Vintage silk neckties can be a great source of silk fabric for all kinds of projects. They’re made in an almost infinite variety of colors and patterns, and they can often be picked up for a ridiculously low price at second hand stores and online. They are also remarkably easy to take apart.
– silk tie(s) – at least one, but you can do this with a bunch at once to save time
– small embroidery scissors (you won’t need a seam ripper but you can use one if you prefer)
– an iron with steam, or an iron and a spray bottle of water
Make sure you check the labels and only buy “All Silk” or “100% Silk” ties. You can take apart ties from polyester or other materials, but they may not press back to flat fabric.
If you find ties that have stains or don’t smell so nice just wash them! Hand washing is best – use Ivory Soap instead of detergent. You can also toss them in the washing machine on the most gentle cycle, but don’t do that if you’re really in love with the tie(s) you’re working with, just in case. Lay the ties flat to dry, out of direct sunlight.
Taking a tie apart is so simple that you’ll be a little surprised it didn’t fall apart on it’s own. Start at the back of the narrow tail end, and carefully clip the tack holding the two sides together. Then just gently pull the long stitches out.
The lining pieces are usually held in place with a chain stitch, so if you snip the end of the thread and gently pull the two layers apart the stitching will probably separate without trouble. You may have to turn the lining inside out and coax a few stitches loose. (I don’t have a picture of that because this tie fell apart when I was trying to get it into a good photo position!)
Once everything is separated you’ll be left with a large piece of silk that was on the outside of the tie, a couple of smaller pieces of lining silk, and a white cotton interfacing filler. The filler makes a great needlework canvas for small embroidery projects.
You’ll now want to press the silk flat. If it is a very old, delicate or important tie, first try saturating the silk with water then laying it flat to dry. That will often remove the crease lines. You can also use a steam iron or mist the silk with water then press it on the “silk” setting to flatten it out. Once the silk is flat you’re ready to use it or store it. To keep it nice it’s smart to roll it instead of folding it – a paper towel core is good for this.
The silk pieces were cut on the bias, so you’ll probably have very little if any edge raveling. It’s important to keep the bias in mind if you’re using it for clothing or as something like a bag lining – it will stretch a bit, so be sure it’s relaxed when you cut it for other projects.
If you think the print you have is too bold for your project always check the back – you’ll often find a more subtle version of the print back there!