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Try Your Hand at Hat Trimming: Bows Without Tails

Learn to make a fabric bow like the one on this dramatic hat by "Millinery Marvels" (Threads no. 153) author John Koch. In an upcoming post, he'll share how to make the fabric "feathers" as well.

Editor’s note: Threads author John Koch, a very talented designer, artist, and instructor, created amazing hats for his feature “Millinery Marvels” in issue no. 153. In the print edition, I promised to offer his techniques for making bows, veils and feathers online. Here we go! This post covers one type of fabric bow John uses on his hats, and includes his instructional illustrations.

This post is part one of a four-part series on John’s hat embellishments. Next week’s post covers fabric bows with tails; the week after, learn how to make two types of veils, and the final post in this series explains how to make chic feathers from fabric.

Check the post How to Make a Hat Base,” an excerpt from John’s story, here at ThreadsMagazine.com if you need to reference his basic hat-making instructions.

Cheers! – Sarah

Hat adornment is easy and the key to exploring your own millinery style. I’ll show you how to create your own bows, veils and even life-like feathers.

Note: It’s all right to glue on small, lightweight decorations such as rhinestones or acrylic jewels, but I recommend sewing on heavier decorations, such as large fabric flowers or big bows.

Create a bow without tails

1. Determine the finished bow’s dimensions before you cut fabric. Add 1 inch to the bow’s width for seam allowances.  Double the bow’s length and add 1 inch.  For example:  A 3- by 8-inch bow requires a 4-inch by 17-inch fabric piece. Cut the fashion fabric on the bias for soft bow (an on-grain cut creates a crisper bow).

2. With right side up, fold the fashion fabric’s short ends to the center with a 1-inch overlap. Cut a double layer of nylon net to the fabric’s folded dimension. Layer the folded fabric over the net and pin. With a ½-inch seam allowance, machine sew along the cut fabric edges on top and across bottom.

3. Turn the bow right side out through the overlap. Push out the corners with a blunt tool.


 4. Pleat the bow. Fold in half lengthwise. Fold each half lengthwise again, in opposite directions to create pleats. To maintain the pleats, baste a few stitches close to the center through all layers. 

5. Form the bow knot. Measure loosely around the pleated center. Cut a bias fabric piece that is about 1½-inch longer than the center circumference and 2 to 3 inches wide. (Scale it to the bow size.)

6. Fold and press ½ inch to the wrong side along each long edge. Cut a nylon net layer to fit under the folded edges and the same length as the fabric.


7. Hold all layers together and fold one short end into a Z-shape, lapping right over left. Baste in place. Repeat at opposite short end. 

8. Wrap the center around bow with ends in back. Fold the raw edge under and stitch in place.

Tip: For a fuller look, make more than one set of bow wings.  Pleat them together or separately.  Wrap with one center knot.


Next week: Make a bow with tails.



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  1. User avater
    YarnUiPhoneApp | | #1

    This could possibly work with sinamay, a sewing material listed in my iPhone app, Fabric U. Yarn knitted up and then wired at the edges would look neat too.

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