How to Make a Clip-On Bow Tie!

Clip-on bow-ties are snazzy, retro, and eco-friendly. In this tutorial, we’ll construct a rectangular shaped, two-piece clip-on bow tie. All fabrics and clips are available through Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. Clip-on bow-ties are particularly suitable for luxury or recycled fabrics, as they require less than 1/4 yard of fabric! They have minimal construction and sewing, compared to standard bow-ties and long ties, and are small enough to sew by hand. Clip-on bow ties can only be worn with turn-down, standard collar shirts. Wing-collar or collarless shirts need a band to hold the bow-tie in place. Most bow-ties are about twice as wide as they are tall, but some mid-century clip-on bow-ties were as much as four times as wide as high – between 3/4”” and 1 1/2” tall and up to 5” wide, with 1” x 4 1/2” being typical. The leaves were usually rectangular with flat ends. In the late 1960s through the 1970s, some butterfly-shaped bow-ties were up to up to 3 1/2” tall by 5 1/2” wide. Those ties had very narrow centers and wide leaves.

Mid-weight fabrics such as necktie silk, linen or cotton are preferred. You need less than 1/4 yard:
2 pieces of mid to lightweight fabric, both at least 2” x 8”, up to 3 1/4 x 11”, for the body of the tie
1 piece of mid to lightweight fabric, at least 3” x 4”, for the center band
1 piece of interfacing, muslin or suit canvas, same dimensions as bow tie pattern
Thread matching the background color of the tie fabric.
Regular bow-tie clip (a child-sized clip may not span both points of an adult collar)

Tie/interfacing patterns
12” ruler
Tailor’s chalk, marking pencil, or ball-point pen
Sewing pins
Sharp scissors
Iron and ironing board
Hand sewing needle

Optional tools:
45 Deg. triangle (for accurately cutting on the bias)
Sewing machine
Japanese chopstick (the kind with the pointed end) or similar thin dowel

1. Select your fabric pattern. Your bow tie should suit the shape and size of the face; tiny heads need tinier ties! Capturing certain design elements may also affect the pattern choice – larger repeats or motifs require a taller and/or wider bow-tie.

2. Press the fabric. Neatness counts!

3. Mark the fabric for cutting. Minding any fabric design elements that should be centered in the front leaves of the bow, pin patterns to fabric, or measure for a rectangular tie, and mark fabric on the wrong side. Use 1/4”-1/2” seam allowances – 1/2” for fabrics that fray easily, such as necktie silk. Also mark and cut the center band (again, attending to placing fabric design elements) is at the same time. Necktie silk requires cutting on the bias (45 degree angle to the weave).

In this case, we wanted a row of robots along the center of the leaves. We cut 2 leaves that were 3″ by 8″, 1 piece of interlining that was 3″ by 8″ (we used muslin), and 1 center band that was 3″ by 4″.

4. Cut the fabric and interfacing/muslin. Thicker fabrics, such as textured brocades, denim, or wool, don’t need interfacing; interfacing may even make the finished tie too thick for the clip to work. You will end up with 4 pieces: 2 long pieces of fabric and 1 piece of interfacing/muslin for the leaves, and one shorter piece of fabric for the center band.

5. Pin the interfacing and fold the leaves wrong side out for sewing. Pin the interfacing/interlining to the center of the wrong side of the fabric of the rear bow leaves; fold the fabric to the center. Do this with both leaves.

6. Sew the leaves. Sew the top and bottom edges of the folded and pinned fabric bow leaves.

7. Trim the seam allowances at the corners. This gives you neat, crisp corners.

8. Turn the bow leaves right side out through the center slits, using a chopstick or scissor point to gently push out the corners. Press the bow leaves right side out. If needed, use an ironing shield (such as a pillowcase or clean sheet of paper) to minimize shiny pressing marks.

9. Fold and press the center band. Fold the side edges of the center band in towards the center line, leaving the exposed side slightly narrower than the hidden side for visual interest. Fold the short ends under 1/4″. Press.  Half-twist the center band (to further simulate the appearance of a hand-tied bow) and press.

10. Mark the clip arm openings. Double check which leaves are front and rear, and the top/bottom orientation of each leaf. Don’t accidentally clip the wrong side of the wrong leaves! For the rear bow leaf, the construction center slit should be facing the front, which will be hidden when the tie is complete. Mark where each clip-on hardware arm will be centered on the horizontal axis of the rear bow leaf. You will end up with 2 parallel lines, each around 1/4″ long, and each around 1/4″ away from the back opening.

11. Snip the clip arm openings. On the rear bow leaf, carefully snip two vertical slits through both the rear face fabric and the interfacing, but not the front face fabric.

12. Insert the clip. Folding the clip, insert both arms through the both rear face fabric and the interfacing. Flatten the clip to check location and centering. (Not shown) If the fabric is very heavy or very slippery, hand sew the clip arms to the front of the interfacing, or the rear of the leaves, through the provided clip arm end holes. We found the tightly sewn center band and assembled tie usually hold the clips in place sufficiently.

13. Assemble the bow-tie. Stack the two leaves of the bow (checking carefully again for front/back and top/bottom orientations), with the clip, together, checking placement of visible fabric design motifs. Wrap the center band (also checking design placement), folding the cut ends under, in the back of the bow-tie, around the leaves and clip. Pin the center band or pinch with the fingers. The band should tightly constrict the bundle, requiring firm stitches to pull the ends together in the rear of the tie.

14. Prepare for hand-sewing the center band. Temporarily adjust the creases in the bow leaves, curling the top and bottom edges backwards; final adjustment will come when the center band is sewn

15. Hand sew the center band in the back. In the rear of the tie, securely hand sew the center band (we used an overcast stitch). Complete hand-sewing the center band: sewing back and burying the thread ends under the stitching

16. Finish the bow-tie. Adjust the front creases and edges of the bow-tie as desired. Slightly asymmetrical looks more like a hand-tied bow. Very narrow mid-century clip-on bow-ties weren’t intended to look hand-knotted

17. Don the bow-tie! Fold the arms of the clip backwards, slip each onto the upper third of the front of a buttoned shirt collar, and flatten the clip arms frontwards toward the tie to close them on the shirt collar edges. Twist and slide the tie gently by the rear bow leaf until it looks straight. Now get your suave on…….



Filed under Sewing Projects

3 responses to “How to Make a Clip-On Bow Tie!

  1. Pingback: Britex Fabrics - Blog

  2. Julie

    Having trouble finding the bow-tie clips where might you suggest looking?

    • You can buy them from Britex fabrics in SF. If you aren’t local, they will also ship them. Just call Britex at 415-392-2910 between 10 am and 6 pm Monday – Saturday….ask for someone in the notions department.

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