Monday, December 19, 2011

How to tie a perfect bow

Time to wrap presents. Just one problem: You're out of pre-made bows, and you don't know how to tie a nice one. Your bows tend to come out lop-sided, or even upside down!

Here's a guide to tying your bows and having them come out straight. I chose to tie mine around an old Teavana box, upside down so the pattern would be less distracting.

Basic Ribbon: Use a satin ribbon, string, twine, or anything that looks the same from all sides.

Tie a knot. Basic knot, any kind of knot, around a vase or on a flat package or on you kid's shoe.

Make sure the ribbon is lying flat against the box, no unsightly twists.

A basic knot.

See how one string comes down, and the other goes up? Good. Make a loop with the lower string.

Note the unfinished ribbon tails? This is how they began.

Wrap the "up" string over the loop.

Wrap over the loop, or your bow will turn out crooked.

Wait, finished tails? Oops; my camera ate some of my
 pictures the first time around, so I had to retake them!

Make a loop with the "up" string, and push it through the hole.

Tighten the bow.

Trim the tails.

Making a "fishtail" end.

Finished bow.

Fancy Ribbons: Use a patterned ribbon that is patterned on only one side, has a discernible "up," or has different patterns on each side.

You'll notice that the "bottom" end is showing its backside.

Tie a basic knot. When wrapping your ribbon around your package, make sure the pattern lies against the package facing up, so people can see it.

See how one string comes down, and the other goes up? Good. Make a loop with the lower string. Make sure the pattern is facing out in the loop.
Twist the ribbon so the pattern is facing up.

This makes sure the pattern is on the outside of the loop.

Here's where it gets tricky. Wrap the "up" string over the loop. Make sure the pattern is facing out in the section that's doing the looping. You'll have to twist the string once to get it to face the correct way.

Twist the string once more to make a loop with the "up" string whose pattern is facing out. Push the loop through the hole.

Twist the ribbon once more, so the pattern on the tail faces down.

Push through the hole. The downward-facing pattern
is now on the outside of your second loop.

This is your basic bow.
On the right, you'll see the backside of your ribbon.

Tighten the bow by pulling from the knot. On one loop of the bow, this will be the back end of the loop; on the other side of the bow, it will be the front side of the loop. Pull both loops at the same time for even tightening; hold the knot with one hand and tighten a loop with the other if one loop needs to be tightened more than the other. This is easiest to do with two hands, despite the photo.

Tighten the ribbon. In this case, the loop on the left's front section leads to the knot,
and the loop on the right's back section leads to the knot.
Don't pull the tails, or your knot will come undone.

My other hand is holding the camera...

Twist the second tail so that the pattern faces up.
You'll want to twist it close to the knot, and push the
twist up into the knot itself so you can't see it.

When the bow is sufficiently tight, you should be able to even out the loops. With one hand, keep a finger in the loop and another finger on the knot. Slowly and gently pull the tail until the loop reaches the desired size. Repeat with the other loop. Then "fluff" your loops and tails.
"Fluff" your loops by sticking two fingers into each one and
spreading them slightly apart to give the loop a rounded look.
"Fluff" your tails by spreading them out. Start close to the knot
and work your way downwards to the ends.

Trim the tails to be even. For a fancy look, cut at a 45-degree angle, or "fishtail" your ends.
To fishtail, fold the ribbon in half. Start at the fold and cut downwards (away from the bow) at a 45-degree angle. Or, start at the edges and cut up towards the fold.

Or start at the edges and cut up, towards the fold.

Look! It's a pretty, finished bow!

Congrats on your perfect bow!

Choosing ribbons:

Left: One-sided ribbon
Middle and right: Two-sided ribbons

Wired ribbons are good for bows, although they tend to be one-sided. Bow loops can be made larger, because the wire will help them keep their shape. However, they do sometimes take practice, and they can be more expensive than unwired ribbon (although you can usually hit the dollar store for spools of holiday ribbon, each spool usually containing 3 ft.)

Unwired ribbons are often less expensive, and come in both patterned and unpatterned versions. Unpatterned ribbons can be simpler to work with for a beginning bow-maker, because it can be hard to make the twists behave. Loops in unwired ribbons will need to be smaller, however, because without wires, the bow can't support its own shape and will droop if it gets too large. Wider ribbons tend to be able to make larger loops, and some ribbons are made of stiffer fabric than others, which also gives them more support.

Pretty much anything that is long and flexible enough to be tied can be used to make a bow. Tulle and raffia both add their own unique touches. A long strip of fabric (you know that dress you had to hem?) can turn into distressed-style bow. And who hasn't tied something up with string at one point in their lives? Or just purchase a spool of wrapping ribbon.

Now go, bow-ninjas, and put bows on things while no one's looking. Because you can.

Some bows require more ninja skills than others.
(Never leave a bow on an unsupervised cat.
They can't untie them, and if the ribbon gets caught on something,
kitty could choke!)

 (Yes, you may pin these images on Pinterest if you'd like, or even use them elsewhere. No worries--I took them myself and this is your permission. Just please include a link back to the post!)

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