Howdy howdy folks!
Ok, so I know it’s been a while (bad me!) but I started a new job (well, internship!) and that’s kinda taken up a lot of my time. But I’ve also been doing a lot of sewing- yes, sewing. My brothers wedding is in a couple of weeks, and I’m doing a lot of personalisation to the different parts of my outfit, which is a bit of a challenge, but it’s pretty cool so far. I’m on a very strict budget (since I’m working in an internship!!) so it’s a way to make cheap, low-end highstreet pieces look more put together and high end.
One of the key elements that will anchor my outfit is a bowtie. Now, like many of you who read this blog, I have a few. I prefer self-tie, simply for the coolness factor of being able to untie and leave it hanging as I party! And trust me, this wedding will be a party!
None of the ties I have were really working with my colour scheme (orange, white, navy and tweed) so time to take matters into my own hands. I’ve made a few bowties before, and I’ve worked out a decent method for sewing my own. I mentioned this on Twitter the other day (come follow me!) and after a bit of chat with a fellow butch tweeter, Searching4Self (follow them!) I figured I’d write a tutorial. This will cover making a bowtie that you tie yourself, and that’s not adjustable- it’s just a lot simpler for the first few goes.
So, the things you’ll need are:
Material- whatever you want! Go crazy or keep it classic. Your choice. You’ll need about 1/2 meter, just to be on the safe side.
A bowtie that you like a fits you (or whoever you’re making the tie for!) properly. This means having it adjusted (usually) to the right length.
Some light card or tracing paper
Needle & thread or a sewing machine. A sewing machine is quicker and neater, but you can definitely hand sew if you don’t have one or can’t quite use it yet.
A chopstick or similar
A relatively soft pencil
Spray starch (optional, but it does finish it really well)
Maybe some snacks. But nothing that will spill or drip!!!
Some background music. Might I suggest my Pride-Tastic celebration on 8Tracks?😉
Step One- Gather your supplies! Make sure you have everything before you start- it’s just so much easier.
Mmmm, sewing supplies!!!
Step Two: Make your template
The first bit of work we have to do is make a template. Once you do this once you can use it over and over, so while it takes a bit of time the first time, it’s worth it.
First, get some card- you can also use tracing paper/ baking paper but it is a bit delicate and likely to be ripped by pins eventually.
Take your bowtie and fold it in half like you would hanging it up. You can either pin the ‘half tie’ onto the card, or just hold it in place, and trace around it. Leave about 1cm at the “narrow” end extra- you’ll see why later.
Cut it out- this is now your pattern!
What you’ll have- a template for ‘half’ a bowtie!
Close up of the ‘bow’ part and the template
Step Three: Cut out your basic pieces
Ok, so this is when you start your bowtie proper. Exciting!!!
What you want is FOUR pieces of material, cut into the shape of your template. So we need to make sure that we do this properly. Take your time at this bit- you can unpick stitches, but you can’t put material back together once you cut it!
Fold your material with the right sides together. That means the most colourful sides are facing each other, and you really only see the ‘back’ of the material. Like this.
Right sides together!
Put your template down on top at the sides that are ‘open’, and cut a straight line (leaving a good few centimeters each side) so that you have 2 rectangles of material, facing together. Repeat, so that you now have 4. I don’t have picture of this step- sorry! You want to make sure that you have enough space on each piece of material for the template plus about 2 centimeters on all sides for what’s called “seam allowance”.
Step Four- cutting the bow pieces
Once you have your 2 sets of 2 rectangles, with right sides together, you can cut out the template shape.
Take one of the sets- still right sides together- and pin the template firmly to it, making sure to catch both pieces of material in the pins.
The template pinned to the material
Once you have pinned the template firmly on, use your soft pencil to carefully trace around the template onto the material. You’ll be using this line as your guide for sewing, so make sure to keep it as close to the template as possible- this will be the edge of the tie.
See the pencil outline? That’s going to be your sewing guide so be careful and precise doing this bit.
Now comes the big part- cutting the shape. The pencil line will be your guide here. You DON’T cut on this line- you cut roughly the same shape, but with the seam allowance I spoke about before. I usually give 1-2cm for seam allowance. We will be trimming this later after we sew, so it doesn’t have to be perfect.
See the seam allowance around the template?
Take the pins out, repin the material together, and repeat with the other set of 2 pieces.
Here’s your bowtie!! Only a few steps left…
Step Five: Sewing!
Ok, here’s where it all starts coming together. You excited?
Basically this step consists of you sewing on the line. If you’re using a machine, it will take about 5 minutes (if even) but if you’re hand sewing it will take a lot longer. If you’re hand sewing keep the stitches as small as possible- it’ll give a much better finish. Don’t stress about making an odd mistake. This is a handmade bowtie, if it goes a little wonky at some point, it just adds to it. It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s ok. Especially the first time!
Use the pencil line as your sewing guide- stick as closely as possible to it. This can be a bit tricky with the speed of a machine!!
You see the long straight part- that’s the neck piece. The small end of it needs to be kept open. Sew from the start of the long straight line all around to the end of that. Just leave the small opening at the narrow end of the tie. Do this for both pinned pieces.
Step Six: Right sides out!
Once you have the sewing finished, we need to trim the seam allowance away. Cut as close as you can to the stitching you just did, without cutting the actual stitches. This will help the bow lie flat.
I also have no picture of this bit. Sorry!
Once you have that done, take your chopstick, and use it to push the bow part through the long neck piece. This sounds more complicated than it is. Take one corner of the bow part, put the chopstick point there, and just push. What will happen is the chopstick with the corner of the bow will come out through the gap you left when sewing. Do this for both pieces you have. Make sure and pull all the corners out as flat as you can. It can be tricky because of the rounded nature of it, so just give it a bash.
This is what it’ll look like at the start- just trust the process!
It’ll look weird until you straighten it out…
Look! It looks like a bowtie!
Step Seven: Ironing
Ok, this bit is relatively easy. Just iron the two pieces as best you can, making sure that all the corners are out as far as you can get, and the curves of the bow part are out also. If you can, use some spray starch after you have the first pass of ironing done. It really helps.
I hate ironing usually…
Look how crisp, you guys!!!!
Step Eight: Construction
OMG you guys, we’re almost there! What you need to do next is join the two pieces. There are two ways to do this- using an invisible stitch, or just sewing it on the outside. I tried invisible stitching and frankly I’m terribly at it, and I realised that whenever you’re wearing a bowtie, the ‘join’ of the two pieces is covered by your collar! (Unless you’re wearing a wing-tip shirt, but that’s only for black tie, and really, you should just buy a black silk bowtie for your black tie!!)
So why waste time and energy trying to invisible stitch something no-ones going to see anyway? By all means, look up invisible stitching and give it a go. I just don’t see the point.
So what you want to do is just stitch the two ends together as neatly as you can. This is why you gave yourself some extra length when cutting, so you can overlap these ends and sew them. I just go back and forth with the machine a bunch of times until I’m satisfied it’ll hold.
Still looks pretty neat if you ask me…
Step Nine- Wear it!
I’ll usually give the whole tie a bit of a going over with an iron at this stage, just to finish it. But either way, voila! You have your very own, one-of-a-kind, handmade-by-your-own-hands bowtie. Wear proudly! Give it to an appreciative dapper in your life. Make more and give them out at Pride, the world is your oyster!
So there you have it folks. How to make your own bowtie. I’ve made a load at this stage, and I LOVE them. One thing- depending on the material you choose, you MAY need to use something called interfacing. This is a type of dressmaking material that you iron on to the wrong side of the material to give it some extra stiffness. I have found, though, using regular cotton you really don’t need it- it makes the tie a bit unweildly, and the spray starch does the same job but without the difficulty tie-ing. But if you are using something delicate, you might need it. You can check out tutorials on how to use it online, if you find yourself in need.
So, if any of you decide to make your own bowties, PLEASE leave a comment here or on Twitter showing them off!!!
You must always do this in the mirror when you finish hand tying a bowtie. It’s the law.
Stay Dapper, all!