Softly knotted bow embellishment


In her last post EmilyAnn of raises an interesting question about the pattern for the softly knotted bow embellishment for a 1930’s dress.  She notes that one of the two ties is to be slightly shorter than the other.

I was intrigued by this, so I thought to try it myself using muslin scraps. I was curious to see if it was really necessary to have one piece longer than the other. Therefore, one pair of ties was cut as in the pattern and one pair was cut with equal length pieces. I found 8″ to be easy enough to work with for the longer piece.

I marked the front of each tie piece with an “F” and anchored one pair of ties to a pillow with pins. I noticed that the extra bit of length on the one piece was necessary to keep the tied knot centered between the two anchor points. I tied it right over left, then left over right keeping the knot loose. I was able to achieve a flat appearance in the front of the knot in two different samples. I made another sample using a muslin quilting fabric with a printed side and a plain side to make sure that the knot and the ties would show only the printed side when viewed from the front.

It wasn’t until I glanced at the placement of the ties on the garment (see lower left illustration above) that I realized the tie on the left side of the garment as it appears in the illustration is the longer of the two ties. That makes sense as the left side has to do more work in making the knot and uses up more length. Therefore, having one tie longer than the other is the best way to make a nice knot that will show as a soft flat bow.

I like the idea of making  each tie with self faced fabric rather than just turning and stitching or facing with bias tape. But I suppose that would depend on the weight of the fabric and the textile pattern as well as the finished length of the bow.  The back of the tie will not show if the knot is made correctly. Alternately, the front piece of the tie could be cut with a hem allowance and the backing cut without a seam allowance. In that way the hem allowance of the front piece can be turned and hemmed  to the facing on the back.

Some variations to show the contrast between bow and dress might include backing a printed tie with a solid fabric or perhaps using silk for the knotted bow and the dress in a matte fabric.

These softly knotted ties seem to be prevalent in 1930’s fashions. Some are wider and yet still appear to be knotted, but perhaps they are held together with a separate band instead. In the case of one interesting dress, the lapels of the front collar appear to be long enough to form a knot at the center of the low V neck. I wonder what that pattern looks like.

In the process of making the prototype tie I discovered it might make a cute hair ornament for a young girl, one she could sew herself and learn how to tie a useful knot in the process. If unfaced pieces are used for the ties, and the ends are cut straight across, the short ends can be frayed for a different look. Not knowing the size of the tie pattern I used muslin strips  8″ long by 1 3/4 ” wide . The resulting bow finished at about 4 3/4 inches and looked somewhat like the bow in Gloria Jean’s hair.



Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Amusements – Performers and Personalities – Jean, Gloria – In sweater with bow in hair” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1935 – 1945.


3 thoughts on “Softly knotted bow embellishment

  1. Just added something else: Alternately, the front piece of the tie could be cut with a hem allowance and the backing cut without a seam allowance. In that way the hem allowance of the front piece can be turned and hemmed to the facing on the back.


  2. Carol, Thank you so much for trying this out. You saved me some guess work with what the length and width should be. I will try these measurements once the toile is finished. Then I can focus on these bow ties. Thanks so much for your support and the contribution of your time and effort!

    Liked by 1 person

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