DIY: Homemade Bow-Ties

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We all agree that sometimes you just can’t find exactly what you want at the store…or, when you do find that item it costs too much. My compromise? Learn to make it myself. Today we’re going to discuss the homemade bow tie, and how it easy it is to make your own. Of course, this only applies to you if you’re a bow tie fan.

This story starts with a sewing machine. You need one. Try Craigslist. I bought one for $43, which happens to be less than the retail cost for a classic Brooks Brothers bow tie….a small investment for the opportunity to continually create my own original neckwear.

With a sewing machine in now in place, Step #1 is to create a pattern.  I looked for one online and found several, but ultimately settled on using a tie in my own closet as a pattern.  Lay it down on a piece of cardboard and trace it lightly with pencil.  Now cut around the pencil outline an additional 1/4″ so you have room to work with the fabric.

Top: Pattern for the typical bow tie
Bottom:  Pattern for a straight line bow tie.
Note:  Pointed tips can be added to either for bonus style points!

Step #2 is to trace the pattern to the fabric you’re going to use.  Now, since we added extra fabric around the edges, I suggest using a sharpie.  It’s very visible and easy to use and you’re going to wind up cutting off the edges that are marked anyways, so go right ahead!

We may be getting too far ahead of ourselves hear, so let me take a half step back.  At some point you will have had to selected your fabric for the tie.  My suggestion?  Well, since you asked…..I suggest scouring used ties at Goodwill.  At $1.49 each you can plenty of options that fit you’re personal style.  Plus, you’re not going to worry too much about when you start cutting it into pieces like this..

Intact necktie from your local thrift store.
Dissected necktie from local thrift store.

Steps #3,4, and 5 consist of taking the neck tie apart(#3), marking the cardboard pattern onto the fabric (#4), and cutting the fabric out (#5).  Take your time doing each step, as you want to be able to maximize the use of fabric from the neck tie and ensure you mark and cut nice, clean lines on the fabric.

Necktie cut into bow tie shape using the cardboard pattern.
In steps #6 take the pieces of fabric for your bow tie and pin them down the middle.  This will hold the pieces of fabric together so you can sew the perimeter well.  Also, make sure you face the sides of the fabric you want showing in the finished product toward the inside when sewing.  Nice side of fabric faces in, ugly sides of the fabric need to face out.  After sewing we’re going to turn this bad boy inside out for our finished piece.
For Steps #7 – 10 perform the following, in order: Sew along the entire edge of the fabric (#7).  This lady taught me how to use my sewing machine.  Thanks, YouTube! Also, remember to leave a un-sewn area at the tip so you can turn the tie inside out for finishing.  Do this for both right and left sides of the tie.  Now turn inside out with a coat hanger (#8), iron flat (#9) and connect the right and left sides (#10).  I don’t do anything fancy adjustable, yet.  I just hem the two sides together for the appropriate length that fits my neck and allows for a nice bow.  Here’s the finished product:
An eclectic bow: plaid on one side…polka dots on the other. 
Homemade bow tie in action at the Suits and Sneakers Gala in Athens, GA.

Total, it took me slightly more than 90 minutes to make this tie.  It was my third (and best) attempt.  The first was a complete disaster, the second showed promise, and the third was ready for action.  I want to remind you this was done by a sewing rookie, you can easily do this if you’re willing to put in a little time.  No doubt, I will continue making my own bow ties as it’s fun to create original pieces and the process is almost meditative.

***(Edit: 12/12/2010)  Here’s another image of ways to creatively fasten the bow ties.  Crafting 2 halves and then sewing them together to length is the easier approach.  Buttons, on the other hand, add originality and sizing flexibility…the process just takes more time.

Top tie made adjustable with buttons.  Bottom tie sewn to custom length.

Dan Oliver

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8 responses to DIY: Homemade Bow-Ties

  1. The end result looks incredible, nice patterning by the way.

    My girlfriend’s mother gave us a vintage Singer and I had originally planned to just slim down some of my wider shirts. After realizing how easy it is to make bow ties (after mastering the sewing machine itself of course), and the severe lack of them in my closet (I only have one), I think it’s time I dust it off and have another go at it.

    Not to mention the thrift shop is full of cool old ties for not much more than a couple of dollars.

  2. There’s something nostalgic about re-purposing an old tie. My only advice is plan for the first one to be fairly bad….you’ll figure out everything after that first one. I’ll be looking for updates on your blog! Let me know how I can help, man.

  3. Anonymous at

    Dear Dano
    I have a quick question about making your own bow tie. I’m making my boyfriend one for Christmas and I have no idea on how big I should make it. Can you help? (Can’t do the adjustable one because the three parts you need for that are not sold in my country.)

    Best Regards
    Elísabet Elfa (from Iceland)

  4. Elísabet

    Since I was already a bow tie wearer, I could compare the length of my homemade ties to those that I already knew fit very well. If you’re boyfriend has other bow ties, I recommend “borrowing” one to compare against and finishing your tie the same length as the one you borrow.

    If he doesn’t have bow tie already then I have two suggestions, depending on your sewing skills:

    1) If you’re a novice, I recommend sewing and finishing two halves of the bow tie. Finish each end (the part that rests under the collar on the back of his neck) nice and neat. When you present the tie to him, make sure he knows you need to finish it perfectly for him. Use a safety pin to secure each half of the tie together, have him tie the bow, and adjust accordingly. Then cleanly sew the two halves together.

    2) If you have some skills with a sewing machine, another nice touch is to use small buttons. In 1/2″ increments sew buttons to one half of the tie. On the other half, use your button-hole attachment on your sewing machine so that the buttons can secure the two halves together. This is not difficult, it just takes some practice. It’s also a very understated and original way to make a bow tie.

    I hope this helps, Elísabet!

    Thanks,

    Dan

    (I left my camera at work, yesterday. I will post a picture later this evening for you to see finished products of the two examples.)

  5. This looks awesome. I may have to give this a try.

  6. Let me know how it turns out, James. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Anonymous at

    I noticed that your final tie appears to be two different colors – is this because you did not have enough fabric from the dissected tie?

    By following your post, I found myself short some pieces (at least I think?) and a flimsy bow tie.

  8. Anonymous,

    Yes, the tie described in this post uses two different fabrics. I liked the idea of creating something uniquely “me” so I used a polka-dot pattern on one side and a plaid on the other both share hues of navy and red, so they play off each other nicely (at least, in my opinion).

    If this was your first attempt at making a bow tie do not be discouraged, my first attempt was not pretty. It took three tries to get it right.

    Also, if you like a bowtie with a bit more body you can purchase iron-on backing which will provide a bit more structure.

    Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment.

    -Dan

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