Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Turning Old Into New (Bow Making 101)

I've been spinning my wheels around here trying to get unpacked from our trip, catch up on everything and get the house looking like fall. I finally spent a few hours this afternoon working on the latter. I tend to keep things and reuse them when it comes to decorating. I have tubs of ribbons, bows, flowers and our storage room has nails with wreaths hanging all around it. I went to the basement and grabbed a large grapevine wreath from a few years ago. The first thing I did was tear off all of the old, ugly fall stuff and throw it away. I did keep a few of the leaves.

I had 8 tall stems of leaves with golden berries that I had once used in a tall vase and I slipped them into the wreath forming a circle of leaves and berries all the way around. I secured them with my glue gun. I then added a few of the salvaged leaves, and a few bright orange berries that I had saved from another project, again using the glue gun to attach the items. The final touch was making a new bow from fall ribbon. After I attached the bow with wire, I added a few extra streamers, using the glue gun to hold the ribbon in place. The picture below is what I started with. The top picture is the finished product.

If you can make a decent bow, you can dress up the Christmas tree, make plain wreaths look beautiful and make inexpensive gifts look upscale. Bow making is awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will be asked to make bows for everyone. I can't tell you how many bows I've made for people. It is easier to show someone how to do this than to tell them, but I'll try with the help of a few pictures my husband took last December. I'm sitting cross-legged on my couch, please ignore everything except the bow!

Get your "ingredients" ready. You will need ribbon (wire-edged works best), some fine wire (I have used extra pieces of ribbon, twist ties from bread, hair ties and rubber bands, but wire is best), and scissors. This is a roll of 5 yards of ribbon I picked up for a quarter after Christmas one year. You can make a bow with 3 yards, but I like to have at least 5 yards. If you are making huge bows, you will need more.

I am right handed, so I take the end of the ribbon and roll it to the back with my right hand, while holding the rest of the ribbon about 2 inches down in my left hand.

Make a complete loop and hold it tightly with your left thumb inside the loop and your other left fingers under the ribbon.
This step is very important. It is what makes a florist bow look good, and the ones we all make look slightly "off". Twist the ribbon behind the loop completely over. The above picture I'm starting to twist. When the twist is complete, grab it with those left fingers. Yes, your hand will be starting to cramp, it will get worse.

Above I am still holding the loop in my left hand, the ribbon has been twisted which keeps the pattern to the top and I'm starting my first bow loop with my right hand.

The loop is made by folding the ribbon under the piece extending from the small loop my thumb is holding, and you catch the underside of the loop with your fingers. See how tightly I'm holding it? The next picture is important!

We have made one loop of our bow, and we are holding it tightly in the left hand. Now we have to TWIST it again, completely over to bring the top/pattern of the ribbon to the top again.

After you twist the ribbon after the first loop, you make a loop on the opposite side the same way. Make the top of the loop, and fold the ribbon under and catch it with those left fingers.

Then you TWIST again, the secret is in the twist. and make another loop, grab it and twist until you have four loops on each side. You can make a bow with 3 loops per side, I think 4 looks better, but I have certainly made many bows with 3 loops each side. The more loops, the more full the bow. The bow on my fall wreath has 6 loops per side.

At this point there are 4 loops on each side of the bow.

Grab the tail of the ribbon that is still on the spool, and extend it as long as you want the streamers to be, then fold it up and bring the other end up to catch in your left hand. See above and below.

What you are seeing above is the back of the bow, held tightly in my left hand. The 8 loops are on the underside, the "tail" of the ribbon has been brought up into a loop of its own and I'm holding it in place. The ribbon that is left over that I'm going to cut off is extending to the right.

Take a piece of wire (8-10 inches) and bring it up through the streamer loop from back to front, insert it into that small center loop that was the first loop we made in picture number 1. See below.

This is where it is easy to lose the bow, so hang on tightly. The wire has to be twisted behind the small original loop and hold all of the bow loops in place as well as the streamer tails.

When it is twisted tightly and everything is in place, cut off the extra ribbon (still attached to the spool or lose if not on a spool. See below.

Next, you can either cut the streamer loop to have 2 streamers (cut on an angle) or you can leave it as a streamer loop for a different look.

Fluff up the loops, and you are done. This isn't my best, as I was posing for pictures rather than thinking about the bow, but you get the idea. Don't be discouraged if you let go and it all falls apart, just start over-wire ribbon is very forgiving. It takes a little practice to be comfortable with it.


Lexie said...

all i can think about when i see holiday ribbon are the many hours i spent organizing the seasonal section when i worked at hobby lobby !

Patty Benedict said...

Sue....I uses to make a lot of red bows in the late 70's for M.Wards furniture dept. I was 19 and worked in the visual display dept, I made my bows just like you!
Thanks for the refresher course.
Bugs & Hisses

Sue said...

Lexie-Hobby Lobby is a fun place to visit, but I can't imagine working there!

Patty-I actually had a good friend who was a florst. I helped her during the busy days (Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas) for a few years. She taught me many things, including how to make a great bow!

koralee said...

Wow...your wreath is lovely...thanks for the lesson...I always have trouble with bows! Hope all is going well and things are getting back to normal after your trip! xoxoxo

Sue said...

I'm getting there koralee. The house and laundry were easy to catch up with, it was the blogging that I'm trying to keep up with!

As for the bows, once you get the hang of it, it is like riding a never forget how.

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

Hi Sue. Thank you for the tutorial for the bows.
I love your wreath. I am your newest follower.
I shall return...Linda

The Charm of Home said...

Okay Sue, I am here in front of the computer making bows with you! Thanks for the tutorial I never knew to make them like this. But, I have to say I was looking at one done by a florist today and this is exactly what it looked like. My mantle will look very professionally done thanks to you. have a great Holiday!

The Charm of Home said...

I pinned your tute this year so every one could use this! It is great!

Ashley said...

Love this post! My grandma betty loved making wreaths so she would take us into the "forest" to find grapevines and taught me how to make beautiful bows to decorate them. Unfortunately, with time and without practice, I've completely forgotten! Glad for the reminder. Next time I'm back home, I'll have to go to Molly's for some ribbon and scavage some grapevines from someone's farm :)

Laurie said...

I put together a housewarming gift basket for my cousin and was looking for a perfect bow, and now I've found it. Thank you!