Here’s my completed bow tie, created at the Parlocraft Circle this Saturday!
It was surprisingly easy to make, so I’m posting instructions here for anyone else who wants to have a go!
I don’t have any pictures of the process of making the bow tie itself (d’oh!). However, this article shows an almost identical process (using a sewing machine instead of hand sewing, and using fusible instead of non-fusible interfacing). I recommend clicking through to check out their photos of in-process bow tie making, which will help clarify the steps below.
You don’t need to completely hand sew the tie as per the instructions below - a sewing machine will work wonderfully if you have one available. However, I personally enjoy hand sewing - it’s relaxing, you can do it while you hang out with other people, or watch TV or a movie.
- Fabric Scissors (they should be quite sharp)
- 1/2 yard of fabric (tie-weight silk is traditional; cotton, linen, and even wool all also work) makes three bow ties
- medium weight non-fusible interfacing
- sharp, small needle
- thread in a color that matches your fabric (Gutermann makes the best hand-sewing thread)
- dressmaker’s pins, to pin your fabric together
- Paper to trace a bow tie pattern, and a pencil or pen
- measuring tape or a ruler
- optional: thimble
- optional: beeswax (for coating the thread for hand-sewing)
- iron and ironing board
- Borrow or buy at a thrift store (or elsewhere) an adjustable bow tie. Adjust it so that it fits your neck. When the bow tie is the right length, lay it out on a piece of paper and trace around it, leaving a 1/4” space between the edges of the bow tie and the line (for a seam allowance). Hint: it’s much easier to trace if you weigh the bow tie down with something, or pin it, as you’re tracing it.
- There are two ways you can cut out your bow tie pattern: (1) you can cut it on the straight grain, in one single piece. This is easier, and cheaper, because you waste less fabric. (2) you can cut out your bow tie in two pieces, on the bias (diagonal), which is more difficult and wastes more fabric, but will result in a more flexible and slightly more professional bow tie. Either way is acceptable.
- Easy Way on the Straight Grain: If you want to cut your bow tie out in one piece, simply do the following: fold your bow tie fabric in half along the grain, so that each selvage edge is folded back over onto itself (note: a selvage is the finished ends of the fabric at the top and bottom of the bolt). Place the bow tie pattern onto the fabric stretching from selvage to selvage. Pin the pattern down securely onto the two layers of fabric, and cut the bow tie out. Now put the pattern onto the piece of interfacing, again with the selvages on the top and bottom. Cut out one piece of interfacing. In total, after cutting, you should have TWO pieces of bow tie fabric, and ONE piece of interfacing. Put the piece of interfacing together with one of the bow tie fabric pieces, so that they form a single piece with two layers. Skip to step #5 to continue.
- Hard Way on the Diagonal/Bias: If you want to cut your bow tie on the bias (diagonal), do the following: (1) find the exact middle of your bow tie pattern. Measure one inch to the side of the center, and cut the pattern there using a 45 degree angle (also known as a bias cut, or diagonal cut). Now you should have two, uneven pieces of the bow tie pattern. (2) Fold the bow tie fabric together so that it’s a double layer, and so that the selvage edges (the finished edges of the fabric) are folded over onto themselves. Place both pieces of the bow tie pattern on top of the folded double-thickness fabric, at a 45 degree angle (“on the bias”). Pin the pattern down securely to both thicknesses of fabric, and cut out exactly along the edges of the pattern. Now you should have FOUR separate pieces of fabric, two which are exactly the same size, and pinned to each part of the pattern. (3) Put the pattern pieces down diagonally (on the bias) on the interfacing. Cut out only one piece of interfacing for each pattern piece. Now, you should have a total of FOUR pieces of cut fabric, and TWO pieces of interfacing. (4) Unpin the pattern from the pieces of fabric and/or interfacing. Put one piece of interfacing together with a pattern piece, so that the interfacing is on the “wrong side” of the fabric (the side you don’t want to face outward when you’re done sewing). Here’s the tricky part: you want to sew the two pieces of fabric&interfacing together into one piece. You do this by placing the pattern pieces together, right sides touching together, on a 90 degree angle. Then, when you’ve finished sewing this short bias seam, it will form a one long piece of the bow tie. When you are done, you should have two long pieces of sewn-together fabric, which match each other. One of those pieces should be a double layer of fabric and interfacing; the other should just be a single layer of fabric.
- Hand-sewing tip #1: for Victorian-era sewing, prior to the advent of sewing machines, seams like these would be sewn with a basic running stitch. For authentic sewing and to make sure the seam doesn’t come apart, you will want to sew 10-12 stitches per inch. Stitches are counted on both sides of the fabric — so if you’re looking straight onto one side of the fabric, you’ll want to see 5-6 “bumps” of thread per inch.
- Hand-sewing tip #2: Run your thread gently through beeswax for hand sewing, and you’ll have a much less knotty experience. It smooths the thread out and makes for a much easier time sewing. Be careful using beeswax on light-colored fabric though, as it may stain the fabric.
- Hand-sewing tip #3: Use a thimble to stop the pad of your finger from being painful where you push the needle through. One great type of “thimble” is actually a rubber finger from a stationary store. I like those because you can still feel the needle through the thimble.
- Now, regardless of which method you’ve used (bias or straight grain), you should have two pieces of fabric in the shape of a bow tie, and one piece of interfacing. Put the piece of interfacing together with one of the pieces of fabric, so that it forms one, double-thickness piece, with the interfacing touching the “wrong” side of the fabric.
- Put the two pieces of bow tie fabric together (one with the interfacing, one just fabric), so that the “right sides” of the fabric are touching, and the “wrong sides” (interfacing and underside of the fabric) are facing outward. Pin the fabric together securely, down the middle of the pieces. Now you are ready to sew the two sides of the bow tie, and the interfacing, together.
- Using the tips above, hand sew a running stitch around the edge of the bow tie, 1/4” from the edge of the fabric. Leave a 2” spot open in the very middle of the bow tie (the part that will sit on the back of your neck). You can turn the bow tie right side out through this hole, and then stitch it together after it’s turned.
- When you’ve completely sewn your bow tie around the edges (except for the 2” hole on one side), you’re ready to turn it inside out! Use a pencil eraser and poke the end of the bow tie so that it turns inside out. Push it through to the middle of the tie, and pull it out through the hole. Ditto for the other side.
- Now arrange the bow tie so that it’s fully in the shape that you want it to be in (massage it with your fingers until all the seams are fully right-side-out, etc). Then put it on the ironing board and iron it so that it lays flat. Iron the seams that haven’t been sewn yet (the hole used for turning it right side out) so that they’re closed, in the position you will sew them in.
- Now all that’s left is to invisibly stitch the hole together, and you’re done!
- Tie and enjoy. :)