How to Make a Top from Your Dad's Silk Ties

comments (6) May 2nd, 2009     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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Add a skinny tie belt and this top is ready to go!
The back view.
The side view.
Add a skinny tie belt and this top is ready to go!

Add a skinny tie belt and this top is ready to go!

Photo: Jen Stern

I have a pile of old ties that my dad cast off to me—it turned out to be a treasure trove of silk fabric! I decided to embark on a design adventure—make something out of them that didn't have the "this was made from men's silk ties" look. I took advantage of the fact that neckties are cut on the bias and used them to make a top with a little flutter. After choosing seven or eight ties from the pile, I took them apart. Then I draped them on my dress form. As I played with them, I ended up using two ties over each shoulder, joining them in the center front and back. This created a graceful V-neck. The ties closest to the shoulders created a fluttery cap sleeve. I joined the front and back with a tie on each side, finishing the armholes at the same time! After I finished draping and sewing, a stood back to evaluate the design—it looked like a top that was made from ties! The telltale prints and colors combined with the pointed tips at the hem were a dead giveaway. I have to admit, it was pretty interesting with the ready-made "handkerchief" hem, but keeping with my original goal, I chopped off the points at the ends of the ties to straighten out the hem. With the weight of the lined points gone, the result was a graceful draping top...I love it!

Here's what you'll need:

  • A pile of ties
  • Seam ripper
  • Thread to match the ties
Here's my pile of ties
Here's my pile of ties, artfully draped over my dress form.

You'll be amazed at how much fabric you'll have after you take the tie apart. Use a seam ripper to take off the label and bar tack on the wide end of the tie. There are a few tightly sewn stitches at each end of the seam that holds the tie together; after you pick those out, the rest are cake. I used small, sharp scissors to clip the stitches as I gently pulled the tie apart.

take off the lable
If you have a lot of ties, save the labels—there's plenty of cool stuff you can do with them.

After you take out the seam, press the tie flat. The front end near the point is really wide; some were more than 10 inches wide—that's more than a quarter of a yard!

Take the tie apart and press it flat
If you want the points to hang down along the hem of your top, take advantage of the fact that they are finished (no hemming required). 

You will need four ties to create the front and back of your top. The first two will be near your face, so pick colors that look great on you. Mark the center point of the tie, and hang them over the shoulders of your dress form.

Pick out two ties that will make the neckline
If you don't have a dress form, use a large coat hanger. You can wrap it with packing foam to keep the ties from slipping off.

Pick two more ties that go with the first two. Mark the center point and add them to your dress form (or hanger). Check to make sure you like the way they look together. Match the center markings and sew the ties together. If you are going to keep the points at the hem, make sure that the ties are the same length so you can match up the points at both ends. If they are uneven, take out the length somewhere that's not obvious along the tie.

Press the seam allowances open. Sew the center front and back seams.

add two more ties
I apologize for this photo—I didn't realize that it was blurry until it was too late.

Hang your top over your dress form with the seams facing out. To get the neckline to hang straight, pin in some shoulder seams. In general, a shoulder seam slopes down from the neck. Essentially you are creating a dart with the point at the neckline. I took out 3/4 inch at the outer edge of the tie to form the fluttery cap sleeve.

make shoulder seams
You'll be amazed at how much better the neckline will look if you pin the extra fabric out at the shoulders. If you're working using a hanger, pinch out 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch at the shoulder and gradually reduce to zero at the neckline.

After pinching out at the shoulder, baste the seam and try on your top to see how it fits. Make any necessary adjustments, then sew a permanent shoulder seam.

There will be extra fabric hanging down along the sides. (If you were draping a top, you would pin in a bust dart to straighten out the fabric.) Instead of a dart, we are going to straighten the fabric and make a fluttery sleeve cap at the same time by transferring the excess fabric into the armhole. Measure 8 inches from the shoulder seam in the front and 9 inches from the shoulder seam in the back. Pick up the side edges at those markings, and pin them under the arm in the position where the fabric is hanging straight.

side view
You may need to play with the measurements from the shoulder seam to get the top to hang nicely and end up with an armhole that will fit well.

To create the bottom of the armhole, measure the distance between the front and back edges. Pick the tie that you want to use for the side panel. Find the point along the tie that equals the measurement (plus 2 inches for seam allowances). Draw a guideline across the tie and cut off the extra 1 inch above the line. Position the tie right sides together with the front. Match the guideline with the front armhole marking. Sew them together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Repeat for the back. Press the extra 1 inch down to the inside. Topstitch to finish the edge.

Walk the dog!
Pick a second tie for the other side panel and repeat to finish constructing the top.

Here's my top, with the points hanging down along the hem. Because the ties you're using to create this top are cut on the bias, I recommend letting the top hang on your dress form (or hanger) overnight. The bias fabric will relax as it hangs.

cut the points off the hem
Allow the top to hang overnight to allow the bias fabric to relax.

After you let your top hang out for a while, cut off the pointed ends to reveal a completely different look.

Front view with point cut off
I love the airy feel of this top after I removed the extra weight of the finished pointed ends of the ties.

Here's the back view.

back view
Looking at my finished top inspires a whole bunch of new design ideas. For example, I think I'm going to try alternating the narrow and wide ends of the ties in the front and back to add more fullness to the back hem (and reduce the fullness in the front hem).
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Comments (6)

JenniferStern writes: Thanks everyone...While I design fashion patterns, my favorite project is always the one that I get to fly on the seat of my pants with!
Posted: 6:55 am on May 6th
frygga writes: Love this. And, really appreciate all the details, tips, and close-up photos. Your tutorials are always so CLEAR. I really, really like your teaching us ways to make things without patterns.
Posted: 2:40 am on May 6th
Sister_Diane writes: Now, THAT's a great necktie project!
Posted: 8:19 am on May 3rd
leethal writes: wow, clever design!! i've seen tons of tie projects, but this is something i've never seen before!
Posted: 4:30 pm on May 2nd
MeredithP writes: I really like this idea. I have a lovely pile of ties from DH (a banker until recently). I was saving them for wild bias accents (there are a few Jerry Garcia ties in the stash), but I'll do this too. I like the idea of no points, since I have already done away with them in the deconstruction and washing process. Luckily for me, the knot area wears out, so the tie must go on to it's great reward---who knew? So even if he didn't change professions, I had stash aplenty.
Posted: 9:04 am on May 2nd
Julia8 writes: Great tutorial, and even if you don't want to make a complete garment out of ties this is a great idea to get interesting accent fabric.
Posted: 8:35 am on May 2nd
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