A dear friend lost her husband to cancer this past year. When she approached me to make a memorial art quilt out of his ties for her mother-in-law, I didn’t have to think twice about it, since it had already been on my mind.
But I’d never worked with ties before as material for an art quilt—could I be successful? How hard is it to take a tie apart? How strong is the material? Should I use a stabilizer? These are all questions I pondered while going through the huge box of ties that she provided. I’d love to share with you what I discovered.
First of all, it’s SO EASY to take a tie apart. There’s one strong thread that holds the seam down the back of the tie. Once you locate this thread, make one cut, and give it a good tug from the opposite end, and it’s done! Take out the lining and you’ll still need to deal with both ends. I chose to cut them off, but a little seam ripping would also work.
I had an idea in my head about what I wanted to do…a small landscape art quilt based loosely on a pattern I’d used earlier (see post HERE). So my first task was to see what I had to work with. I pulled all the ties that had the colors and textures that might work, and lined them up on my design wall (there were a lot more that didn’t make the cut and were left in the box for later).
What amazed and surprised me was the texture and beauty of the tie fabric once it was washed, ironed, and ready for use. Some were very light weight and needed stability (I ironed on a light weight fusible woven interfacing to those). Others were a heavier weight and I used them as they were. I also found out that the reverse side is sometimes even more interesting than the “right” side. I used both to get the shading I needed.
I knew I needed to wash all the ties—but when: before or after deconstruction? I experimented, putting about a dozen ties in a zippered netted bag (the kind used for dedicates) and tried washing some before and some after deconstruction. Both came out tangled, and both worked, but washing before deconstructing really helped keep the mess and tangles to a minimum and made it much easier to pull apart and iron. Once that was done, and the ties were all deconstructed and ironed, I started pulling out ties for the birds.
Here I’ve cut the pieces for the bird applique (using Steam-a-seam 2) and will fuse it together.
I was surprised by the texture of the beautiful silks used in the ties. I even used the linings for solid black and white on the bird’s head. So the entire center of the art quilt was made exclusively with the tie materials.
Here you can see the chickadees fused and ready to be placed on the background. I’m starting to choose the ties by color and texture that will work for the sky, mountains, and foreground.
There were some limitations in the color selection, so I got creative and used both sides of the ties and added yellows and gold.
Most of the tie material is not backed with interfacing, or Steam-a-Seam 2—they’re simply laid onto a fusible pellon fleece batting with the fusible side facing up. However, the log cabin was prefused together the same way as the chickadees. Notice the smoke coming up from the chimney of the log cabin—it’s that tie interfacing. It was shear and luminescent and made the perfect smoke.
Here (below) it’s starting to take shape. I tried to get contrast between the sky, mountains, and foreground scenery.
When the branches, leaves, and pre-fused chickadees were added, it really started to look complete. Notice I placed a piece of parchment paper under the leaf in the lower left hand corner so it wouldn’t fuse down and I could choose to fuse it on top of the border after the border was added. The backing and batting are about 3-4 inches larger on all sizes to make it easier to add a border if I chose to.
I thought it did need a border, so I added a narrow inner border using black cotton fabric (the only part of the quilt that wasn’t tie material), and pieced a border of tie material for the outer border.
Then I quilted everything using several colors of veriagated cotton threads. I used a bit of gold thread on the sky for sparkle.
And here it is—finished and ready to present to my friend to give to her mother-in-law in remembrance of her son…
After I finished, I really felt my friend needed a remembrance art quilt she could keep too, so I created a second art quilt just for her… actually, she can choose which one to keep and which one to give. It’s based on the same idea, with the same Chickadees, but has a pieced background over Lake Mendota with the sun.
And couldn’t forget her two wonderful children… I thought they might like a Christmas stocking to remember their dad each year. I couldn’t find enough “Christmas-like” ties to choose from so I used a red cotton fabric for the cuffs, backing, and lining and did a crazy-quilt patch design on the front, using tie material backed with fusible stabilizer.
I really enjoyed working with ties. It was a new experience, and I may get out the box of my father’s ties that I’ve been saving to do something similar.
Whether you have saved a loved ones ties, or decide to go to a thrift store, I encourage you to give it a try. I found the tie material is so beautiful, the silks give your project a wonderful sheen, and there are so many patterns, textures, and colors to choose from. Why not give it a try?
Until next time,