Pretty Paper Bows to Make a Present “Pop”

The other day, I was wrapping a gift and the end result was a bit, blah.  I was fiddling around with some paper scraps and thought maybe a paper bow would help.  Usually, I just tie on what I call a “fish bow” which is just a ribbon scrap or paper loop with the tails hanging down, but I was feeling a bit creative, and I started cutting and folding some colored papers to see what I could come up with…

I made a bunch of bows in about 2 hours.  It was my first time trying to make something that looked like a real bow you would buy in the store, so there was a tiny bit of trial and error.

I made all the strips free-handed and I never measured.  I just eyeballed the paper and if I was concerned about the length or width, I lined the strips up and chopped them to match.  I am sure if I had used a paper-cutter or ruler, the bows would have turned out even cuter.

To make paper bows of your own, you will need:

  • colored papers, magazines, or newspaper scraps OR ribbon scraps, fabric, or felt*
  • LOTS of adhesive mounting squares [These are typically used for paper crafts like scrap-booking, and come in a little box….you can find them at any hobby or craft store for about $3] and glue
  • scissors
  • creative centers for the bows (I used beads, jingle bells, coordinating paper, and charms, but I bet alphabet letters, tiny seashells, word magnets, buttons, small dice, or any other little knick-knacks would be equally attractive)

Bow Type 1

When I started making ribbons, I just cut a bunch of paper scraps and began playing with them.

I found that four paper strips of equal length could be arranged, fastened, and folded to make a simple “star flower” shaped bow.

There are two ways to do this.  One is to cut four strips and lay them over each other, decorated side down, securing each layer with an adhesive mounting square.  You should have eight half-strips coming out from the center like rays.  Then fold each half-strip toward the center and secure each one with an adhesive mounting square.  When you are done put a final adhesive mounting square in the center and attach a bead, or whatever embellishment you choose.  If you prefer, you can use a dab of glue to secure the center item.

The other method is to make the layers separately.  To do this, you take two paper strips of equal length and fasten them like a + sign with an adhesive mounting square.  Then fold each of the four half strips toward the center and secure with an adhesive mounting square.

Repeat the first two steps.  At the end you should have two + shaped pieces. Secure the two +’s together with an adhesive mounting square.  When you are done put a final adhesive mounting square in the center and attach a bead, or whatever embellishment you choose.  If you prefer, you can use a dab of glue to secure the center item.

Bow Type 2

After making a few flowery bows, I started making oval-like loops and linking them together in fours.  They looked like this:

I discovered that if I linked a bunch of foursomes together in layered circles, and then flipped them over, they looked like conventional bows used for presents.

Here is how I made them:

Attach the loops to one another to make one layer of four loops, or a foursome.

Here are the bow layers, separated to show how they look before being turned over.

Flip over the layers and attach them, or attach them at an angle as you are building the bow.

The Problem of the Empty Center

When I had the bow nearly done, I noticed the hole left in the center.  To solve this problem, I used a single paper strip and made a loop, fastening the paper with an adhesive mounting square.  I carefully secured the loop in the empty center, and then played with the paper loops of the bow to restore its fullness.

This is the magazine paper bow I made. The others had a date with the trash can!

The thing I love about this project is that with all the colored papers available nowadays, you can customize these bows endlessly!  You can experiment with unique centers and use whatever materials you have on hand.  I would caution that the magazine paper bow that I made was a little more flimsy (obviously) and it was impossible for me to remove a wrongly-placed adhesive mounting square without ripping the magazine strips.

*If you decide to use ribbon, fabric, or felt to make these bows, you might want to consider using glue or a stronger adhesive.  I did not try this method with fabric, but I might revisit this trick around the holidays!

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