Monday, 24 August 2015

Chapter 6 : Simple Tassels

Many of activities I've undertaken so far in this module -- decorating paper, hand and machine stitching, even making cords -- have had about them an expressive facet that has been exciting, though if I'm being perfectly honest machine embroidery can still produce unintended results.  I've approached the making of simple tassels with a degree of puzzlement fearing that their creation was more about technique than expression.  I'm really not sure why I bother having this conversation either with myself or in this blog because, as usual, I've begun to see the potential of practising these techniques and seeing the result of countless small decisions.

The descriptions of materials are in anti-clockwise order  from 7 o'clock.

1.  Baby blue, brown velour and grey denim yarns, the head padded by a 3 cm polystyrene ball and
     wrapped in brown velour, the tie of grey denim yarn. (the tie would be better brown)
2.  Butterfly tuft in natural linen yarn and contrasting storm grey Kidsilk Haze.  The tie of clingfilm
      and silver grey machine embroidery.
3.  A squab in grey velour, Kidsilk Haze and self-dyed silk.  The tie is velour.
4.  Long looped and twisted tassel in ice blue Panama yarn, pale grey crochet yarn and blue-grey silk
     floss.  The twists are silver gilt thread.
5.  Long beaded tassel, the threads as in (4) and caught through a cut silk cocoon coloured with
     metallic rub-ons.  The knotted tie is of clingfilm and metallic thread embroidery.
6.  Small, twisted three-knot tassel, again in the above yarns and tied with silver gilt thread.
7.  Self-dyed two-tone cord threaded through a cut silk cocoon, with the same cord and bead and
     knotted finish.
8.  Grey tape, Petra cotton and sari waste applied in layers and wrapped around a 3 cm polystyrene
     ball.  The tassel is wrapped with a cord made of clingfilm and silver grey embroidery and left
     looking shaggy.  The head is stitched with silver grey detached chain stitch.

It was interesting getting the proportion of head to skirt right and its thickness given that the tassels are not a part of any overall design only samples.  It was also important to limit the number of design features so that the individual tassel did not become too fussy, but just enough to make it balanced and suit the materials used.  For example (8), the first one I made, looked unsatisfactory without the addition of the detached buttonhole stitch on the head.

Ensuring that the yarns/threads covered the polystyrene ball was tricky.  I didn't resort to glue, but if the tassel were being handled regularly this may be the solution.

Little practical matters also came to light:  the wonders of collapsible beading needles used on 5 and the need to wet and then wrap the cords used in (7) tightly with clingfilm after the tassel was complete.  Finally, cutting any of the yarns and threads straight needs practice.

Machine made Tassels

Below from left to right are a Turk's Head Knot and three samples of machine made tassels.

1. Textured tight strip with thick space-dyed machine thread zig-zagged to make a cord.
2. Dark grey and rich brown velour wrapped round a frame and zig-zagged in grey thread.  The made     fabric is wrapped and threaded through with a knotted cord in the same colours.
3. Self-dyed sari ribbon, incorporating cling film and other threads, zi-zagged in Rainy Day space
    dyed thread.  Two lengths of the made fabric are rolled and stitched, then looped through each
    other and trimmed with cling film cord stitched with metallic thread.
4. Self-dyed sari ribbon (this time only two strips) zig-zagged in metallic thread.  Self-dyed cord is
    looped through the ends and left uncut and unstraightened.  The two tassels are trimmed with self-
    dyed gimp and velour and stitched with metallic threads.


I have learned such a lot through making tassels. Initially I thought they were mainly associated with elaborate interior designs and required a high level of finish.  Of course this is only part of the story.

The experiments in combining colour, texture, thickness, using a range of materials and techniques were endlessly fascinating.  Even using just my colour palette it wasn't always possible to create the subtle effect I wanted, and to add sheen rather than shine to the finished result.

Size and proportion were important too and  for this its useful to imagine the role and function served by the tassels.  In this regard I was interested to find how stiff the made fabric became when as many as six wrappings of sari waste were wound round the frame as in the pale blue tassel, a problem I exacerbated by then rolling and stitching the fabric.  I'd chosen to do this as the fabric was too wide and out of proportion to the length.  By reducing the sari waste in the brown double tassel the band is soft and flexible and narrower.  The tassel in the pale blue version is far too stumpy.  So much to get right!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Chapter 5 : Cord Making

I have just loved making cords! Although I don't play the piano I imagine it's akin to playing scales. I've amassed a wonderful collection of yarns and thread: there's the thick, the thin, the matte, the shiny, the man-made and the synthetic, all in my colour scheme (some self-dyed).  There's cling-film and wire, strips of fabric, ribbon and raffia.  What to choose and combine.  Which thread on the top bobbin, which below -- the adjusting of tension and the cording foot.  Perhaps the joyeousness comes from worrying less about machine control which caused me so much concern in Chapter 4.

Machine Stitched Cords


1.    Tubular yarn (self-dyed), stuffed with knitting yarn and ruched by pushing together at intervals.
2.    As above, the tubular yarn stiffed and zig-zagged with matte and shiny bronze thread.
3.    Sari waste (self-dyed) and zig-zagged with fine and multi thread silk in ice-blue.
4.    Gimp (self-dyed) and velour yarn zig-zagged with matte and shiny bronze thread.
5.    Torn strip of fabric (self-dyed) and zig-zagged with fine and thick self-dyed) thread.
6.     Silk slub and cords (hand-dyed) with thick grey crochet thread.
7.     Herdwick wool zig-zagged with shiny bronze thread.
8/9. Another shade of sari waste (hand-dyed) zig-zagged with two thicknesses of grey silk.
10.  Grey tubular yarn and several strands of Herdwick wool zig-zagged in surges with fine thread  
       and thick silk.
11.  Cling film zig-zagged in surges with shiny and matte bronze thread.
12.  Cling film and wire zig-zagged in surges with thick and thin ice-blue silk.

Even within such a controlled palette the range of effects is considerable, and these are only a selection of the cords I've made.  It's fascinating to see the effect made by contrasting colour or texture or limiting the materials by one quality.

I've possibly drawn attention too often to the fact that certain threads and yarns are self-dyed, but I have been very taken by the subtlety of colour that's possible, especially the creation of space-dyed effects and the luminosity it's sometimes possible to achieve.  It's quite addictive!  The record of the materials I've used is also useful.

Finally, I've found the way in which yarns are manipulated when stitched in this way, creating thick and thin, flattened and bunched, even split areas throughout their length, interesting.  The insertion of wire in the set of threads to be corded also has plenty of possibilities.

Twisted Cords

The range of twisted cords below starts with the most simple -- a collection of  yarns and threads -- to more complex examples which twist existing cords with other materials to create new cords.


1.   Sari waste (hand-dyed), linen yarn and thick silk thread.
2.   Existing silk zig-zagged and fabric cord and two textures of silk thread.
3.   Herdwick wool and synthetic yarn enhanced with small sequins.
4.   Sequined yarn, as above, and sari waste (hand-dyed).
5.   Silky yarn and synthetic yarn of varying colours and thicknesses.
6.   Silk ribbon and hazy mohair yarn.
7.   Two existing cords: thick strip of tights zig-zagged with thick thread and strip of fabric again
      stitched with thick thread.
8.   Sari wasted (hand-dyed) and synthetic yarn used in (5) above.
9.   Tubular year and bronze zig-zagged cord, ribbon and velour yarn.
10.  Silk strip and existing cord of matte fabric zig-zagged with thick matte thread.

As I've made these twisted cords I've become aware of their additional properties.  The softness, for example of (1) but how the soft yarn can be given more robustness with the addition of Herdwick wool.  How the softness of some synthetic yarns might be appealing to the eye, but would wear poorly.

Two ready made cords twisted together are not only very attractive, having subtlety and interest along their length, but made of the right materials are robust enough to be made into something else and withstand wear.  (7) is such a twisted cord.

I like the properties of (10), the strip of silk with its sheen adding a very lovely quality to the existing rather matte cord.  It had a lovely irregularity about it with the silk more obvious in places.

Knotted, Plaited and Wrapped Methods


1.   Grey tubing zig-zagged with thick bronze thread with pairs of knots at intervals.
2.   The above cord combined with sari waste (hand-dyed) wired and zig-zagged with bronze glitter
      thread. The two are knotted together at intervals.
3.   Two strips of sari waste (as above) and grey tubing knotted together with half knot.
4.   Gimp (self-dyed) and grey tubing zig-zagged with storm grey silk knotted together with half
5.   Looped braid edge/Pawnee braid using materials in (4).
6.   Plait using brown organza ribbon, velour yarn, cord with stuffed grey tubular yarn as in (3).
7.   Double ridge using cord made with grey tube (3) and brown cord, six strands of brown cord
      knotted round.

These techniques have great potential especially with the addition of wire, for instance (3) would make a lovely bracelet, as would (4) and (5).  The double ridge in (7) would be equally attractive if the cord were wrapped with brown sari waste.  The addition of beads is another possibility... but that's a whole different chapter.