‘Tis the season for bows upon bows! See how easy it is to make perfect bows with a DIY bow maker that costs less than $3!
Sometimes I amaze myself at how cheap I can be. I will straight up have the calculator app open on my phone while I try to figure out which purchase is a smarter buy, price per item. And I absolutely do not trust the tags the stores put below the items themselves. Because sometimes it’s like somebody stocking the shelves just totally made the number up! And then there are other times where the same thing, just different sizes, are priced out differently. Toilet paper is a HUGE one! Some are priced per square foot, some per roll, and other just per each. What is an each? Each roll? Each square yard? What the actual heck?
So when I decided I needed a freaking ton of bows this year my cheap self decided to go ahead and buy them. Because I don’t make the prettiest bows. They’re wonky, they’re off, and sometimes they’re just plain wrong. But after getting to the store and seeing they wanted $7 for a bow cheap me stepped in and I instead purchased some ribbon from Sam’s Club. $7 for 50 YARDS. $7 for a single bow or $7 for 50 yards that will make considerably more than a single bow? Cheap crafters rejoice!
But then I get home and I’m trying to tie some bows and I’m getting frustrated. I had gotten these bow making clips from a craft store years ago and I just couldn’t make them work. So I run to the craft store looking for another option and found the Deluxe E-Z Bow Maker at Michael’s. It looked super easy to use but it was 15 bucks. And at this point I am going full out cheap-o and I’m not backing down.
Luckily, it’s so cheap and easy to make a DIY bow maker at home.
Seriously. Like, less than $3 cheap. Now if you don’t like to DIY and just want to see how I use my DIY bow maker, that’s cool. It looks like this bow maker from Amazon is currently their best rated. It’s not cheap, but you don’t have to fuss with power tools.
But if you are the DIY type, I’ll show you how to make a really nice, totally sturdy DIY bow maker. And, if you’re so inclined, I’ve even made an SVG file to add a ruler to the bow maker. To keep costs down, you can either hand mark your ruler onto the board or you can use vinyl scraps. I use my Cricut Joy for this project and it’s the perfect little job for it!
We’ll cut this post in 2. First, how to make a DIY Bow Maker and then I’ll give you a quick how to to use it to actually make gorgeous and CHEAP bows!
Supplies Needed to Create a DIY Bow Maker:
- 20″ Piece of Wood
- Thin Dowels
- Permanent Vinyl (optional)
My wood is actually from my wood stash. It’s a 1″ x 2″ Furring Strip from Home Depot I cut down to 20″ using my miter saw. If you’re purchasing your wood from the store, lots of big home stores like Home Depot or Lowes will cut the wood down to size for you for a small fee (most wind up doing it for free!) If you have friends or family that work with wood, ask them if they have any scrap wood and sort of explain what you’re using it for. Anybody that crafts with wood has a lumber stash and I’ve never met a wood crafter that wasn’t super willing to help out :)
My thin dowels actually came from a package of 10 from the Dollar Tree purchased some time ago. I did drop my bow maker and one of my dowels broke and so I trimmed my next pair of dowels down to about 8″ before replacing. If you want to make gigantic, fat bows, you’ll need more height for all of that ribbon to fit. But if you have a pair of wire clippers or a box knife, you can cut any dowel (they’re often 36-48″ at craft stores and hardware stores) down to whatever size you need.
For a really simple bow maker all you need is a power drill. Today I’m using my brand new Cordless DeWalt Atomic Drill and it’s really nice! But you can totally use a corded drill, too.
How to make a Wood Bow Maker:
If cutting your ruler from vinyl, download the free ruler ZIP file that contains the free SVG file. Cut on the machine of your choice and weed.
Apply transfer tape over the top of the design and apply pressure to transfer the vinyl to the tape. Place the vinyl and transfer tape on top of your 20″ piece of wood, centering it as well as you can. Place down and apply pressure to transfer the ruler design.
In the center of the design there is an empty space. Don’t fret… This is where we will be placing our wood dowels.
If creating your ruler by hand, mark the center of the 20″ piece of wood lightly. To the right of the center mark measure out the next 10″ marking each inch and half inch. repeat for the other side.
In the center of the piece of wood, drill 2 holes vertically approximately 0.5″ to 0.75″ apart using a drill bit that is THE SAME SIZE AS YOUR DOWEL. So if using 3/8″ dowels use a 3/8″ drill bit. The fit will be tight but doable without having to use an adhesive (and can easily be swapped out if you accidentally break a dowel as I already have).
Gently tap your wood dowels into place. If you need a little help to tap the dowels into place use a rubber mallet or something with a wide surface (a hammer will damage the dowel).
Supplies Needed to Make a Bow with Your DIY Bow Maker:
- 22 Gauge Floral Wire
When making bows I like to use wired ribbon. The wires help the bow keep the shape you want it to have and prevents the bow from looking “floppy”.
Floral wire is an incredible inexpensive craft supply you can purchase at craft stores or Walmart for around $1.50.
- Needle-nose Pliers
If cutting wired ribbon don’t use your great and expensive fabric scissors… over time cutting the wire with scissors will damage the blades. I typically use an inexpensive but sturdy pair and replace every couple of years.
How to Make a Bow with a Wooden Bow Maker:
Create a loop with your ribbon and place it inside of the 2 dowels. Finagle the loop to measure the size you would like using the ruler. This first loop is 5″.
Create another loop on the other side of the bow maker, making sure the pretty side of the ribbon is facing the correct way (you might need to twist or pinch the ribbon). Size the loop to match the first on the left side.
Continue making as many loops as you’d like for your bow to have. This bow I’m making has 3 loops on each size, with the size of the loops becoming a little shorter each layer.
You can also make all of the loops the exact same size. (This is something fun to play around with as you start making your DIY bows.)
Pinch the loops close to the wooden dowels and pull straight up to remove from the bow maker. Wrap a piece of floral finger tight around the loops to secure.
Grab the wire with your needle-nose pliers and give the wire a few extra turns. You’ll notice that you get an extremely tight hold. Don’t overtighten, however, as you can break the fairly thin wire.
With your fingers twist the 2 wire tails around one another to form a thicker cord.
Trim the excess wires and use the pliers to roll the cut ends under the wire. Tucking away the sharp ends of wire will help prevent scratches.
You can either leave the long tail as is and use it to tight the bow onto your projects or you can turn the tail into a loop. You can secure the ribbon to items through the loop and string or zip ties.
Finishing your Perfect Bows!
The first and easiest method is to simply finagle wired ribbon so that it covers any wire that you can see securing the bow in place. By squeezing the loops on either side in the middle they easily cover the thin wire in the center.
This bow is made with 6 equally sized loops and short tails cut into a V shape. Because the bow is so busy, you don’t really need to do anything but finagle the loops to cover the wire join.
The next option is to form a loop from the ribbon. The size of this loop will greatly depend on the size of your ribbon, bow, etc. Form the loop and secure with glue, if you feel it is necessary. Run wire through the loop and secure onto the bow twisting the ribbon together on the back side.
If you know this is the method you’ll be using, you can use the same piece wire that you in the beginning. Just wait until your loop is secure to twist together and finish off the wires.
Fluff the loops and the center to get a nice, full look to finish this method.
My favorite way to finish DIY bows is to hot glue something in the middle. You can use fake flowers, ornaments, or even floral picks among other things. I prefer to use low temperature hot glue because it’s not a level surface and it’s best to hold the piece together as the glue sets. This is the low-temp glue gun I use. I think it’s meant for kids :)
A single fake flower in the center is super simple and very pretty.
Last, but not least, wrap a small piece of ribbon around the join on the front, hot gluing both ends on the back.
Are you so excited you now know how to make perfect bows without tying them?! Me, too!