How to make your very own bowtie!!!

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.

An iron

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.

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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!

What you’ll have- a template for ‘half’ a bowtie!

Close up of the 'bow' part and the template

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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!

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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!!

***KEY POINT!***

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.

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This is what it’ll look like at the start- just trust the process!

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It’ll look weird until you straighten it out…

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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.

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I hate ironing usually…

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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.

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Still looks pretty neat if you ask me…

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TAH DAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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!

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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!!!

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You must always do this in the mirror when you finish hand tying a bowtie. It’s the law.

Stay Dapper, all!



Nifty thrifty!

Please forgive the naff title. It’s all I could think of.

As promised, I’m going to talk a little in this post about shopping in 2nd hand stores. My mother was a WORLD CLASS thrifter, so I include here some tips I picked up from her, and also a few I have developed over the years of having very little money to spend on clothes. Bear in mind also that my style aims at tidy, a bit 50’s, and masculine. I am also bigger than average, and so some of my tips and tricks have that specifically in mind.

1) Ok, so. Starting off. The worst thing you can do is go in not really knowing what you want to pick up. Obviously, have an open mind, but if you don’t at least have an idea of the kinds of pieces you’re looking for, things get a bit overwhelming. It’s only recently that I have started to enjoy clothes shopping, so I am a bit more easy going than I used to be, but either way faffing around with little to no purpose still irritates me.

2) You will have to try things on, probably on the shop floor, so dress accordingly. If you’re looking for jumpers/ shirts, then wear a tee shirt with a zip closing hoody or something similar, so you don’t have to keep dragging your layers off over your head. If you’re going to be trying on shoes or trousers, then slip on shoes (a la Vans, or something similar) are your new best friend.

4) When you’re actually in the shop- whether it be a charity shop, a funky little thrift store, or a big warehouse type store (like TK Maxx)- be aware that you cannot trust labels, or the size sections. I can’t stress this enough. If the label says size 14 or xl, or whatever it is, don’t dismiss it because it’s “not your size”. At the very least take it off the rack and look at it on the hanger. So many older pieces are labelled in a different sizing scheme that we’re used to today. If something is originally from a different country, those sizes won’t match- there is no such thing as a size “2” dress/ trousers in Ireland. I have picked up things that are cleared not labelled correctly. Do I care? No.

5) Obviously, don’t stick to one ‘side’ of the store either. If something suits you, it suits you, regardless of the gender it was originally intended for. If you’re very slim, mens trousers may suit you more because they have a small hip/ waist ratio. Likewise if you’re bigger like me, no matter what you do men’s trousers just aren’t going to fit right. Get over it, and work around it.

6) Sometimes the best times to buy something are in completely the wrong season. I picked up an awesome really thick knit polo neck jumper on one of the hottest days of summer a couple of years ago. But it was there, it was marked down because it was the wrong season, and come November I was damn glad I had it to throw on when the cold arrived with a bang.

7) If you are thinking of buying something, look at it again. Does it have a stain? Put it back. If the last person to have it couldn’t get the stain out, you probably won’t be able to either. If it’s too small somewhere, put it back. It’s very difficult to let out something if it’s too small. If it’s too big, it’s possible to work with, but be aware unless you can use a sewing machine VERY well, you’ll have to leave it in to a tailor. Now, that might be brilliant, because you’ll probably get something at a fraction of it’s original cost and tailoring might not add too much to the price. But be aware. The easiest alterations are sleeve length and trouser length and waist size. If the shoulders are wrong, it can be altered but probably not as well as you’d like, and it’ll be pricey. But it might be worth it. I bought a navy peacoat online from an army surplus store for €70 two winters ago, and spent another €70 getting it altered to fit; shoulders, sleeve length, etc. With such a heavy fabric, it was a lot of work. But I now have a classic winter coat that I love, that fits me very well and will last and last.

8) Possibly the best thing about thrift stores are the accessories. Ties, scarves, hats, shoes, braces… there are so many accessories in thrift stores that can be amazing. You usually have to dig through big bins to get them, but when you find the good stuff, it’s brilliant.

So are many of you into thrifting? Any great finds?

Keep it dapper!


New season duds

Alright, I have been talking quite a bit recently about things other than clothes, so I think it’s time to get back to basics. What are my current obsessions? I started this blog as an Irish lesbian, and so I don’t want to dwell too much on stuff in shops I don’t have access to on the high street. Also, I am BROKE. So I’ll be concentrating my selections on the few shops I can realistically afford- maybe with one or two exceptions!

River Island:

I love River Island. Most of my clothes come from their menswear department, usually bought during sales. Like I said, broke. For summer, I particularly like their polo shirts and accessories. The quality is pretty good for the prices, and they aren’t too ‘out there’. I have to be mindful of things like that since I’m on the wrong/ right side of 30- depending on your opinion!

Polo shirts in general are favourites of mine, in particular the cotton or knit styles, rather than pique. It’s hard to stay cool and dapper in the heat for me, and I find I need a collar to frame my face. That, and collars mean I can experiment with my latest fave- bowties!

Ecru Cable jacquard polo shirt- River Island

Red marl block polo- River Island

Collarless red stripe polo- River Island

I’m also digging the idea of short sleeved shirts, with ties and bowties to keep cool during the heat, but also to keep looking slick at any stage.

I love green, and this ‘racing green’ is a very versatile shade- combined with a paisley pattern;

Green paisley short sleeved shirt- River Island

River Island have two ties that look great for spring/ summer- too many of my ties are wool or tweed, which looks wrong in the warmer weather.

A denim tie? With a paisley print? Wow. I can see this looking great with dark denim jeans, a white shirt and a navy cardigan or even a navy puffer gillet on a colder day. Slick.

Denim paisley tie. Amazing!

I also have a thing for gingham and seersucker- this red and white gingham tie looks pretty great, and with the right shirt could look very cool.

Red & White gingham

You know, I think this post has gone on for long enough… I’ll follow this post up with a few new shops next time. If anyone has any suggestions of shops in Ireland/ the UK to look at, please let me know in the comments.

Limp collars… limp style

Ok, so here’s the thing. I love collared shirts. Love them. I won’t lie, I sometimes have problems getting them to fit (if any of the rest of you are the same, check out DapperQ’s guide to getting dress shirts to fit– the tips are petty solid!) but I still love wearing them. My face needs a collar most of the time- it just suits me better. But you know what ruins a good shirt? DROOPY COLLARS.

You know, those kinds of collars that pancake out and end up looking like something out of Saturday Night Fever? Yeah. Them. I HATE them.

So what’s the answer? Collar stays. If you look under your shirt collar, or just have a feel at the tips, you’ll probably be able to feel a little pointed strip of plastic- those are stays. And in most shirts they’re sewn in and they don’t really help anyway. If you can, you should invest in a set of metal collar stays, and I have one type that I really really recommend: Wurkin Stiffs.

Wurkin Stiffs are magnetic, which means you can position them anywhere and they will stay. ALL DAY. They are amazing.

Wurkin Stiffs before and after

The magic of Wurkin Stiffs

Now, I have had to do a bit of sewing to remove the plastic stays and to make a space to insert the Wurkin Stiffs, but it’s well worth it.

Puttin’ stuff round your neck…

This time- ties.

I don’t know about you guys, but I feel weird without something around my neck. Not that way, but it’s reassuring. To have a tie on, or even just some good neck jewelry. It makes me feel confident, and smart, and yeah, gives me a bit of swagger. And it’s ALL about the swagger. When you walk down the street, you should feel like you own it, right? The femmes have their heels and their flouncy hair. We dappers can work the tie, and yeah, often the shoes

So, ties. There are as many options with ties as there are with shoes- you have length, width, flat-bottom or tipped… you have fabric choice, colour choice, pattern choice… It’s easy to get a bit bewildered. I tend to run with a slim (but not skinny) width, mostly because I think the regular mens ties look a little too guy like for me. That’s not the look I aim for. I also find they draw more attention to my chest area and bring the eye out rather than down. I don’t want that attention. I like how a slim tie breaks my torso vertically, because I’m not exactly a tiny lady…

The four fabric types I have in my arsenal are cotton, wool, silk and leather.

Yeah, I said leather. Grey, vintage skinny leather. And it’s THE BOMB.

Right now, it’s cold out there. When it’s cold out there, you need to amp up the textures you’re playing with. Thin cardigans can be replaced with chunky cable knits, canvas shoes: meet leather brogues. Silk or jersey scarves morph into chunkier, heavier, more sturdy knits. Don’t leave your ties behind. Silk ties look odd against Aran jumpers. Too flimsy. Try a cord tie like this one from with your tweed jacket.

Burgundy cord tie, River Island

You have a tweed jacket, right? If not, you need one.

Put a leather tie with a velvet blazer- it’s party season coming up, after all, and what’s more suave, Christmassy, and cool than velvet? Trust me, it invites stroked arms, just trust me.

I’m currently on the hunt for this tie from River Island (can you tell I’m loving their winter collection?), so if anyone sees it, leave a comment!

Fair Isle tie,

I’m trying to figure out a way to photograph my tie collection for your perusal, but I’m happy with them yet. And I might also soon bite the bullet and start showcasing my every day looks- not because I think I dress better than anyone else, but more to show what I mean about different topics. Until then!