Bow Making

Bow Making
Bow Making Instructions

In the following eight figures you will find instructions on how to make a bow.  Bows are a nice accent for gift packages, center pieces, wreaths, and many other home decor applications.  Once you have mastered the technique you will have fun creating your own unique bows out of various materials and in different sizes. 

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Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate

Rule #1: Don't get frustrated. It's really not hard to do. We'll show you another way to tie a bow for your tree top, gift packages, banisters, mantles and floral arrangements.

Generally it takes about 5 yards of ribbon to tie a medium sized bow. (Note that we said generally.) There are two important things to remember when you're tying a bow. First, where are you going to use it? Is it a Christmas tree topper bow or is it a small bow for a gift package? Of course, if it's for a Christmas tree topper, you'll want to use a larger, wider ribbon and create a larger bow. If it's for a small package, it should be a thinner/smaller ribbon and you probably will not need as many loops. Secondly, consider the material. Velvet ribbon can be difficult for a first time bow tying experience. You may want to use a ribbon made of thinner material for your first try. Satin ribbon is excellent to learn with, it's inexpensive and very easy to hold. Many designers prefer to use wired ribbon. This is ribbon that has a thin line of wire on either side of the ribbon. Wired ribbon tends to hold its shape much easier and it's much easier to shape into a perfectly made bow after all the twisting and folding is done. It's nearly %uFFFDcrush-proof.%uFFFD

We're going to show you the velvet ribbon in this free design class%uFFFD.  Let's get started.


Figure #1

If you feel confident that you're going to tie a 5 yard bow, simply measure off 5 yards of your ribbon fabric and cut it from the bolt. If you're not too sure, simply roll off a lot of your material and leave it attached to the bolt. Make sure to roll off more than you plan to use so that the ribbon doesn't twist too badly%uFFFDyou can always re-roll anything you don't use.

We're going to show you how to begin with one of the tails of the bow. If you have difficulty viewing the photographs, be sure to see our site and click the link to our Archived Newsletters.

Figure #2

Take a length of ribbon and simply hold it in your hand, measuring the length of the tail. You may only want a few inches, or you may want a long tail that will blow in the wind if you're using it for a mailbox cover. You decide.

Measuring your tail length, hold your ribbon (good side facing you), in your hand and twist one-half turn. That means wherever you twist, you want to turn the ribbon so that the dull side (or negative side) of the ribbon is facing you. So now you should have the %uFFFDgood side%uFFFD of the ribbon below the twist and the %uFFFDbad side%uFFFD of the ribbon above the twist. SEE FIGURE #1

Figure #3

Now simply make a loop with the part of the ribbon above the twist to the desired size. Don't over estimate. A loop too large will create a floppy bow. Keep it small for now and practice later using loops of different lengths. Now rolling that part of the ribbon above the twist toward you, you'll see that the %uFFFDgood side%uFFFD of the ribbon will turn back toward you. Simply bring the ribbon back to the original twist point and gather it in your hand where you are holding the original twist point. SEE FIGURE #2

Figure #4

Now at that same twist point, twist the ribbon again so that the %uFFFDbad side turns back toward you and simply roll the ribbon in a loop approximately the same size as the first loop you tied. And bring your ribbon back to the original twist point again. You should get a %uFFFDbutterfly effect.%uFFFD SEE FIGURE #3

Figure #5

Continue to twist your ribbon at the original twist point with each loop you create. Be certain to barely shorten (no more than ? inch) the length of each loop as you continue to build loops on top of loops. Bear in mind that we're building this bow from the bottom to the top instead of from the top to bottom. This will create a full bow that stands up beautifully.

Continue making loops, one of one side of the original twist, then bring your ribbon back to the original twist point and make another loop on the other side. SEE FIGURE #4

When you've created a bow as large as you desire, we're ready to create the center loop and finish off your bow.

Let's say that you've completed your bow and you now have 5 loops on each side of your original twist point. All you have to do to create the center loop is simply make another loop only ? the size of the loops previously tied, roll it around your thumb at the center (original twist point) and wrap the ribbon around behind the original twist point so that it winds up on the backside of your gathered ribbon. SEE FIGURE #5

Figure #6

DON'T LET GO YET!!! We're almost done.

Take a wire and run it through the center loop that you've created. And with the original tail on one side of the original twist and the finishing end of the ribbon (that may still be attached to the bolt) on the other side of your hand, tie and twist your wire tightly up into the fabric ribbon on the backside of the bow. SEE FIGURE #6 & #7

Figure #7

When you've got your wire securely tied in back, you can finally let go and hold the bow using only the wire with which you've used to tie it. Gently shape your loops (don't pull too hard unless you've twisted that wire very well). Now you can add this bow to your Christmas tree, and gift packages using the tying wire. SEE FIGURE #8

figure 8

Figure #8

For more free hints, tips, tricks and other information on creating floral art at home, please visit our site at and click on Newsletter Archives. Please be sure to sign up for our mailing list and during November, we'll send you several more wonderful, easy projects that you can complete at home, directly to your email address.

Happy Holidays!!!

Richard Bedsole is the Chief Instructor at The American Floral Arts, AIFA, Inc.

This lesson in Bow-Making was kindly contributed by: Richard Bedsole, American Floral Arts, AIFA, Inc. Visit American Floral Arts, AIFA, Inc. for a wealth of floral designing ideas and resources.

Copyright, AIFA, Inc. 2003