-natural ribbon. ×
company for 30 years. Now she knows just about
every part on every machine. “I’m pretty handy
with tools, so I’ve been able to do a lot of the basic
maintenance myself over the years, but it’s always
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