How to Sew Fabric Bows

Kate Miller-Wilson
completed bows

No matter what project you're making, being able to sew a bow can come in handy. You can add embellishment to handbags, clothing, home decor items and more, simply by sewing a cute bow and applying it to your finished craft. You can also sew bows to decorate headbands, top gifts, and apply to pins. Fortunately, sewing your own bows is easy and fun.

Sewing Bows from Fabric

It's easy to make a bow with or without tails. All you need are a few supplies and some step-by-step instructions.

Things You'll Need

supplies for bows

Gather the following supplies:

  • Scraps of fabric in desired colors
  • Measuring tape or cutting ruler
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Sewing machine and matching thread
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Pins and a safety pin
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pinking shears, if desired

How to Sew a Simple Bow

You can make a very simple fabric bow in a matter of minutes, using your sewing machine and a few scraps of fabric. This basic design doesn't include tails. You can scale it to be large or small, depending on your needs.

  1. Start by determining the ideal finished size for your bow. You can make a tiny one to decorate a barrette or a very large one to give a focal point to a wreath. You'll need to know your desired length and width.
  2. pieces for simple bow
    Cut out the bow pieces from your fabric scraps. For your main bow piece you'll need two rectangles of fabric. To find the dimensions, add half an inch to your desired width and length. This will act as a seam allowance. For example, if you want your finished bow to be four inches long and two inches wide, you'll cut two rectangles that are each 4.5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. You'll also need an additional piece of fabric to act as the center of your bow. It should be about four inches long and can be any width you like. You'll be folding it in half and allowing for a quarter-inch seam allowance.
  3. step 3 for simple bow
    Stack the two main rectangles with their right sides together. Sew a seam around three of the four sides, allowing a quarter-inch seam. Then trim your thread tails and turn this piece right side out. Press it with the iron, tucking the raw edge under a quarter of an inch. Hand sew it closed using a slipstitch to keep your stitches hidden.
  4. step 4 simple bow
    Fold the smaller center piece in half with the four-inch sides lined up and right sides together. Allowing for a quarter-inch seam, use your sewing machine to sew a straight line down the raw edge. This will create a fabric tube. Turn the tube right side out using the safety pin to help, and use an iron to press it flat with the seam at the back. You'll now have a main bow piece, and a center piece with two raw edges.
  5. finished bow
    Pick up the main bow piece and fold it back and forth, lengthwise, accordion-style. Pinch the center to hold it and take a few stitches by hand to secure the pleating. Wrap the center piece around the bow to cover the stitching. Trim off any excess fabric, allowing for a quarter inch to hide the raw edge. Fold over the raw edge and hand sew to secure the center. Adjust to ensure the stitch is hidden in the back of the bow. Your bow is complete.

How to Sew a Bow with Tails

Sewing a bow with tails is slightly more complicated, but it's still a great project for a beginner. You can adjust the size of the bow and length of the tails to fit your needs.

  1. Start by deciding on the size of your bow. You'll need to know the desired length and width of the bow part, as well as the tail length.
  2. step 2 bow with tails
    To figure out the length of your main bow piece, you'll need to double the length of the bow itself and add in the length of each tail. Then decide how wide you'd like it to be, and double that as well. You'll need to add a half inch to both the length and width to account for the seams. Cut a strip according to the dimensions you need. Then cut a second smaller piece for the center of the bow. This should be about four inches long and any width you like. Remember that you'll be folding this strip in half, so you should double the width when cutting and add a seam allowance of a quarter inch.
  3. step 3 bow with tails
    Fold the short center piece in half lengthwise with the right sides together. Sew a seam up the long side a quarter inch from the edge, creating a tube. Take the longer strip that will be the main portion of the bow, and fold it in half lengthwise as well. With the right sides together, sew a seam all the way down the long side, allowing a quarter inch. Trim the thread tails on both pieces and use a safety pin to turn the tubes of fabric right side out. Use the iron to press them. Then trim the ends of the longer piece at a 45-degree angle and finish with pinking shears if desired.
  4. bow with tails step 4
    Fold the long piece in half so the tapered ends match up. Pinch the fabric on the tails and bring it up to the center to create the desired size of bow. Adjust to make sure that the loops and tails are even on both sides. Pin to hold. Then take a few stitches by hand to secure the fabric in this position. Your stitches will be hidden by the center piece.
  5. finished bow with tails
    Finally, accordion fold the bow lengthwise to pleat the center and secure with a few stitches by hand. Wrap the center piece around the bow to hide your hand sewing stitches. Trim the center piece to fit, folding over the raw edge in the back. Secure the center piece with hand stitches making sure all stitching is in the back of the bow. Your bow is finished.

An Important Sewing Skill

Whether you plan to embellish your sewing projects or make your gifts extra attractive, knowing how to make a bow is an important skill. You'll find that creating bows is fun and easy, and it's a great way to use up those cute fabric scraps in your stash.

How to Sew Fabric Bows