Tiny Tassels

Rissa Peace Root © 2008

   
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Many years ago, I got the idea to make tiny tassels and put them on my crazy quilts.  It was not an original idea, I believe I gleaned it from a CQ book, but I knew they would make a great addition to my blocks. The tassels I use for this purpose are very small and simple.  The majority are soft tassels made from thread alone, although I occasionally use beads for the rope or in the skirt.



 The photos above are from my autograph quilt blocks. 

My friend, Marie Alton, recently posted a tutorial for making Tiny Gold Tassels on her blog.  It is a lovely tutorial and I commented that it would make a nice article. However, I must admit that I do not use specific measurements or guides when I make tiny tassels.  I tend to use a small piece of cardboard and wrap it at will, or sometimes I will just wrap my fingers!  I have tried a variety of fibers and, unlike their full-sized counterparts, have yet to make something unsuitable for this purpose. Sometimes I do not cut the skirt, because then there is never any worry about fraying threads. Often my cord is nothing more than the thread I am using to attach the head and neck of the tassel to the crazy quilt.  I generally secure the tops of the tassels well, but allow the bottom to hang freely, because I like movement in dimensional embellishments.

Since they have a specific anatomy, there is a recipe for making tassels, although a tassel does not need each element to be effective.  These elements apply to all tassels, from the most grand to the most diminutive.

Anatomy of a tassel:

Cord or Rope:

This can be any form of cording, hand made or purchased, as thick or as thin as you desire. It's sole purpose is as something from which the tassel can hang. The simplest method for making your own cord is to secure one end, loop the other around a pencil, knitting needle or chopstick and hand twist it. The Spinster® is an inexpensive little tool that is perfect for winding the cords. I have done my cording many ways in the past, but I purchased this neat little tool several years ago and am very pleased with its ease of use. You could also modify a hand drill or a cordless screwdriver by placing a cup holder or other small hook into the chuck. A cord does NOT have to fit through the head of the tassels, it can be attached with thread or wire.

Head, Mold, or Finial:

If you are making a soft tassel, the head will be the wrapped end of your fiber skirt. If you are using a mold, they can be made of wood, ceramic, polymer clay, beads or any type of hardware. Sometimes wooden molds are hand painted, but often they are covered with gimp or fiber. Crocheted or tatted netting or needle lace can also be used to cover the head of a soft tassel or a wooden form.

Neck, Collar or Ruff:

On a soft tassel, the neck is the tight wraps of fiber that hold it together. This neck can be left plain or embellished later. On a tassel with a mold, the ruff is designed to cover the joint between the head and the skirt. Most ruffs are decorative; often a piece of nice trim or cord is used.  If a plain one is used in the initial construction, it can be embellished with embroidery or ribbon later.

Skirt:

The two most common types of tassel skirts are cut and bullion. It is as simple as this, if the ends of the fringe are cut, it is a cut skirt! If the ends are wrapped or twisted, it is a bullion skirt. In a bullion skirt, the threads are wrapped and allowed to twist back onto themselves, creating a *bullion* looped effect. Often highly decorative tassels are a combination of both, with the inner skirt being cut and the outer one being bullion.

Ironically, I have been meaning to write this article for some time, in fact, the photos have been sitting on my hard drive since March 2005. Now that I have finally put it into the magazine, maybe some of you will be encouraged to grab some pretty thread and wrap up a soft tassel to embellish your next CQ project!

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