project: banana neckties

several years ago, we decided to do something nice for our brother in law.  he’s a hard-working businessman who made his way up in the fruit and veg market, and he’s by far my favorite in law (no offense everybody else).  jim painted him a portrait, we did a painting of his kids together (we painted it together), and i made him a tie, featuring bananas.

well, bless his heart, he actually wears it now and again.  personally, after all this time, i think it’s horrid, but he doesn’t seem to agree, and in fact, tho made much sport of in his circles, some of his colleagues either like it so much, or annoy him so much, that he’s asked me to make him some more that he can give as presents.

as for me, i don’t care.  it gives me another chance to make a tie, which is a project with all its own challenges.  the first one is making it not turn out dorky.

so i ordered ties for his colleagues, and one more for him, and decided to way update the design.

i searched for ‘bunch bananas’ and these are photos i found that interested me.  i don’t want to just picture bananas this time, i want to find an interesting repeating pattern that says bananas, and crop it really close, so that it approaches abstract.

these are the ties.  nice thick silk, interesting nonwoven interface, silk thread.  i saved the thread.

the last time i did a tie, i forgot how it came apart, and had a hell of a time putting it back together again, especially since the silk shrank way more than the interface did.  this time i’m not above trimming the interface.

the photos of this part of the process are just for me.  i need to be able to see such details as the foldover at the bottom of the tie, and the place where the two ends are tacked together, and the placement of the tie bar.

the thread goes all the way the length of the tie in long stitches, ending in tacks at the corners where the triangles are.

when the ties were apart, i washed them in hot water and synthrapol, even the interfacings, let them dry, and then gently ironed one of the ties back into the folds it had, or at least, the folds that fit the interfacing.  the silk had shrunk a lot, and going to be impossible to use the old folds, but that’s okay, it’ll still fit.  just use smaller margins.

the drawing was next.  i cut out a tie shape from a piece of paper and messed with the collection of banana pictures until i found some interesting patterns, then tore off a sheet of kraft paper and drew the designs in pen, later using acrylic and a brush to make the lines dark enough to see thru the tie.

when i was done with that, i mixed up a new batch of sodium alginate resist and laid the ties out, and transferred the designs onto the ties.  then stretch, and ready to paint.

note my ingenious stretching strategy.  it’s all clips on rubber bands, and then i’ve got clips joined to clips clipping two ties together, and in one instance, there are two clips clipping the inside of the ties together using a rubber band between.  the variations are endless.

this is the first coat.  it’s yellow, by itself, full strength.  i’m using my silk dyes now, they’re left over, and i’m using them up before i start making my own silk dyes.  i think these particular ones are tinfix.  they’re proprietary, i don’t know what’s in them, they smell funny, they’re completely standard and you get the same results every time (except you don’t).  anyway, i’m using them up.

you’ll be seeing these three triangle-ends of the three ties a few times, as i complete the  process.  don’t know why i documented all three ties, but there you have it.

okay then, moving on.

this is after a second and third pass, the first one with red and the second with blue.

for the red, i only wanted a hint of red, so i used 7 pipettes of clear water, and three drops of red.  same with the blue, except i only used 1 drop for the first pass, and in these photos it looks like day-glo yellow.

now i’m getting a little bolder.  you can tell with the red.  and you can see how the new coat moves the old coat, making an interesting texture that i’m not sure i’m going to keep.

at this point i’ve started to put the black on.  in silk painting, if you want any darkness at all in the resulting color, you’ve got to use black.  otherwise it’s the most amazing rich brown or whatever, but it glows, not glowers.

the black i used, however, was 7 pipettes of clear water and one dropper of black.  so i had to go over the spaces between the stems of the bananas several times to make them dark enough.

and after the line of black at the edges of each banana, i came across with a brush of clear water and softened up each line.  i can only stand sharp edges under certain circumstances.

for this stage, i used a lot of much stronger blue.  i think i put 4 more drops into the same water.  and just kept going over the areas i wanted green.  eventually they turned as deep as i had the patience for.

at this point i can’t do any more before putting the background on.  and without restretching, i can’t put the background on the narrow ends of the ties, so i’m going to put it on the front parts, and then later, take them off and redo them.


i made up a nice large batch of 4 droppers of blue to 2 droppers of black with 4 pipettes of clear water, and later put in 4 more pipettes of clear water, and added another 2 droppers of blue and 1 of black.  a nice, thick, dark blue.

i painted it on between the bananas, but first i went around with my resist and redrew all the edges of the background.  this is because it’s pretty important not to have blue bleeding all over the yellow.  so i was very careful to outline everything as often as i needed to.

while the dye was still sopping wet, right after i got finished painting that section, i grabbed a large pinch of coarsely ground salt and sprinkled it on.


it takes a few minutes to act, but as the dye evaporates, the water is drawn to the salt crystals, and moves the dye with it, so you get these long trails of lighter colored fabric when it’s finished drying.  and the longer it takes to dry, the more intense the effect.  up to the point where the salt melts into the accumulated water and the entire effect washes out (i’ve done it).

the tie in the middle has almost no background.  none that’ll show when it’s all folded up around the interfacing.  i hope that’s not going to be a problem.  i hope one of those guys likes wearing green yellow.

here everything’s been restretched, and i’ve finished with the background dye and salt treatment.

now i’ve hung them over a board to have a look at.  i don’t think the lines are bold enough, and think, based on the right hand one, that they can stand to be a bit more marked up.

they’re just that little bit bland.

and when i fold them to their approximate width, they lose most of the background and become jumbles of yellow.  so back onto the stretchers they go, one at the time for this final round.

and here they are.  a good deal darker and bolder.  they may get laughed at, but nobody else will have anything else remotely like it.

of course, we have to set them and wash them and press them and sew them back together again, so it’s not like they’re finished or anything.  but until they wash out and i lose all my work, i’ll continue to think hopefully of them.

project time:  two days, all day, 8 hours the first day, more like 6 hours the second.  they’ll need a three hour steaming.  so 15 hours labor and about ten bucks for supplies (and water and fuel to steam and rinse them).  result?  maybe crappy, but you can’t buy them in stores, and you’ll be lucky to get me to make you one.


well, i inadvertently published.  i was going to wait until day after tomorrow, when i set the dyes and see what the final product is.  so check back then and i’ll update this post with a final picture.


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