Introduction: How to Make a Clip-on Bow Tie

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Clip-on bow-ties are a quick way to add a suave retro touch to any collared shirt! Slip one in your back-pack, man-bag, pocketbook, or jacket pocket for any fashion or flirting emergency.  They are great one hour projects, as they have minimal construction and sewing (you can even make them by hand).....and they are eminently suitable for luxury or recycled fabrics, as they require very little materials. Most bow-ties are about twice as wide as they are tall, but some mid-century clip-on bow-ties were as much as four times as wide as high – between 3/4”” and 1 1/2” tall and up to 5” wide, with 1” x 4 1/2” being typical. The leaves were usually rectangular with flat ends. In the late 1960s through the 1970s, some butterfly-shaped bow-ties were up to up to 3 1/2” tall by 5 1/2” wide. Those ties had very narrow centers and wide leaves. Although we give size suggestions, feel free to modify your pattern to suit your taste!

Step 1: Supplies

Mid-weight fabrics such as necktie silk, linen or cotton are preferred. You need less than 1/4 yard:
2 pieces of mid to lightweight fabric, both at least 2” x 8”, up to 3 1/4 x 11”, for the body of the bow tie
1 piece of mid to lightweight fabric, at least 3” x 4”, for the center band
Thread matching the background color of the tie fabric.
Bow-tie clip

Tie patterns
12” ruler
Tailor’s chalk, marking pencil, or ball-point pen
Sewing pins
Sharp scissors
Iron and ironing board
Hand sewing needle

Optional tools:
45 Deg. triangle (for accurately cutting on the bias)
Sewing machine
Japanese chopstick (the kind with the pointed end) or similar thin dowel

Step 2: Mark Your Bow Tie Pattern

Choose your fabric and iron it. Mark your fabric for cutting, paying attention to any fabric design elements that should be centered in the front leaves of the bow. For the robot bow tie, we made each leaf piece 8" by 3", and cut them out making sure we had a row of robots centered on the bow tie leaves. The center band is 4" by 3".

Mark your fabric on the wrong side. Use 1/4”-1/2” seam allowances – 1/2” for fabrics that fray easily, such as necktie silk. Also mark and cut the center band (again, attending to placing fabric design elements) is at the same time. Necktie silk requires cutting on the bias (45 degree angle to the weave) in order to look right.

You will have 3 pieces; 2 long leaf pattern pieces and a shorter center band piece.

Step 3: Pin Leaves to Sew

Fold the leaf ends towards the center of the leaf and pin. Do this with both leaves.

Step 4: Sew the Sides

Sew the top and bottom sides of the folded and pinned bow tie leaves. This can be done by hand with a back-stitch, or with a sewing machine.

Step 5: Trim

Trim the corner seam allowances so that the corners will be crisp! Notice how the robots are lined up in the center of the bow tie.

Step 6: Turn Right-side Out

Turn the bow leaves right side out through the center slits, using a chopstick or scissor point to gently push out the corners. Iron carefully.. If needed, use an ironing shield (such as a pillowcase or clean sheet of paper) to minimize shiny pressing marks.

Step 7: Prepare the Center Band

Fold the long edges of the center band in towards the center line, leaving the exposed side slightly narrower than the hidden side for visual interest. Fold the short ends under 1/4″. Press. Half-twist the center band (to further simulate the appearance of a hand-tied bow) and press. You want it to end up appearing as if you have carelessly knotted the center section.

Step 8: Mark Slits for Your Metal Clip

Mark the clip arm openings; they will be 2 parallel slits about 1/4" from the center opening and each about 1/4" long.

Double check which leaves are front and rear, and the top/bottom orientation of each leaf. Don’t accidentally clip the wrong side of the wrong leaves! For the rear bow leaf, the construction center slit should be facing the front, which will be hidden when the tie is complete. Mark where each clip-on hardware arm will be centered on the horizontal axis of the rear bow leaf.

Step 9: Snip Your Openings

Snip the 2 clip arm openings. On the rear bow leaf, carefully snip two vertical slits through both the rear face fabric. Do not cut through to the front.

Step 10: Insert the Clip

Insert the clip through the 2 slits. Folding the clip, insert both arms through the both rear face fabric. Flatten the clip to check location and centering. (Not shown)  The tightly sewn center band holds the clips in place.

Step 11: Assemble Your Bow Tie

Stack the two leaves of the bow (checking carefully again for front/back and top/bottom orientations), with the clip, together, checking placement of visible fabric design motifs. Wrap the center band (also checking design placement), folding the cut ends under, in the back of the bow-tie, around the leaves and clip. Pin the center band or pinch with the fingers. The band should tightly constrict the bundle, requiring firm stitches to pull the ends together in the rear of the tie.

Prepare for hand-sewing the center band. Temporarily adjust the creases in the bow leaves, curling the top and bottom edges backwards; final adjustment will come when the center band is sewn

Step 12: Sew the Center Band

Hand sew the center band in the back. In the rear of the tie, securely hand sew the center band (we used an overcast stitch). Complete hand-sewing the center band: sewing back and burying the thread ends under the stitching

Step 13: Finir!

Don your bow tie, knowing that you are setting fabulous standards for debonair splendeur!