Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Make a Victorian Cravat or Ascot -A Tutorial

NOTE:  I have now updated and improved this tutorial with better instructions and photos.  Please see the new version here.


One necessity of any Victorian gentleman's costume is necktie. But when I went looking for a tutorial on how to make one, not only didn't I find one, but I found lots of conflicting information on just what a cravat looks like. To some extent, that's because the word "cravat" was used for many different styles over at least a hundred year period. What I'm calling a cravat, from here on in, looks like this or any of these. (Showing several different ways to wear them.)

From etsy

The first thing you'll need is your neck measurement. Subtract 1/2-1 inch from that measurement. One of the differences between a cravat and a normal necktie is that you tie your knot in the wide part of the tie, not the thin part. You also need to know how long you want the tie to be. Cravats are meant to be worn with a vest or waistcoat, and are only long enough to be tucked in to that. So ideally, if you have the vest you plan to wear it with, put it on and measure from your neck to the top of the vest. Add at least 3 inches to that measurement to allow you to tie it. Err on the side of length, because a cravat that doesn't tuck is nearly useless. (Ask me how I know!)

Once you have your measurements, you want to make your paper pattern. Decide how thick you'd like the skinny part of the cravat to be. For a pretty thin neck, I used 2 inches, and for a fuller look, 3 1/2". With your paper folded in half lengthwise, measure out a line 1/2 of your desired width from the fold. Make a line equal in length to 1/2(your neck measurement minus 1 inch). Then move up and draw a line 3 1/2 inches from your fold. Connect these two lines with a diagonal. When you unfold, you should have something that looks like this: 



From sewing

You'll notice I had to add more length to the thick part of the cravat. I'd make the length of the cravat about 12 inches + 1/2(your neck measurement). Hold your pattern up to your vest, to make sure it's long enough, but remember you need extra length to tie it. Remember to include or add a seam allowance, or this is going to be significantly thinner and shorter than you intend.

Ok, the hard part is over. Now, cut out your fabric pieces. What you're making is actually a reversible cravat, so I recommend using two complimentary colors or patterns, so you get two looks in one. You can use any type of fabric, but I recommend satin or silk (if you're not concerned with money). I buy up any satin remnants I come across for making cravats, since you don't need much. You could also use heavier decorator fabric. You'll be cutting two of each fabric.

From sewing

Pin these right sides together so that each half has one of each color.

From sewing

Stitch around the edges, leaving the smallest edge open. Notch the corners and remove the excess fabric from the seams.
From sewing

Fold the open end down over itself and stitch in place. Or, turn your cravat inside out through the neck and fold the end in and stitch the hard way. (BTW, getting this thing inside out through the skinny neck is almost the hardest part of the whole thing.)

From sewing

From sewing

Finally, insert one end into the other and stitch them together. I can't seem to make this seam look neat, but I doubt anyone will look too closely at the back of your neck.

From sewing

And...voila!

From sewing

As for how you tie the thing, the best instructions I've found are here: Tying an Ascot Tie

Of course, if after all that you decide you don't really want to make your own, I will custom make you one.

EDIT: For some alternate ways to tie a cravat, see this site.

12 comments:

  1. Your blog is brilliant! Would you be interested in an interview for Doc Fantastique's Show of Wonders Magazine? You can email me at TampaSteampunk@yahoo.com

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  2. I made one this morning for Jean Valjean in our HSM Les Mis. I stitched the back neck seam first. Then I stitched all the way around, leaving a 4" opening at the back neck. I stitched the opening closed after turning. Easy! Thanks.

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  3. I am looking to make one in the next few days, I am not clear on your instructions, are you making 2 complete sides, then attaching them together in the center? so in other words the right side and left side are made up of 4 pieces total material the shape of your pattern?

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  4. would it be impossible to make only 2 sides and the last stich be at one of the bottom edges, since that edge is large, it seems it would be easier to stich and leave no seam at the back of the neck.
    or is it impossible to pull it all the way inside out of the neck area width.
    Another design I have seen is only one end , the neck band has a loop at the end where you slide the tie part through under and over.

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  5. Hi,

    I want to try making one (actually many of these) for a show that I am designing. I just have a quick question about the pattern. The neckband ( I chose a skinny one) finished is two inches wide and the widest part is 7inches wide. How do you determine where/how you connect the two lines?

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  6. How long would you recommend it be for a child? A 4 year old? Or where, untied, should it fall when placed around his neck? Mid chest? Belly? I would really appreciate an answer- I am working on an outfit for my sons first civil war reenactment and I want him to have an ascot. Thank you!

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  7. There should be some sort of note in here that this is for a modern ascot, but to make it into a proper victorian cravat for many of the over 30 tying styles you should double the neck measurement. The ascot tying directions you've linked to are similar to a modern tie. When tying a cravat, you start at the throat, wrap each end around the back of the neck and over the shoulders. Following your tutorial, it would be impossible to tie it in a proper barrel knot or coachmen's knot or 'a la byron', as it is minimum 10" too short. The youtube video I've linked shows you a barrel knot being tied
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvoYDgQuXpI

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    Replies
    1. The style of cravat you are referring to was worn in the Regency period and the first half of the 19th century, not in the high Victorian period. Byron would have been 1810s-1820s. That style was not worn later in the century. A modern ascot would be worn against the skin, not over a shirt. There were a lot of different styles of necktie in the Victorian period and styles shifted every 5-10 years. These instructions will get you a versatile and easy period look, though they are not the end of possibilities. For the most period correct way to tie a tie, the Gordian Knot is preferred (that is the "formal" tie shown here): http://www.tomsawyerwaistcoats.co.uk/subprod/how-to-tie-a-cravat-0001283.aspx

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  8. It didn't quite work for me. I made it one piece (with another layer under as suggested). I found there was no need for a seam at the back of the neck and it's easier to turn the cravat inside out this way as you can leave a hole the size you want. I went for a 2 inch wide cravat at the neck (bigger than this would not fit under the collar and in retrospect I might have gone for 1 inch) with much smoother diagonal than illustrated above. It widen to 6 1/2 inch. And instead of finishing it square at the bottom, I went for pointy ends (in case it slips, it's cuter). Also I found that both ends don't have to be the same lenght if the carvat is pinned with a pretty pin. The back piece can be few inches shorter if you don't have enough fabric to make to eaqual parts or, if you have misjudged the lenght of the narrow bit of the cravat like me, you can steal from the back piece. I did the "neck size minus one inch" but I found there was not enough material for the 2 twist needed to tie the cravat as suggested. I'm no professsional, but the modified result looks the part.

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  9. http://raydean.net/?p=2531

    I made a couple of cravats from your instructions... one mock up and one for our production of "Fantasticks!" Thanks so much!

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