With Christmas decorations going up and wrapped packages going under the tree, we all find ourselves in great need of bows. This doesn’t just happen at this time of year, though. We need bows all year long, for packages, baskets, and boxes. While it’s easy enough to buy bows at any store that sells wrapping supplies, they usually cost a small fortune, especially for the big, beautiful ones.
The good news is that it’s easy to make your own bows out of ribbon! From sweet little bows made of inexpensive ribbon to glorious, luscious bows made of glittery, satin ribbon, the technique is the same. And it’s easy!
Choose your ribbon
You can use any ribbon you want, from everyday plastic to soft cloth to luxurious silk. Wired ribbon tends to give the best results, because you can shape the loops exactly how you want them. Ribbon that is printed on only one side works perfectly with this technique. The width of the ribbon will determine the size of your bow — thin ribbon should be used for small bows, and wide ribbon should be used for large bows.
Determine your bow size
For the best proportional results, you’ll want the length of the bow’s loops to be about 2-3 times the width of the ribbon. So, if you have 1″ wide ribbon, your loops will be 2-3″ long, making a bow that’s 4-6″ across when completed. You’ve got some leeway here with the loop size, but don’t go to extremes. If your loops are too short or too long, your bow will look funny.
For the photos in this post, I used 1.5″ wide ribbon, and made 3″ loops (twice the width).
Begin wrapping the ribbon
Make the first loop in the ribbon, measuring the width. Let the end of the ribbon overlap your center point by about an inch (so that the end won’t fall out of the bow later). Then make the second loop, and pinch it in the middle. Take care here to measure the width of the loops and the total width of the bow, to make sure you’re in the right range. (My bow is 6″ wide in these photos, with 3″ loops.)
Then wrap the ribbon around about 7-10 times, depending on how full you want your bow to be.
When you cut the end of the ribbon off, be sure to let it go about an inch past the center point again, so that the end won’t fall out of the bow later.
Re-fold the loops
Open up the circle of ribbon a bit, holding the two center points with your fingers. Take care not to drop the two ends of the ribbon.
Re-fold the circle so that the center points are now the end points. Look closely at the first picture below and see how the two ribbon ends are positioned near the crease. This overlap is important.
Snip the corners
Holding one of the creases firmly in your hand, use a pair of sharp scissors to snip off the corners of the ribbon. Be careful not to cut the ribbon all the way across, or else the bow will fall apart. Just notch out the corners to remove some of the bulk.
When you’re done, separate the circle of ribbon again, and return the notched parts to the center of the bow.
Secure and open the bow
Now take a wire, chenille stem, or piece of ribbon and tie it very tightly around the notched area in the center of the bow.
Then begin working on one set of loops to form the bow. Starting with the innermost loop, pull it out to the right and give it a twist so that it’s separated from the others.
Then pull the next loop out, this time to the left, and give it a twist. Continue with the remaining loops, varying the direction you pull them out and the direction you twist them, so that the loops are all independent.
When you’re done with one set of loops, do the same for the other set. When all the loops are pulled out, you can shape them and arrange them until they’re just right. To attach it to a package or decoration, just tie in place with the wire or ribbon you tied around the center.
For an extra special touch, you can add some ribbons to hang from the bow. Just cut a length of ribbon and secure it to the back of the bow with the ribbon or wire you’ve already got.
Now it’s ready to hang from a wreath or gift basket!
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with this basic technique, you might want to try something extra fun. When you wrap the ribbon around and around in circles, instead of using just one ribbon, use two ribbons in two different colors. Just wrap them together like they were one ribbon, and do all the other steps the same (but when it comes time to count 7-10 loops, remember that you’re doing two at a time, so you only need to go around 4-5 times!)
When you’re done, you’ll end up with a multi-colored bow that your friends will go crazy over, especially when you tell them you made it yourself!