Monday, June 6, 2011

Waste not, want not: quilts from men's ties

In keeping with "waste not, want not" (the new austerity chic) we've been fascinated by quilts made from reclaimed clothing.  Have you ever thought about making a quilt from men's silk neckties?  Hang on to your hats (and ties) as we bring you the best tie quilts in the world.

Matthew Spong is an artist and designer in Sydney, Australia. About twenty years ago, he became interested in making quilts and wall hangings to sell at arts and crafts fairs near his home.

Tie Burst 1, by Matthew Spong, at

To make TieBurst, shown above, Matt Spong purchased a large quantity of used silk neckties, then set about creating a pattern.  After washing the ties and un-sewing the back seam,  he removed the interfacing from the center of the ties and ironed them flat. As you can see, these ties all have points at the end, and Matt worked to incorporate the points into his design, rather than simply cutting them off.  Making use of the natural shape, he  came up with a type of  "Dresden Plate" pattern, where the long straight edges are sewn together and the points radiate out like a sunburst. Not wanting to waste the skinny part of the ties that go around the back of the neck, he cut them into small straight strips to make the center circle. This was the first design (though not the first actual quilt, that got sold). According to Matt, "it was simplicity to make".

Wedding quilt (Kate and Adams Quilt), by Matthew Spong

Matt Spong also became interested in turning silk ties into traditional bed-size quilts, or duvet covers, into which a comforter or blanket could be inserted. (In Australia, a duvet or down quilt is also called a "Doona"). In the beautiful Wedding Quilt shown above, the squares are about 3 cm across. Note that the pure, intense colors for which silk is noted, really cause the squares to "pop" off this quilt, especially the brilliant reds and burgundies. For more photos of this quilt, see Matt Spong's photostream on Flickr.

Matt has made hexagonal tie quilts, in a type of "Grandma's Flower Garden" arrangement, along with square patchwork quilts in a type of "Sunshine and Shadow" pattern. He explains that the quilts made of squares were more challenging, because the squares had a tendency to go diagonal, and it was difficult to get the seams to line up properly.  (Small squares must be cut exactly perfect on the straight grain of fabric, which may be difficult to do when working with recycled clothing, or they have a tendency to want to go diagonal; that is a problem that challenges even the most experienced quilters). For a construction tip from Matt, see the comments on his Flickr page.

Bitmapped images: Michelle Quilt, by Matthew Spong


One of Matt's most interesting quilts was designed from a photo of the face of Michelle Walker, his partner. He changed the photo into a bitmap image, using a graphic converter program on a Mac, with a pre-chosen palette of red, blue, yellow, cyan, magenta, green, black and white. That software program then produced produced a design which specifies each pixel (or tiny square) by the number of its color. The tiny squares became 5,924 pieces of cotton fabric, which he sewed together in the precise arrangement specified by the software design.   He finished it just in time for Valentine's Day, then hung the quilt from an upstairs balcony as a tribute to Michelle. What a romantic gift !  You can read about the design and construction at the Michelle Quilt page, and see more photos at Matt Spong's photostream on Flickr.  This quilt looks challenging, but absolutely fascinating to design and construct.

Image credits and links:  Matt Spong works at Reverse Garbage, one of Australia's best known and most highly regarded creative re-use organisations. Reverse Garbage has been operating since 1974; they provide high quality, low priced, useful and unusual materials for use in arts, craft, education, small business, home renovation and other activities. What a fabulous idea.... we wish we had such a place near us !


  1. Thanks for the link to this artist. I love to work with silk ties! (See my 5/5/10 and 6/30/09 blogposts.)

  2. Nann, thank you so much for your comment and the heads-up ! We especially loved seeing "I've been working on the railroad", which you made from your Dad's ties. What a wonderful memory quilt. Readers can find these quilts at and

  3. A number of years ago I was asked to make a memorial quilt for a boy using his grandfather's ties. I had no ideas other than a kind of dresden plate. I think with a machine it might be easier and some kind of paper piecing might work to overcome the bias.

  4. Great idea for recycling old company ties. Besides they are wonderful apparel that enhances an individual’s over-all appearance when worn, they are also good resource for quilt.


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