by Margaret Cabaniss
I am a sucker for bow ties. Blame my Southern alma mater, where they were practically a dress code requirement, but I am firmly convinced they are the dapperest thing a dude can wear. Now put one on a chubby little guy — like the tiny gentleman above — and I am instantly a puddle on the floor.
For this little fellow’s first birthday, I thought a set of tiny bow ties would be appropriate, since he’s the son of a professor and all. (Gotta look sharp for those faculty meetings…) And ok, yes, at least part of me was making them…for me, because I was hoping for a photo op just like this one. Totally worth it.
I adapted my pattern only slightly from Hilary’s at One Young Love, who designed them to snap on to the front of onesies. I thought the low-profile bow and snaps were great ideas, particularly for little guys who might yank at a larger bow or protest at an actual tie around the neck. For one-year-old Dominic, I thought it would look even cuter snapped onto a collared shirt, so I picked up this oxford bodysuit at the Baby Gap to go with them (because no dapper baby would dream of crawling around with his dress shirt untucked).
These were actually fun and simple to make (which is why I ended up making him four). Beginning sewers can easily manage it — and, in fact, you can replace almost all the sewing with glueing, if you’re really nervous around a needle and thread.
What you’ll need:
- fabric, any kind you like (I used a cotton, twill, flannel, and linen, so go nuts)
- coordinating thread
- glue gun
- the usual assortment of sewing paraphernalia (scissors, hand-sewing needle, iron, etc.)
- a onesie or baby dress shirt
For the body of the tie, cut a piece of fabric 9″x4″; for the center bit, cut another piece 1.5″x3″.
Fold the larger piece of fabric in half lengthwise (right sides facing in), and sew around two of the open edges, leaving one end open. Clip the corners (1), turn the tube right-side out (2), and press the seams, turning under the open edge a bit. Finally, sew the open end shut (3). (Don’t worry about hiding your stitches, since this part will be hidden.)
On your smaller piece of fabric: Turn under the short ends slightly and press, then fold the long edges in to meet in the middle and press again. Sew or hot glue the ends shut. (I used my glue gun, since it happened to be closest at the time.) Once again, these ends will be hidden, so don’t worry too much about making them pretty.
Join the ends of your long piece of fabric to form a loop and whipstitch (or glue) them together. Check out my amazing hand-sewing skills! You guessed it: This part will be hidden, too.
Fold your loop in half with the stitched end centered on the back. Pinch the bow in half lengthwise in the center (with those stitches now folded on top), then using a needle and thread, take a stitch through all four layers close to the back of the fold.
Fold the outer edges of the tie back toward the center, take another stitch through all the layers, then wrap the center of the bow with your remaining thread and tie it off. (Again, feel free to glue everything here, but be careful of your fingers.)
With your bow all “tied,” simply sew or glue the center piece around the middle, with the ends meeting in the back.
Next come the snaps (modeled with a different bow tie, because I initially forgot to take pictures of this part). To be honest, this was the step I felt most unsure about — and it’s also the one thing you really should sew, to make sure they’re secure — but they were actually pretty simple to attach.
To figure out how far apart they needed to be, I first arranged the flat piece of two snaps on the front of the shirt, as close as I could get them to the top button of the shirt, until I was happy with the layout, then I stitched them in place. This YouTube tutorial explains the process way better than I ever could, so just give it a watch and you’ll have no trouble.
With the bottom piece of your snaps attached to the shirt, all that’s left is to line up the prong pieces to sew to the bow. Feed two pins through the back of the snaps, then line up your bow over the pins and mark the spot where they meet with a pencil.
Center the top piece of the snap over your mark on the bow, then just repeat the same sewing steps to attach them.
And that’s it! Once you get the hang of it, you can crank out a fleet of these in no time at all. (I sewed snaps while catching up on Game of Thrones. Multitasking genius.) I loved how Hilary attached her bows to a card (via the leftover back pieces of the snaps) to give as a gift; it makes a great presentation, and it also gives the giftee’s mom some more snaps she can use for other shirts.
Now I’m thinking ahead to Christmas gifts for all my other nephews… The vision of matching plaid bow ties for the lot of them might be more cuteness than I can handle. They would be a great choice for a family photo to go in those holiday cards, too. For older kids, I might try this tutorial for a larger, more traditional-looking bow with a velcro neckband instead of snaps — but even with those extra steps, the whole process should still be pretty straightforward. And, of course, for anyone wanting to get the look but skip the sewing, Hilary sells bow tie sets in her Etsy shop.
Now go forth and kit out some dashing little gentlemen.
Images: Margaret Cabaniss (thanks to my sister Jen for sharing her images of the final cuteness)