The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

Nowadays, the local and online economy is saturated with claims of ‘handmade’ products. Sometimes it’s hard to actually tell if what you’re getting is handmade or not. Much like the ‘natural’ label you see on food, it’s hard to tell if what you’re getting is genuinely ‘handmade.’ Straight from the horse’s mouth, we’re here to tell you the important characteristics to look for in a handmade necktie.

The Shell

We’ll start with the most obvious part: the shell. This is the outside of the tie and is often broken down into three pieces: blade, neck, and tail. The blade is the main part of the tie that you’ll wear on front. The neck is the middle section of the tie that joins the blade and tail together. Generally, wherever this starts designates the middle of the tie. The tail is last, which is the narrow end of the tie that will hang behind the larger end when tied.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

All three pieces are attached with a seam seen on the outside of the tie, which should not be visible when knotted. After attaching all of these pieces together, you must shape the tie around the interlining, something we call forming. A quality handmade tie will have a rolled edge, a delicate process that takes careful pressing to ensure a full bodied edge instead of a flat crease.

When it comes to material, as trends have changed, you can see shells made from all types of fabric. At HIM, we use a variety of cotton blends, organic cotton, and wool as well. Silk is considered the highest quality material by many, but as a company that likes to use ethically sourced materials, it’s often difficult to tell where silk comes from or how it’s manufactured. Because of that, we like to use cotton, which is more environmentally friendly, or wools that we know are ethically sourced. Silk is often reserved for custom orders or weddings, when we buy small batch fabrics from a distributor we know and trust.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

Regardless of what material your tie’s shell is made from, there’s one incredibly important quality to look for that is of much higher importance: the fabric should be cut on the bias. What this means is that the shape of the tie should be cut at a 45 degree angle, which allows for the final product to have a more natural drape. You can tell if your tie is cut on the bias by checking the weave of the fabric: If the lines run diagonally, you’re set, but if they run up-and-down and left-to-right, the tie wasn’t cut properly and will end up being more rigid.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

The Interlining

The interlining is the heart of a good necktie, giving it body and shape. Determining the quality of an interlining is often incredibly difficult for a number of reasons, first and foremost that it often isn’t included on the materials tag. A ‘100% silk’ necktie on the outside may have a cheap polyester interlining. While a bit awkward at a department store, the best way to tell is to pull the tie apart a bit. Often times you can get a small peek and feel at the interlining. Polyester has a wider weave and a rough feel to it. The interlining for our HIM neckties is a classic style 85% wool and 15% nylon blend, that has a tight weave, a more substantial body, and is soft to the touch. Most reliable crafters will fill you in on each and every aspect of their product, allowing you to avoid dissecting one in front of everyone, which is why we have it listed with each product. Another note that often goes unnoticed is that the interlining should also be cut at on the bias (45 degree angle); everything should be running the same direction for a perfect drape!

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

The Slip Stitch

The slip stitch is the most tedious and time consuming aspect of a handmade necktie that takes precision and patience to get right. When Chris and I started making ties, this step would take us over an hour to finish. Using a single piece of thread we carefully stitch up the entirety of the necktie from blade to tail. A slip stitch helps to hold the three fold construction together and, when done properly, holds the interlining in place as well, ensuring that the body of the tie never alters. This is done by delicately catching the interlining when sewing and attaching it to the inside folds of the shell. If you go too deep, you put a stitch through the front of the tie; too shallow and you miss the interlining entirely.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

When done, the tie will finish in a small knot and an excess amount of thread, allowing room for the thread to slide along the body of the tie to prevent breakage from repeated use. A lot of practice and patience goes a long way, which makes the slip stitch the hallmark of a truly handmade tie.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

The Details

While not a universally used term, all of the following traits are something Chris and I like to call ‘The Details,’ little accents that truly make a handmade tie what it is. First are the bar tacks, which help to hold the ends of the tie together and maintain its shape. You can find one at each end of the tie, on both the blade and the tail. Chris is a master when it comes to these and uses a special weave method making for an incredibly strong bar tack and adding an extra special detail to the necktie.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

Next is the keeper, which keeps the tail end of your tie in place while wearing it. Depending on which school of thought you come from you either use your keeper religiously or not at all. Either way, we like to put it on there, just in case. Most handmade neckties will attach this during the slip stitch, but we felt it interfered with the delicate nature of the thread and decided to sew it on separately. This allows for a more secure keeper and a looser slip stitch. We also add a visible white stitch across the keeper, just to remind you that it really is handmade.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

HIM Clothing Neckties

You might be asking yourself, “What makes a HIM necktie different from the next handmade necktie?” Well, in short, a lot; in long…

We’re methodical when it comes to our process

Not only have we made hundreds of neckties, but each and every one has been made by either me or Chris. We’re committed to consistency and quality and the best way to do that is to make it yourself. Ideally when we grow, we’ll have employees helping us manufacture products, but you can guarantee they’ll be trained by yours truly.

We truly are a blend of vintage and contemporary style

On one hand, each product is made according to our unique education, which stays true to classical tie making. On the other, we use contemporary cuts, bold colors, and patterns designed by local artists. On one hand, we use vintage, American made Singer Featherweight 221 sewing machines for almost everything we do.  On the other, we push the boundaries of what style can (and should) be, using conscious materials such as organic cotton, self-sustainable cork, and ethically harvested woods.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

We love what we do

We’re two best friends of twenty plus years pursuing their dream together, what more can you ask for? When you purchase from us, you’re not just a customer, you’re a friend. We value every single person who supports our vision. Whether you commission a wedding from us or buy a single pair of shoelaces, you’re on our top priority list for life. We’re not in this for the money; we’re in it for the love of creating art. And, after seeing all of the complexities mentioned above, let’s be honest, a handmade necktie is a pretty sweet piece of wearable art.

HIM Clothing - HIM 101: The Anatomy of a Handmade Necktie

Do you have any tips or pointers on how to spot something handmade? Let us know in the comments below!

February 09, 2016 by Hugh Hartigan
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