Mar 10, 2013

Tutorial: How to tie the perfect fluffy bow.

The Perfect Bow... I wanted so very much to know how to achieve this as a teenager. I worked in an ice cream kiosk, and one of my most favourite friends worked across the way in a card shop, wrapping the most fabulous presents and tying the most marvelous bows. A decade later, she taught me the most awesome tips. I feel a little guilty giving away her secrets. 

So this tutorial is just between us, ok?

Firstly, supplies. My choice is always a card & paper shop. My local happens to have good quality ribbons at very reasonable prices. I calculated that I can make a full fluffy bow cheaper with these per-metre ribbons than with  $2/junk/variety shop ribbons. Oh happy day! 
If you are trying online, check out Etsy or eBay. The large craft stores in Australia have quite a plain range of per-metre colour options, which is something to keep in mind. If I ever find one of the quality manufacturers I prefer being sold online, I'll let you know. 

Handling the ribbons before purchasing will give you some idea of how your bow will sit. Some seem to be more of a starched texture (Especially the discount shop variety) others will have wire, some will have satin edging. My favourites for this bow would be the plain non-starchy or wired ribbons.

(A note on paper: One of my favourite things to do is match paper to ribbon. Sometimes, however, I opt for plain kraft, and let the ribbon really pop. You'll see this more in future tutes. Brown paper is also an economical option, so it offsets the costs of the ribbon, in my mind!)
When I wrap gifts, I have a terribly silly habit of forgetting everything I need when I get ready. So I'm going to imagine you are as forgetful as me. 

You'll need:
Wrapping paper
Sticky tape
ORGANZA RIBBON: For the main bow that goes around the whole present (gold, in this case) you can choose to measure around the parcel and add 1.5 metres (5 feet), OR if it is a smallish parcel, I always opt for 1.5 metres total. I've found that over time main ribbon length becomes instinctual, and you'll know exactly what an arm span of ribbon can do. 
Contrasting/coordinating ribbon: This project has 3 additional ribbons. I chose: moss green, mint green and ivory. If you are starting out, buy 1.5 metres of your choices in place of my greens, with 3m of the ivory. This will give you a little room to move. My additional ribbons were a metre each, with 2m for ivory, because I know that that's what I need with my bows, but again, this is something you will learn as you go.
1)    Take the main ribbon, and find the centre by folding it in half. Place the fold in the middle of your parcel, on the top. Open the sides out along the longest length, and carefully wrap them under the present. I like to do this without turning over the parcel, it seems to offer a better result. My technique is to set the parcel onto my thumbs and forefingers. Then twist the ends of the ribbon together, and bring them back up to the top. Ensure that each section at the top now sits flat to the parcel. (You might need to turn the ribbon over to fix this.) 

2)    Slide each of the ribbon ends under the first section of ribbon you worked on (See image above, centre.) Loop the two lengths together and tie into a loose knot. Adjust until it is sitting in the manner you would like, and tie it firmer.

3)    Tie a shoelace/rabbit-ear bow, ensuring each side is similar in length. Gently tighten the bow. If you have remaining ribbon, repeat the process, so that you have two bows nestled  together. Gently tighten this one, it can be a little more delicate. (Two bows shown above, right.)
This main bow forms the framework for the rest of the bow. At the base of each of the four sides, you will attach your additional ribbons.

4)    Take your contrasting colour, folding in half to find the centre, then cutting. Decide where you want to place each two pieces (Opposite each other; green on the 'long' side and mint on the 'short side.) As in the middle, centre picture, tie a loose knot of the new ribbon onto the one completed. Push to the very centre of the main bow, and tighten at the base of the bow. (Above, right.)
Repeat opposite with the same colour, and adjacent with your other contrasting or coordinating ribbon. Tie off shoelace bows the same length as your first bows.

At this point, your bow may look quite full, and not need any more fluff. Mine, however, needed some extra fullness, so I added the ivory, divided into four, on each side of the bow, remembering to keep each bow loop the same length.
Once you have completed this process, you will likely be left with long tentacles of ribbon that need to be trimmed. I think the bow looks best with the ends trimmed to a length just a tiny bit longer than the bows. If you choose, you could opt to keep them longer, too.) 

5)   To trim the perfect 'V' into your ribbon tails, fold the ribbon in half lengthwise, with the centre of the fold being the place you start the base of your 'V', cutting out on an angle. Alternatively, you could cut the ribbon on the 45. It is important to remember to neaten these edges, as they can fray and look quite messy.
If your bow is sitting a little flat, you can scoop it up from the bottom and let it drop (See above, left.) Or you can tease it gently, as you might tease a child's hair. This usually helps the bow spring back into place. I always tease my bow before I give a present to a friend. :)
 So that's how its done. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Above is a sneak-peak of what's inside the present, I embroidered a log lady for one of my besties. She introduced me to Twin Peaks, and in fancy dress makes a rocking log lady! 
(If you want my embroidery pattern, let me know!)


  1. I might have to remember this technique for the next time my partner wraps christmas presents in newspaper, and I feel bad and try and make them pretty without taking over and getting stuck with present wrapping for the rest of time.
    Nice tutorial!

  2. Absolutely! Chuck a bow on it, you're all set! :D

    Thank you!