Handmade, personalized neckties are a great accessory and an awesome gift. Traditional fabric ties are a bit complicated to make, but this DIY leather version is easy, customizable, and requires no sewing! I made these two ties in about 6 hours, and I didn't even have this excellent Instructable to guide me.
To give the ties their unique look, I stamped them with ordinary objects I found in our shop, in this case I literally used nuts and bolts. I really liked taking these objects out of their usual context and using them to create interesting textures. You could use any number of different objects to make your ties unique and personalized, and figuring out what will make a good stamp is half the fun. Of course you could also use pre-made leather stamps like these, which you can get at Tandy or other leather working stores, or you could even create your own 3D printed stamps, like I did in this Instructable.
However you choose to decorate it, you will probably end up with a unique and beautiful leather necktie fit for a stylish dad.
- Leather — you will need a thin 1–2 oz milled veg tanned leather at least 60" long and 6" wide like this, or preferably even thinner. It has to be veg tanned if you want to create good stamped patterns in the leather, but if you wanted to use a pre dyed or textured garment leather, you absolutely could.
- Adjustable V-Gouge Awl Leather glueSponges
- Wool Daubers or rag
- Leather Stain — I used this Black Pro Waterstain, and Acorn Brown All-in-One Stain Leather Finish — if you are not using an all-in-one stain and finish
- Objects to stamp your leather with — I'll discuss this in the next step
- Letter stamps if you want to add a monogram or message
- Small Rivets
- Hole punchHard surface to stamp on — I use a quartz slab with a poundo board over it, but a piece of thick wood or a cutting board that you aren't attached to will work
- Wax paper or saran wrap
- Long ruler
- Cup for water
- Disposable Paintbrush
Choose Your Stamps
I wanted to see if I could use objects I found in the shop as leather stamps. There are a lot of great tools out there designed specifically for leather stamping and texturing, but testing what kind of textures you can get from ordinary objects is such a fun adventure! I also think it makes these ties an even better Father's Day present because you can use something your dad loves to create the look of the ties.
I focused of stuff from the metal shop and used nuts and bolts to texture my two ties, but try using other types of objects and see what you can come up with. If your dad loves to cook, you could see what kinds of textures you could get from kitchen utensils! There are a lot of possibilities.
(Do be aware though, that pounding your stamps into leather could damage fragile objects, so be careful if you're using one of Dad's favorite tools.)
Make a Tie Pattern
Ties can vary in width and shape, but a standard tie is usually about 57" long, 3 1/2" wide at the widest point. I made mine slightly thinner (only three inches wide at the widest point) and longer (about 60") because the leather doesn't stretch as much as fabric. You could vary this shape even more if you wanted, but the basic length should stay the same.
To make my tie pattern I took a large piece of paper, and drew a 60" line down the center, we'll call this the center line. I measured 1.25" up from the bottom of this line and drew a 3" line perpendicular to the center line. 30" up from the bottom point I drew a 1.25" perpendicular line, and 3/4" from the top end of the center line I drew another 1.25" line. Then I connected all these points to create the basic shape of my tie.
I wanted the edges of the tie to fold over, creating a clean edge, so I added a section on each side of my pattern, half the width of the basic tie shape.
When my pattern was done I cut it out.
Cut Your Leather
I placed my tie patten on my veg tanned leather and secured it down with a few tiny pieces of tape. Then I traced the shape with a scratch awl, and cut it out carefully with sharp scissors.
Fold Your Leather
Once the leather was cut out, I used my ruler and awl to trace a center line on the back side of my ties. Then folded over the edges to meet the center line in the back of the tie and pounded the edge of the fold down with a hammer on my quartz slab. This helps flatten the tie and gives the fold a nice clean edge.
When both sides were pounded, I unfolded them and used my V gouge to make a groove on the back side of the leather along the two fold lines. This will help the leather fold more cleanly and make the ties more flexible. I made sure to adjust my gouge down to a very small V so it wouldn't cut through the leather.
Stamp Your Tie
I placed my leather face up on my quartz and poundo board, and cased them by dampening them with a wet sponge. You wet leather before you stamp it so the stamps with make a deeper and more lasting impression.
Then I used a hammer to pound nuts and bolts into my leather, creating free-form patterns. To stamp the nuts, I screwed bolts a little way into them and used them as stems for the stamps. I started my texturing about 22" up from the base of the tie, which is around where the knot will sit (this, of course is dependent on the height of the person wearing the tie). Your leather will start to dry out as you work, so keep re-wetting it to get good stamp impressions.
This is where you can really get creative with the stamping tools you've chosen. You could create any number of patterns and textures. You can decorate the entire length of the tie, or just add detail in a few places, either way, your tie will be unique.
Dye Your Tie
To add color to my tie designs, I used a black Pro Waterstain on one, and an Acorn Brown All-in-One Stain and Finish on the other.
I lay my leather out on wax paper and used a sponge to apply the an even coat of dye. Wearing gloves is a good idea if you don't want dye all over your hands. I also used a wool dauber to dye the raw edges at the bottom and top of my ties.
The All-in-One Stain doesn't need a finishing coat to protect it, but the black does, so I used a Satin Shene finish on top of the Waterstain once it had dried.
Add a Tie Keeper
Most ties have a label sewn onto the back that also serves as a keeper for the small end of the tie. This seemed like a great place to personalize the tie, so I used letter stamps to create monogrammed leather keepers.
I attached the keepers by punching holes in each end and riveting them onto the back sides of the ties. A standard keeper should be attached about 9–10" up from the bottom of the tie. I slid a metal ruler between the layers of the tie when I hammered in the rivets so I didn't make a mark on the front of the leather.
Glue Your Tie
The last step is gluing down the folded edges of your tie.
First I hammered down these edges again to re-define the crease. Then I applied leather contact cement to both inner surfaces of the folds with a disposable paintbrush. I waited until the glue was tacky and then pressed the edges together and hammered them down one last time to get a neat, flat folded edge. I made sure the two sides met in the middle so the back of the tie looked at clean as possible.
Let your tie dry for a few hours before trying it on or giving it to someone. It will definitely be a bit stiff at first, but it should soften with more wear. You can tie it just like a regular tie, though I wouldn't recommend trying a windsor knot, as the leather is a bitt too stiff for that.
Weather you're designing this tie for yourself, or a making a present for a beloved gentleman with refined taste, it's sure add style and significance to any outfit. I firmly believe that accessories made by you, or someone you love, always carry more intangible value than anything bought, especially when they they are unique and well crafted.