Upcycled Fabric Big Bow Decorations



Big bow decorations made from upcycled fabric and notions (by Coletta Teske)

Give decorations a Steampunk style with these big 7 inch bows made with upcycled fabric. Accessorize hats, surround wreaths or create a wedding bouquet with Victorian-inspired bows adorned with ruffles, lace and big buttons. 

Follow this step-by-step tutorial to make these big bow decorations. These bows are really big, 7 inches wide, and simple to make. All you need to know is how to sew a straight stitch, cut with a pair of scissors and use glue.

Big Bows Created in This Tutorial

These are the three bows I made while writing this tutorial. Using an orange and purple Halloween color scheme.

These are the three bows I made while writing this tutorial.

How to Make Big Bows Step-by-Step

The big bow made in this tutorial was upcycled from scraps of fabric and leftover notions from old crafting projects.

Step 1: Gather Fabrics, Notions and Supplies

When starting a sewing project, I like to make a Fabric Storyboard to help visualize the final project. In the beginning, my storyboard is full of fabrics and notions. I pile up anything that will work in my selected color scheme. From there, any items that don’t strike a spark with my muse can be removed.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your Fabric Storyboard. Spread your fabric and notions out on a table and experiment with different combinations.

List of materials used to make Big Bows

Here’s the list of materials used to make the big bow shown in this tutorial:

  • Purple cotton fabric, 3-1/2 inches wide and 48 inches long
  • White lace, 2-1/2 inches wide and 24 inches long (use flat lace, not gathered lace)
  • Black lace, 1-1/2 inches wide and 18 inches long
  • White lace, 1 inch wide and 12 inches long
  • Orange rick rack, 24 inches (cut into 3 inch pieces)
  • Lavender poly ribbon, 24 inches (cut into 8 inch strips)
  • Button or other adornment, 1 inch in diameter
  • Plastic or other material for the base of the bow
  • Thread
  • Glue

Step 2: Make a Base for the Big Bow

These bows need a base that is stiff enough to keep the ruffle’s shape, thin enough to sew a needle through, tough enough to hold on to hot glue and durable enough to last through several seasons of decorating. The base can be made of plastic, cardboard, metal or any other object that will be appropriate to attach your decorations.

The base can be made of plastic, cardboard, metal or any other object that will be appropriate to attach your decorations.This base is made from a circle cut out of a number 7 recyclable bag. The circle is 3 inches in diameter and the guide lines are marked here for illustration.

The only ruffle that is attached to the base is the bottom fabric ruffle. You can either sew or glue this ruffle to the base. The inside edge of the fabric ruffle lines up with the second line (3/4 inch from the center). The running stitch, that is used to make the ruffle, lines up with the outside line.

The lace ruffles line up between the two inside circles (1/4 inch and 1/2 inch from the center). These ruffles are not attached to the base. The button should be large enough to hold the lace securely between the button and the fabric ruffle.

The X in the center marks the spot for the button.

Step 3: Make the Ruffles

These big bows are simply a stack of four ruffles. The bottom ruffle, which is attached to the base, is made from a cotton fabric. The other three ruffles are made from strips of flat lace.

Ruffles are easy to make. Just run a thread through the material and scrunch the fabric. You can either stitch by hand or use the longest straight stitch on your sewing machine.

How to make the bottom ruffle

How to make the bottom ruffle for the big bow

  • Cut a piece of fabric that is 3-1/2 inches wide and 48 inches long.
  • Finish one long edge with a hem or decorative stitch.
  • Sew a running stitch along the other long edge. Sew the stitch 3/8 inch from the edge of the fabric.
  • Gather the running stitch.
  • The circle in the middle of the ruffle should measure 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Sew the two ends together to complete the ruffle.

Ruffles have a neater look when the outside edge is finished. The edge on this ruffle was made using an applique stitch and the extra fabric cut away. You can also hem the edge or use pinking shears to prevent the fabric from fraying.

TIP: Don’t finish the edge of the fabric on the gathered side. Zigzagging the edge makes the fabric too bulky and difficult to make a tight and flat gather.

How to cut and gather the lace ruffles

The flowery center of the bow is made from three pieces of lace with each lace being a different width

The flowery center of the bow is made from three pieces of lace with each lace being a different width. Cut the lace as follows:

  • Bottom lace, white — 2-1/2 inches wide and 24 inches long
  • Middle lace, black — 1-1/2 inches wide and 18 inches long
  • Top lace, white — 1 inch wide and 12 inches long

Making the lace ruffles is the same as making the fabric ruffle.

  • Sew the running stitch 1/4 inch from the edge of the lace,
  • Pull the thread to make the gather.
  • Sew the ends together.
  • Leave a 1/2 inch diameter hole in the center of the ruffle.

TIP: Use flat lace and not gathered lace. the gathers makes the center of the ruffle too bulky. To turn gathered lace into flat lace, use a seam ripper to cut the stitches and remove the webbing.

Picturing the finished ruffles

This is what the 4 finished ruffles should look like

This is what the 4 finished ruffles should look like.

How to sew the base onto the fabric ruffle

The ruffle can either be hand sewn onto the base with a needle and thread, or if you're a glue gun slinger, attach the ruffle with glueThe ruffle can either be hand sewn onto the base with a needle and thread, or if you’re a glue gun slinger, attach the ruffle with glue. Here’s how to sew the ruffle onto the base:

  • Use a heavy weight thread or embroidery floss.
  • Arrange the inside edge of the ruffle so that it is round and the hole in the center is 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Center the ruffle on the base.
  • Hand stitch, using a running stitch, in the ditch (the gathering stitch in the ruffle).
  • Securely tie a knot in the thread to finish the stitch.
  • Set the ruffle aside so that it doesn’t get wrinkled or crushed.

TIP:  After you have put your four ruffles together, take a minute or two to straighten them up a bit. Even out the gathers, cut away extra threads, and make sure those circles are round.

Step 4: Put the Ruffles Together

Putting the bow together simple

Putting the bow together simple.

  • Stack the ruffles neatly on top of each other.
  • Place a large button on top.
  • Sew the button to the base.
  • Try not to sew through the ruffles.
  • After the button is securely anchored to the base, gently tug at the ruffles to fix the shape.

The Big Bows in this tutorial have a stack of three buttons in the center. The two smaller buttons were sewn on after the largest button was securely anchored.

Step 5: Add Ribbons, Rick Rack, and Other Bling

Now that your Big Basic Bow is complete, the fun begins. Big bows can be adorned any way you choose. For these bows, I chose rick rack and poly ribbon. The rick rack is cut to size and the ends trimmed. The poly ribbon is curled and ripped into thin strips.

Cut and curl the bling

The poly ribbon is cut into 8 inch strips, curled, and ripped into thin stripsIn this design, the rick rack is cut into 3 inch pieces and spaced evenly around the fabric ruffle. The poly ribbon is cut into 8 inch strips, curled, and ripped into thin strips.

Here’s how to rip the poly ribbon:

  • Hold one end of the ribbon (about a 2 inch section) and curl the rest of the ribbon with a closed scissors.
  • On the uncurled edge, cut a slit on the short side of the ribbon.
  • Grab the cut piece and pull in the direction of the curl.

TIP:  Make different size ribbon strips to make curls of different shapes and sizes.

Glue down the bling

get out the glue and give your bow that added blingWith the rick rack cut to size and the ribbon curled to shreds, get out the glue and give your bow that added bling. Here’s how:

  • Set the bow on a piece of Styrofoam, cork board or other solid surface that you can stick pins.
  • Carefully lift up the lace so that you can see the gathered edge of the fabric ruffle.
  • Pin the lace in place to keep it out of the way.
  • Arrange the pieces of rick rack and glue in place.
  • Glue the ribbon curls.
  • Let the glue dry.
  • Carefully remove the pins.

The Finished Steampunk Big Bows

The Finished Steampunk Big Bows

Photography by Coletta Teske



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