from Neckclothitania, (1818)

Most of my evenings this week have been given over to cutting, folding, and carefully stitching neckties. Young or old, smart or casual, all the blokes in my family this year will be receiving a handmade tie. I can share this information with you because with one exception (my Dad) these blokes do not read this blog, and Ma has promised to keep Dad from having a sneaky peek.

There is more to making a tie than you may imagine. If you look at the construction of a well-made one, you’ll see what I mean. They are usually formed of three pieced sections, all cut on the bias to allow the fabric to lie and hang correctly. Ties are rolled and folded in quite a specific and complicated way, and their back seams are invisibly closed with an even slip stitch. I’ve not done much research on the history of the necktie, but from what I can find out, the basic shape of what we now know as the modern tie originated with a late-nineteenth century British haberdasher named Tremlett; three piece bias-cutting was the 1926 innovation of a New-York tailor called Jesse Langsdorf; and Richard Atkinson of Belfast introduced the even slip-stitch in the late 1920s.


You can find a few online tutorials for making ties (for example, here and here). There are also paper patterns available, but I used the instructions in the 1938 edition of the Odham’s Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft as my starting point. (I absolutely love this book — it includes straightforward instructions for all sorts of pattern cutting, tailoring, and garment construction. Everything you need is there!) Because my ties are made out of narrow lengths of tweedy fabric, I had to cut and piece them in two sections rather than just cutting one long 36″ length suggested here.


I worked out the angles with a protractor, drew the design on paper, then cut out lengths of tweed and liberty tana lawn for the lining (two very different but equally pleasing types of fabric. Wot a treat!) I then lined both tie-tips, machine-sewed a narrow seam on each long side, and then folded the tie into shape. This bit required lots of steam and pressing action; the use of an old tie as a guide; and a degree of care and concentration. In fact, I think my one piece of advice when tie-making is to spend a lot of time over this folding and pressing part. It really pays off. So after pressing the folds ruler-straight, I pinned them, and, over a few evenings, hand-stitched all my ties closed using the even slip-stitch method (it really is invisible!).


The tweed is substantial enough not to need interlining, and, after pressing, these ties look pretty good, (even though I do say so myself). Because a couple of them are made with very narrow waste lengths of tweed picked up at Hinnigan, I was unable to cut them completely on the bias. But the hang of the fabric still seems OK, and they passed the Tom test anyway, which can be quite exacting.


In this instance, the shirt and the ties aren’t a particularly good match, but the model had Christmas brewing to do, and was not keen on changing his clothes several times on the grounds of tasteful colour coordination. . .


. . .but you get the idea anyway.
So, ’tis the season to wear a festive tweedy tie. Yes it is. Listen up, O ye assorted brothers-in-law. . .