Frequently Asked Questions
To Wash or Not to Wash?
If you plan on washing the quilt, go ahead and prewash the ties and use what survives. Be advised that some ties will come out from the washer significantly altered. If you have ties of sentimental value, you may not want to take the risk. I usually don't wash my ties. But, I collect ties and am very picky about the ties I collect. If a tie is stained or smells bad, I don't take it home (unless it is very unusual and I can work around the stain). However, some of you may have inherited a family member's ties. If Uncle Fester's ties are greasy and smell of cigar smoke, you probably want to wash them.
How Do I Wash a Tie?
Before washing, take the tie apart and remove the interfacing. Leave the lining fabrics on the tips of the ties. This will reduce the amount of fraying on the ends, plus the small tag on the skinny end has the fiber content of the tie. This is useful to know when you press the ties because the setting on your iron that works for silk is likely to be too hot for man-made fibers.
Do not try washing a lot of ties in a single load; you will be spending a long time trying to untangle the big knot. Separate the lights and darks and give red their own category as red tends to bleed profusely. I have thrown several ties (not more than 6) in with my regular wash loads without incident (separating lights from darks as I usually do with wash loads). If you have a mesh lingerie bag, use it; it will cut down on the amount of untangling needed. For the red ties, put them in a load of black clothes.
I do use the dryer for silk ties and toss them in with the same load I washed them with. I'm more wary of putting synthetic ties in the dryer; if I do, I use a low temperature or none at all. I do check the ties after about 5 minutes and pull them out to hang dry. However, if a tie has a stain which you have pre-treated before washing, do not put it in the dryer. The heat will "set" the stain if the pre-treatment wasn't successful. You will have to air-dry it and then check that the stain was removed. If not, try the treatment again or try another treatment.
What about Treating Stains?
I have no magic bullet for stains. Coffee stains usually come out with water. However, grease stains may be permanent. I have had success with products that have Oxyclean© in them. I have, on occasion, discovered a stain after I have pieced it into a block. I have had some success with soaking the tip of a cotton swab with stain remover and gently stroking it over the stain. I then go over the spot with a very wet washcloth several times to remove the stain remover. I try to get most of it up because I don't know what effects the stain remover will have on the fabric in the long-term. (This may not be important if you will be washing the quilt.)
When and How Do I Remove the Linings?
I don't remove the linings on the tips of the tie until I need to. (In fact, I don't even open the tie up until I know I'm going to use it. This is because I use the intact ties for other projects, such as purses - I'll provide a tutorial of necktie purses later.) Linings are sewn on with one of three types of stitches: (1) a two-threaded straight stitch; (2) a single-threaded looped stitch; or (3) a two-threaded lock stitch. The straight stitch usually has big stitches that taper down to tiny stitches at the beginning and end of the row and are easy to pull out. For the single-threaded loop stitches, just clip a few stitches at the end and unhook one or two so that the loops are sticking up from the fabric, pick a loop and pull and the seam will be undone in a snap. The two-threaded lock stitch is something that I have never figured out - I just clip stitches and pull threads until I hit on the magic thread and the seam comes undone! If I get too frustrated pulling threads, I just cut the lining off (unless I feel I need that extra 1/2'' of material that's in the seam.)
Is There a Trick to Pressing Ties?
I press the silk ties directly with the iron; I use the steam-pulse button constantly. I also use the spray feature on my iron. Only rarely have I come across a tie that will show any watermarks. You will have to experiment with your iron to find the right setting; and, note that the setting may be different for silk than it is for synthetics. Silk can usually take a higher heat. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep the silks and synthetics separate when ironing. For some ties, it may take a spritzing of water to get the sharp creases out.
How do I Cut the Tie into Quilting Pieces?
Cutting silk or any other fabric set on the bias can be tricky, so I stabilize the fabric with light-weight fusible interfacing. I use Pellon© products and the weights that I like are "P44F JAS"(best value), "Sheerweight," and "Sof-Shape." (Although "Featherweight" sounds like it will be lighter than "Sheerweight," it is not.) There are other brands of interfacing which no doubt are equally good, but these are readily available for me. Feel free to try out other brands and other weights.
I do not plaster the whole tie with interfacing. It would be a waste of interfacing and money. I use a strip-cutting method. With strip cutting you cut a strip of fabric from selvage to selvage the width of one dimension of the size of piece you need, then you sub-cut the strip into the size pieces you need. However, for the neckties, I cut a strip of interfacing the desired width, but I don't sub-cut the interfacing until after I've fused it to the tie. I add a useful step by marking the strip at the place I would be cutting prior to fusing it ti the tie. For example, if I want 3" blocks, I cut a strip 3" wide, then I mark the strip every 3" for the squares. This way, when I place the interfacing on the tie and the whole strip doesn't fit, I know I can cut the interfacing at the nearest marking and can then position the part I cut off in another area of the tie. (I will be posting a mini-tutorial illustrating this soon.)
Does Sewing Ties Take a Special Needle or Other Equipment?
I use the same machine and needles that I do when sewing with cotton. I do use a new needle when I start a project and good quality thread, but no need to use silk. I do recommend a walking foot. A walking foot is a box-like device that attaches like a foot to your machine. It has a set of "feed-dogs" (those little teeth that come up under your fabric and pull it back while you sew) that work on the top fabric so that it moves through your machine at the same rate as the bottom fabric. Because the ties come in different weights and weaves, this device is useful in keeping the two layers moving along together. A walking foot is essential for sewing on binding and for straight-line quilting. I do nearly all of my sewing using the walking foot!