Anita's piecing and quilting tutorials

A new year, a new house, a renewed blog, a new focus on my quilting. My plans are to show more "how to" posts about quilting.

Necktie quilt instructions one

UPDATE:  There has been some confusion about washing the ties.  When I originally wrote this post I was showing another quilt maker how I made quick quilts for homeless men.  Homeless men don’t care about running colors or preserving the memory of the ties.  They just want to be warm.   I was using ties I had bought at a thrift store so preserving the ties was not  important.  If you do plan to wash your ties it should be done before they are taken apart.

These instructions are written for someone with at least a basic knowledge of sewing and sewing products.  Understanding about the construction of a quilt is also helpful.  If you are an absolute beginner please do not use treasured memory items to learn to sew.  Find someone with sewing knowledge to help you.

Within several of these posts I talk about a “stabilizer” but some people call it an “interfacing”.  I go into more depth about this product in another post.

I find myself adding more instruction posts as more questions are asked.  Please go to the home page of this blog to find and read all of the posts before starting your necktie quilt.

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Before you can make a necktie quilt there are a few things you must have.  Neckties of course.  You can’t make a necktie quilt without the neckties. When you have gathered up your neckties you need to wash them in the hottest water you have available.  Why?  Because you want them to shrink or fade or come apart or whatever they are going to do before you spend all that time and effort making your quilt.  You don’t want to do all that work only to have something happen the first time it’s washed.

Wash in hottest water available.

Wash in hottest water available.

The ties that are going to cause problems will show in the washing process.  Washing them creates a mess of tangled up ties.  Don’t worry, the tangles will come apart easily, but wait until after you’ve dried them on a hot setting.  Washing also means your finished quilt can be washed instead of taking to a dry cleaner.  There will be those who differ on whether to wash or dry clean a neck tie quilt.  It’s my personal opinion that dry cleaning quilts is expensive and risky and stinky.

Tangled mess after washing.

Tangled mess after washing.

After the washing and drying you will want to take the ties apart and remove the inner stabilizer.  Usually there is one thread holding a tie together.  If you find that thread you can pull it out easily.  When I take the ties apart I save everything.  I save the padding fabric for making rugs.  I save the labels for another craft that I’ll start someday when I have enough labels.  I save the thread because it is a super strong thread.  It makes great coat button sewing thread.

Taking ties apart

Taking ties apart

Neckties are made with fabric cut on a bias.  This means the ties are stretchy and could ravel easily.  Stretching and raveling is not good when making quilts.  You need a stabilizer (also called interfacing) to tame and prevent stretching and raveling of the bias cut fabrics.  I use Pellon brand iron on stabilizer.  It must be the iron in type to work for quilts.  Do not, do not, do not confuse the interfacing stabilizer with a glue product called wonder under or heat n bond.  They are NOT stabilizers.  The glue products usually come attached to a paper which prevents it from sticking to itself on the bolt.

What you need for a necktie quilt is the same product you would find inside the collar or cuffs of a button up shirt.  It stabilizes a fabric but does not glue it together.  I use the Pellon brand but there might be other brands out there somewhere.  The Pellon has tiny dots of glue on one side only and does not have paper.  If you are having trouble finding the stabilizer, look for interfacing OR look where machine embroidery supplies are sold.

I use the feather weight most often because it tames the fabric without adding a lot of weight to the quilt.  Making quilts from clothing is my specialty.  I make a lot of quilts from clothing so I buy stabilizer by the bolt.    How much to buy for your own quilt?  That will depend on which pattern you choose and which size you intend to make.

Pellon feather weight iron in stabilizer

Pellon feather weight iron in stabilizer

The next thing you will need is a pattern.  Many people are under the mistaken idea necktie quilts are made with neckties in their original wearable form.  Not true, as you will see later in this post.  The pattern I chose for this tutorial is a Dresden Plate.  I chose it because the lady who emailed me for instructions liked the ones I had made before. There are hundreds, or possibly thousands, of Dresden Plate patterns out there.

Necktie quilt tutorial 2014

The great thing about making quilts from neckties is that any pattern will work.  Once the ties are taken apart it’s just fabric.  They are no longer ties.  Look at them as a pile of odd shaped fabric scraps instead of neckties.  If you have a pile of scrap fabrics the pattern possibilities are endless.  What would you do with a bunch of scrap fabrics?  A string quilt?  A nine patch?  Applique?  Or, a Dresden Plate?

Neckties taken apart

Neckties taken apart

You may want to buy a template for cutting your pieces.  You don’t have to buy one but it sure will make cutting the quilt pieces much easier.  I have two Dresden Plate templates, a small and a large.  I could have used either one but for speed I chose to use the smaller of the two.  The templates come in different “degrees” and each size requires a different number of pieces (blades) to make the circle.  If you want to use lots of ties then choose a template or pattern with narrower blades.

Plastic rotary cutting template rulers

Plastic rotary cutting template rulers

So now you have your ties washed and taken apart and you have your pattern.  It’s time for me to reveal the magic secret to making good necktie quilts.  Drum roll please……… you cut the stabilizer into the wedge shapes before you iron it to the fabric.  Why do I cut the stabilizer before ironing  instead of  after ironing to the ties?  Because I’m frugal. I don’t like using more stabilizer than necessary because its expensive.  Honestly it can be done either way.  I’ve used it both ways.  I prefer to cut the shapes first and ironing it to the ties which is what I did for this sample.

For my necktie sample quilt I decided to use the full length of the smaller ruler.  It’s an eight inch ruler which makes a finished circle of 17 1/2 inches across.  I cut an 8 inch wide strip of stabilizer and then cut the blades.  If you plan to make a much larger plate for a much larger quilt then use a longer wedge ruler.  Whether you plan a small plate or a larger plate the process is the same.

Cutting the stabilizer

Cutting the stabilizer

The next step for me is to iron the shapes to the back of the neckties.  By cutting the stabilizer first, I can manipulate placement and get four blades each from the narrow end of five ties.  Or twenty blades. This leaves the remaining fabric of the ties, the wider end, for making into other quilts.  If you are planning to make a large plate you may be using about half the length of the tie for each blade.

Stabilizer ironed to back of neckties

Stabilizer ironed to back of neckties

See?  Four of each color for a total of twenty.  Simply trim along the sides of the stabilizer and you’re ready to start making your Dresden Plate.

Necktie quilt tutorial 2014 019

I wanted to see how the fabrics look together so I lay them out.  Drat, the photo looks washed out.  Low batteries.

Necktie quilt tutorial 2014 020

The first sewing step is to fold the wide end in half and sew across it.  Like this.  Use a 1/4 inch seam.  I chain sew all the blade ends.

Sew across the wide end

Sew across the wide end

Now cut them apart and clip a little tip off the side with the fold.  Like this.

Clip off a dog ear

Clip off a dog ear

Fold them right sides out and press the blades flat.  The seam inside the blade point is ironed open.  The clipped off piece allows for a better point and creates less bulk.  It does take a little manipulation to do that but is worth the effort.  Be sure  to keep the seam centered so your points stay even and not skewed to one side.

Four blades of five colors

Four blades of five colors

 Now it’s time to sew the blades together.  Use a 1/4 inch seam again.  Always start at the pointy end of the blades.  If you have a slight difference in length, or your points are skewed,  it will show at the center and not at the pointy end.  

Sew the blades together with 1/4 inch seam

Sew the blades together with 1/4 inch seam

Sew two together.  Sew two pairs together.  Etc, until you have a full circle.  I press the seams open to reduce bulk.  I always iron each seam after it’s sewn.  If my seams are not accurate or if anything else has happened it will be apparent as I iron each seam.  I frog stitch and correct any error before going on.  My plate has finished nice and flat.  Everything is pressed nicely.  

Press seams open as you go.

Press seams open as you go.

Now it’s time to cover the whole in the center.  For this I use the necktie inside facing.  This facing comes in really nice solid colors.  Just right for making a Dresden plate center circle.

Colorful necktie facings

Colorful necktie facings

Use whatever way you make a circle.  I found that a jar ring is just the right size for marking my circle.

Find something to mark a circle the correct size

Find something to mark a circle the correct size

I mark the circle on the stabilizer  but do a “birthing” technique rather than iron for a raw edge.

Necktie quilt tutorial 2014 033

Birthing a circle is when you sew the stabilizer to the fabric, right sides together, then turn it right side out (the birthing part), making sure the edges are even, and press.  I use my thumbtack method for a perfect circle.

Sewing a perfect circle

Sewing a perfect circle

When you have your circle made it goes in the center of your plate.  That’s it.  The plate is finished.

Necktie quilt tutorial 2014 029

Now that the plate is finished you simply use your favorite way to applique and put it on a background fabric.  If you would like to know how to draw your own template for the Dresden instead of buying a plastic one go here.  Draw your own Dresden template.

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159 comments on “Necktie quilt instructions one

  1. Kathleen Schmit
    August 28, 2018

    I have my dads ties. He doesn’t have a lot maybe 20. Any ideas would be helpful.

    • Anita
      August 28, 2018

      Kathleen, once the ties are taken apart and ironed flat its just fabric again. Its surprising how much fabric is in one tie when flat again. You can make lots of different things with fabric. Do a search of reusing old ties and you’ll get thousands of ideas. I’m a quilter so I’d make quilts. A toy maker might make stuffed animals. A dress maker might make a jacket. Get the idea? If you think you would want to make a quilt there are string quilts, Dresden plate quilts, crazy quilts, or applique quilts.

  2. briansma
    July 21, 2018

    I’m an experienced quilter, although I’ve never attempted to use silk ties. My husband has a friend who wants a bed quilt made from his beloved ties. Your instructions were exactly what I was looking for and I really appreciate your work. I have a couple of questions – how warm is a silk tie quilt? how heavy? And what kind of batting would you recommend using? I’m washing the ties today and will save the labels for you; please tell me where to send them.

    Colleen Voet colleenvoet@gmail.com

    • Anita
      July 21, 2018

      For batting I personally use quilters dream cotton in the request weight. To guess at how heavy the quilt will be when finished, put all the ties and the batting and the backing into a bag and lift it. Your quilt will be slightly less. Because the tie interfacing will be gone and some fabric cut away as you piece. My address is Anita Estes 3718 Luken Drive Louisville KY 40216 My address is under the “may I have them button” on the side bar too.

  3. Hope Powell
    July 5, 2018

    Hi Anita,
    I have been collecting silk ties for years so I can make a Dresden plate quilt. I was going to take my ties to the dry cleaners and beg for a discount as I know it is expensive. Your tutorial is the best I have seen.
    Also, I have been saving labels for years. I am going to do something spectacular with them also. Do you have an idea yet? I have a Victorian crazy quilt and that is where I got the idea to save all my labels. I get them from coats and ties.

    • Anita
      July 6, 2018

      I am planning to put the labels into a crazy quilt IF I ever gather enough.

      • Hope Powell
        July 30, 2018

        Me too. I too have been saving labels for years. It must be some sort of obsession about throwing out something perfectly good.

        • Anita
          July 31, 2018

          Hmm… could be I’m a border line hoarder. 🙂 Actually I plan to put mine into a crazy quilt IF I ever get enough of them. What do you plan to do with your labels?

        • Hope Powell
          August 1, 2018

          I am going to make a silk quilt and use the labels as part of the design. My ties are actually all silk so my tags will be incorporated some how.

  4. Natascha
    May 21, 2018

    Thank you so much. I have a lot of ties from my father. He died two month ago and I want to make a quilt from the ties. I looked for some instruction on how to make it. And I found it here.

    • Anita
      May 22, 2018

      Very sorry for your loss. Let me know how it goes.

  5. L Runner
    May 9, 2018

    Thanks, I have been looking for patterns for using ties. I want to make a quilt for my youngest son. Some of the ties were both of his grandfather’s.

    • Anita
      May 9, 2018

      You’re welcome, glad I helped.

  6. Sherrie
    April 21, 2018

    Anita: So glad to stumble on your site. I have many “silk” ties of my husbands and have been holding on to them for a long while. Just waiting for someone to enlighten me on how to go about making a necktie quilt. Question: Won’t the hot water kill all the beautiful colors in a silk tie? They have always been spot cleaned or dry cleaned.
    I have quilted before but, by no means consider myself experienced. I am going to Missouri Star and order some fan templates.
    I would gladly send my tags to you.

    • Anita
      April 21, 2018

      Yes, the hot water might kill the colors but I’m no expert at that. I wrote the instructions when I was making quilts for homeless men who didn’t care if the colors ran or faded. If you want your quilt to be washable then you need to know about the colors before you do all the work to piece your quilt. If you feel it needs dry cleaning only then please find a dry cleaner who will do that before piecing your quilt. I have’t seen an actual dry cleaning store in years. Putting vinegar in the wash water might “set” the colors. Its what dyers often use. Don’t forget to read all of the necktie posts I wrote.

      I would love to have the tags! They are very tiny so its going to take a lot of them for my project.

      • Sherrie
        April 22, 2018

        I will be glad to take care the tags off for you. I can’t imagine how many you will need!! Lol very best wishes to you for such an immense project.
        Thank you for you for such a quick response.

  7. Pingback: lonestar quilt of neckties | When Natasha Sews

  8. Jan
    April 6, 2018

    What is the finished size of your circle of ties?

    • Anita
      April 12, 2018

      It really depends on the size of your blades.

  9. Alice Buchanan
    April 6, 2018

    Thanks ! I needed that ! Great way to make a Dresden Plate from ties !

  10. Joy Burdeshaw
    April 5, 2018

    Where can i purchase the plastic template for the neck tie quilt?

    • Anita
      April 5, 2018

      Fabric stores carry plastic templates. Online fabric stores are even better. I like ordering from the Missouri Star Quilt Company best. Use this link. Missouri Star Look for a Dresden Plate ruler. They have several kinds.

  11. Cindy
    March 16, 2018

    Your tutorial was very helpful. My husband has gone through his ties (Some were inherited from his Dad) and a neck tie quilt sounds like just the ticket to recycle them. I owe 2 granddaughters quilts, they will be pleased to sleep under some of Grandpas ties. I might add my husband still has 100 ties so maybe more quilts are in the future.

  12. Tina
    March 12, 2018

    I really enjoyed your post. Sue Hausmann did an America Sews PBS show about neck ties, with a lot of good info. Washing ties is very important. If they are ties you can’ t replace you can wash them in small batches with a lot of color catcher. I did ruin a batch of ties, red was the culprit. Always wash reds separate. Thanks

  13. Sylvia Kramer
    February 14, 2018

    I have my project finished but I did not want to applique the tie quilt on background fabric. I want to use it as a table topper but I don’t know how to finish the back. Any suggestions??

    • Anita
      February 14, 2018

      How about doing a pillow case type backing? You know how that is done?

      • Sylvia Kramer
        February 15, 2018

        No I don’t.

        • Anita
          February 15, 2018

          Sylvia, after I suggested it I realized the pillowcase finish can be rather difficult without some advanced skills. There is only two ways to finish the back. Sew it to a background and trim the background away right next to the ties OR do the pillowcase finish. To get an idea of how it works look at this site pillowcase quilt finishing technique and maybe do an internet search for other sites to read too. The ones I found all show doing a square quilt only but it gives you the idea of how a pillowcase finish works. She uses a batting but using it is not necessary.

          You can always just leave it without a back and be very careful when you wash it. Wash only by hand and very gently. I’m sorry. I’m not being very helpful am I?

  14. Cora Crenshaw
    February 7, 2018

    I will be attempting to make a quilt using my son’s ties. He passed away on Nov 6th 2017. I have never quilted before ( should have learned from my mom). This looks difficult but with the help of a friend we’ll get this done.

    • Anita
      February 7, 2018

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve lost sons so I know how you feel.

      Do you sew at all? Do you know anyone who sews? Is your friend a quilter? Its very important to read ALL three necktie instruction posts before you start and do not confuse a glue product for the stabilizer. Please email with any questions. I may not answer right away but I will answer.

  15. Kirstie
    February 7, 2018

    Can you use heat and bond for the stabilizer? I’m having trouble finding the pellon stabilizer.

    • Anita
      February 7, 2018

      NO! Don’t use heat n bond! Sorry if it appears I’m shouting but it is very important you do not use wonder under or heat n bond products. Those are glue products and you do not want a glue product. You need a “stabilizer” product. Most any fabric store like Hancock, Joann, Hobby Lobby, and some Walmart stores carry an iron in stabilizer. It may not be the pellon brand but the clerk should be able to show you. I special order full bolts from Hancock of Paducah when I find it on sale. Please read the other posts about the necktie quilt instructions before you buy, ok? Just remember if there is a paper attached its a glue. No paper is usually a stabilizer. Hancock of Paducah

  16. Laura
    February 4, 2018

    I’m making a tie quilt for my husband who is retiring soon. Wouldn’t doubt he has between 50-100 ties lol. Send address to me and I’ll send the the tags.

    • Anita
      February 5, 2018

      I’ll email you my address, thank you so much.

  17. Len Silas
    February 4, 2018

    Thanks for the tips and pictures. I going to make two queen size tie quilts. I will send you a picture when I’m done.

    • Anita
      February 5, 2018

      Glad I could help Len. I look forward to seeing the photos. Will you be using the tags from the back of the ties? If not, may I have them?

  18. Becky
    February 1, 2018

    Thank you SOOOO MUCH!!! I’ll email if we have more questions.

  19. Becky Lewis
    January 30, 2018

    Do you have a pattern that I could buy

    • Anita
      January 31, 2018

      No, I don’t sell patterns. If I designed a pattern I’d give it away free. I use the old time patterns passed from one generation to the next. Is there something you have in mind that maybe I could help you with? What would you like to make?

      • Becky
        January 31, 2018

        I’m wanting to make a quilt with a large Dresden design made of neckties in the center & small fans of ties in the corners. It’s going to be a rush project. I have saved all of my husband’s old ties since he started working at age 22. He is retiring in May. I have some friends who are willing to help me but I need a pattern to get me started. There is a picture of a quilt in the Quilt World Omnibook summer 1988 that many people have used & shown their quilts on Pinterest but I have searched everywhere including the internet but can’t find a pattern. The fact that I live in a very small town in the Texas panhandlers does not help in my search. I bought several books on the internet but none of them had what I’m looking for. Any help you could give me even if its pointing me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated!

  20. Leta Juneau
    January 27, 2018

    Do you have other layouts for necktie quilts? I want to make a smaller throw for my son
    and need to see what others look like. Thank you for the above information.
    Leta

    • Anita
      January 27, 2018

      Once the ties are taken apart and ironed flat it becomes just long strips of scrap fabric. Any pattern that uses scrap fabric will work. Many layouts of Dresden plate designs are available too.

  21. Becky
    January 13, 2018

    I am so glad that I found this tutorial! To say I am angley challenged would be an understatement! Now I can make Dresden blades any size I want! Thank you!

    • Anita
      January 13, 2018

      The necktie posts are popular. I’m glad I could help.

  22. Carol Hile
    November 8, 2017

    I have sewed them together twice and I still can’t get them to lay flat, can u help

    • Anita
      November 10, 2017

      I’m sorry to take so long to get back to you. I sent you an email. Without seeing what you’ve done my best guess is your center hole is too small.

  23. Theresa Moshier
    October 24, 2017

    I am making this quilt for a fundraiser for my daughter and husband are going on a missions trip to Africa in July. I tip I used these sheets you put in the washer and takes the color out of the water so it doesn’t bleed color all over the other ties. Thanks for this blog!!!!!

    • Anita
      October 26, 2017

      Good idea. Thanks for suggesting it.

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