Tutorial - How to Make a Big, Removable Fabric Bow

Big fabric bows are a great way to jazz up your sewing projects. When they are removable, they give you the flexibility of changing colors on a whim. Made a red skirt? Add a gold, green or black bow - instant classic Christmas or formal wear. When Valentines' Day rolls around, pin on a pink bow and you're ready to go. Here's how to make a big fabric bow you can either fix to your garment or sew on a pinback.

This bow is big, about 7" across and 10" long including the tails. It's made for the waist of a tween girls' holiday skirt (my Sugarplum Skirt PDF pattern, coming on Monday.  Full instructions for making a tied bow proportionate to each skirt size 6 months to 14 years are included in the sewing pattern, but these abbreviated instructions supplement the pattern for those who want to use this alternate style of bow.)

Materials: Fabric (any kind; very drapey fabric should be interfaced before beginning); hand needle and thread, pin back for removable bow.

Use 1/4" seam allowance throughout.

The bow consists of a sash and a bow center. There are many ways to make a sash - basically a long fabric strip finished on all sides. Here is one method.

Making the Sash:

Cut 1 strip 36" x 8. Mark the lengthwise center (18" from either end - the pink pin in the diagram).

Fold in half lengthwise with wrong sides together. If you like angled ends, mark an angle on each short edge. Sew down one short edge and down the long edge to the center, stop and leave a gap for turning (about 1.5” – you may need less for thin slinky fabrics and more for thicker fabrics) and continue to sew the long edge and remaining short edge.

Trim the fabric from the ends if you angled them.

Turn right side out and press, turning in the edges of the gap. Close the gap with hand stitches or with machine stitches close to the edge of the fabric. You can topstitch the entire sash but I like the billowy look added by not topstitching.

Lay the sash out as shown. The distance from the sash center to the folds will give you the width of your bow loops. I've made them about 3.5" for a finished bow of 7" wide.

 Gather the center to form a bow. Tie a thread around the center a few times (or hand stitch if you prefer). 

Making the the Bow Center. Cut 1 piece 5" x 3". The 5" direction will go around the bow center and may need to be shorter for thinner fabrics/narrower sashes and longer for thicker fabrics/wider sashes. The 3" direction will be folded and sewn to give a bow center 1.25" wide.

Fold in half lengthwise so the piece is now 1.5" x 5". Sew down the long raw edge to form a tube, and turn right side out using a safety pin or other turning tool.

Press so the seam is down the center of one side.

Fold with the seams on the outside and stitch the raw edge to form a loop.

Finish the seam with pinking, zigzag stitch, or serger. Turn the seam to the inside.

If you are permanently fixing the bow center to your garment, pin it in place (or use Wash Away Wonder Tape, ha ha you knew I would say that).

Then across sew the inner back side of the loop to join it to the garment.

 You'll have to pull the front side of the loop out of the way as I am doing in the photo.  If you made your bow center very wide, you may need to sew as far as you can in one direction, then turn your work and sew from the other side toward the center. Make a second row of stitching about 1/2" away toward the TOP of the bow center. This will keep your bow from drooping.

Whether your bow center is affixed to your garment or not, thread the tail of one side through the bow center, then one bow loop...


As a last step, secure the sash in place with some hand stitches through the back of the loop and the sash. For a fixed bow, these stitches will be from inside the garment, through the bow center, and into the sash; for a removable bow, stitch the bow center to the sash, then use the same needle and thread to sew the pinback to the bow center. Be sure to affix the pinback slightly above the center of the bow; this will keep it from drooping.

 Try a bow when you are sewing a peasant top, A-line dress or as a faux sash-bow on any dress for a special touch.

And watch for the Sugarplum Skirt pattern coming to www.tiedyedivapatterns.com on Monday in time for your holiday sewing!  It's two skirt patterns in one - the overskirt you see with a flat front and elastic (no shirring) back, and an elastic-waist underskirt to add volume. It's designed for satin, silk, taffeta, garment-weight brocade, or linen, though you can use cotton and cotton blend fabrics as well. Tips for using, hemming, and making seams with special occasion fabrics are included. So many different looks - make an underskirt or two and a pile of interchangeable skirts in different fabrics  - with or without bows - for an entire holiday wardrobe.