How to Slim a Necktie




Introduction: How to Slim a Necktie

About: Completed a masters in mechanical engineering and then realised I didn't want to be an engineer. So I'm a freelance propmaker and costumier for film, theatre and music videos. Occasionally, I need to find a …

This instructable is the method I use to narrow the width of a standard off the rail three-fold tie.

Most ties are 3.50” wide with some places still trying to rid their stock of 4.00” ties of the 1990’s. I have a smaller than average build and suit a 2.75” – 3.00” wide tie which is often difficult to find in the colour or pattern desired so being able to slim a regular tie down is useful and convenient. This method will only work on a basic three-fold tie, the more fancy six and seven-fold ties are much more work and if you’re going to spend that much money on a tie, you might as well buy it properly than retrofit.  However, ties can be bought very cheaply, and if you find a pattern or colour you like, you can still modify the tie to fit your style.

Step 1: Some Background

Ties are an item of fashion that have been around for, quite some time. The proper application of a tie is a debatable matter and varies greatly with the tide of fashion. Ties come in many different designs, styles and colours but I believe general rule of ties should be thus:

1) Ties should be knotted to the correct length of just a smidge below the waistband of your trousers. Ties are generally 52” in length and corresponds to some “average” person, as such, the skinny end of the tie will be shorter than the fat end when tied correctly. For the shorter and taller people, they do make ties especially.

2) If wearing a suit with a patterned material e.g. pinstripe or check, then if the tie also has a pattern, the pattern should be a similar size to the suit pattern size.

3) Tie colour should be darker than shirt colour overall. If wearing a coloured shirt, a tie with accents of the shirt colour in the design works well. A white tie on a black shirt brings up connotations of gangsters.

4) The width of a tie should be the same as the width of the suit lapels. The current fashion trend is for skinny ties around 1.50” – 2.00”, so the suit lapels should be the same width. In my opinion, the lapel size should always measure just past the midpoint between the arm/shoulder seam and neckline of the jacket. Moving too far one way or the other creates the current look, or a 70’s look. Therefore, the size of a tie and lapel should reflect the build of the person and not trends, this is the key to a timeless look.

Step 2: You Will Need

This is a silk tie and the method works the same for a polyester tie, I’ve not tried it with a knitted tie but couldn’t be that much different could it?

Tie that’s too wide
Fabric scissors
Straight edge / ruler
Pen / marker
Straight needle
Silk pins or more small sewing needles
Tea towel or cotton sheet

Step 3: Preparation

Using a stitch ripper or scalpel blade or sharp scissors, cut the stitching on the label and remove it. Then cut the stitching on one side of the tie loop so you can open out the tie. You could cut the loop off entirely for ease, it’s just another bit of sewing to do later. At the fat end of the tie, carefully cut the sewing knot of the stitching down the middle so that you can pull the handsewing thread out and open the tie up to the seam in the middle of the tie. I try to maintain as much of that thread as possible and not just slice it open to keep as much structure of the tie as possible because I’ll use that thread to close the tie back up.

Open out the tie to the machine seam and you’ll see the facing of the tie (the triangle of contrasting material) and the interlining of the tie which gives it the plumpness.

Step 4: Securing the Interlining

You need to secure the interlining of the tie to the silk whilst you work on it to keep everything in place. Use silk pins if possible to just hold the interlining and silk together before you baste stitch. If you don’t have silk pins, use small sewing needles instead (like I’ve done). Regular pins are too thick and can break strands of silk and leave a mark.

With a contrasting thread (white in this case) and a thin needle, tack the interlining and silk together with a straight running stitch down the middle up to the machine seam; this is basting and will keep things centred. Don’t knot it too tightly, you’ll need to take it out later, just enough to hold it.

Step 5: Mark and Cut the Tie

Pull the interlining out of the interfacing pocket so you can measure it. Mark a centre line on the interlining with a ball-point pen or chalk, anything really just as long as it doesn’t bleed through. This tie was 3.50” and I want it to be 3.00”. Reduce the interlining approximately 0.25” more than you want the tie to end up. I reduce the interlining to 2.75”, so taking off approximately 0.325” from each side of the interlining. When the tie is folded back up, it’ll be 3.00”. So if you want a tie 2.75” wide, the interlining will be a bit wider than 2.50”.

Mark on a point at the widest point on each side where you want to reduce the interlining to and mark a point about halfway up the length of the tie. You want to taper the tie as smoothly as possible, so with the straight edge, mark a line from the wide end point up to middle decreasing to nothing around the middle. Do this on both sides so you take the same amount off and the tie remains centred.

With the fabric scissors, cut the interlining on your marked line. This becomes quite fiddly as you get to the middle as you’re trying to trim off a very thin amount of material so do your best to keep the line of the tie smooth.

Step 6: Pin the Tie Closed

Using the pins or needles, fold the silk back as it was up to the new width of the interlining and pin it in place for pressing with the iron.

Step 7: Iron the Tie

Silk is quite delicate to iron and can crease exactly where you don’t want it to. Set the iron to a low-ish heat with a bit of steam. Iron the board a few times to heat it up and lay the tie down. Use a plain tea towel or a couple of layers of plain cotton over the tie to buffer the silk from the iron. Spritz the towel with a bit of water but not so much to soak it or you’ll get it too wet and cause water spots on the silk. Then with the tie laid up correctly, run the iron down one side of the tie at a time to put a new crease in the silk. The gentle steam from the iron and towel will help take out the old crease and put in the new one without scorching the silk. Try not to iron over the pins as they will leave a mark.

Step 8: Trim the Silk

If you drastically narrow a tie, you’ll have excess material that will need to be trimmed off. So take the scissors and trim the silk to just less than the interlining which will neaten up the tie nicely. The tie will now be nicely pressed to its new width and just needs finishing.

Step 9: Sew the Tie Closed

Using the original thread of the tie, thread a needle on and use it to close the tie up with a loose ladder stitch (the stitch that looks like a square digital wave). Keep the stitches relatively loose so the tie can stretch during knotting. You won’t have enough of the original thread to sew the entire length of the tie, so either tie another piece of thread on or knot off the original and start a new stitch.

The tie loop needed to be reduced a bit so I used the iron to press it at the new size making sure it was still wide enough for the thin end of the tie to pass through it. Ladder stitch the loop back onto the tie nice and securely.

Once that is all done, carefully pull out your basting stitches as you’re finished with it.

Step 10: Success!

Give the tie one last gentle press with the iron over a cloth to take out the small gaps in the silk left by the basting stitches and you’re done! A well proportioned tie will make all the difference to the appearance of a suit and is often understated. It’s one of those things that you won’t notice when it’s right but will notice when it’s wrong. As part of the whole ensemble, it will look proper and timelessly classy. So you stay classy!

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    3 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great Instructable- thanks for the thorough explanation. Your work is detailed and precise- high quality!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    VERY nice, well illustrated and well-described, and something I had never considered! I have a bunch of ties that will go with various shirts but the ties are too wide. I'll be doing this in the near future. Many thanks!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! I had the similar issue with so many ties that were just the wrong size and this was an experiment to see if it could be done without totally ruining the tie. I do this to every tie now.

    If you appreciate it, please vote above.