How to make a bow tie

Open Source Bow tie?

Open source bow tie means, in this case, creating a pattern for making your own bow tie using a small piece of software that is open source. On this page you can find an example script to create your own bow tie design using either your own input or some of the ready made input files.

This small and experimental script is written in Python and has been tried out on GNU/Linux machines. Gods willing, you may be able to use it on windows as well. The script requires python, pylab (distributed as a part of NumPy) and ps2pdf if you want to convert the .ps file containing the pattern into pdf.

The file takes a simple input file containing a bunch of parameters such as your shirt size and produces a postscript file containing a pattern for a bow tie. Since the part that forms the bow can be described in terms of arbitrarily many fourier components, one can create pretty much any kind of a bow tie using the script.

Creating a pattern with the script

So how does it work? Simply save the files bowtie2.py and input in a folder and command:
./bowtie2.py input.bt
Soon enough files bowtie.ps and bowtie.pdf (assuming you have ps2pdf installed) should appear in the same folder. In case you are not satisfied with the result, feel free to tweak the contents of input.bt to make a different kind of pattern.

The syntax of the input file is very simple, you should only include one number for each line. The ordering of the numbers matters, of course. A number on a given line of the file will be interpreted as a specific parameter as follows: (a sensible range of parameters in parentheses)
1. The width of the bow in once the tie is tied up (8.0-14.0)
2. The maximal height of the bow in (4.0-9.0)
3. Your neck size (35.0-45.0)
4. How wide the band will be. The wider, the less painful it is to invert the pieces (1.5-3.0)
5. How much extra you need to include for the knot (2.0-6.0)
6. How much seam allowance you need to stitch the two halves together (1.0-5.0)
7. How much seam allowance you want in stitching the two sides of the tie together (0.5-1.5)
8. How much fabric you lose due to the finite thickness of the fabric. (0.2-0.8)
9. In the bow tie, there are two widenings and a narrow part in between. This parameter defines how much thicker the narrow part between the two thicker parts is than the band going around the neck. (0.0-1.5) 10.-N. These are the numbers defining the shape of the bow. Mathematically speaking, these are the fourier components of the cosine waves building up the bow. By including just one of these, you'll get a simple cosine wave, include more and more of them, and you'll get more and more fancy stuff. Feel free to experiment with these.
All values, except for 10.-N. are in cm, though I am not sure how your printer may mess up the scales. Try out your printer configuration and adjust the scales accordingly. 10. row is required, after that you may enter as many coefficients for the higher harmonics as you like. The coefficients are scaled so that only the ratios between the coefficients make a difference.

In case you don't get it working, or don't feel nerdy you may use these examples.
saw pattern 1, input file
saw pattern 2, input file
round one, input file
cosine wave, input file

In the output pdf's you'll (hopefully) see the pattern for a bow tie. It is in two pieces in order to make it fit into a single sheet of A4. The seam allowances are rounded everywhere, but of course you are not supposed to do the rounding at the intersection of the bow and the band that goes around your neck.

How to sew it together

There are a couple of ways to make a bow tie. The biggest difference is how the two bow tie halves are stitched together. One may create a fancy adjustable mechanism or just simply stitch the two pieces togethert to make a fixed length bow tie. This of course will not affect how nice the tie looks since the connection is anyways hidden below the collar of the dress shirt. Below you'll find one way of doing sewing together your tie, you may google for other solutions as well or check this.

Once you've created the pattern for your bow tie and chosen the fabric, fold the cloth so that the right side is in the inside. Place the pattern on the fabric - it is advisable to cut it in an angle of 45 degrees from the grain of the material. Depending on the fabric you've chosen, you may use the zigzag stitch to tidy up the edges. If your fabric is thick, it may be enough to cut two pieces according to the pattern. If your fabric is thin or you want to create a thicker the bow tie, you may cut three or even four pieces.

Using two to four pieces, pin the bow tie such that the right side of the fabric is in the inside, and sew according to your chosen seam allowance. Repeat with the second end of the bow tie. In the corners, cut off some of the seam allowance to facilitate inverting the piece. If you aim for a thick bow tie, it may be worth the effort to trim all the seam allowances.

Invert the piece through the opening at the end of each piece. This may be cumbersome but do not give up - depending on your fabric you can use a variety of tools ranging from needles to pliers and pens. Make sure the corners look neat and tidy. In case you are using an extremely thick fabric, such as camo fabric, it might be necessary to stitch the piece a few millimeters from the rim to make the bow tie flat.

Once you've created the two halves, it's time to practice making the knot. Use a safety pin to attach the two ends together and experiment to fine tune the length of the bow tie. Sew the two ends together and cut off the extra length 2-3 cm from the stitch. Either use a zigzag stitch to attach these ends or cut a rectangular piece from your fabric and sew a wraparound around the area. Cut off all extra threads and enjoy your finished bow tie!

What do they look like?

Depends on the specs, take these differing designs for example. Or do your own and create a matching pocket square as well while you're at it. If you only have time to make yourself one bow tie do it with camouflage. I've heard from an inside source that they're big in Milan next spring.

Compulsory alt text Compulsory alt text

Since publishing a link to here raised a few questions of the sort "what does it cost", let me clarify this. The raw material for a bow tie, at least if you are willing to make one out of silk, costs like hell in Finland. In case you are one of the three persons abroad reading this, lucky you. For example the checked silk fabric in the lower picture costs 45 euros a meter in the shop nearest to me. Since it is best to make the tie in a 45 degree angle with the threads of the fabric, you'll need about half a meter of fabric and if you use silk only for the outermost layer and put something less expensive inside, you can even make a pocket square out of the half times one and a half meter piece of silk. If you are a cheap bastard like me, check the leftover pieces in your local store.

Every image can be freely distributed in terms of Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. The script is released under GNU GPL v3.0. Special thanks to Mari Ijäs for a lot of useful comments, help in sewing and sewing related terminology as well as her superior postscript expertise.

This page was last updated on 1.7.2011

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