Time for another tutorial, huh? This time we’re going to learn how to make basic, single-layer bows. These bows can be optionally stuffed with batting for a puffier look, or left flat like mine.

These are really useful for bows for sailor uniforms, hair bows, lolita stuff, whatever. I made four of these suckers tonight for the bows on Madoka school uniforms, but I took a picture of it on my head because it looked super dumb on the front of my pajama shirt in pictures, and pfft, like you can convince me to get dressed at 1:30 am just for a picture. What am I, a model? (Like, a real one?) These bows are also nice because you never have to tie or untie them. They’re just perpetually beautiful.

So here’s what you need:

  • Your usual sewing tools (pins, scissors, sewing machine, etc)
  • Your fabric, which can be anything and everything. How much you need will widely depend on how big your bow is, but this one used three pieces – 6.5"x19", 3.5"x5" and 12"x2.5" I just so happened to use red ciara satin (the same stuff I used on my Supergirl skirt) and it photographs horrrrrribly under my bedroom’s light.
  • Some scrap fabric to make a draft/play with sizes. (I didn’t do this, bad girl.)
  • Ironing board.
  • Optional: interfacing, batting, etc, whatever you want to put inside the bow to change its shape.

So let’s get started.

Picture 5 is what you want to get first. “Jenn,” you say, “what the hell is that?” That, my friends, is what you are going to make before cut any of your good fabric. (My scrap just so happened to be the same fabric as my final bows.) Take various rectangles of fabric and fold them over and around until you get a rough idea of how big you want it to be. From there, you can probably guesstimate what kind of pieces you’ll be working with, but you want to come up with three parts: the main body, which should be twice as long as the finished bow, the knot, which should be twice as wide as what you want the finished knot and the right circumference around, and the tail, which should also be twice as wide as what you want the finished tail to be.

I ended up with  6.5"x19" for the body, 3.5"x5" for the knot and 12"x2.5" for the tail. Make sure you add seam allowance.

When you are happy with your bow mock-up, cut out your rectangles from your proper fabric. You’re going to want to do the following to each:

  • Body: Fold the longer side by half and sew up the width. Leave a break in the middle!
  • Knot: Fold in half lengthwise and stitch up the whole length.
  • Tail: Fold in half lengthwise, and sew all open sides save for a gap in the middle. The smaller you make it, the more finicky it is later to turn it right-side-out, but you will have less hand-sewing to do.

With that done, move to your ironing board. Turn the tail and knot right-side-out and iron them flat, taking care that the seams are opened nicely. Use a pin to gently pull out the corners on the tail so they are right angles. I like to move the seam on the knot to the middle (I’ve shown you both sides in picture 7) so that it’s not visible from either side, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. When that’s done, go back to your body.

Now: move the seam-with-a-gap to the middle and press it open, keeping it inside-out. Now you get to sew the top and bottom closed. This way, you end up with a weird little flat rectangle sealed on all sides, but with an open gap in the middle of the back. Use this gap to turn the sucker right-side out, and again, iron it so the seams are brought out nicely and the corners are sharp. 

Take your knot and attach the ends to each other, making sure the “middle” seam ends up on the inside of the bow (unless you want a stripe down the middle, but hey, that’s your call.) 

From there it should be pretty self-explanatory, or at least you can figure out what happens. Hand-sew the gaps on the body and tail shut (or use the gaps first to stuff or fill it with glitter or whatever your heart desires), and then assemble the pieces by putting the body through the knot and centering it nicely, and then hand-sew it in place so it doesn’t slide around. You may want to spend some time manipulating the body so it sits just like how you want it, first, and if you want an extra-tight, not-budging-an-inch bow, you can gather down the middle of the body (where it will be hidden by the knot) so the ruffling stays in place, too.

Some people like to put the tail through the knot, but I prefer to just sew it in the back, as it sits nicer. No one’s going to see it anyway. The knot has the added bonus that you can put an elastic through it to wear it, or use it to easily attach the bow to headbands or sashes or whatever, and then you can hand-stitch some more to keep it from sliding around.

Pretty fast, huh?

- Jenn