Extract from Alchemy Arts: Recycling is Chic

Kate MacKay and Di Jennings

All Tied Up - one of the projects you will not find in any other book

Dwindling custom caused by increased sobriety in gentlemen’s clubs during prohibition gave rise to new inventiveness when facilitating conversation.  Many social ice-breakers that thrive today were conceived in this setting; games such as the ever-popular charades and I-spy would not have come into being were it not for the lack of brandy.  A once popular past-time that did not make the transition was the little known ‘Cravat Roulette,’. In fact its existence was rare and fleeting, clashing as it did with the puritanical politics of the era.  The game consisted of a burlesque dancer, saloon girl or local wench dressed entirely in gentlemen’s cravats.  One by one the club members would be called forth to select a cravat from the mademoiselle’s garb, which he would tie around his neck in a manner different to his predecessor.  The rule was that never should the same knot be tied twice or the game was over, the gentleman shamed and the petticoat left unrevealed.

A referee was in place to ensure that all knots were genuine but many expert bluffers actually saw their faux tie knots pass into men’s fashion for real. These were known as ‘Cravat Red Herrings’ later to be abbreviated to ‘Kippers’, one of the few existing references to ‘Cravat Roulette’ still used in modern parlance. The introduction of the longer, slimmer tie favoured these days directly correlates with the decline of Cravat Roulette.  The game became dull as these modern ties revealed too little of the undergarment at a time and the game was over too quickly as there are only really one or two ways of knotting them. These slim ties are still known as the ‘four in hand’ because frustrated gents would often try to tear off several at once in a bid to spice things up a bit.

 Our design is a modern take on this little piece of history; we have used the modern ‘our in hand’ tie, a descendent of the cravat.  And of course ours are firmly stitched in place.  Kate MacKay

Design by Di Jennings           

I have always loved men’s ties, and have used them in many different ways over the years. I made my first skirt from ties around 30 years ago and it was such a favourite that I wore it until it was threadbare! The memories of how fabulous I used to feel in that old tie skirt when I was a single girl got me started on this creation. I collected patterned ties in shades of blue and yellow and started to play with them. I wanted to make something that was both wearable and fun. The ties are attached to an old petticoat that provides the base. I have always been a fan of empire line dresses. They are so elegant and easy to wear – even after dinner!


Hand me downs, second hand stores and jumble sales:

15 ties

full length petticoat

Craft supplies:

needle and thread

Tip: How to make a petticoat based frock

I collected old ties that I liked from charity shops and jumble sales. Then I grouped them together in various formations placing geometrics, florals and colour ways together. This dress used about 15 ties in shades of yellow and blue. For the base, I used an old petticoat that fitted well, especially in the bodice area.

To make the skirt, I unpicked 13 of the ties, removed the inside stiffening and then  ironed them flat. Then I sewed them together so that the wider V- shape at end of the tie created the hem at the bottom of the skirt. I turned the petticoat inside out so that the wrong side was facing me and attached the skirt to the petticoat just below the bust. To finish the hem, I trimmed the bottom of the petticoat and hand stitched a small hem so that it could not be seen below the ties.

 I used the remnants of the ties to create the bodice (waste not, want not!).  This was the tricky bit as I was covering a rounded shape. I find that it is much easier working on a dress makers dummy. I did not have one at this time so there was a lot of fiddling around in front of the mirror. I suggest that you ask a good friend to be your model….but insist she wears a bra to avoid getting stabbed in the bosom! Carefully pin, then hand stitch, the bodice pieces together, attaching them to the petticoat as you work. Use another tie to make the two straps and a final tie to cover all the raggedy joins under the bust. Hand stitch the final pieces in place over all the ragged edges and it will cover a multitude of sins!