Want to draft a bow top pattern? In that case, you’ll enjoy this tutorial.
One of the first tutorials I ever published at this blog was about bows. I’ve been wanting to go back to that theme for a while and it appears that bows and ruffles are a thing this season, so here we go!
I included both easy and a few not-so-easy designs in the mix. The pattern blocks used here are the dartless bodice and basic bodice. None of the examples has sleeves but in many cases you can add them, if you want.
Here are two general pattern modifications that you can do first thing.
This one is for the dartless bodice block.
When making blouses without sleeves, you might find that the front armhole is gaping too much. You can remove the extra volume at the armscye line and turn it into a little bust dart at the side seam like this:
However, don’t make the armhole too tight either. If you’re unsure how much to remove, even just 1-1.5cm might be enough.
After rotating the dart through bust point, re-draw the armscye line and re-center the new dart about 3cm away from the bust point.
As for the basic bodice, you can remove the back shoulder dart like this:
As the shoulder dart is originally 1.5cm wide, the back shoulder will remain 0.5cm wider than the front, which means that there’s going to be ease.
Bow on the Shoulder
Here’s the first option with bows on the shoulders. The starting point is a basic bodice block. This being a sleeveless top, you probably want it to be quite snug, so, don’t leave much ease to the pattern.
Rotate the bust dart to the waist (or the side seam, if you prefer to have two darts) and re-center it a couple of centimeters away from the bust point.
The shoulder straps are centered in the middle of the shoulder line. Draw them perpendicular to the shoulder line. With 35cm you’ll manage to tie small bows. I left them 4cm wide.
Re-draw the armcye lines and the neckline. I made the back neckline V-shaped and the front neckline rounded.
The easiest way to finish the edges is a facing that covers the neckline, the shoulder straps, and the armhole (see the dashed lines). Alternatively, you could line the whole top.
Bow Blouse: Back Neck
This bow top has a bow at the back neck. To make the pattern more interesting I threw in a dropped shoulder. The base is a dartless bodice block. All these examples are waist-length, but naturally you can make the blouse longer, too.
First, re-draw the shoulder lines making them 2cm longer and raising them by 0.5cm at the shoulder tip. Then, adjust the lines curving them slightly down from the original shoulder tip. Unite these lines to the armhole, as shown.
Draw a new neckline, making it wider. There’s a V-shape at the back that you can make quite deep.
Then, draw the tie, so that it ends up slightly below the original neckline. Extend it, for example, 40cm beyond the c-back line. A nice width is 2-3cm. Mirror the shape lengthwise.
Add a notch where the tie will be attached. You could also use ribbons instead of making the ties yourself.
As with the previous example, the quickest way to finish the edges is a lining, or a facing that covers the armholes and the neckline.
Back Waist Bow
The bow could also be placed at the back waist. In this example, we have a waist length blouse that is closed by tying a bow at the waist. In addition, place a button & loop closure at the back neck, because the back seam is open.
Use the dartless bodice block. Start by enlarging the neckline a bit. To make the waistband end up at the waist level, raise the bodice waistline by half of the waistband’s height. Here, the waistband is 4cm high, so we raise the waistline by 2cm.
Then, decide on the final waistband circumference. You can place the tape measure around your waist to evaluate how tight you want it to be. In this example, I made the waistband smaller than the dartless bodice waist and gathered the excess volume before attaching the waistband.
The waistband pattern covers half of the full circumference. Therefore the length will be 1/2 front waist + 1/2 back waist + the tie length that could be, for example, 50cm.
The waistband will be folded lengthwise in half, so, make it twice the final height. The V-shape at the right end will create pointed tips. If you want to spare fabric, you can always add seam(s) at the c-front or side seams.
Here’s a different version of the previous top. This time there’s a peplum attached to the lower edge of the waistband. The waist is higher up, below the bustline, and there are little ruffle sleeves, too.
The back seam remains completely open, except for the bow that keeps it closed. You could add another tie higher up, if needed.
I used the basic bodice block for this one. You can ignore the waist darts as the hemline will be gathered anyways.
Rotate the bust dart towards the waist, and separate the upper section of the bodice 8cm below the bust point (or use your own measurements). Ensure that the front and back pieces coincide at the side seam.
Draw the new neckline shape. Turn the back neckline into a V-shape that arrives to the new hemline. As you trace the pieces, copy the grainline, too.
Measure the armscye line lengths between the armhole notches and the shoulder. Double the measurement to draw a rectangle that will become the ruffled sleeve pattern. (If you’ll use a heavier weight fabric, make that 1.5 or 1.7x instead of double.)
I made the ruffles 6cm high in the middle where the shoulder will be and 2cm high at both ends. Just draw this kind of curved line to complete the pattern.
This time the waistband will be placed higher up. Take your measurement below the bust where the waistband ends up to draw the rectangle. As usual, you need to divide the measurement in half because the pattern only covers half of the circumference. Add 50cm for the tie.
I made the waistband 4cm high. It won’t be folded in half because you attach the peplum to it. So, you cut it twice instead. The second layer will cover the seams underneath.
The peplum pattern is a rectangle, too. Make it as high as you want. Mine was 40cm high. The length is 1.5-2x the waistband’s front + back measurements. Mark a notch where the side seam is. The peplum will be gathered to match the waistband. The back seam will remain open.
In this case, the easiest way to finish the edges would be to line the entire upper section of the bodice.
Pussy Bow Neckline
Of course I needed to include a pussy bow neckline in this tutorial. To make it slightly different, it’s more like a neckline than a collar; the blouse neckline is quite large, which makes the pussy bow collar turn into a continuation of the blouse rather than a proper collar. This also allows you to avoid adding a button placket because the neckline is large enough for the head to pass through.
Use the dartless bodice pattern and modify the neckline, as shown. Create a little V-shaped slit at the c-front to leave space for the bow.
Measure the new neckline to draw the pussy bow “collar” pattern. These are the 1/2 front and 1/2 back neckline measurements you see in the diagram below. Leave about 50cm for the ties. The height of the rectangle is twice the final collar height, 3+3cm in this example.
To make the collar lay flatter, sew a little dart where the shoulder seam position is. The dashed line is the upper edge of the collar, so that’s where the widest point of the dart needs to be. You can also take in slightly at the c-back seam.
Here’s a picture I took before attaching the collar. You can see the little dart at the shoulder seam position.
The collar is cut on the bias and you need two pieces to cover the entire neckline.
This is a design I have seen various times. It might seem elaborate, but in the end it’s quite easy to replicate.
Start by tracing the basic bodice block and reduce the amount of ease because this design is strapless and needs to have a snug fit. You can enlarge the waist darts and take in at the side seams, if needed. Have a look at this tutorial.
Then, draw the bustier shape onto the bodice pieces. Enlarge the remaining bust dart to reduce gaping (see the arrow) and divide the front piece into two panels, absorbing the darts.
Lengthen the back waist dart so that it reaches the upper edge of the bustier pattern. This way you manage to eliminate it.
The bow pattern is a simple rectangle. You’ll need the side seam length and the front bodice pattern width at its widest point. Add about 25cm to create the bow (which is actually a faux bow).
In some versions there are also folds at the side seam. If you want to add those, make the rectangle higher than the side seam length.
This rectangle will be cut on the bias four times; twice per side to finish the edges.
The rectangles will be sewn into the side seams of the bustier:
After this I placed the piece on my dressform and tied a knot, arranging the bow to my liking. Then, you hand stitch it in place.
If you want a real bow, just make the rectangle long enough to create the extra fold.
Cascading Bow Design
This is my favorite design here. It’s a blouse I’ve had on a Pinterest board for quite some time and I had decided that some day I was going to figure out the pattern! Well, now I did.
Basically, it’s a flounce sewn into a seam.
Here’s the usual dartless bodice block. First, enlarge the neckline.
Then, let’s plan the bow. It will be placed just underneath the front neckline.
I decided that the center of the bow would be 4cm x 4cm and the bow itself was going to be twice as high and then gathered. Draw a rectangle to plan where the outer edge of the bow will end up.
Next, draw a seam that passes through the upper right corner of the rectangle, as shown. If you have a dart, make the seam pass through its tip, too. You can lengthen the dart if needed.
Measure the seam length in two parts. The first part covers the section between the corner of the rectangle and the angle of the seam you just drew. This will be measurement 1.
Measurement 2 is the rest of the seam length underneath.
Now you have everything you need to draw the bow pattern.
Begin by drawing the same rectangle you drew on the bodice pattern and add 1cm of slack.
Then, add measurement 1, inclining the line slightly downwards. Complete the pattern by adding the curved flounce shape. I drew this freehand. The important thing is that the inner edge of the piece matches with measurement 2 as it will be sewn into the seam.
These are the pattern pieces. Separate the two panels of the front bodice and add notches where the bow starts. If you had a dart, you can close it.
Double the width of the bow’s central section and cut it on the fold along its upper or lower edge. The goal is to create a 4cm wide ring that ends up around the center of the bow. You will need to close it with hand stitches and attach to the blouse.
Here’s a picture I took after having stitched the bow flounce to the central panel’s seams. That way it was easier to attach the side panels. I also gathered the center of the bow before placing the ring around it.
If you cut the bow piece twice, you get finished edges because this way the whole piece will be lined.
The final design in this tutorial is actually a dress. You can either tie the bow at the front or the back. Using a knit fabric will create the best results.
This pattern is based on the basic bodice block. You can ignore the back waist dart.
Here are the first steps: decide on the dress length and lengthen the pattern accordingly. Remove the back shoulder dart, as usual, and modify the neckline shape. In this example, it’s a scoop neckline.
The back piece is ready.
Then, you need to do some slashing and spreading. But first, mark a notch 3cm from the c.front along the waistline. Then, slash along the waistline.
Now you can rotate the waist darts and the bust dart towards the notch you marked. After having closed the original darts, draw two more lines towards the side seam, as shown.
Slash and spread until you have about 20cm between the notches you marked earlier. Draw a strap shape, as shown. This measurement divided in half will be the final strap width. Adjust the side seam.
Here are the pattern pieces. The two, 3cm wide sections at the c-front will be sewn together and the strap will be folded lengthwise in half.
Here’s a picture of the piece after I had closed these seams. You need some distance between the ties in the center so that there’s enough space to tie them. Leave more, if needed.
And so we’ve reached the end of this tutorial. You might see me wearing one of these soon. 😀
This is quite a detailed tutorial and an interesting read. By the way, my favorites were the the bow bustier and the wrap dress. i hope to try out one of these too.
Thanks for always inspiring!
Thank you. 🙂 Yes, those are cute. Send me pics if you end up making one.
I’m absolutely loving your tutorial! In fact, I loved it so much that I featured it on Crafts on Display, you can check it out right here – https://craftsondisplay.com/sewing/how-to-draft-a-bow-top-pattern-8-designs-33698/ I really hope you enjoy it, and please keep up the amazing work! <3 Someday, I'll have a go at making one of these cute bow top patterns myself.
Awesome! Thank you. 🙂 I hope your readers will find it useful, too.