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March 12, 2008

How to Make Baskets and Hats from Recycled Neck Ties

91_tie_crafts To Tie For!
Silk ties make gorgeous art

They say that talent is hitting a target that no one else can hit, whereas genius is hitting a target that no one else can see.  My sister Gillian Danner falls into the latter category. 

  She has a habit of coming up with designs that nobody else would think of, plus they actually look good.  I’ve been trying to figure out how she succeeds in creating art, where I produce stuff that the church auxiliary ladies quietly omit from rummage sales.

Tie_bowls_3 One of Gill’s techniques is that she repurposes objects to serve functions they were never intended for.  For example, she’ll turn magazine photos into tiny hand-rolled lacquered beads, or convert antique farm implements into toilet paper dispensers or sculpt gentleman’s ties into silk baskets.

Tie_backets_003_3 Her silk baskets are riotous, saturated hues coiled into usefulness long after they’ve finished adorning the necks of entrepreneurs, salesmen and executives.  She chooses her ties from serpentine piles of paisleys and stripes at flea markets and garage sales.

There’s nothing so screamingly confident as neckties, and many of the patterns can be filed into leisure categories like Golf or Orienteering (rare), and entertainment categories like Looney Toons, Irish Drinking Humour or Gothic Punk Retro Skulls. 

Necktie graphics encompass the full range of human passions and if you don’t believe me, visit eBay and scroll through some of the 18,613 (I’m not kidding) ties that are for sale today.  From dogs playing poker to portraits of the rock band KISS, your tie theme is waiting for you now.

In the meantime, here are Gill’s instructions for making your own tie basket or a hat worthy of the Royal Ascot.

Stuff You’ll Need
5-8 silk neckties
Silk or cotton thread
A package of 1-1/2-inch quilting needles
Needle-nose pliers
Dressmaker’s pins

Start by pinning ties in half lengthwise.  (Reduce the width at the wide 1_tie_crafts_2 end by folding each side in half again, and then folding the whole tie in half.)  Sew the tie edges together with fairly small stitches.  It will end up looking like a rolled tube with a fat end and a skinny end. 

Choose the tie that will become the bottom of the basket.  Coil the tie tightly and see how it looks.  Str
iped ties become pinwheels and geometric patterns look like fractal forests.
Pin the coil through the sides so it holds its shape.  Sew the coil together wearing a thimble to push the needle into the silk right through
the diameter of the coil.  Use needle-nose pliers to pull the needle out. You can figure on this being the most difficult and fiddly part.  Also the most frustrating part because needles fracture easily, mostly at the eye. Thin quilting needles work better than beefy needles because they pierce the tough interlining more easily.  They also pierce you more easily.5_tie_crafts

Coil a second tie around the first and pin and sew it.  This gets easier because you only have to sew the second tie it to the first tie and there’s less interlining to go through. 

TIP:  Each time you add one tie to another, join the ends by inserting the tip of the new tie inside the end of the last one, narrow end into narrow end or wide end into wide end. 

7_tie_crafts The third tie begins to move up to start the cylindrical sides of the basket. This tie will be the least visible so if you’ve got an un-favourite tie - say one showing Princess Lea with her goofy ear-muff hairstyle - this is a good place for it.  Pin and sew the third tie to the last round of the base, but this time sew the coils together vertically, one on top of the other going through and through, straight up and down.  The stitches that fasten the coils together won’t show because they’ll be hidden by the next tie. 

Continue upwards pinning and stitching one tie at a time.  Each tie will give you about 3 rounds.  On the last row, blind-stitch the upper layer to the second layer so no stitches are visible.  Stock your silk basket with a merry complement of Easter eggs, or add a brim to create a fetching Easter bonnet

Tie_hat_feb_2008_001_2 90_tie_crafts_2



What a great Idea. I like the last one with the hat on the statue that is hilarious(laughs)


Great saying. I looked it up. The author is Arthur Schopenhauer.

Do ties ever permanently go out of style?? Ok, I'm a pack-rat..


I loved your craft with ties--seemed like a perfect craft for the kids in my class to make for Father's Day. Am a bit confused though about sewing the entire bottom coil together through the diameter--do you mean one stitch at a time? I wonder if you have any more photos to help me along--the ones you have included are great. Am unsure how to sew the coils vertically. Would love to make this if I could just figure out how. Thanks for any help.


Hi Anne,
The first tie is coiled into a relatively tight circle. Then you sew the circles together going thru as many rings or circles as you can with your needle (driven by needle nose pliers) one stitch at a time. Link all the coils together all around the circle till the whole disc of rings is fastened together. So, it is one stitch at a time but through as many coils as you can successfully push the needle through. Ergo the need for the pliers.

Then you add the 2nd tie & start again. This one is easier because you are just sewing the outside ring of the coil to the tie you’re adding. The 2nd tie will amount to about 3 circles. The 3rd tie will also make about 3 circles depending on how large the base of the basket is going to be. If it’s a hat it will have a bigger base so it will fit on a head. It might take four ties all together.

Does this make it any clearer?

If I were doing this with kids, depending on their ages, I’d think about “sewing” the circles together with yarn or ribbon like the magazine article that Mag sent me suggested . It’s not as tidy & the basket is less basket-like. The sides will slump but it would be easier for kids to make. The magazine was NaturalHomeandGarden.com & the article was called Ties that Bind. It has photos that I found a bit confusing but it’s what my design evolved from.


Hi everyone. Just a note to let you know that you can get as many as 300 ties on ebay for as little as $35. How much fun is that?!


Hi, Mag,

I am going to attempt to make the tie basket, but am not sure of the directions in the brackets (Reduce the width at the wide end by folding each side in half again, and then folding the whole tie in half). Is the "whole tie" just at the end of the big end?



Hi Judy,

The wide end of a tie is often very wide depending on the individual’s sartorial savvy. So, in order to have the wide end more closely match the narrow end, I folded each side of the wide end in half lengthwise. Then I folded the whole tie again on the mid line so that I ended up with a long tube whose (formerly) wide end, though still fatter, seemed to integrate better when I started to build the basket.

You could try leaving the fat end wider by folding the fat end in half just once. So the whole time is folded just the one time on the mid line. It might look just fine. There are no rules here.

With my plan you fold the whole tie in half once and the fat end as many as three times in order to form a tube with a smaller diameter on the small end and larger diameter on the wide end.

Does this answer your question?



Thanks Gillian,

I’m still a little confused. When you say that you fold the "whole tie in half once according to your plan" does this mean that after the tie has been folded lengthwise and the wide end made smaller, the whole tie is again folded in half so that the length of the tie when you start to coil it, is half the original length?

I guess I am asking if each "tie coil" is half the length of the original tie.

The tie basket is actually a brilliant idea, and I can't wait to start creating it. I picked up 8 new 100% silk ties, never worn, at a flea market on Saturday...they were just sitting there waiting for me, for the great deal of $6.00 (one of them had a price tag on it @ $50.00), and they don't even need to be cleaned!!

Thanks again.


Hi Judy:
The tie stays its original length. Think of the tie sewed into a tube like a snake. The snake's tail is skinny and its head is fatter and even shaped a little like a snake's head if the tie had a deeply pointed end. The head is beefier than the tail because of the interlining & the extra fabric.

Congratulations on scoring nice ties!! Silk is best but some silky kinds of polyester work well too. Once they're sewed into tubes, a lot of flaws are hidden, so even if they're not in perfect shape, they work fine.

The basket will look nicer if you think about which one goes where before you start. The bottom of the basket looks different than the sides so if you have one that's not quite as gorgeous as the others, it could be #1. Coil it up & see what it'll look like.

Good Luck! Hope this helps. Best, Gillian


Your hats and baskets are so cool! I saw the chair seats too - incredible. I am also a tie-girl - have a look:
http://untied.etsy.com. You're a crafter after my own heart!



Linda I totally agree

Mag did a wondeful Job making these hats, and baskets. And even the seats too. Mag How Long did it take for you to make that?,cause that must have taken loads of time to put that all together.


Wow. I'll have to blog about this (if that's okay with you)

walsh Guylaine

hello my names is Guylaine walsh I am créate ties hat ...look!

No speak english...scuse my




Your hats are gorgeous, Guylaine - C'est magnifique!



Can I buy a hat do you have eny for sale.

Jacqui Eborall

Dear Sir/Madam

The Design and Technology Association is developing a resource for UK secondary D&T students on Textiles, including the uses and options available, and would like to feature an image from your website in a PowerPoint presentation for students.

We would appreciate it if you are able to allow the image’s use. We will of course acknowledge the source with a weblink? The link is to http://www.toolgirl.com/toolgirl/2008/03/how-to-make-bas.html.

Would you please let me know if this is acceptable.

The D&T Association is an educational charity that promotes design and technology and provides teaching resources for its members and others.

I look forward to hearing from you. Please contact us at info@data.org.uk

Kind Regards
Jacqui Eborall

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