Creating a Memory Quilt from Ties

Stephanie Novatski © 2006

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A few years ago, a dear friend of ours passed away. About a year ago, his wife mentioned she was finally going to start packing up his clothes to donate to a worthy organization. He was a spiffy dresser and always the life of the party. I asked her for his ties and said I would make her a memory quilt from them. About a month ago, she gave me a bag of his ties, so I am ready to begin. From the selection of ties which she said described as his favorites, I learned he was very conservative in his business attire

When I looked at the ties, I thought I was in over my head. Now what? I looked through them many times—sorted them by color, then by pattern, then by fabric.   

I was at a loss as to where to start. Do I use a fan block similar to the beautiful quilt by Carol Samples? Do I do small blocks with a piece of a tie in the center and then use the ties to create a strip border? How about pieces of ties with complimentary fabrics in larger blocks with a center picture or symbol of his favorite things -- a Jack Daniels label, crossed flags of his favorite corvettes, a picture of him dancing, a piece from his favorite bandana, etc, etc. I started to sketch out my ideas for a layout. Since most of the ties are dark colors, I also have to decide on additional fabrics to use. So it doesn't look too somber, I think I will pick out a few of the brighter colors in the ties—such as green, blue, gold, bronze.

In actuality, the first thing I have to do with the ties is deconstruct them. Some of them also had spots, which had to be marked off so I didn't accidentally put them in a prominent place on a block. The ties are a variety of widths and fiber content and some were lined with decorative fabrics. Though the lining fabrics are thin, with backing they may be usable in the pieced blocks and/or strip borders. I will also try to find a home on the quilt for all the decorative labels. 

So while I ponder the piecing arrangement, I will be taking the ties apart. 

Here is a how-to:

Remove the label and open the back seam. I discovered this stitching on almost all the ties was done by hand so I only had to carefully unknot the ends, then pull the single thread out.

Remove the interfacing.

Turn lining to outside and carefully trim off seams. You could pick out the seam, but the tie fabric is very delicate and you may cause pulls. It is also much faster to just cut it off.

Lay the tie flat on an ironing board and carefully press on the wrong side using a press cloth. I started with a fairly cool steam iron raising the temperature as needed and gently pressed to remove the folds. Because ties are cut on the bias, handle fabric carefully to avoid stretching.

This is a picture of the fabric one tie yielded. The tie is pieced but the seams are very small and will add little bulk so I will leave them as is. Store it rolled to avoid stretching and creasing.

One down, 25 to go!

Check back next issue to see my progress—if any! My son is getting married in November and I have my list of to-dos so I may not have time for much else.
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