Introduction: Laser Cut Bow Tie With Colorful Cloth
After seeing a laser cut bow tie on Pinterest, I had to make one, which turned into multiple, which my partner now wears at most formal functions. He always gets complimented on it! It cannot go unnoticed, truly, and is always a hit. So we're sharing the fun and hope you make some awesome variations!
- A wood sheet for use in a laser cutter
- Access to a laser cutter
- Some fabric
- Fabric scissors
- Access to a sewing machine or a needle and thread and a lot of patience
- For the bow tie band:
- Either loop turner
- or a safety pin
- or a blunt needle
- either some elastic,
- or a safety pin,
- or some metal wire and some good wire skills
Step 1: Laser Cut a Bow Tie
The first step is laser cutting a bow tie in your preferred shape. I have attached a few designs and files associated. These are easy to draw, even freehand with a ruler. The base design is a good mimicking of the traditional shape of a bow tie, that you can use to create your own designs.
The only constant for the purpose of this tutorial are the two slits at the center of the bow tie. These will make it super easy to make a 'band' for the bow tie (the last step gives some detail about styles without the slits). I made those slits around 1.5 mm thick. The thicker they are, the more noticeable they become, but don't make them too thin otherwise you won't be able to thread your band in. So it really depends on the fabric you are using. I usually add the slits at the last minute in the laser cutter, based on the fabric I'll be using for the bow tie. Notice, the longer / further apart the slits are, the more you'll see the fabric!
Depending on the laser cutter you have access to, you'll need to draw input your bow tie shape in different file formats. I've used a laser cutter software called lightburn which works well with dxf, as well as the glowforge which works well with pdf and png. Ask the people who know about the specific laser cutter to help you figure out which software / which file format will be best to make your bow tie shape come to life!
This Instructables class: https://www.instructables.com/lesson/Tools-and-Mat...
and this Instructables workshop: https://www.instructables.com/id/Laser-Cutting-Ba...
can help you get started with laser cutting if this is new to you!
You should have a laser cut bow tie shape at the end of this step. You can stain the wood, or varnish it if you would like. I have kept the examples here raw as it is a personal preference.
Step 2: Sew the Bow Tie Band
For this step, select the fabric you want to use with your bow tie. I've been using fabric I bought in Thailand and in Ghana because they are the most beautiful fabrics I have ever seen. You don't see very much of it, but it gives a beautiful accent to the bow tie.
Cut a thick and long piece of fabric (image 1).
To determine the thickness of the fabric, use the height of the slit you made in your bow tie. Double that, and add 4 to 10 mm (2 to 5 for each side). Example: if my slit in the bow tie is 10 mm (1 cm), then I would cut a fabric piece that is between 24 to 30 mm (2.4-3.0 cm) wide.
To decide how much extra to leave for the seam (4 mm or 10 mm), take a look at your fabric: when cut, do the threads of the fabric come apart easily when you pull on them? does the fabric come undone? this is common for some silks and polyesters. If so, I would recommend keeping the seam at 4 mm and doing a zigzag stitch along the seam as shown in the pictures. If the fabric holds together easily, then you can do a simple straight stitch and give yourself a little more margin when sewing, with a bigger seam.
To determine the length of the fabric, use the standard shirt neck sizes. A size small is around 35 cm, so that's a good place to start. It also depends on which closing mechanism you'll choose to use. If you're going with elastic and have a lot of elastic, then you can make your fabric piece smaller and use the elastic to go around the neck. If you are using a safety pin to close the bow tie band, then you need the fabric to go all around the neck and more to allow for overlap (so if you consider an XXL size at 48 cm, you'll want the length to be at least 50 cm). However, the longer your fabric is, the harder it will to turn inside out.
I know the answer is not straightforward, but you have flexibility here. If you are new at sewing, I suggest trying a shorter length, closer to 30 cm.
Once you know the size of your fabric piece, cut it with fabric scissors. Fold in half and pin it inside out (so the back of the fabric is showing) as shown in picture 2. Use a normal straight stitch or a zigzag stitch depending on your fabric and how you cut it (zigzag setting on sewing machine shown in picture 3). Sew the whole length. You can do this on a sewing machine or by hand.
You should now have an inside-out version of your bow tie band.
Step 3: Flip the Bow Tie Band
To flip the bow tie band, I use a loop turner. This is a specific sewing device that hooks on to the fabric and pulls it inside itself to flip it. You can find a good video tutorial on how to use it here. I've added some pictures to show you what the process looks like with a loop turner.
At the end of this step, you should have a laser cut bow tie shape and a bow tie band.
Step 4: Assemble Your Bow Tie
Easy step: thread your band into the slots you made in your bow tie shape and enjoy the wonderful feeling of being almost done!
Step 5: Make a Closing Mechanism: Easy 1
First easy choice for a closing mechanism: tie an elastic thread on either side of the band. You can use the neck size chart for shirts to figure out how long the total length of the band should be. Make it a bit shorter so the elastic will be tensioned: how much depends on how strong your elastic is. Start with 1 cm less and see how it feels!
Step 6: Make a Closing Mechanism: Easy 2
Even easier than the first, is to use a safety pin. I list this as the second option though because this implies having made a very long band which can be very hard to pull inside out. Hence, overall, this might not be the easiest solution. A compromise might be to not sew the band inside out and rather sew a band right side up initially. To do so, you would have to fold the edges as shown in the picture and sew on top of it, which means you will see part of the sewing in the front of the bow tie, but it is very discrete, or you can even make it part of the design!
Step 7: Make a Closing Mechanism: Harder 1
This is a little harder to pull off because of the variables to take into account (what size neck are you making this for, how tense is your elastic) but is the most professional option I have come up with so far. For this you need a thicker elastic band. Here I've used a random band but you can of course use clothing elastic bands which will make everything easier.
Once you've figured out what size band you need (I would recommend sewing one side on then attaching the other side with a safety pin, trying it on, seeing how it feels, then adjusting the setting), sew the elastic on either side of the band to complete the circle: make sure it can still fit over your head!
Step 8: Make a Closing Mechanism: Harder 2
For this one, I tried making a clasping mechanism with multiple settings with wire. It works pretty well but is not very flexible and fairly hard to make so I would not really recommend this.
I also thought about making a button system but honestly, the elastic has been working out so well, I'm thinking of sticking with that method.
Step 9: Alternative to the Slits in the Wood
I wanted to end with a not about an alternative to making slits in the wood. For this last bow tie, I didn't make any slits. Instead, I wrapped some fabric around the center. Unfortunately, the only way I managed to keep the fabric really well tensioned was with fabric glue. Every time I tried to sew it tight, the results wasn't satisfying. I was however able to sew the band on the back of the bow tie with a few small sewing points. It's a little awkward but doable!
Step 10: Enjoy!
I hope you make wonderful creations! We got a request for special 'graduation' bow ties. These can be highly personalized, which makes them very fun. This is a picture of my partner and I at his office's Christmas party, he is wearing the bow tie and got compliments all evening!
Participated in the