Necktie Quilt Tutorial

For a very organized person (other than my sewing table), I'm very time challenged.  I do not always have the best follow-through when it comes to working on projects.  When I agreed to make this memory quilt for a friend (about 2 years ago, eeeek!) I clearly explained that I'd promise no completion date.  She was totally ok with that - - two years ago.  I'm sure she thinks I've completely forgotten!  Nope!  I'm on a mission to finish it, and share with you along the way.

I'm still getting the hang of blogging.  I want my posts to be helpful but consise, and not overly wordy.  Ask anyone who knows me well - I like to talk.  When I make videos, I want the same effect.  It bugs me to watch a tutorial video that rambles on and on and on.  And on.....  so I'm trying to do better.  With that being said, if I leave something out that needs to be said/shown PLEASE let me know, so I can add the necessary information.

I'm excited to share my necktie quilt progress with you!  


What you'll need to get started:

Neck ties - I'm using a variety of ties provided by the family (this is a memory quilt).  I'll talk more about preparing them later.

Fusible interfacing - I'm using Pellon 911FF which is an interfacing for light to medium weight fabrics.

Pattern or ruler - I'm using the Creative Grids 15 degree ruler that will create a large circle or "flower".  Using a 15 degree ruler to make a full circle, you'll need 24 ties.  If you use a different size wedge ruler, you'll need to calculate how many ties you'll need for a full circle.  (360 degrees divided by the degree ruler you're using).  You can use any pattern you'd like, but you'll need to consider how many ties you have, and whether or not you want to add other fabrics to your design.  Just remember to stabilize any fabrics that have stretch, so your quilt won't be wonky.

Fine tipped marker - Tracing around your ruler helps save stabilizer, so you only use what you need.  I use Micron pens for this.  Your mark isn't going to show anywhere, so use whatever works best for you.

Iron - I never use the steam on my iron (it leaks when I do) but I'm a fan of Best Press, and buy it by the gallon.  You can use water in a spray bottle if you're not a fan of Best Press.  


I never knew you could machine wash ties, but you can.  Really.  I washed about 40 ties together, and didn't lose any in the process.  Do not take the ties apart before you wash them.  Wash in warm water, with your regular detergent, but NO fabric softener.  Fabric softener will hinder the fusing process.

Dry them in your dryer on a regular setting.  They will come out of the dryer a tangled mess (sorry I didn't take a pic of this) but you can seperate them, and lay them flat to work on from here.  They will be wrinkled too.  That's ok.  Don't freak out.  

Preparing your ties this way will make your finished quilt machine washable.  That's always a good thing.

Next, you'll take the ties apart by removing the stitching that holds them folded.  Tie thread is strong but can easily be cut with a seam ripper.  Be careful not to cut your tie fabric.  Once you start removing the thread, the tie will come apart easily.  Remove any interfacing and padding.  When you take most ties apart, you will notice a seam that is near the middle like this

I removed the stitching there too, and used the wide bottom section for this quilt, setting the thinner section aside (I didn't even iron the smaller part).  I might need to use these pieces somewhere else in the quilt later, so I didn't toss them yet.

Once you have all your ties apart, it's time to press them.  I pressed all these ties (silk and polyester) on a pretty hot setting without a problem, but TEST before you press yours, just to make sure.  You can reduce the heat, or use a press cloth if needed.  They all ironed well, and all the wrinkles were successfully removed.  Yeah!

Here's my giant stack of ties, pressed and ready for the next step

There's a triangle-shaped piece of fabric sewn to the bottom, back side of the ties that I removed right before fusing.  I left it in place for ironing, as I felt it would make the tie more stable for pressing.

Once the tie is smooth, you're ready to fuse your interfacing to the wrong side of the tie.


Use a fusible interfacing (not a sew in) for this project.  I use Pellon 911FF.  It comes on a bolt, and is not expensive.  To save on waste, I like to trace the pattern shape onto the interfacing first, then cut them out leaving a little space around the tracing.  

This lets me fuse it in place, then cut out on the line for a precise pattern piece.  You can cut your interfacing out on the line, then fuse if you prefer, but I like fusing then trimming.  To me, it's easier to cut fused fabric than to try to cut at the edge of fused fabric.  Does that even make sense?  

Ok, so you're ready to fuse.  For this step, you need to use a press cloth if you're using Pellon 911FF.  Follow the directions for the fusible you're using.  This is important.  You want your interfacing and fabric to "become one" so it's important to do this part as directed by your interfacing manufacturer.  

I use a 100% cotton flour sack towel (a large one) as my press cloth.  Smooth your interfacing and tie out well, then gently lay your press cloth over everything, being careful not to disrupt your placement.  Mist your cloth with water or Best Press and apply heat with your iron for the recommended amount of time.


When using a fusible interfacing, I like to allow the fused fabric to cool before I handle it much.  This seems to keep everything stuck well as it cools.  Fusing is super easy, but it's a bit slow-going.  Just take your time, and you'll appreciate the results.

Once you get all your ties washed, disassembled, pressed and fused, you have the hardest part behind you!



Fusing is done, and my stack is large.  Time to trim on the line.  Here's my view right now....


 Sharp scissors are a must here.  I have 3+ pair of dedicated fabric scissors in my house, and none of them are sharp anymore :(  This means someone has likely used the fabric only tools for something other than fabric.  Hmmmm, wonder who?

I had 47 ties to work with for this project, and two of them were completely unusable due to their size (they were too skinny).  Several other ties were stained and nothing I tried would get the stains out, but hey - stained ties are just part of being a minister!  The neat guy who wore all these ties enjoyed lots of fellowship over great food for many years, so the stains are part of the memories here.  

So I now have a stack of 45 ties, that are all washed, pressed, fused, and trimmed.  Remember that if you're using a 15 degree wedge ruler, it takes 24 ties to create a full circle.  If you're using a 10 degree wedge it will take 36 ties.  I prefer the look of the larger blocks (ties) so I'm using the 15 degree wedge ruler for this project. 

Here's what my blocks look like now

On to the next step!

In order to create the pointed end on each tie (making them look like neckties again) you'll need to take the wide end of each tie (shown above) and fold with right side together like this....  be sure to match the edges well (I took this pic before I matched the edges well so you could see what was going on).  Once you have your edges matching, stitch across the end using a 1/4" seam.  Always start at the open end, and finish at the folded end.  Chain piecing works great for this step!

Here are a couple of photos showing the stack of ties, after the end seam is sewn.

If you chain pieced this step, carefully separate your ties, find something pointy (but not sharp) and get your iron hot.  Before you turn your sewn end right side out, you'll want to snip a little fabric that will fall inside the point once it's turned.  This will de-bulk that point and allow it to lay better.  

The next step will make you happy, because your ties will soon start looking like ties again.  Turn all those sewn ends right side out, and use your pointy tool (I like the Purple Thang tool) to gently push the point out.  Be certain to center the seam (and I like to open the seam allowance too - which requires a little patience - but it makes everything lay better once pressed).  Here's a visual aid so you can see that it's starting to take shape.

Once you have your point nice and pointy, and your seam centered (this is important), press well.  If you don't have your seam centered, the tips of your ties will not look even once you assemble them into the "flower".  So take the time, before you press, to open the seam allowance, and get that seam centered.

Once you have all your ties pressed into points, you are almost ready to start sewing!  Lay all your ties out like you want them before you start sewing.  Once you have the layout decided, sew two ties together, right sides together, using a 1/4" seam.  Be sure to start sewing at the point end of the ties (this is very important).  This will ensure that all your point ends match up properly.  

Continue to sew two ties together, pressing the seams open, all the way around, until you have 12 sections (24 ties sewn together in pairs).  Then sew two sections together (4 ties) all the way around, pressing your seams open as you go. 

Continue this trend until you find yourself with two 12 piece sections (sorry I didn't take a pic showing 12 ties sewn together, but this creates 1/2 of your total "flower").  Then sew those two sections together (always right sides together) and your neck tie "flower" will be complete!

Step back and admire your work!  Once the euphoria of getting this far wears off, take the time to do another press from the back (make sure the seams are all pressed open), then flip it over and press from the front.  You will want to de-bulk the center at some point (probably before you make these final pressings) and I did remember to snap a pic of that.  Simply fold your flower in half, then in half again and trim about 1 1/2" of the point that is created (the center of your flower).

You will find that when you sew all your ties together, the skinny ends will become pretty cluttered, and you won't be able to press your seams open all the way to the end easily.  The center of your flower will be covered with an applique so don't worry about being perfect here - you just don't want to trim too much off - just enough to be able to press all those seams open, and allow your flower to lay nice and flat.

HANG IN THERE!  You're almost done!

Once you have your neck ties sewn together, and pressed nice and flat, it's time to decide what kind of background you want to applique your "flower" on to.  Since there's generally no real theme or color scheme when you're working with an assortment of ties, a neutral background might be more appealing.  I auditioned several different color fabrics to use as my background, but ended up choosing this warm tan, as I felt it wasn't overpowering and didn't compete with the ties.  I added a black border around the tan to give a "framed" look to this project.

Notice how I used the same tan fabric to make the round applique for the center.  This will cover all the raw ends of the ties, and after this is added, you will have no raw seams anywhere in your applique.

Let's talk about how to make the center applique next.  

For this step you'll need a small piece of fabric (for the center), something round to trace around, and a piece of the one-sided fusible interfacing (I used the Pellon 911FF again here) about the same size as your fabric.

I have a set of clear circle templates that I use but you could use anything round that you can trace around (that's the right size).  This template measures approx 4 1/2" across.  

Trace your circle onto the wrong side of your fabric square.  Cut a piece of your fusible interfacing about the same size as your square.  This part is important - find the fusible side of your interfacing (the side that has a rough texture, indicating this is the side with the fusible glue on it) and place it under your face down fabric.  So your fusible side should be touching the right side of your fabric.  Gently sew all the way around your drawn circle, on the line.  All the way around.  You do not need to leave an opening.

After you've sewn all the way around your circle, cut out your circle about 1/8" beyond your seam line.  On the outside (leaving a teeny seam allowance).  This is what your circle should look like now.

Now we will carefully create our opening so we can turn the circle right side out.  Draw a small line in the center of your circle on the interfacing side, then separate the layers a little so you can slip the end of a seam ripper just under the interfacing at the start of your drawn line.  BE VERY careful not to cut into your main fabric.  You only want to create an opening in the interfacing side. 

Now you have an opening to turn your circle.  When you turn your circle, you will have the fusible side on the outside, the right side of your fabric on the outside, and all your raw edges on the inside.  DO NOT use an iron for this step!  Take your time and finger press your circle only.  If you use an iron, your circle will be fused to whatever it's laying on.  Finger press only, until you're ready to apply to the center of your neck tie "flower".  Here is what the back of your circle should look like now.

And here is what the front of your circle should look like

Set your circle aside for now, as you do not want to attach it to your flower just yet.

The next step was my least favorite of all.  Attaching the large applique to the background fabric.  In all honesty, this part took me the longest, as I struggled to find the best way.  I have never appliqued anything this large, and wasn't sure of the best way to do it, and after talking to several longarm quilters who all told me I absolutely had to attach it before bringing it to them (drats!  I hoped to find a quilter who would do that part for me!) I jumped in and figured out the best way.

Make sure your background fabric is laying smooth (press it well) and center your applique where you want it.  Smooth everything as you pin, and pin it well to the background.  I started by pinning the center section (the part that will be covered with the circle).  Pin in every second or third panel, making sure not to let anything get wonky as you pin.  Nothing hard, but it takes some patience and time.  You will notice in this pic that my backing fabric was pieced (I joined two sections of fabric together) so that's what the seam you see is all about.

Continue to smooth everything out, keeping it all nice and flat, and pin near the wide end of each panel.

I went and purchased some silk pins for this project but I didn't like them.  I used my long, flat flower head pins and they worked great.  They are much easier for me to grab and use.  Add several more pins (at least one more in each panel) and your flower should be secure and ready for the next step.

I used a mono-poly thread from Superior Threads (my all time fav clear thread).  I began by sewing a straight line (in the ditch) between every other panel (from the center outward) then a zig-zag stitch to attach the flower around the edge.  I used a tan thread in the bobbin (Coats poly).  

My Brother machine sews fine with the mono thread, but I always test sew on something else before I jump in on the main project.  When using a clear thread, you will sometimes need to adjust your tension (I lowered it significantly for this project).  Just start slow and watch your stitches to see if you need to adjust.  

Let me digress and talk about the straight line (in the ditch) stitching.  I didn't get a pic of this step, as I was still uncertain how well it would work, but it worked great.  Using the mono-poly thread mentioned above, I simply sewed a straight stitch (you can lengthen your stitch length a little for this) between two ties, from the center out.  I only did this on every other seam.  It did a good job anchoring everything well.

Then on to the zig-zag around the perimeter of the flower...  My initial zig-zag was a little too "tight" so I lowered the tension and lengthened the stitch) until it was just right.  The stiches should be nearly invisible, with no pulling or bunching.  Stitch around the entire outside of your applique, making sure one-half your zig-zag stitch falls on the applique, and the other falls on the background fabric.

Did I tell you I made TWO of these quilts at the same time?  No?  Surprize!  The next few pics are not intended to throw you off, but I ended up remembering to get pics when I was working on the applique in the second quilt!  Here's a pic of me zig-zagging...

After you've attached the main applique to the background, it's time to smooth it all back out and fuse your center.  Remove any pins near the center, and ensure your circle is finger pressed well.  Lay your circle applique in the center, covering any raw ends, and fuse with a hot iron in place.  Allow to cool before moving.  Zig-zag around the circle applique.

Now step back and admire your work while you're dialing your favorite longarm quilter to tell him or her you're on your way!

Each of my neck tie quilts measured approximately 62" square, and they are now at the longarm quilter.  I promise to post pics as soon as they are back!

This is my first attempt to write a tutorial.  I welcome your feedback, and hope you find this helpful.  




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  • Rachel on

    Excellent tutorial Karen! And I can’t wait to see the finished products! I really liked the gray background that you used. Can you let me know what it was? And what a nice surprise to find you. I will definitely be back to see what other wonders you post.

  • Vicki Allen on

    Just me but I like a numbered list. Makes it easier for me to follow. An easy to print pdf

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