The key to any well-made tie is the slip stitch that runs all the way up its centre. It begins with a bar tack at the wider end and ends with a similar tack at the narrow end, plus that all important loop – a couple of inches of extra thread that allow the stitch to slip.
Let’s look at how one is made at Drake’s ties. The first image, above, shows the tie’s lining being placed along its middle. The lining determines the weight and feel of the tie, and has to be carefully balanced with the weight and handle of the silk. Here the lining is a wool and cotton mix.
The lining has a rough and a smooth side. It makes little difference to the shape of the tie which side is uppermost, but proprietor Michael Drake prefers the rough side to face the front – if only because otherwise there is a chance the texture could show through onto the back of the tie when it is being pressed.
In the second image, the lining is being pressed down into the front tip of the tie. The tipping is picked out to harmonise with the colour of the silk, here a white tipping for a small blue-and-white check: both very summery-feeling colours.
There is slightly more tipping on a Drake’s tie that a normal tie. This is because Michael likes to have the bar tack a little higher than average, allowing the end to splay out a little and “display more character”. It’s more expensive as it requires more material – a place someone could save a little money if they wanted to.
The two sides of the tie are then folded over the lining and tipping, and pinned all the way up their length. That’s the pinned (and weighted-down) tie you can see in the background of the image above.
In the foreground is the needle that is used for the slip stitch. This is unique to the job, with a slight curve that makes it easier for the sewer to catch both sides of the tie, and the lining, with each stitch and yet not prick the front. It is crucial that the lining be held with each stitch, so it does not move around the tie and provides consistent body along its length.
The bar tack is the first, anchoring stitch – it holds together all those elements mentioned above, plus the tipping. Some companies use an oversized stitch to demonstrate its strength. Drake’s considers that ostentatious.
The image above shows the stitch half-way through its progression. The self loop has just been inserted and stitched into place. By the way, a slip stitch is a loose, irregular stitch that allows the thread a certain amount of movement, while still securing the material.
At the end of the tie, a loop of excess thread is left (as shown below) before the thread is secured in a final tack. This loop means that the tie can be stretched, knotted or contorted, yet left to hang under its own weight will return to its original shape.
A tie without one is pretty much DOA.