Sunday, April 15, 2018

Things Learned from Neckties: Flap Purse Tutorial

How I love playing with neckties - the quirkier, the better. Quilts are my favorite thing to make from them, but a close second is purses. Here are two flap bags finished recently. 

First, a bag made from three gold neckties. The groovy tie on the far right, with the colorful O rings, is one of my all-time favorites (I'm guessing it's from the 60s or 70s). 
Open view below. The signatures on the lining of my favorite tie, over on the right, say "John Weitz," so I did a Google search for him. It turns out that this German-Jewish immigrant was not only a famous men's fashion designer, but also a novelist, historian, race car driver, yachtsman, and, oh, he almost killed Hitler. In short, the most interesting man in the world. The things you learn from neckties! 
The metal button is even older than the ties (if you know the era, I'd love to hear!)
The handle is made from the short ends of two neckties sewn together. Its ends are held to the purse by stitching and more vintage buttons, 
 An embossed velvet ribbon is an option, pinned on for now. (I'm ambivalent).
That bag was good practice for the next one, which is bigger. It's made from 4 1/2 neckties for the body, plus most of one more for the handle. John Weitz didn't design any of these ties, but they do feature (left to right) rainbow trout, cocktail molecules, paisley reimagined, and circus animals. 
The blue buttons above are purely decorative - it closes with snaps inside the tips, below. (I inserted a sheet of cardstock for this photo.)
Back. The wide end of the handle tie is stitched to the body - on the right, I used a scrap of leather to hold a pair of plastic D rings in position, and they grip the other end of the handle tie.

Open the bags to see the labels. 
It's the labels that informed me of the fish type and the molecular substance.  
 Want to make your own necktie flap bag? Here's a tutorial.
1. Pick 3-4 ties to serve as the main body of the bag. Cut them to about 34" from their widest tip.
2. Open at the cut end. If you can see that it's hand-sewn, don't cut back the thread - cut it once, then pull out stitches to about 1 1/2" down. Tie that thread into a couple of knots close to its base.
 3. Cut off an inch of the lining.
4. Bring the outside back up. Hand stitch the area where you took out the thread. For extra security,  hand sew over the entire back seam with sturdy matching thread. I used a running stitch, ending in the same place at the wide end that the stitching in the tie ended.

5. Roll the cut edges to the inside twice, about a half inch each time.
6. Stitch it down, by hand or machine (I used a machine, with invisible thread in the bobbin). 

7. Arrange ties in the order you want. The wide ends are lined up on the left. On the right, at about 24" across, the narrower tie ends are brought back toward (but not reaching) the center, partially overlapping the ties underneath, but also partially between the ties, so they widen the right end. Their right-most edge, where they turn, forms small tie points.
8. When you like it, hand baste everything in position, inside and out (in white thread here). 

9. Prepare for permanent stitching. I found that the wide ends of two neckties were particularly flimsy, because they're unlined. I put a piece of tear-away stabilizer under the weakest area (the white rectangle, below, left), before stitching. 
10. Do the permanent stitching. From the outside, I went over all the hand basting with gold metallic thread in top and bobbin, and a wide multi-step zigzag. Inside, I sewed remaining flaps by hand, so the stitches wouldn't penetrate to the outside. 
Here's how it looks sewn together, from the inside.
Below, a closer view of the inside stitching. A and C mark the hand running stitches used to reinforce the central back seam in this red dot tie. B shows the back of the multi-step zigzag done from the outside, joining the red dot tie to its neighbor. D shows handstitching done after all the machine stitching was completed, to fasten down the upper edge of the red dot tie. 
11. Bring up the short (right) end, and play around to determine how deep you want the purse vs. flap length. 
Wouldn't this make a nice clutch?
12. When you like the proportions, pin the flap in position With wrong sides together and working from the flap side, use decorative thread and multi-step zigzag again to sew down the two side seams. 
13. Make a handle. I used leftovers from two of the ties. I measured two tie remnants to 22" from their narrow tip; cut across them flat; and undid a couple of inches of the thread holding them shut. Then I opened them out, and stitched the ends together with a straight stitch, going right through the linings. 
14. Finger press the seam  open and refold everything back in place; make and bury knots from the tie's thread; and reinforce the whole length of the central seam with handstitching.
I finished the gold purse with a button-and-loop closure, as shown in the first photos above. For the blue purse, the closure is the snaps underneath the wide tips.

For more necktie projects, click on "Neckties" in the word cloud on the right. 


  1. Cathy-
    You are both talented and generous. A rare combination.
    Thank you for the necktie info and tutorial.
    Marge B

  2. Marge, you are so kind. Thank you, and glad you enjoyed it.

  3. absolutely fabulous and the tutorial is spot on. xox

  4. Thank you, Jo Ann, your necktie project helped inspire me!