The Perfect Gift Bow – History & Tutorials

How to make the perfect Gift Bow

Gift Bows explained


The Gift Bow

The bow crowns the gift with the final touch, the one with which grace comes.

Impression Originale helps us understanding how to make perfect knots. When the gift wrap is identified, it’s time to match it with the detail that will hit the mark … A pretty bow is for Impression Originale essential to the final gloss of the present, and should enhance the colours of the gift wrap for a harmonious look.

The founder of Impression Originale believes in opening the know-how of the brand: “we want to share our know-how through easy tutorials, with simple and wordless videos so as not to create a language barrier. We believe in universalism. What matters is that people take pleasure in reproducing our know-how to make their very-own beautiful gifts.”  Impression Originale allows even those least experienced in the Art of Gifting to create something truly special. “We’ve developed a luxurious range of ready-to-use bows, handmade and prepared to perfection in our private workshop in Angers, France. You simply tape the bow with the glue dot at the back and delight the recipient with your unique and beautiful gift.”



A polymorph definition

If we strictly take the definition of the word “bow” published by the National Center for Textual and Lexical Resources, it is an entwining of a flexible object, interlacing of two or more flexible object ends (strings or son) intended to unite them. In less words it’s a knot with loops. Many definitions coexist around the notion of “bow”, which stretch from an object used to play the violin, a reverence bending forward with a motion of the body, the front of a ship, or the weapon for shooting arrows… Yes, and many more! The knots seem to have always been used by the hands of men, as evidenced by archaeological discoveries on technical hook knots found on a hook (capstan knot) in Denmark over 10,000 years old. Descriptions of Chinese decorative knots are found in the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties in China.

The origin of knots is above all practical and their use has grown enormously in seamanship for maritime navigation. These are knots of rope that have been used in rock climbing, caving or fishing. A classification of knots exists to identify the multiplicity of existing knots and groups knots under the following categories: tie-off knots, addition knots, loop knots, hook knots, decorative knots, storage knots, etc.

Our focus here are the so-called “decorative” bows.

Decorative bows are appreciated for their aesthetic qualities (shape, symmetry and balance) while sometimes having a practical utility, such as bowties which used to hold a collar, or bows to decorate a hat, a hairstyle or decorate a beautiful gift (totally random!). Thus the bow adorns the present while allowing the folded paper to be kept pressed against the object it covers.

In the literature, we find numerous references to decorative bows. The ornamental bows on French ladies’ hats in 1918 are a perfect example:

We place a bow of silver braid at the foot and behind a cap draped in blackened or black velvet (…). The bows are long and narrow, not having the rowdy flights of pre-war hats “.

Bow: Technical Lexicon

Let's Speak Bow

There is a very specific vocabulary you need to know to understand the delicate world of gift bows and knots. Here is the list of the most used terms:


The ribbon is an ornament of fabric, flat and narrow. It can be of many materials: cotton, satin, or synthetic fibers. The satin ribbon is the most commonly used for luxury gift wrapping as it has a great body and folds easily for a generous look.


The standing part is the end of the ribbon which is used to form the knot or the bow. It is to be opposed to the frame which constitutes the fixed base.

The loop is the name given to a portion of the curved ribbon when one of the two ends of a bow is brought back on itself through the bow, without being crossed by another end or loop.

The elbow is a twist of the ribbon under itself, necessary in a cross-bow over a box for instance.

The tail (also called the “working end”, or the “running end“, “live end“, or “tag end“)  is the finishing end of the bow, it is usually loose and the running ends fall most of the time symmetrically and are cut in diagonal.

The heart is the central part of the bow. It can be flat or with a twist effect or even doubled on some bow to add more volume. The heart is usually the last piece of the bow.

Home Impression Originale satin ribbon unfolding on a blue background


At the Origin of the Bow: winding the thread

Etymologically, the word bow is derived from the Old English word boga, which meant either a stringed bow, an arch, or a rainbow.

Tracing the origin of the knot is complex and certainly millennia. The hand of primitive man quickly understood the value of shaping knots with roots or lianas, hair, guts and hides of animals. And this was probably before the Stone Age. By way of illustration, the flint axes discovered by paleontologists were once fitted with bone or wooden handles which decayed and long since disappeared, as well as the rope that tied these two pieces. Some nodes date back as far as 100,000 years, but there is no tangible evidence of their existence.

Subsequently, many representations or remains of knotted ropes have been identified by archaeologists. The last inhabitants of the Swiss lakeside towns of the Stone Age made ropes in addition to being skilled weavers. One of the oldest knots ever to be found was discovered during the excavation of a site submerged under 3 meters of seawater off the coast of Denmark. A 10,000-year-old hook was attached a piece of tendon or gut by means of a knot known today as the capeler hitch (or capstan knot). In 1923, in Antrea (region of pre-war Finland), an intact piece of fishing net was found in a bog, which scientists say dated from 7200 BC. J.-C.

Many knots, especially the simplest ones, appear to be culturally universal,” note Donald P. Ryan and David H. Hansen (A Study of Ancient Egyptian Cordage, British Museum, 1987)


The representations of bows in painting

The representation of decorative bows in painting is particularly fruitful for 4 centuries, from the 16th to the 19th century. A major figure in the history of art, Diego Velázquez represents the finery of the royal family of Spain, in the beautiful portrait of the Infanta Margarita in blue. From earrings to the brooch for the hairstyle or the decorative elements of the dress: everything is beautiful blue bows. A century later, the famous portrait of Madame de Pompadour, favorite of King Louis XV by the painter François Boucher, presents her with a bodice entirely covered with silk bows. Another 18th century portrait of Jean-Marc Nattier in the Louvre depicts Louis XV’s daughter “Madame Adelaide” in an opulent, delicately decorated dress with bows while she herself is busy tying … bows.

L'Éclipse journal hebdomadaire BNF


The bows in litterature

Bows in French literature are well represented, beginning with Voltaire in the 18th century who in his essay on the “Customs and spirit of Nations”, mentions bows “the Peruvians transmitted the main facts to posterity by knots that they were doing cords ”or even Béranger in the 19th century who depicts the clothing habits of an era“ By remaking bows in his thongs, He [Grippeminaud] still pursues me with a sly eye ”. An illustrated comic magazine from 1877 called “L’Eclipse” regularly recounts the accessorizing made of bows as a central subject of feminine coquetry: “Carmen sits down, rummages in the ragpick, pulls out pins and multicolored rags, and gets in a position to make a bow of velvet and silk.”


Double-loops satin bow n°241

Final Size: 120mm length x 25mm width

To make this bow, you need:

  • 465mm of double-sided satin 25mm width  (see our selection of satin ribbons)
  • 1 scissors
  • Liquid Glue (best with a glue gun but works with regular liquid strong glue)

We indicate the video times at the end of each step. 

1. Lay the ribbon flat. Fold the left side on 10 cm (the loop is 5cm). Glue the left side at the center with a thin line of glue. Press ribbon for adherence. 0:24 – 0:25

2. Take the right fold of the ribbon and fold it symetrially. Glue the right side at the center with a thin line of glue. Press ribbon for adherence. Don’t cut. 0:25 – 0:26

3. With the same fold of ribbon, flip it backwards in order to create a second layer of loop on 8cm (the loop is 4cm). Glue the right side at the center with a thin line of glue. Press ribbon for adherence. Don’t cut. 0:26 – 0:27

4. With the same fold, flip it backward on the other side in order to create the symmetrical loop on 8cm (the loop is 4cm). Glue the right side at the center with a thin line of glue. Press ribbon for adherence. Cut straight very close to the glue. 0:27 – 0:28

5. With the remaining ribbon, cut a length of 7 cm with straight angles. Cover the center of the bow to create the heart. Do not tight it too much, leave it loose to give some volume. Glue at the back of the bow the 2 folds. 0:29 – 0:31

6. You can now add this bow on your gift wrapped present with a dot of glue. For a more refined look you can lay flat underneath a length of ribbon. Onced offered the bow can have a second life as a hairbow (glued on an elastic or a pin). The bow can even be added to a vest, a dress or your wrist! 0:31 – 0:51


Star Bow tutorial in gros grain

To make this bow, you need:

  • 50 mm of gros grain (25mm width) (see our selection of  gros grain ribbons)
  • 48cm (4 x 12 cm) gros grain (35mm width)
  • 1 scissors
  • Liquid Glue (best with a glue gun but works with regular liquid strong glue)

We indicate the video times at the end of each step. 

1. Cut 4 strips of 12 cm of gros grain 35mm 0:15 – 0:19

2. Cut the ends of the strips in a tail pie: fold the ribbon in two and cut with a regular angle for a beautiful symmetry. Repeat the operation for each strip. 0:19 – 0:37

3. Fold-pinch the cut strips in two and glue at the center. Press for adherence. Then fold backward on each side at ½ of the width and glue at the center. You have now a butterfly bow. Repeat the operation for each strip.  0:38 – 1:08

4. Cut 5cm of gros grain (25mm) with straight angles. Fold in 2 on the width to prepare the hart of the bow. 1:09 – 1:30

5. Bring the 4 strips together on the center. 1:31 – 1:44

6. Fold around the 4 strips the heart and glue it at the back of the bow. 1:45 – 1:55

7. You can now add this bow on your gift wrapped present with a dot of glue. Et voilà ! 1:56 – 2:16


The Perfect Simple Bow tutorial

To make this bow, you need:

  • 2m of satin ribbon (here we use a 38mm width ribbon for a big book)   (see our selection of satin ribbons)
  • 1 scissors
  • A readily wrapped present (see our selection of gift wraps)

We indicate the video times at the end of each step. 

1. Start by gaging how much length of ribbon you will need. In order to make a generous bow: you will need 4x the length et 2x the width of the parcel.

2. Lay flat the ribbon on an horizontal line. Put your present up side down at the center, with the back side lof the present looking at you.

3. Encricle the length of the ribbon over the parcel, make sure the ribbon is laying flat. At the center cross the ribbon with a 90° angle.

4. Turn the parcel, face up making sure the ribbon is not twisted. Grab the ribbon on each hedge  and slide them under the ribbon at the center. 00:38 – 00:52

5. Recenter the cross point, if necessary. Grab each end of the ribbon and make a knot in the middle to fix the cross. 00 :52 – 1:06

6. With the 2 ends, make a beautiful bow on top of the present. Create 2 loops of equal size and knot them together. Rearrange the loops and the tails for the best look. 1:07 – 1:18

7. Readjust the loops of the bow to enhance the roundness and adjust the tails towards the bottom by clearing out the heart. 1:20 – 1:26

8. Cut the tails for a more striking and elegant look. 1:26 – 1:42



Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *