What I Didn’t Buy – Tie Quilt

Last week I found a good reminder that your grandmother was reusing out-of-date materials and clothing to make something that might be useful, and she didn’t even have Pinterest to inspire her.  In this case, someone took a bunch of old ties and made a lap quilt.

Sometime in the early 1950s men started seeing a shift in tie design.  Ties became longer and more narrow, and the colors and designs became much more conservative.  What looked right to men after returning home from WWII now looked a bit clownish.  I’m sure that many men did like my Uncle Corky and just left the crazy ones on the tie rack.  When he died there were dozens of great 1940s ties buried under the somber 1950s and 60s ones, and there were even a few new 1970s polyester ones on the very top.

But some clever quilter saw patchwork material when looking at these old, unstylish ties.  I’m pretty sure this was made in the 1950s because of the type of rayon that was used for the backing.  Maybe it was a gift for the original owner, or maybe the maker collected them from friends who would no longer wear them.

I look at something like this today and realize that as far as monetary value is concerned, the seller of the quilt would be better off having the ties intact. But it’s hard to criticize the maker of the quilt, and she (or he, possibly) would never have dreamed that anyone would ever be caught dead in these again.

I see dozens of old ties in practically any thrift store I visit.  They are rarely older than the 1970s, but some of them are made from fine silks.  I’m not a quilter, but I’ll admit I’ve been tempted to collect then just so I’ll have a project in case I ever get snowed in for two weeks with no electricity.  And I always look at ties in thrift stores in the hopes of finding a Liberty Tana lawn one.  I always get them because those long strips of bias fabric come in handy for various projects.

That one with the swordfish is pretty nifty.

Nothing says “classy” like big old green and orange gems.

Do you know a steel-working man?  There was a tie for him.



Filed under I Didn't Buy...

25 responses to “What I Didn’t Buy – Tie Quilt

  1. John

    Thanks for this! This is a blessing and a curse… I shudder to think of rare ties being ‘re-purposed’, but I appreciate the ‘collective art’. Imagine if a $750 Salvador Dali tie were cut up and buried in this matrix! I see the quilter censored out the girlie ties… some of them were pretty explicit.


  2. Very very cool. I love looking at ties while thrifting, such gorgeous patterns and luscious silks. But alas, don’t bring them home, what would I do with them? Someday will we admire the 70s ties? I think so.


  3. I do not think a really great vintage tie ( or anything )really goes out of style- one simply has to have a sense of real “style” to know how -and when and with what to wear it.


  4. It’s an ingenious idea. I’d like to think the quilter was using ties that belonged to a loved one. There’s some great patterns in there.


  5. Now, there was a British actress named Lucinda Gane (who sadly passed away in 2005) whose quilts were featured in a lovely book, The Passionate Quilter, published by Ebury Press back in 1990. Lucinda made at least two quilts entirely from men’s silk ties. Alas, I can find no images to tempt you on the internet, so you’ll just have to dig out that book. But her old-tie quilts were stunning, employing intricate pattern and dramatic use of colour, light and shade. I think it took about a hundred ties to make just one quilt, though. And an awful lot of time as they were meticulously pieced by hand with backing papers. She describes her working procedure for that (dissecting the ties, preparing the silk etc) in that book. Anyway, such a tie quilt might make a nice memorial project.

    Incidentally, English pieced patchwork is one of those laborious yet portable projects that actors often take on set/into rehearsal to kill inevitable dead time. Judi Dench’s thing is apparently to cross-stitch obscenities onto hankies! There’s nothing like a dame… By the way, Lucinda played the part of a teacher in a long-running BBC series over here.

    I agree wholeheartedly about the Liberty ties. I look out for them too, though if they’re in decent condition they’re worth reselling as they are incredibly popular still. I prefer to cut bigger garments (such as gathered skirts) for bias binding purposes, provided I find them going cheap, or damaged.


    • I may just have to find a copy of that book, as if I need another project to plan! I always buy Liberty garments and scraps when I find them. No bit is ever too small!


      • Oh, I agree! No Liberty scrap can ever be left behind… 😉

        That book is a wonderful snapshot of quilters/quilt artists at that time. Its author was Michele Walker who helped set up the Quilters’ Guild over here. She interviewed quilters/artists such as Deirdre Amsden (who uses Liberty prints dramatically in her signature colourwash technique), Janet Bolton, Liz Bruce, Pauline Burbidge, Jo Budd and Setsuko Obi. It’s beautifully photographed too by Sandra Lousada.


  6. Ruth

    Could have beem made in memory of someone who died, even. I’ve seen quilts like this made from old shirts (my SIL has one made from her dad’s old shirts).I remember something about using old ties for quilts as a “craft” thing in the 70’s, maybe? Seems like it was in an old crafts book from then, anyway. Would be something fun to do with some of the crazy ties that weren’t really designer ties.


    • Tie skirts were a thing in the 1970s. I don’t remember anyone in my conservative little corner of the world actually making and wearing one, but the crafts magazines were full of instructions for them.


      • Ruth

        That’s what I was thinking of–I can see the picture now! The woman in the picture was twirling around and I think she had had a headband that was a tie. It was some old craft book series. Gotta love the psuedo-hippy thing from the 70’s!


  7. There was a seamstress/author who specialized in recycling men’s ties. I think she even had a book, “Daddy’s Ties.” Anyway, I am wondering why you didn’t buy this. That swordfish is right up your alley.


  8. I admire your resolve! I would be weak, weak, weak!! xxx


  9. kherbaugh

    My former professor at Oregon State University, Nancy Bryant (now retired) used her father’s ties to make “art” jackets. The jackets were quite beautiful and it was a way of helping Nancy deal with the grief when her father died.


    • A quilt-maker friend was commissioned by the son of a well-known artist to make a quilt out of the father’s clothes. Unfortunately she never completed it, as she died of cancer soon after. I can see how using a parent’s clothes for a quilt would be comforting.


  10. This is beautiful. Like you say, from a monetary aspect, the money is in the ties, and not the quilt, but, again, like you said, there is no way the quilter could have known. Like so many things, there were people who never would think their old things would become so desirable.

    Speaking of reusing ties, one of my parents’ professors took all of her husband’s old ties, most of them like these, 40s, silks and rayons, and made them into a skirt after he passed away. He had one of those oh-so-desirable peek-a-boo ties, which she carefully designed as the pocket, so you could see the pin-up. I wish I had an opportunity to see the skirt, instead of just hear about it.


  11. There are some amazing ties in that quilt! I’ve seen (and bought) tie skirts and tie vests, but never a tie quilt. Thanks so much for sharing.


  12. Stacey

    I have a quilt make of old silk ties my mother made. I would love for it to find a home where it would be appreciated. If interested contact me.


  13. Pingback: What I Didn’t Buy – Ties + Denim = Disaster Skirt | The Vintage Traveler

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