Three Perfect Bows

Photo: Lisa Hubbard

Bows add festive and romantic details to a wedding ceremony: A garland made only of bows in, say, flowing taffeta or chiffon can be draped along the aisle or wrapped around the altar. Use cascades of multiple bows -- or a single perfect one -- to create a grand entrance at the reception. Make a row of tiny bows dance along the hem of the bridal gown, or let one abundant bow dress the handle of a flower girl's basket.

These fanciful loops of ribbon are functional, too. A single elegant bow will hold the stems of a tall floral arrangement or attach a wedding ring to its pillow. And a bow of a ribbon in a color that matches the bridesmaid dresses can wrap the favors and keep the boxes closed tight.

Making bows requires few tools, little time, and minimal skill. Once you pick the perfect ribbon and decide what type of bow it will become, all you'll need is a good pair of scissors to finish the ends -- on a diagonal or in an inverted V.

The bows here are three basic styles everyone should know. The final shape of the bow you tie will depend on the texture and width of the ribbon used to make it. You can combine different types of ribbon to make bunches of the same kind of bow. Or use just one kind of ribbon and play with a variety of tying styles. Whatever the style, no matter where you use it, the perfect bow will add the final magic touch to tying the knot.

Martha's Favorite Bow

Perfectly suited to wire-edge or stiff ribbons that hold their shape (taffeta, organdy, or grosgrain), Martha's favorite bow is charming when freestanding -- sewn to a bridesmaid's sash or attached to the side of a pew -- or as a wrapping for favor boxes; you'll need at least twelve inches of ribbon just for the bow. If wrapping a box, first tie a left-over-right half-knot.

Martha's Favorite Bow How-To

1. Shape two evenly sized loops, one in each side of the ribbon.

2. Cross right loop over left one.

3. Knot loops by threading right loop behind left one, under, and up through the hole; make sure ribbon is not twisted or bunched.

4. Pull loops into a smooth knot. Adjust loops; trim tails to be slightly longer than loops.


Double Bow

To make a perfect double bow, leave enough tail on both ends of the first bow to make the second one. An extra set of hands is also helpful to ensure that loops are taut. First, follow directions for Martha's favorite bow, leaving an even tail on both sides; don't finish ends.

Double Bow How-To

1. Position bow horizontally, and determine which tail exits the knot on the top, and which exits underneath. Make a loop in each tail.

2. Cross top loop over bottom one.

3. Knot by threading top loop behind bottom one, under, and up through the hole; make sure ribbon is not twisted or bunched.

4. Pull loops to tighten; make sure knot of second bow overlaps knot of first. Trim tails, and arrange loops.


The Winged Bow

This classic treatment is simple, not frilly, and perfect for men's boutonnieres or favors. You'll need twelve to fourteen inches of ribbon to work with after encircling the object; use a right-over-left half-knot to secure the object.

Winged Bow How-To

1. Cross left tail over right one.

2. Knot ribbon by threading left tail behind right one, under, and up through the hole; make sure ribbon is not twisted or bunched.

3. Pull evenly on tails until ribbon has tightened into a clean, smooth knot.

4. Arrange folds, and trim ends of ribbon.

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