By Haley Pierson-Cox
Black tie is all about the details. Once you’ve gotten the tux and shoes sorted out, if you’re really planning to get your dapper on, you’d better make darn sure that your bow tie and pocket square are up to snuff. So, when my husband Jeremy was nominated for an Emmy this year, he asked me to make just one thing: a custom fixed-size bow tie to go with the hand-sewn pocket square that I made for him last year.
Before I got started, I wanted to make sure that I understood the ins and outs of bow tie etiquette, so I read up on bow tie history, shapes and proper fitting on The Black Tie Guide. There, I learned the key to making a good bow tie: no matter if you’re wearing a pre-tied, self-tie, fixed size, or adjustable tie, the bow must be proportional to the face of the person wearing it. This information is so important that it bears repeating: if your bow is too large, you’ll look like you’re playing dress-up in your dad’s suit; if it’s too small, you’ll look like you stole your little brother’s Sunday school outfit. Neither of these are a good look. Jeremy isn’t a large man, so I went with a modern, yet traditional bow style, and settled on the classic semi-butterfly shape (also known as the modern butterfly or the thistle). To make it easier for you to get the right sized bow, I included patterns for both standard and small (adult) bow sizes in the PDF below. Small would also work for bow tie-loving ladies!
After you make the bow tie, don’t forget to scroll down to the hand-sewn pocket square instructions to finish off your look!
1/2 yard of black satin fabric, or any fabric you’d like, if it’s not a black tie occasion
1/2 yard of lightweight fusible interfacing
Bow tie pattern, download the PDF below
|Download the Pattern PDF
Right click to save the PDF to your desktop. Directions on downloading PDFs.
Prepare the pattern
Print out the bow tie pattern (link to the bow tie pattern PDF above) and cut out the bow and the neck band pieces. The size of the bow in the bow tie should be in proportion to the size of the face of the person wearing it, so I included two adult pattern sizes: standard and small. A 1/4″ seam allowance is included on each pattern.
To size your pattern, measure around the collar of a well-fitting shirt, and divide that number by two. Cut the neck band to size using the number you just calculated as the length. Tape the neck band piece to the bow to create your personalized pattern.
Step 1: Fold the fabric in half with right sides facing, and cut the pattern out twice, creating 4 total fabric pieces. Also cut 4 pieces of interfacing.
Step 2: With an iron, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of each piece of fabric.
Step 3: With right sides facing (interfacing facing out), pin two bow tie pieces together, repeating the process for the remaining set.
Step 4: With a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew around the edges of each set, leaving the ends of the neck straps open. Once the pieces are sewn, trim the extra fabric around the edges, close to the seam.
Step 5: Carefully turn each side of the bow tie right-side out through the opening in the neck strap. The neck strap hole is small, so this step can take a little while. Use a chopstick to turn out the corners of the bow tie when you’re finished.
Step 6: Press each side of the bow tie flat.
Step 7: Mark the 1/4″ seam allowance at the end of each side of the bow tie with tailor’s chalk, and snip off the corners with fabric scissors.
Step 8: At the mark you made in step 7, fold the fabric on the open end of the neck strap on one half of the bow tie towards the inside, then press the crease. Insert the end of the neck strap from the second bow tie half into the first, lining up the seam allowance mark with the edge of the fold.
Step 9: Sew a straight line along the fold, connecting the two sides of the bow tie, then press flat to finish.
If you don’t know how to tie a bow tie, I found this YouTube video from the Columbia Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau to be extremely helpful.
Hand-Sewn Pocket Square
Pocket squares are traditionally made of linen or silk and have a hand-sewn rolled hem. There are many different ways to fold a pocket square, but I always stick with the flat fold – it’s the easiest to master and my hand stitching will stay visible!
1/4 yard of white linen, silk can also be used
Tailor’s chalk or fabric pen
Rotary cutter or fabric scissors
Hand sewing needle
Step 1: Square the grain and iron the linen. Generally this goes without saying, but it’s particularly important when using sheer fabric.
Step 2: Measure, mark, and cut a 12″ x 12″ square.
Step 3: Create a rolled hem around the edges of the square: Start to roll the fabric over, inserting the needle under the roll, through the back of the square. Pull the needle and thread all the way through to the front, then sew a small straight stitch over the rolled fabric across the front, pulling the needle and thread through the back of the pocket square to finish the stitch. The stitches should be small enough to fit 8 to 10 stitches per inch.
Where rolled hems are concerned, it’s much easier to show than tell. Check out the diagram above to see the progression of the stitches.
Step 4: Continue to roll and stitch around the perimeter of the square. When you reach a corner, twist the two sides together and continue stitching per normal. Depending on how well the fabric cooperates, you may need to improvise a stitch under the fabric in the corners to maintain the right shape. When you’re finished, press the square, taking care not to flatten the hem.
You’re done. Now, get out there and party like you’re Don Draper!
About the Author
Haley Pierson-Cox is a Brooklyn-based craft writer who loves granny glasses and loathes extraneous apostrophes. She blogs about crafts, cats, domestic bliss, and DIY goodness at The Zen of Making.