Tutorial: How to Create a Perfect Bow (shoujo style)

sewing the perfect bow

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I am not good at tying bows. They always end up droopy, uneven, and upside down (somehow?). So for cosplay, I try to never rely on my ability to tie a pretty bow. Instead, I fake it. There are multiple methods you can use to fake a bow, but at its most basic, you’re just tying a loop of material in the middle.

If you’re looking for a tutorial to learn how to tie a beautiful bow, this one is not for you. However, if you’re okay with pinning or clipping an already-made bow onto your costume or into your hair, I’ll teach you a few different techniques based on the style of bow you’re going for. I also have some tips for keeping large bows from drooping and even making it look like your bow is tied to your costume instead of pinned on.

finished bows make of fabric

This method works well for thicker ribbons and fabric. You can even make giant bows as long as the fabric has enough structure. The basic idea of this one is to form a loop and then cinch it in the middle.

What you will need:

  • Fabric for the bow loop: Two lengths of fabric that are the full length of the bow you want to make.
  • Fabric for the center tie: A small strip of fabric to tie around the center of the bow
  • Optional fabric for the bow tails: You don’t have to have tails for your bow, but if you do, make them a little thinner than the width of your bow loop fabric.
create a loop with your fabric
Sew the edges of your bow fabric together to create a loop.
gather the center
Pinch the center of your loop and sew or tie it together.
add the center tie
Cover the center section with a small strip of fabric. When attaching the center fabric, twist is slightly to create a knot-like effect.
adding the bow tails
Pull the tails of the bow through the center. Sew them in place if necessary.
  1. Sew the bow loop fabric into a long loop on both ends. Fold over the raw edges to the inside of the loop and sew them in place (double turn hem style).
  2. Gather the middle of the bow. Hand sew the section.
  3. Add the center loop. Gather one end of the center tie and sew it to the back of the bow. Then slightly twist the center piece while you loop it around the middle of the bow. Trim the fabric and sew it to the back of the bow.
  4. Sew the front and back tails together. Leave a small space open, then flip the tails to the right side.
  5. Insert the bow tails if desired. Scrunch up the tails and slide them into the bow inside the center tie. You can sew the tails in place or leave them be.
  6. Sew a pin or hair clip to the back. Now that your bow is finished, you can attach a pin or a hair clip to attach it to your wig or clothing.
droopy vs non-droopy fabric
If your fabric droops like the image on the left, it need interfacing, if it stands like the image on the right, it the bow will work without interfacing.

How to keep your bows from drooping

A common problem when making large bows is that they tend to be very droopy and sad looking. This is because the material used to create the bows is not stiff enough to support the structure. If you want to create a large bow (or even a medium-sized one), you’ll need to apply interfacing to the wrong-side of the fabric.

Interfacing is a stiff material that you attach to fabric to give it more structure. The thickness and stiffness of the interfacing will vary, so for these bows, you’ll want a standard medium-weight interfacing to help keep your bows from drooping. I recommend using fusible interfacing because it’s easier to use than sew on interfacing. This glues the layer directly to your fabric to stabilize it, but remains flexible.

To fuse interfacing to the fabric:

  1. Cut out the interfacing in the same size as your bow fabric pieces.
  2. Place the interfacing glue side down on the wrong side of your fabric.
  3. Place a damp cloth (cotton) flat on top of your interfacing and fabric.
  4. Heat the iron and press it against the fabric and interfacing for 30 seconds.
  5. Continue step 4 along the entire piece of interfacing.

When applying interfacing, do so at the beginning, before sewing any of the bow pieces together. You can use interfacing for any of the three bow-making methods I go over, not just this first one.

the same fabric drooping at different sizes
Many fabrics will work well for smaller bows (left) even without interfacing, but if you want to create a larger bow (right), they will begin to droop.

Test if your fabric needs interfacing

If you are making a medium or large bow, you will almost always need to use interfacing to keep it from looking droopy, but it depends on the material you’re using and the size of your bow. If you’re not sure if your bow will require interfacing, you can test it before you take the time to sew the whole bow.

Simply take the pieces of fabric that are going to be the main loops of your bow and hold them together. Gather the fabric in the middle and see how the bow reacts. If it’s droopy, then the fabric will need interfacing applied, but if the fabric is more or less holding it’s shape, then you’ll be able to get away without interfacing.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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