Paper Bow Tutorial

I’ve seen several sets of instructions on making bows and was very eager to try this myself. I could never get the instructions to work quite right, so here is my own design with tutorial. My darling little niece turned 6 years old last week, so I jumped at the chance to make something for her.

Creating a Bow out of 12″x 12″ Scrapbook Paper

First, choose your paper and cut it into 3/4-inch strips.

Leave 6 of the strips full sized. Take 4 of the strips and cut 1 inch off each of them. Take 1 strip and cut 2 inches off. Finally, cut 1 strip down to 5 inches. Keep the remaining strips just in case. Let’s review:

  • 6 strips – 12 inches
  • 4 strips – 11 inches
  • 1 strip – 10 inches
  • 1 strip – 5 inches

Set aside the 5-inch strip.  Fold the rest of the strips in half to mark the halfway point of each.

Holding a strip white-side-up, carefully loop each end around opposite directions until they touch the center. The finished product will be a piece with a loop at each end.

Secure each end to the center using double-stick tape. Other methods use staples for this part or glue dots. I prefer double-stick tape because it is flat. Staples and glue dots on each loop will stack up thickly over time and the bow will not be as tight.

Here is the really important part. You still with me? This is really important. I screwed up 6 different bows before this and almost gave up.

Do not make the loops too tight.

In the picture below, the loops on the left are regular-sized. The loops on the right are too tight/sharp/small/whatever you want to call it. Left = good, right = bad, got that?

Why is this important? If the loops are too tight, the piece will lay flatter. Flatter pieces mean the bow will not look right no matter how many extra loops you add to fill the space. The picture below shows the regular-sized loop curving upward more (top). Regular-sized loops will take up more space and fit together more nicely. The tight loop (bottom) is flatter. Flat loops = flat bow.

Create the rest of your loops using this method, leaving the 5-inch piece for later.


Take 3 of the larger pieces and lay them on top of each other, roughly equal distance apart. Secure these with a staple.

Repeat this process with the remaining 3 large pieces.

Secure the two pieces together with a glue dot or Zots.

Secure the four 11-inch pieces together with a staple and stick them to the main structure.

Take the single 10-inch piece and tuck it down into the bow, securing as needed.

Take the 5-inch strip you saved and form it into a circular loop using double-stick tape. Check the bow at this point by setting the loop into the center. Does it look right? Is there just enough space for the circular loop? If it looks like you still have some space to fill, take one of your extra strips, cut it to 10 inches, and form an extra 2-sided loop.

Finally, stick the circular loop into the center of the bow and you are finished!

The finished product: a special bow for a special girl. Perfect for a newly-minted 6-year-old.

Of course, this new project comes conveniently before the holidays! I’ll be testing some more bows in different sizes using different paper and will report back if anything works.

Condensed Instructions

  1. Cut a 12×12-inch piece of scrapbook paper into 3/4-inch strips.
  2. Cut some of the strips so you have the following set of lengths: 6 strips at 12 inches, 4 strips at 11 inches, 1 strip at 10 inches, 1 strip at 5 inches.
  3. Save extra strips for later in case the bow requires extra loops.
  4. Fold each strip in half, except for the 5-inch piece.
  5. White-side-up, loop each end around opposite directions until they touch the center. Secure with double-stick tape.
  6. Repeat with remaining strips, except for 5-inch piece. Be careful not to make the loops too tight.
  7. Take 3 of the larger pieces and lay them on top of each other, equal distance apart. Secure with staple.
  8. Repeat with remaining 3 large pieces.
  9. Fit one set of 3 pieces on top of the second set and secure with glue dot.
  10. Take the 4 next larger pieces and lay them on top of each other, equal distance apart. Secure with staple.
  11. Glue set of 4 pieces to the main bow.
  12. Take smallest loop and glue into the center of the bow.
  13. Take 5-inch strip and form a circular loop using double-stick tape.
  14. Set the circular loop into the bow and check to see if you need to make any more double-sided loops to take up space.
  15. Secure the circular loop to the center of the bow.

mmm button

8 thoughts on “Paper Bow Tutorial

    • Thanks! It was a nightmare the first 5 times I tried it before I realized I was making the loops wrong. It could be that I manage to step into whatever pitfall exists for any craft project.

  1. I wish I knew the bow was handcrafted, I would have made a bigger effort to prevent the unwrapping frenzy that is a 6 year old tearing through wrapping paper to get to what’s underneath.
    I did think it was quite cute wrapping.

    PS– that adorable 6 year old is selling wrapping paper as a school fundraiser…

  2. I mis-read – word to the wise, 1 inch strips do not work as nicely as 3/4. OTOH, the 5 year old thought they were cool so no loss there, it was just a bit more difficult to get them all nested together. Hand made bows add a nice touch but they do take a bit of time! Since I have probably upwards of five thousand sheets of scrapbooking paper at hand (you know how it goes, right?), I need to use some of it. I think that the bows cost probably under 10 cents each, mostly because glue dots are fairly expensive compared to the paper. I’ve also used some scrapbooking glue to glue each section together on a previous occasion and an ATG tape gun works much faster then messing with a scotch roll of double sided tape to form the figure 8s, just run a bit of tape over on the ends of the strips before you start.

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