Wednesday, September 7, 2011

boys zipper tie tutorial


this is a project that’s been in my “to-do” mental file for a loooonnng time. anyone who has a boy knows how hard it is to find cute dress clothes for them.
i have made ties and vests for  him in the past, and of course there’s the suit i did (which he’s grown out of and has been passed on to a friend…sniff, sniff) but zipper ties—they’re just an ingenious idea.

finding them in cute fabrics and not cheesy cheap rayon/poly blends, however, is another story...


backstory here: when i was debating what to make him, i asked if he would wear a bowtie. i was instantly shot down, no matter how much i begged. hmph. the trials of an opinionated boy. fine then, i’ll make you a TIE. but i’m making it from fabric of my choice--with cupcakes and hearts. mwahahahahaha! yeah, that may come up in therapy one day in his future. oh, well.

so here’s how i did it…
first i found a donor tie in his drawer—one i didn’t regret chopping up:

ewww…the shininess…the blueness…

the sticking point is this:


the little plastic guts of the tie. it attaches the “tie” part to the “zipper” part.

i searched high and low for an internet source for these and came up short. i did find a source for boy’s clip on tie plastic thingys, but srsly…clip on ties are soooo 80’s. ;o)

my suggestion: thrift shops and/or old ties you don’t like or that don’t fit. scavenge yourself some little plastic thingys.


> zipper (i used a length of zipper because i have it on a big roll. it was about 16” long, i would recommend purchasing an 18” zipper)

> 36” of bias tape (you can purchase a coordinating color or make your own out of the fabric you’re using)

> 2 tie pieces—the main body of your tie and the bottom triangle piece. i used the tie i took apart as my pattern. remember: ties are cut ON THE BIAS—meaning the grain of the fabric goes diagonally across the tie. take this into consideration when you’re picking fabrics.

> plastic nubby thing (thrifted or scavenged)

> some good sized scrap pieces

> matching thread
(note: because i was using a fairly thin quilter’s cotton, i also lined my tie with a lightweight interfacing, which you’ll see in the pictures. this is probably a good idea for most fabrics to help give the tie the body and stiffness it needs to lay nicely.)

before we start i have to say this: this was really, REALLY easy. don’t be scared by the wordiness of my tutorial or the amount of pictures. if you have an existing tie to look at it helps you keep it all straight. the only thing i had trouble with (and this might just be my own sleep-deprived brain) was keeping straight which way the zipper went—up or down, right side and back side. but it’s not that hard—the zipper on the finished tie will be the same way it would be on a coat you were wearing—facing out, zipping up.


sew your 2 tie pieces right sides together
clip corners, turn and press


if you’ve traced your existing tie pattern pieces correctly, you’ll see that the small triangle is slightly wider than the tie body. this way when you sew them together and turn it right side out, your two long sides will fold over. press everything down.
then, press it AGAIN.
and AGAIN.
the sharper your edges and corners at this point, the more professional your tie will look.

now fold your two long sides towards the center, overlapping slightly.



ta-da! you’ve made yourself a tie. well, half a tie at least.

now comes the super annoying part, which kim pointed out in her recent tie-making tutorial.

here’s some irony for you: (and i mean real irony, not like “10,000 spoons and all you need is a knife” fake-that’s-not-ironic-that-just-stinks kind of irony) i love sewing…but i hatehatehatehate hand sewing. i avoid it like the plague. i will go to great lengths to avoid sewing something by hand and try to figure out a way of doing it by machine.

there’s no way of getting around it: this must be hand-sewn.


settle yourself in front of a DVR’d project runway with a cold drink and whipstitch your way up the backside, careful not to sew through the front of the tie.

open up your zipper all the way and sew the bias tape around the edges.

i didn’t use a zipper foot for this—my regular foot helped me maintain a good space between the zipper and the fabric:


you’ll want to trim off as much plastic from the bottom of the zipper as possible. when you get to the bottom,
just work the bias tape around keep it as consistent as possible. no need to go crazy—this will be covered.

IMG_5696_5294 IMG_5697_5295

now zip up your zipper and measure the width of the bottom (by bottom i mean where the zipper key would be when the zipper is OPEN)

make yourself a little tiny pocket from one of your scrap pieces, like so:

press the top edges in and top stitch it onto the bottom of your zipper:

now take your little plastic nubby from your donor tie. mine had an attached zipper:

i just cut the zipper off with a pair of scissors—it was attached by a little plastic screw piece.

(note: initially i planned on attaching my new zipper key to the plastic piece with a dab of glue. but the zipper was a locking zipper—meaning when the key lays flat the zipper doesn’t go up and down. so i ended up leaving the zipper and plastic piece separate from each other, which works just as well. when he puts the tie on he pull it up to his collar, then zips the zipper up underneath it. no biggie.)

pass the open ends of your new zipper piece up through the holes in the plastic piece—front of the zipper to the front of the plastic piece, open ends of the zipper coming out the top.

take your second scrap of fabric and make a little envelope folded cover for where the two ends of the zipper meet at the top:

sandwich the two ends of the zipper in there and stitch it down well.

congratulations! (in my head i totally said that like heidi klum) you now have half a zipper tie!


pretty easy, huh?

now to connect the two halves:

this is easy too, but it helps if you know how to tie a man’s tie—because that’s basically what you’re doing. i do prefer a nice clean double windsor knot, which is what i did. ;o)
here’s a tutorial if you need help.

lay your tie front piece on top of the plastic piece, folding about 1 1/2 inches over the top and to the backside.


bring the tie front piece around the side to the back:

and throw a few stitches in here, nice and tight, where the two pieces meet.

front view at this point:

now simply finish tying your tie
bring the long piece around to the front again (you’re on the opposite side this time) and over the top, wrap a third time straight across the front to cover it all,
come up from the back and “down the rabbit hole” ;o)


and there you have it: one completed boys’ zipper tie. IMG_5717_5312 IMG_5718_5313

picture perfect,

and picnic perfect!

i'm linking here:

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  1. I love it! Now, to find some of those weird plastic things....

  2. Just anothe rstring of awesomeness! Love it! Featured this one as well :)

  3. Thank you. The cheapest i have found zip ties is like $6. But i want him to have one in every color to match his sisters dresses. Poor boy. This tutorial is so awesome!

  4. Good walk through for fixing a zip tie too! My 8 year old son put his in the washer!

  5. The detailed instructions helped me fix a broken zipper tie. Thanks!

  6. I'm trying to transform a clip tie into a zipper tie. I'm going to try to use this tutorial and the inside of a clip tie with the clip mechanism removed. I hope it works, thank you. =)

  7. Thanks for the tutorial.
    But you don't have to hand stitch the tie closed though. I have made ties for my boys (not zipper ties though, the reason I am reading your blog.....) for over 10 years, since they were babies. At first, I would hand sew them closed, but now I just fold the tie in half sew a seam ( probably 1/4-3/8 of an inch). The tricky part is pressing the seam open and then turning the tie right side out and pressing flat. If I could send a pic I would.

    1. hmmmm...interesting. i may have to give this a whirl. thanks!


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