When I was a kid, there was nothing more thrilling than pulling off the ribbon from a neatly wrapped gift box and enthusiastically tearing off the wrapping paper to reveal the surprise underneath it. The floor on Christmas morning was not filled with tissue paper or gift bags, but instead wads of wrapping paper and strands of ribbon as far as the eye could see. Whether it was the anticipation or the added drama, there was something about having to get through that ribbon and paper that made the act of unwrapping the gift almost as exciting as the gift itself.
Today, most of us wrap our presents in gift bags. And it’s no wonder: they’re convenient and easy, especially in today’s mile-a-minute, 200-emails-waiting-in-my-inbox, chaotic sort of lifestyle we’ve all come to adopt. Who has time to actually wrap a gift the old-fashioned way?
Still, I can’t help but miss the beauty of a present wrapped in stunning paper and adorned with a luscious, homemade bow. Wrapping gifts this way is becoming a lost art. Sure, I mostly use gift bags these days too, but I make it a point every Christmas to wrap at least a few of my gifts the old-fashioned way, reminiscent of the days of Christmas past.
To me, the most important step in creating a beautiful presentation is making the bow. My mom was the one who taught me how to make a gift bow, and she came from a generation who took great pride in it. In her day, they bought quality ribbon and actually recycled the pieces year after year. I remember my mom pulling out her box of ribbon each Christmas and ironing each strand in preparation to be used again. Rows of freshly-ironed satiny ribbon would hang in waiting, soon to be the adornment to a new group of gifts that year. She took great care to make sure she wrapped those gifts with precision and heart, and that passion for gift wrapping was passed down to me.
Over the years, I’ve had many friends ask me how to make a gift bow, and it made me realize that bow-making is not necessarily a commonly-known skill these days. In fact, many people say they find it rather intimidating. The funny thing is, making bows is actually quite easy once you get the hang of it! These instructions have been updated a bit (i.e. instead of using satin ribbon, I use wire-edged ribbon because it’s far easier to manipulate), but otherwise, this is the way that my mother taught me. So what are we waiting for? Let’s make a beautiful bow!
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How to Make a Gift Bow: Step-by-Step Tutorial:
1. Materials you will need:
- a reel of ribbon, preferably with wire edges or a stiff feel (like this one). Silky-feeling ribbon will only fall flat and doesn’t work well for these types of bows; also, choose a decent size width…the wider the width, the more luscious the bow.
- a pair of sharp scissors (any decent quality scissors should work, like these). I recommend buying a pair of scissors and using them only for your ribbon; using them for other household purposes will make the blades dull and leave you with unwanted frayed edges on your ribbon.
2. Have your gift box ready to go: wrapped in paper and strung with ribbon. You can wrap your ribbon both ways around your box or just one way (like I did, as shown in photo)
3. From your reel of ribbon, take the end and fold to form one half of a loop.
4. Repeat with another half loop on the opposite side, creating one large loop. (This loop will constitute the circumference of your bow…so the larger the loop, the larger the bow.)
5-6. Continue to loop ribbon until you’ve looped around at least 3 times on each side (loop 4 times on each side for a fuller bow). Clinch the center with your fingers as you go to keep the ribbon stacked neatly.
7. Snip off the end from the ribbon reel.
8-9. Hold the loop in the center, keeping the loop stacked tightly, and make two snips, creating a groove on each side. Be careful not to cut all the way through your ribbon!
10. Place your loop on your wrapped gift box, lining up the grooves with the ribbon on the box.
11. Insert ribbon into grooves of loop and tie down the loop securely. Now your loop has become smaller individual loops which will form into your bow shortly.
12. Separate and pull apart your individual loops.
13-15. Twist and turn each loop, pulling some the opposite direction. Keep manipulating the loops until the bow is formed to your liking. You can play with it as long as you need to (you can’t mess it up, I promise!) until you have…
16. …a full, fluffy bow! Be sure to trim the edges of your ribbon ends if there is any fraying.
The beauty of working with ribbon like this is that even if your bow gets smashed during transport, you can fluff it right back up. This may seem like quite a few steps if this is new to you, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to make a gift bow in a minute or two. With a little extra effort, you’ll have a stunning gift that will stand out amongst that sea of gift bags. Happy bow-making!