Introduction: Make Your Own Giant Decorative Bow - Easily!
Giant bows are a decorative accessory with a lot of impact which are easy to incorporate into your festive decor. We've always used large red velvet bows for our Christmas decorations, but never seem to have the right number of ones that match, and they get bedraggled fast. New ones are expensive, or you can't find quite what you'd like. I got fed up and decided to make my own; it worked well enough that I made lots, and now I'm passing it along.
In this Instructable I'll be sharing with you a method I came up with for making a "faux" giant bow (no tying required!) with basic supplies and tools. I made mine for Christmas, but they'd be stellar for wedding decorations too, or whenever else you want some bang for your buck. Remember, you can use whatever color or style of ribbon you like to fit in with any personal style!
Don't get intimidated by the number of steps - it really is EASY! (It may take a bit to get the hang of it, so I wanted to be as clear as possible.)
Please feel free to ask me any questions you have.
Step 1: Materials and Safety
- Wired* ribbon, two types/widths in this case but you can do it with one if you like. I used:
+ Candy cane stripe, 2.5" (6.5cm) wide
+ Snowflake ribbon, 3.75" (10cm) wide
- Twist ties, four: one short, two average, and one long. You can substitute light gauge wire.
- Strong scissors (or wire snips), don't use your fabric scissors as the wire in the ribbon will dull the edge
- Flexible tape measure (ruler will work)
- Hot glue gun and sticks (use LOW setting on dual guns, or a low temp gun!)
- *Heat proof gluing mat (recommended)
- *Butter knife (recommended)
*Note: It's not necessary to use a wired ribbon. But because non-wired ribbons are generally for garment use, they're much softer. They're harder to work with, you're more likely to burn yourself through the thin material, and it's harder to fluff them when you're done and after storing. My ribbons came from JoAnn and Hobby Lobby; Michael's has a good selection as well, and you can also get high-quality ribbon designed for wrapping at CostCo during the holiday season.*
Bow making sounds innocuous but you can still hurt yourself. I am not responsible for any injury YOU sustain by being dumb. Only the ones I have.
Take precautions, know your tools, and stay alert. Never craft in a poorly lit room or while fatigued, and keep your workspace clear of hazards.
My favorite truism for all crafting: HOT GLUE IS HOT. Be careful. Trust me, I have had serious burns, I have had friends require the ER, it is not a good time. It's much easier to be careful than to deal with the pain of a bad burn. Use the LOW setting on your glue gun whenever you can. In this project, the glue isn't structural; it's just to help you hold things in place.
Be careful with cutting and handling wired ribbons. Wire is pointy. Any small child will tell you being poked is not fun. If your scissors can cut wire, they can certainly cut you. My scissors are nicknamed "the death scissors", because they cut everything and do a heck of a job on you. I have the blood stain in my sewing room to prove it.
Step 2: Prep
Plug in your glue gun so it can start heating up. While you're waiting, cut your ribbon lengths.
You don't have to mix colors and widths of ribbon, but I found it visually effective. If you do this, I do recommend using a wider ribbon that will make up the "back" of the bow (in this case, the white snowflake print). Think of it like a mat on a painting; it helps frame the other ribbon and make it pop.
These are the lengths that I used: you can tweak them to change the size or look of the bow; particularly the tails (dangly bits). You can get an idea of what length you need by simply folding a section of ribbon in half; the center of that halved piece will be the center of the bow.
Stripe loops, x3: each 24" long
Snowflake loops, x3: each 29" long
Stripe tail, x1: 36.5" long
Snowflake tail, x1: 43.5" long
Stripe finishing loop, x1: 7.25" long
*Tip: Before cutting wired ribbon, smooth the section you're about to cut down against a firm surface. It will cut more accurately and save you some time later making the bow look polished.*
Step 3: Making Loops
Take your ribbon section and lay it face (top side) down on your work surface - we're going to make it into an "o".
*Tip: If you have a ribbon that ravels at the edge, you probably want to glue the cut ends under first. You don't have to use hot glue; make sure you put your gun on a low setting and be careful not to burn yourself. It's easiest to lay your loop down and press with a butter knife instead of your finger, too. Fold over a little more than 1/4" and crease.*
Run a line of hot glue along the top side of one edge. It doesn't take a lot; piling on the glue will just make later steps harder. Bring the other end to meet it, and press down firmly. Press it like you're smoothing down tape on a package, moving up and down, and don't move it for around 10 seconds to let the glue cool.
Repeat this step for your other loops; 6 times total.
Step 4: Bow Tie Time
Don't worry, this really is the only time that "tie" will come into it. ;)
Now that you have six loops (three of each type of ribbon), time for the next step. Each loop is actually two halves/sides of your bow.
Fold your loop in half to find the center, then pinch each loop there - visualize a bow tie without the knot. Check the picture to see how I put the "seam" on the inside - it makes it easier to accurately bend it.
*Tip: You will be stacking your three loops together, so if your ribbon is stiff and it's awkward to hold them pinched together (common in wired ribbon), you can put dots of glue inside any "valleys" to help hold the center together.*
Step 5: Loop Stacking
Take three loops of the same ribbon and stack them as shown. If there are some minor differences in the lengths, it's okay; put the longest one in the middle, and the shorter above and below.
Position them as well as you can so that you are holding them dead center, with even loop halves on either side of your fingers. If it's a bit off, it's okay; you can still adjust them slightly after they are secured. It may be easier to tell if they're even if you smooth/flatten the loops some first. (You will be fluffing them when your bow is complete.)
With your three loops pinched and stacked, secure them with a twist tie.
*Tip: If you don't save twist ties (you should! super handy), you can use a fine gauge wire. Don't use really fine aluminum jewelry wire; it tends to snap in half when it's bent repeatedly. I prefer to use "bread package" ties for this step, and the stiffer gray kind that come in toy/electronics packages for later.*
Repeat these steps for your three larger loops, but DON'T secure them yet. We'll get back to the securing steps in a minute.
Step 6: Making Tails
To make the "tails" of the ribbon, you're using ONE piece a little more than double the final length you'd like it to be. Mine was 24" in total for the stripe ribbon, and 29" for the snowflakes. Staggering them gives a nice look.
Fold the piece in half to find the center.
I've taken photos of the easiest way to fold it so it will lay flat, as it's hard to describe. It's a similar idea to making folded corners when you're wrapping a box with paper. With wired ribbon, you can wrap the point which is sticking down back up and around your folding and it will hold everything together (no glue required).
Repeat for the other tail (second ribbon type).
Step 7: Bow Body Stacking
Grab those large loops you made earlier and pinch them like you did with the others. We're going to secure these loops to the smaller loops all at once, so they're all cinched together with just one additional twist tie. Doing this prevents the ties from building up too much bulk. (This works if you have a longish tie; the thin gray ones that come in toy packaging are great for this. If you don't have any long enough, you can use separate ties of course.)
Take your smaller, already secured bow and put it on top. You can now wrap your twist tie, using your other hand, over the front of both bow sections. (Sorry for not getting better pics; I couldn't do it without a third hand!)
Starting to look like a bow!
*Note: in the pic from the back side of the bow, I had the tails attached with the same twistie tie. You can do it this way, but it's more fiddly. It's the same concept either way.*
Step 8: Attaching Tails
Now we need to attach the tails. The most "natural" looking way to do this so it appears like a tied bow is to lay them as they are in the picture, with the folded-up point facing towards you. This section should lie against the body of the bow you're attaching it to.
Once you have the tails as you want them, just secure them to the bow body with another twist tie.
*Tip: Fold the end of each tail in half and cut across at a 45 degree angle if you'd like to have a "V" shape at the end, called a "dovetail". It adds a lot of polish to your bow. You can do other kinds of angled ends if you prefer, or even curl the straight edge under by wrapping it lightly around your finger.*
Step 9: Not a Knot
Almost finished! Now we're going to cover the center of the bow with a "knot", and add a method to attach it to whatever you like.
If you were following my measurements, you've cut your piece already. Otherwise, cut a piece of ribbon long enough to go around the middle of your bow, plus about 1" extra. My piece was about 7". Glue one raw end under, then place it around the bow. Run another line of glue on the unfolded end, and press them together (this way you have a nice, finished edge on top).
Slip a twist tie underneath the "knot" you've made around the center of the bow. You can use it to attach your bow to a railing post, wreath, or whatever else you like. You can use wire, or a piece of ribbon if you can't find one long enough.
Step 10: Finishing!
Lastly, all you have to do is position your bow wherever you want it and get it shaped how you want.
If you want a full bow, the easiest method is to slip your fingers inside the bow's loops, and spread them apart slowly. The bow looks nice and full if you put a wide but gentle curve in the outside ends of the loops.
The wired ribbon may have some kinks or woobles in it. Just smooth them between thumb and forefinger.
All done: time to enjoy your decorations!