DIY: Skinny Ties

One of Ralph’s requests for his birthday was skinny ties. They are surprisingly hard to find — either too long or too expensive for a 13-year-old’s wardrobe. So a few weeks ago, I had an idea: I would buy some old fat ties at a thrift shop and take them to a tailor to have them altered. Brilliant, right?

But then, of course, I forgot about the idea till 3 days before his birthday. At which point, I tried to rush and make it happen. I found 5 great ties at Goodwill and sped them to the tailor. There, I was told it would take 10 days and cost $37 each to skinny them up. Blech.

But since I had the ties in hand, and since they only cost $1 each, I figured I’d try it myself. If I failed, oh well, a $5 failed project is not the end of the world. As it turns out, the first one ended up great (it’s the silvery striped one above)! So I took pictures while I remade tie number two — and now I can share the instructions with you, in case you’re curious.

Here is the before shot. In the tutorial, I took the polka-dot tie and made it as skinny as the stripe tie:

Here is the after shot:

1) Turn your too-wide thrift store tie upside down. Un-stitch it:

Keep un-stitching till you get to the skinniest part of the tie:

2) Pull the tie form fabric out of the lining (there is probably a real name for this, but I don’t know what it is). This is the piece of the tie that helps keep the tie shape.

3) Trim one side of the tie-form fabric. I free-handed it on the first one, aiming for a finished tie that was about 1 1/2 inches wide. But for the other 4, I traced a skinny tie with a pen right on the tie-form fabric:

4) If you traced it, then cut out the second side. If you’re free-handing it, turn the cut piece upside down to get a matching cut on the second side:

5) Your tie-form material should now look like a skinny tie. Tuck it back into the lining:

6) When you unstitched the tie, one side was overlapping the other, Starting with the side that was being overlapped, trim off some of the silk, tapering the trimmed piece as the tie narrows:

7) With an iron set for silk, press the trimmed silk so that it folds itself along the tie-form fabric:

8) Fold under the cut edge and iron again, so that the ironed piece is narrower than the tie-form fabric:

9) Now it’s time to iron the second side. Note: you may not need to trim the silk on this side:

10) Tuck under the edge of the second side and iron once more. Aim to get the seam in the middle:

If you turn the tie over, it should now look like this (but don’t iron the front, you might damage the silk):

11) Next, using a needle and thread, stitch up the back of the tie. Take your stitches through both the back flaps and catch a bit of the tie-form fabric, but be careful not to reach the front of the tie. It’s pretty easy to hide the hand stitches between the back flaps:

12) If your tie came with a piece for tucking the tail into, you can reattach it now:

And that’s it! In case you’re curious, the first tie took me about 45 minutes. But the next 4 only took about 30 minutes each. I turned these:

Into these:

Other notes:
-Three of the ties I worked with were silk. One was wool. One was polyester. The silk ties were by far the easiest to work with.
-Ralph LOVES his new ties.
-Also, as I progressed, I got better at getting the new back seam centered. The navy and brown stripe tie was my last one and it’s the best as far as the back seam goes:

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. Happy sewing!

P.S. — I like this image because it shows two of the dated tags. They remind me of my Dad’s ties when I was growing up:

122 thoughts on “DIY: Skinny Ties”

  1. What a fun project. I am glad they were a success. I just had to laugh when I saw that skinny ties are back in with guys now. When I was serving as a missionary, about 7 years ago, “fatty” ties were all the rage. Ah, the fickle fashion industry!

    1. Seven years ago I was too young to know much about ties, but I would guess the popularity of the “fatty tie” has more to do with the fact that everyone is generally more “fatty” than in the 70’s and 80’s when things like skinny jeans were also in. Once all the starving hipsters, whether from being poor or doing too much drugs, started rocking them we realized they just looked better. I think it is an undeniable matter of aesthetics that a person who is in shape is going to look best with a skinny tie while a larger person is going to look silly wearing a skinny tie, and vice-versa. The tie accents the shape of the body by mimicking it. Kind of like how a fitted shirt is inarguably more attractive on lean people because of how it adorns the beautiful shape of the human body. I mean “fatty” ties even start to bulge out towards the bottom much in the same manner as a larger person starts to bulge at the waist and hips. The fashion industry may be fickle, but that doesn’t mean that some fashion trends are more aesthetically sound.

  2. This is a great idea! One thing I have noticed on ties that I have hand sewn together for my husband is that the stretching that occurs when he unties his tie often breaks my hand stitching. Just something to keep in mind.

    I love the polka dot tie.

    1. Kristian Chavira

      I agree that the reusing of the old ties is terrific. And as for your hand stichting breaking, if you looked at store boughten ties the thread is incredibly thick. It may be a 30 wt if not greater. I’m sure if you are using a thread weight comparable to that used in the industry and are grabbing more than a few threads of fabric with each stitch.

  3. Great idea! My husband loves skinny ties too. We find them at thrift stores and estate sales fairly often but this a great tutorial. I’ll definitely give it a try sometime.

  4. I just did this last week for my husband. We went to some friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party, which was this amazing sock hop. Anyway, I made the tie for my husband- so he’d at least have SOMETHING to dress up with (as opposed to me- who went all out with crinolines and all). Great tutorial. I love that you encourage your kids’ great sense of style.

    PS. $37 per tie? Who are these tailors!?

  5. I hope you don’t mind if I post about this tomorrow on my blog. I don’t have boys but I could see this working for a more casual look for an adult too! Really good work Gabriel!! Ralph is lucky to have such a crafty mother.

  6. Though not 13, or a fan of skinny ties I admire your creativity. If you know where I can find a smoking jacket & cravat for a 2 month old please shoot me an email… we’ve got a passport photo to take.

  7. Gabby- Please, pretty please, show us some pictures of your little man in these ties. I just can’t picture it; T-shirt with a tie, undone collar shirt with a tie, what?! I just love the confidence and style Ralph has to pull of Goodwill ties. So cool. Thank you- Emily in Minneapolis

  8. So many things to love, starting with a 13-yr-old boy who wants skinny ties for his birthday. Love the ties you chose and the result – thanks for sharing!

  9. Awesome! I love that this is something I can do with my limited hand stitching abilities!!!! My boyfriend has an overload of ties he never wears…I bet he would love to have some of them re-vamped into a skinny tie he’ll wear more (of course, I’ll get permission first, heh heh). This is a fantastic tutorial – thanks!

    1. also try stitch witchery. i followed this for some ties and used stitch witchery instead of actually stitching it and it worked fine. time will tell if it holds, but we’ve used it on other things and it worked fine so i expect it to save me this time, too!

  10. Oooh, those vintage designer ties in my husband’s closet are calling for an update… Great tutorial! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  11. Thank you so much for this. My son is only 3 1/2 years old, but I think I might try to make one for him as well.

  12. Love it! You should totally sew the tags back on – they’re awesome. How many other 13 year olds have YSL ties?!?!

  13. Great DIY tutorial! I sometimes do not understand DIY steps for projects. But I can see the process in my mind when I read your instructions. Gifted mother and gifted writer!!

  14. This is a great idea! My son is always asking for skinny ties and I have been unable to find any that fit his nine-year-old frame. I’m going to give it a try.

  15. You have done it again, Girl — I’m so excited to tackle tie alterations! My husband’s new job requires him to dress up more for meetings, and his closet is full of outdated “fat” ties. My 9-year-old begs for ties, too; go figure? So I’m definitely bookmarking this one for future reference. Thank you!

  16. My son would also love these for his end of November birthday…better start now!!! Thanks for the great idea, you make it look so easy!

  17. This is great! I love vintage thick ties but my husband likes the thin type. I’ve been buying vintage tie silk from Sew What’s New Fabrics on Etsy to make ties but this is so much easier! Thanks so much!

  18. How fun! My 12 year old son snags my collection of skinny 50s vintage ties for himself, which I don’t mind since he takes good care of his (and my) ties. But he is such a dapper young man, this will be perfect for him. Now, if only someone had a tutorial for making a large men’s blazer into a size for a 12 year old, we’d be in business. ;-)
    Thanks for sharing this!

  19. I had done the same last month , around 3 ties which my husband had not used at all saying they were too wide, were made usable by doing so, it never stuck me to do a tute on it, never believed there would be so many users in a similar fix. Hmm will post tute for anything which shall help anyone. that’s the least i can do. Thanks for inspiration

  20. first of all how cool is it that your son wanted skinny ties, and secondly that you found some ties at my all time favorite store the G-Dub! I have the name of a great local seamstress for the next time!

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