These are the detailed instructions for sewing any of my Adjustable Bow Ties cut & sew fabric designs, available only from Spoonflower. For less than the cost of just one name-brand bow tie, you can get a bunch of ties printed on fabric that you can easily sew with just a few basic sewing skills.
This is an easy, beginner-level project… I swear you can do it even if you’ve never sewn anything!
The design I’m using for this tutorial is The Striped Sophisticate Collection, but these instructions apply to any of my cut & sew designs. You can also follow along and create ties out of your own fabric.
To get started, you need a few supplies:
- Suitable fabric
- Good thread in matching colors (I like Gutermann Sew-All)
- Scissors and a rotary cutter
- a large self-healing cutting mat
- long ruler or metal straight-edge for cutting (like an AlumiCutter)
- a flat work area at least 24″ x 36″
- sewing machine
- iron and ironing board
- one set of adjustable tie hardware for each bow-tie (more on that later)
- fusible interfacing (optional; for thin fabrics like silk)
- a turning tool made from a wire coat-hanger (more on that later)
Cut apart each section. I use a 28mm rotary cutter with a new blade, and large cutting mat. Scissors work fine too. Optional: If you are using fusible interfacing (and you should with very thin fabric, like Spoonflower’s Cotton-Silk) iron it onto the back side of the fabric before cutting out each piece.
If you make a lot of ties, you might consider investing in a set of cutting templates I designed to speed up this step. Otherwise, just cut out each piece using your rotary cutter and a straight-edge or scissors.
Starting at the end, align the right edge of the tie with the mark that corresponds to ¼″ on your machine. On my machine, you can see that ¼″ is even with the right side of the presser foot. There is also a mark on the bed too. If your machine doesn’t have any markings, you can put a piece of tape at the appropriate place.
Sew around each half of the tie using a regular straight stitch. Some ties are curved, and some have angled corners. If yours has angles (as seen here), stop the machine with the needle down and lift the presser foot to turn the fabric. Be sure to turn it until it lines up with that ¼″ mark. I always reverse a few stitches (ie, go back and forth a few times) at the beginning and end of my run of stitches.
The two rows of stitches on the long tails should end up between 5/8″ to ¾″ apart. If it’s too narrow, it will be impossible to turn the tie right-side out! And if it’s too wide, it won’t fit through the hardware.
Snip the corners and trim the seam allowance, as shown in the bottom piece. This is to prevent the seams and corners from being too bulky in the finished tie.
Over the years, I’ve tried many tools to turn the tie right-side out. The best is a long skinny tool I made from a stiff wire coat-hanger. Use a pair of pliers to straighten it out as much as possible, and bend the business end of it as shown in the inset—you don’t want a sharp end poking holes in your fabric!
Starting at the bow end, poke the end back inside itself with your finger. Then push the rest of the tie inside with the turning tool.
It’s a little like encouraging a snake to eat it’s tail, but with a little practice you’ll get the hang of it. Before you pull out the tool, use it to poke the corners out completely from the inside.
The tie will look a little puffy (go ahead and iron both pieces now), but it’s beginning to take shape!
This is one set of adjustable bow-tie hardware, crucial for making the tie adjustable in size. You can find them online, or at most sewing-notions retailers. (If you purchased any of the cut & sew fabric I designed, I’ll be happy to send you the hardware for a few dollars. Request it here.) Notice that the slide’s middle bar protrudes on one side.
The hook goes in the short end.
Study this photo to see how to thread the long end through the remaining two pieces of hardware. Holding the slide with the protruding bar facing down, thread the fabric up and over to the right through both sides of the slide. Then thread the loop on, and finally thread the fabric back up through the left side again, and back out the right side of the slide.
Pull as much excess fabric through as you need to so you can sew the end at the machine. I generally make a line of straight stitches all the way across and back. Then I neaten it up and close the end by zig-zagging over the straight stitch.
Tie off the threads and snip them. Almost done!
Adjust the length of the bow-tie. As a general rule, add 20″ to the desired neck size. For instance, for a 15½″ neck size, I would adjust the tie so it is 35½″ long when you hook the two pieces together. The final adjustment will vary, depending on the fabric thickness and how narrow you made the tails.
Ta da! That wasn’t so hard! Now all you need to do is tie it!
Once the bow-tie is fit to length and tied, you can unhook it from the back to keep from having to tie it each time it you wear it. (But that’s almost like cheating.)
[Note: This is the updated tutorial. If for some reason you need the original version, it is here.]