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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tassel Time

The other day I was rummaging in a box for something else and found a length of 12" white flapper fringe, some green and blue ombre dyed fringe and a 9 inch long incomplete tassel that I had completely forgotten about. I seem to remember buying the fringe at Designer Fabric Outlet in Toronto and making the green tassel sometime in the last century.

I love tassels. OK, you can get on with all the jokes that come to mind. I'll wait.

Better now? Good. As I was saying, I love tassels. I love their silky strings and the way they move. I have used them as decorations on things as diverse as gifts and window blinds and I routinely use them as pendants for necklaces. I like them hanging from door handles and cupboard knobs. If I had drapes with tie backs, I'd probably use them there too. I have a shoe box full of small ones, just waiting for their call to duty.

And I like making tassels. Especially big luxurious ones. You can make these from any kind or yarn or fibre really, but my favourite material is fringe trim - the swingy stuff we all associate with 1920's dresses. This can be hard to find, but it comes in a range of colours and lengths and it seems to dye well for me.

With this in mind, I thought that I should get on and use some of this newly rediscovered trim.



Making a tassel from fringe trim:

All you need to make a tassel from this kind of fringe is a needle and thread, something to use as the hanging loop and maybe a tassel cap of some kind.

Starting with your hanging loop - which can be a bit of cording or even a string from the fringe itself - wrap a bit of the bound top edge of the fringe around it and make a few stitches to secure. Then simply wrap and stitch, wrap and stitch until you have a tassel of the desired diameter. Keep the top flat or domed, depending on how you plan on finishing the tassel.

Sewing a tassel
If you are going to be inserting the tassel into a cap, then make it just a tiny bit bigger than the cap opening, so that you get a really snug fit.

Caps can be anything from large bead caps (as I used here), to recycled and altered tops from bottles.

Finishing with a cap
Another tassel style is to give it a big 'head" as you see in the picture at the top of this page. To make this kind of tassel, simply sew the hanging loop pointing downward, then when done, reverse the tassel over itself and tie the length of it under the now enclosed top. For more volume you can always use a big wood or plastic bead inside.

Dyeing: 


I like long tassels with an ombre dye effect.  If you want to dye the fringe, you can do it before or after making the tassel. I've tried it both ways, but after seems to be a bit easier in terms of management of the material in the dye bath.

The green trim was already dyed, so for the white tassels I mixed up a cup of purple dye and and rigged up a hanger from my kitchen faucet in the deep side of the sink. The trick to ombre dying is simply taking the time to progressively remove the item from the dye. If you want to match the ombre across a number of items, be sure to keep track of the minutes for each step.

As these white and purple tassels were dyeing I felt that the top edge of the colour was a bit too defined, so I used a paint brush and plain water to soften the edge during the dye process.
Ombre Dip Dyed
Once dry, you'll likely want to iron the trim to return it to it's original silky smoothness. You can see what it looks like before and after steaming below.

Steam iron to smooth threads


Finishing:

Your tassel might need a little hair cut at this point. After sewing, dyeing, drying and steaming, it always seems that a few of the ends get ragged. Just give the bottom of it a trim with very sharp scissors. But take this in small steps! If you've ever trimmed your own bangs, you'll know why.

Finally, decorate your tassel. Add dangles to the fall, beads to the hanging cord, or a nice tie if you are not using a cap. The tie can be a simple or fancy as you want. Think ribbon, cording, another piece of fringe (shorter, maybe a different colour?), etc. On the green and purple tassel at the top of the page I used strands of metallic glass bugle beads that echo the colours of the threads. For the white/purple tassels I played on a theme of pearls.

Decorative Details
Now, the only thing left to do is make up the other length of blue/green.

And find a use for them all, so they don't just disappear back into a box!