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Decor with a difference . . Irene Sparks has created a temporary lounge area in the former BNZ premises. The "flowers" in the vase are made from red ties, and each spice jar contains a coiled tie in the appropriate colours. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

Irene Sparks says she is out to collar the world record for grabatology.

That’s the fancy name for collecting neckties, something that has taken over Mrs Sparks’ spare time – and home – for the last couple of years.

Her interest began with her knack for sewing. She amassed enough old ties to make into bed quilts. By then she was fascinated with the variety she had seen in fabric, design, width, origin and purpose.

Ties were tokens of social and cultural history, she said.

They had remained a staple menswear item for the last century.

With her fascination firmly formed, Mrs Sparks discovered the Guinness World Record for Grabatology was held by a United States man who collected 16,055 different ties.

Mrs Sparks advertised across Otago and further afield for ties to build up her own collection. The Otago Daily Times became a strong ally, contributing a few thousand through readers’ donations.

She washed and ironed each tie and stored them in large plastic containers. Confident she is well clear of the old record, she is now preparing to make her official count.

Massive task . . . A snazzy toucan wearing one of the ties stands in front of bins containing the other 23,300. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mrs Sparks has taken what she believes is 23,301 ties to the former BNZ premises on the corner of Oamaru’s Thames and Coquet Sts. She has set up assorted displays of selected ties, some of which featured in an exhibition she held at the Forrester Gallery last year.

Mrs Sparks has also made a set of trestle tables upon which she will sort the ties. The Guinness regulations state there must be no two the same. A former salesman of the Parisien tie brand is calling in to help with the sorting in the first week in May.

The collection includes 45 ties from New Zealand designer Rixon Groove, square-ended ties, leather ones, hand-knitted creations, and 36 different named tartans. Vertical stripes are rare, there are only about 200 with polka dots, and a tie from the Netherlands has a tiny silver clog attached to its point.

Taking the ties out of their containers was “like seeing old friends again”, she said.

July 29 has been set as the counting date.

Mrs Sparks said the rules involved videoing the process from start to finish. She estimated it would take 19 and a-half hours to count them on her own non-stop.

Uncommon . . . This crescent-shaped tie was selected by Irene Sparks as the most unusual in her collection. PHOTO: SUPPLIED