Thread Theory

Welcome to the new era of menswear sewing. Go ahead and create something exceptional!


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Silk Tie Sewing Tutorial

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Would you like to try your hand at tie-making this Father’s Day?  It isn’t difficult to make your Dad a tie since the internet abounds with beautiful tutorials and even free patterns for all skill levels!  Since a quick search for “tie tutorials” can lead to fairly overwhelming results, I decided to compile the fruits of my research into one handy blog post and a tutorial that brings together all of my favorite elements from the instructions already available on the web!  Britex has a wealth of tie making supplies that can be very difficult to find elsewhere.  For my tie I used this sunshine yellow Italian silk faille featuring nothing less than hot pink embroidered crabs!  Since ties are cut on the bias, this silk was ideal for my purposes – the crabs run 45 degrees to the selvage!  The silk is from Britex Fabrics and is currently sold out – there are all sorts of other gorgeous silks in their online shop though!

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I consulted Matt (the prospective wearer) on the direction of the crabs – he elected to point them downwards so they wouldn’t be aggressively pinching at his neck.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 3

While you will find my tutorial below, first (or afterwards) you might like to read all of the tutorials and other resources that I found so that you can truly immerse yourself in the world of tie-making.  Here are all ofthe links sorted into the various categories that I researched:

The Anatomy of a Tie:

Tutorials geared towards the average home sewer:

Tutorials geared towards the advanced home sewer/menswear enthusiast:

Videos on Tie-making:

Particular Tie-Making Techniques:

Pattern Options:

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Now that we’re prepped, let’s move on to my tutorial!  For this project you will need:

  • 1 yard silk of medium weight.  This may seem like a lot of fabric but remember that your tie must be cut on the bias!  You may be able to squeeze a tie out of less if you are careful.
  • 1 yard interlining (described below).  This will also be cut on the bias.

Most ties are created with a sewn in (rather than fusible) interlining comprised of wool or a wool/nylon blend.  This interlining gives the tie body (a good tie shouldn’t be flat, it should be lightly pressed so it maintains a three dimensional quality) and also a bit of rigidity.  It is important to match the interlining with the fabric otherwise you run the risk of making your tie too stiff and negating the point of cutting your tie on the bias!  You want your tie to look fluid and smooth…achieving this is probably the trickiest aspect of tie-making.
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Since this silk faille was quite stiff I decided to use a loose wool interlining.  In retrospect, I wish I had chosen an option with a touch more rigidity such as this classic wool interlining.  Aside from the lack of rigidity, the color black was not the best pairing with the yellow silk – it shows through ever so slightly on the finished tie.  All the same, the amount of body this wool gives the tie is ideal and I am happy that the tie ended up fluid enough to allow it to hang nicely (though I worry it might become misshapen over time).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 9

Since there is quite a bit of hand sewing involved in tie-making, it’s a good idea to use fine silk thread to avoid knots.

Once you’ve gathered your materials, establish the exact bias on both your silk and interlining.  Some tie patterns represent the entire tie so they must be cut on one layer of fabric while other tie patterns require that you cut them out on the fold (making it easy to fold your fabric on a 45 degree angle).

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A tie shell is comprised of three main pieces (pictured below from left to right): The blade (the wide front), the neck (the middle), and the tail (the narrower back).  The interlining is usually cut from one piece but I joined two pieces of fabric for mine by abutting the seams and zig-zagging them together so as to avoid adding extra bulk.  On the right hand side of the photo below you can see my two “tipping” pieces – the tie I have made is “self-tipped” rather than “decorative-tipped” because I used the same silk rather than a contrast material as the lining.  I also added a garment tag and a little strip of fabric to create a keeper loop.  A man can choose to feed his tie tail through it if he desires (though some fashion blogs say this is not currently fashionable…who knew?!).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 11

I chose to start making my tie by sewing the tips.  Some people like to join the three main tie segments together before embarking on the tip but I wanted to avoid handling the tie as a long strip too much since the weight of the tips could cause the bias cut fabric to stretch out of shape.  Here is an example (of a store bought tie) so you can see what we are aiming for when sewing a tie tip:
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It is not easy to achieve something this precise (as you will soon see!).  While all the sewing involved in tie-making is basic, the precision and skill employed is key to a high-end tie.  I think I have a long ways to go before I could consider calling my version a ‘luxury’ tie!

If your tie pattern came with two pattern pieces for the tips, they will likely be the same size as the blade and tail tips.  Trim them down 1/4″ on all four sides (not along the top).

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Starting at the top edge, sew the tie and tie tip together with right sides together and a 1/4″ seam allowance (you can see my stitching on the right hand side of the photo below).  Stop sewing 1/4″ from the end of the tie tip.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 15

Here is a detailed photo showing you where to stop sewing:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 16

Pull the tie tip over to the other side of the tie so raw edges meet and sew the other side of the tie tip in the same manner.  You should sew up to but not over the previous stitching to form a precise point.  Be careful to push the excess tie blade fabric out of the way (it will form a bubble).
Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 17Here is a close up of the tie tip with the bubbled tie blade below:
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And here is a photo of the bubble from the wrong side of the tie blade:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 19

And a close up of this bubble:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 20

Finish the tie point by folding the blade in half and stitching across the point from the center of the blade to the raw edge.  This stitching will be perpendicular to your stitched point and within the seam allowance  it should not cross your previous stitching.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 21

When you turn the tip right side out, try pinching the point seam allowance to stop it from crunching up and becoming misshapen as you fold.  The goal is to have your point seam allowance fold neatly within the tie.  I wouldn’t advise trimming the point when you are working with silks since the danger of fraying drastically is very great!Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 22

My point did not turn out perfectly but stitch ripping was only an option once due to the amount of fraying I was experiencing!  The point is not 100% angular but it is certainly passable from the distance most will be viewing it.  From the underside you can see why it did not end up appearing precise:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 23

Practice will hopefully make perfect!

 

Now it is time to sew the three tie segments together.  Carefully press open the seam allowances (don’t push the iron along the fabric as this will cause your bias cut fabric to stretch out of shape, instead, just lift the iron up and move it to the next position).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 24

Now that the points are assembled and the tie segments are joined, it is time to insert the interlining and prepare to hand stitch the final seam!Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 25

Turn under the seam allowances 1/4″ along the entire length of the tie (again, make sure to press instead of iron!).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 26

Press the tie edges inwards to meet in the middle.  As you can see in the store-bought tie below, sometimes this seam can be slightly overlapped – depending on how you like to slip stitch, you can either abut the seam or overlap!  You can also see how the keeper loop is inserted into this seam prior to stitching it down.  We will do this now:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 27

Create your keeper loop using a scrap of the silk.  Ideally you would create a tube and turn it right side out.  You could also avoid the frustration by simply creating binding and top stitching the open edge closed (keep in mind this makes the keeper loop a little stiff).

 

Stitch the loop to the seam allowance on the tie blade:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 28

You can see the positioning of the keeper loop below:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 29

Pin the entire seam together and prepare your thread for hand stitching!  It is a good idea to run your thread through beeswax because you will likely be working with a very long piece of thread if you are trying to stitch the entire seam in one go.  While it is possible to stitch the seam using several shorter lengths of thread, this is not ideal due to the nature of the slip stitch you are about to sew.  Adding too many anchored points will cause the thread to restrict the natural fluidity of the tie (you will see what I mean in a moment!).Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 30

Begin stitching by anchoring the thread at one end of the tie:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 31

Create a large and loose slip stitch all the way along the seam (I allowed the thread to travel up the silk 1/2″ between each stitch).  See the list of tutorials above to learn how to slip stitch.  Be very careful when stitching to avoid stitching into the front of the tie!Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 32

To end your stitching you will be creating another anchor/tack – but this time, the first loop of the anchor will not be pulled tight.  Leave a loop of thread (as pictured below but about half the size) that you can tuck into the tie.  This loop will allow your slip stitch to adjust in tension as the tie is worn and rolled over time – it will seem strange to leave your hand stitching so loose and seemingly fragile, but it is very necessary when trying to achieve a fluid tie.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 33

Now it is just the finishing touches left!  Press the keeper loop flat and tack each side to the back of the tie.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 34

Bring your thread and needle down through the inside of the tie to stitch on the garment tag.  Make tiny stitches along either short edge of the tag.Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 35

Your tie is complete!  Give it a final gentle press and examine your work:Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 36 Father's Day Tie - Thread Theory - 37

Before giving it to the wearer, fold the tie in half and roll it gently – this will allow the bias cut fabric to settle smoothly so that it is not stretched in any off-kilter sort of way.  Your loose stitching and anchored loop of thread will have a chance to work while you do this!
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I hope this tutorial saves you a lot of time researching before you embark on tie-making!  Have you tried making a tie in the past?  What resource or tutorial did you find most helpful?  Did I miss any key resources during my research?

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Secret Weapon: How to sew perfect buttonholes on to delicate fabrics

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I recently sewed an extremely delicate and drapey silk Camas Blouse as a guest blogger contribution to the Britex blog.  It featured a very soft silk jersey knit and I added a contrast panel to the back of the blouse using a floaty grey silk chiffon.  The result was a blouse almost as light as air!  To tell you the truth, it feels a bit disconcerting to wear – almost like I’m wearing nothing!  It was also quite disconcerting to sew – I had to employ some creative thinking and secret weapons to ensure the delicate fabric wasn’t destroyed by my sewing machine.  Apart from experimenting with a variety of needles (I chose a thin and sharp needle) and using fine silk thread (thoughtfully provided by Britex for my project), I also used my favorite trick for sewing buttonholes which I will share with you today:

Let me introduce to you my secret weapon for perfect buttonholes (even on the lightest, stretchiest or unruly of fabrics): Tear-away embroidery stabilizer!

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The stabilizer I chose features a very lightly sticky side that adheres to your project just enough to prevent slipping and doesn’t stretch or tear even the most delicate knit when it is removed.untitled-19When I was ready to stitch my buttonholes I cut a strip of tear-away stabilizer slightly wider than the button placket.
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I peeled off the backing (the half with blue markings on it) and applied it to the wrong side of the button placket (the inside of the shirt).untitled-23

This is what it looks like from the right side of the shirt:untitled-25

This is what it looks like from the wrong side of the shirt:untitled-26

Then I went ahead and stitched the buttonholes on my machine as per normal.  I placed the stabilizer/wrong side of the shirt against the bed of my sewing machine – this prevents the knit fabric from being sucked down into the bobbin chamber.untitled-27

And look at how beautifully the button hole turned out!untitled-29

From the wrong side you can see that the act of stitching the buttonhole has pretty much torn the stabilizer off of the placket.untitled-30

It takes hardly any effort to rip off the stabilizer from the placket:untitled-33

And voila!  A perfect placket of buttonholes!
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I hope you find this to be a useful trick when sewing your next buttonholed Camas Blouse!  It would be useful for all manner of detailed sewing tasks paired with delicate fabrics.  I’d like to try it out when sewing bras, I bet it would really help when top-stitching along the cradle of the Watson Bra!
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Have you tried sewing with tear-away stabilizer?  Do you have any tricks and tips to add to this tutorial?


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Britex Strathcona Henley Tutorial

Happy Friday everyone!  We’re really excited by the response we’ve received about our new free Arrowsmith Undershirt!  I can’t wait to see what all you downloaders sew up with the pattern!

Today I have a tutorial to help you through our Strathcona Henley placket.  Not long ago I was offered a spot as a Britex Guest Blogger.  Have you shopped for fabric at Britex before?  They have a huge brick and mortar store in San Fransisco and an extremely well organized and frequently updated online store.  Their selection of knits is quite large and includes some really unique medium weights and tissue knits that I know I would never find at any of my local fabric stores.  They also have BEAUTIFUL selection of wools (and a great selection of plaids!) that I really look forward to sampling for the Goldstream Peacoat in the future!

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As a guest blogger on the Britex blog, I will be contributing blog posts that include tutorials using Britex fabrics.  I will likely focus on menswear (since that is where my main interest lies!) but will include some of the projects I make for myself or maybe even for our houme in future posts.

Head on over to the Britex blog to see all the other great guest posts (there are loads of really well photographed tutorials!) and read on her or on the Britex blog to see what I contributed for my first post:

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For my first tutorial using Britex Fabrics, I have selected the sumptuous Midweight Tweedy Fern & Taupe Wool Blend Knit in order to make a Strathcona Henley for Matt and to show you how to sew the Henley placket.  This fabric is wonderfully unusual – I know I wouldn’t find anything of this weight and gorgeous texture, let alone with a lovely wool content, at any of my local fabric shops!

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Since this fabric is of medium weight, I decided to sew the Henley placket using a lighter scrap of contrast cotton knit that I had left over from a past project.  I opted to sew the placket using the most fool-proof manner possible – hand sewing!

Even though I love sewing with knits (especially since I know that any knit garment will become a staple in my closet!), I am often filled with trepidation when a design requires me to sew something small or detailed with a knit, such as the Henley placket.  In order to avoid the worry of nicking and unravelling my knit fabric while unpicking crooked topstitching, I simply hand stitch any small details and enjoy the relaxing few extra worry-free minutes that this takes!

To begin the placket, you will first need to prepare the fabric piece by ironing a selection of folds.  These folds will provide you with a guide to apply the interfacing and will later help you fold your placket correctly when it has been attached to the Henley front.  Here are a series of photos to walk you through these steps:

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Now you can open up your folded fabric to see your ironed guidelines.

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Using the ironed guidelines, apply 1” strips of interfacing to the areas either side of the center section.  You may need to re-press your guidelines after applying your interfacing. Then, fold the entire placket in half and press just along the fold to create the center line that you see in the photo below.  This center crease will act as a guide for you to cut along later.

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On your Henley front, you will have marked the “Placket Placement Line.”  Make sure you are working on the WRONG side of your garment.  This is very important, because if you attach your placket to the right side of the shirt front, your placket will end up backwards later on!

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Pin the placket’s center crease to this marked line.  Also, place a pin or mark with chalk the future bottom of the placket.  The bottom is indicated by the notches on the left and right of the placket.

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Now you can sew along the creased lines either side of the center and across the bottom to create a squared off “U” shape.  Cut along the center line through both layers of fabric until approximately 1” from your bottom stitching.  At this point, clip outwards to each corner as pictured below.  Clip quite close to your stitching but be careful not to actually clip over it!

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Now trim the fabric flaps to 1/8”-1/4” to reduce the bulk.

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And you are ready to start folding and sewing!  Push the entire placket through the opening you just created and flip the shirt around so you are now looking at the right side of the shirt.  Fold along the creased fold lines so that each side of the placket is sandwiching the trimmed seam allowances.  Pin the right front placket (if you were wearing the shirt) and sew it in place using tiny, invisible stitches from top until bottom (the bottom is where the notches and your stitching are, not the bottom of the placket fabric).  Alternatively, you could topstitch 1/8” from the placket edge using your machine.

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Before sewing the left placket, you will need to prepare the bottom of the fabric.  Tidy up the loose fabric at the bottom so it becomes a series of 1” folds.

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Trim all but the top two layers to within ½” from your bottom stitching.  This will reduce the bulk at the bottom of your placket.

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Fold the bottom fabric under squarely and pin in place.  Now it is time to hand sew the left side of the placket!

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Continue sewing around the bottom of the placket until all edges are secure.  Press your placket really thoroughly at this point to make sure that the shirt is sitting nicely without any pulling or puckers.

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For this next step, you could skip all the hand stitching and move directly to finishing the bottom of your placket with topstitching, but you’ll probably notice there are still a lot of areas on the underside of the placket where fabric could shift around and get caught out of place when topstitching.  It’s super quick and easy to just do a few hand stitches to ensure everything stays where it should.  First, turn the garment over so you’re looking at the wrong side of the Henley front.  Tuck the bottom of the placket into the ‘pocket’ made by your previous hand stitching.

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Stitch where you just tucked so that the fabric can’t sneak out again!

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You can also open up the placket as pictured below and make a few stitches to join the left and right plackets pieces together across the bottom.

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Now, the last step is some very visible topstitching which I invariably fail to make perfectly square!  It is possible to stitch a perfect square and cross-lines if you are more precise with your machine stitching than I am, but if you are like me, just embrace the rustic manliness your slightly un-square topstitched square gives your Henley!  Once snaps or buttons are applied and the rest of the garment is sewn, it will blend in nicely.

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The rest of the Henley is a breeze after this and takes me about an hour to finish from this point!  And voila, Matt has a new sweater to wear for spring hikes and around the campfire (because, in my opinion, these are the perfect sorts of situations to wear an earthy and rugged wool Henley)!

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