Monday, August 1, 2011

Making an Effort Monday: Simple Bow Tutorial (Finally)

In an effort to make more of the things I love -- good food, pretty things, and organized spaces -- I bring you Making An Effort Monday!  It's not a huge effort, but it's an effort nonetheless!

Literally hundreds dozens a handful of you have been begging me to post a tutorial on how I make the bazillions of bows I make for Josephine.  While trying to take the pictures, edit the pictures, and write the text, I gained a whole new respect for people who post tutorials on a regular basis.  Goodness.  This took MUCH longer than I anticipated.  

Also, it's hard to take pictures when you have to do the bulk of your crafting at night after the bambina is asleep AND the lighting in your house is the worst lighting in the history of the world.  So, sorry about the quality of the pictures.

HOWEVER, if any of the directions are less-than-clear, please let me know, and I will revise my instructions so they (hopefully) make more sense.

A little "bow disclaimer":  There are tons of different styles of bows, and everyone has a different opinion on the best way to assemble them. This classic bow is the easiest for me to make (I can whip one up in 30 seconds these days), but there are tons of other cute styles, like boutique bows, pinwheel bows, etc., which I have not yet mastered.  I watched approximately 25 videos on youtube and read twice as many blog posts, and combined tips from about 15 places to put together the way I make these, so if you do it the exact same way, then I guess great minds think alike. :)

Here we go!

Step 1:  Choose your ribbon (duh).  Here's the thing, though -- different widths of ribbon make totally different-looking bows.  Here are some I have made with wider ribbon:

1.5 inch ribbon; bow is 4 inches across
1.5 inch ribbon; bow is 4.25 inches across
1.5 inch ribbon; bow is 3 inches across

and here are some I've made with thinner ribbon:

.75 inch ribbon; bow is 1.5 inches across
.75 inch ribbon; bow is 2.5 inches across
.5 inch ribbon; bottom bow is 2.25 inches across

So, decide how big you are looking to go, and choose a delightful color or pattern.  You will also need some skinny ribbon to cover the clip (more on that later).

Next, you need to lay out your ribbon like so and figure out how big of loops you want (this will become clear after a few more steps):
Flip both ends over, and you will see how big your finished bow will be.  Make any necessary adjustments if you want it bigger or smaller.
If you like the size, cut your ribbon and lay it back out:
Take the bottom loop and pull it up to meet the crossed ribbon in the center.
Take one of the ends and cross it over. 
Fold the other side over, making sure your top loops are the same size.
Hold it up and look it over; if you need to adjust to make sure everything is even, hold on to the center so it doesn't fall all apart.
Once you are satisfied with the size, shape, and symmetry, you need something to hold the center together.  This is where some of the differing opinions come into play:  Some people swear you need to use a needle and thread, but I couldn't get the hang of it, and if you mess up, you have to cut the thread and start all over.  I use this thin elastic that is probably used for jewelry, and I love it.
Again, there are a million other ways to do this next step, and you can even buy special equipment, but I like to use two of the clips on either side of the center so you can use both hands to tie the knot.
Start carefully pulling the knot tighter.  The top and bottom should come toward the center and the middle should curve out toward the back of the bow.
This is the part I have a hard time describing.  Once the knot is pretty tight, start folding over the top and bottom so you get this pinchy look in the center.
Once you are satisfied with your pinchy look, tie nice and tight, and double knot.
Cut off the excess string, and BAM, you have your bow.  If you need to wiggle things around a bit, you still have time to do some adjusting if anything is off center.
Here is what the other side looks like.  You can have either side be the front, depending on what you are going to do with the tails of the bow.
I'm a big fan of clipping the tails to look like this:
No matter what you do with the tails, you need to make sure they don't start to unravel.  You can buy a bottle of fray check, or just light a match and run it quickly along the edges so they melt a bit (not so much that they turn brown.  Or start fire.).  Be sure to use matches from a lovely restaurant like the Roma Cafe. :)
Now you need something to attach it to the child's head.  I use clips because my child has a ton of hair, but it is easy to attach these to headbands as well.

I buy the silver clips seen above from Hobby Lobby when they are half-off, and get 25 for $2.  I have been told you can also get large quantities for cheap at beauty supply stores.  You can leave them as they are (boring) or cover them (adorable!).

To cover, cut about 7 inches of your thin coordinating ribbon (if your clips are the same size as mine.  You might want to double-check before you start).  I use the hot glue gun (because it is awesome) but I'm sure there are other glues that would work fine if you are afraid of burning off your fingerprints (even though fingerprints are over-rated).  Here is how I have found is the easiest to glue it on:  

Slap some glue on the UNDERSIDE of the TOP of the clip (sorry ... confusing).  The half that is flat is the bottom of the clip (and will touch the scalp -- see picture above).  Press your ribbon on.
Put a little more glue on the TOP of the TOP of the clip, then press your ribbon on.
The top of the clip is now completely covered, and you need to start wrapping around to do the bottom.  Squeeze a little glue on the part of the clip you squeeze to get it open.
Stuff your finger in there to press the ribbon onto the glue.
This part is slightly tricky at first.  While holding the clip open, put glue on the BOTTOM of the clip (the outside of the bottom).
You don't want that glue to touch the top of the clip or it would be all glued together, so I slide my other thumb in to hold it apart.
Then I use the hand that was holding the clip open when I put on the glue to pull the ribbon over and press into the glue.
Without letting the clip close, put glue on the INSIDE of the BOTTOM of the clip (the last side with no ribbon), and press the last little bit of ribbon on. 
If you have any glue coming out anywhere, make sure to wipe it off or let it dry before letting your clip close, or your clip will be glued together.

Next, glue the bow to your covered clip.  The part you squeeze will be facing toward the face (see picture above), and the flat side will be on the BOTTOM, or touching the scalp.  Don't glue your bow on upside down or the clip will just keep sliding out of the hair.

Slather some glue on the clip.
Press on the bow.

Now, you need to decide what you will wrap around the center of your bow to cover the elastic tie.  You can use the same ribbon, the same ribbon in a narrower width, or a coordinating color, depending on what you like.  You can also do a knot (to make it look like you tied the bow like shoelaces) by making a knot like so:
Your finished bow would look like this:

Before wrapping the center ribbon on, I like to put a tiny dab of glue on the knot you tied in your elastic to make sure it holds.  

Hold open your clip, and put a small dab of glue on the INSIDE CENTER of the top of the clip, and glue the ribbon (glue it so if the clip weren't there, you would be gluing it to the back center of your bow).  Again, watch out for leaking glue before closing the clip.
Wrap the ribbon around the front and bring it back around to meet the end that is already glued to the clip.  Glue that end on, making sure the ribbon is wrapped nice and tight around so it is not baggy.
Wait for glue to dry and/or wipe off any excess, and .... TA DA!!!  A bow!
If you wanted a bow like this attached to a headband, you would do the same thing, except wrap your center ribbon around a headband or a piece of elastic sewn together (more on that in a future tutorial).

Done and done!  Like I said, if anything is unclear (other than why all my pictures look a little orange), PLEASE let me know.  If you make any bows using this tutorial, send me a picture at veronicachunkymonkey {at} gmail {dot} com and I will post them!


  1. Cute! And you're right-fingerprints ARE totally overrated ;)

  2. Thanks! If you make any for your goddaughter, send me a pic!

  3. Brandon James AndersonAugust 3, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    I didn't realize you make Josephine's bows. That's amazing. I'm going to print this post off and save it in case I ever have a daughter...

  4. Brandon -- that is a huge compliment. Thank you!


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