words and photos LEEYONG SOO
Are you an embroiderer, knitter, weaver or crocheter? Do you work with wool, yarn, floss or thread of any kind? Are you frustrated once you finish a project because you have random lengths of thread left over? Maybe they’re too short or they’re the wrong colour/weight/texture for whatever it is you want to make next. You’re hanging onto them in the hope that you’ll think of a use for them in the future… aren’t you?
Enter the upcycled tassel! Sure, tassels *can* be all the one colour and texture, but there’s no reason they can’t be a glorious mix of chunky green wool, fine strands of purple embroidery floss, bobble-textured orange crochet cotton and hand-sewing thread in various hues, all bound together with metallic cord from old swing tags… or whatever varieties you have in your bag of tricks. The great thing about tassels is they can be as tiny or as massive as you like, which means that practically any length of thread can work.
What you will need
Scraps of thread, yarn, wool, twine, ribbon or anything similar. If you don’t happen to have lots of random lengths of yarn and thread, you could cut up old t-shirts, leggings, stockings or even socks lengthways into long, narrow strips (if you cut lengthways, the fabric will not fray or stretch). Op-shops are practically guaranteed to have odd packets or balls of yarn and half-done embroidery kits in their craft or homewares sections, so these are also good options.
A firm, flat squarish object such as a coaster, book, CD case, container lid or even thick cardboard. The finished tassel will be the same length as whatever ‘board’ you are winding around, so keep this in mind.
Let’s get making!
STEP ONE // Start winding.
Wind the thread firmly around the board, starting at one edge. Don’t worry if the thread ends don’t come all the way to the edge or hang over a bit, as you can trim them later. Keep winding until you have used all the different threads, or until the tassel feels full enough. This will largely depend on the thickness of the threads.
STEP TWO // Tie off the top and remove the tassel from the board.
Run a strong thread underneath the wound cords at one end of the board. Bring it up as close to the edge of the board as you can and knot it firmly. Push the wound threads off the board.
STEP THREE // Wind around the tassel neck.
Choose the thread to wind around the neck of the tassel and form it into a U-shape with one end of the thread coming to the top of the tassel. Hold the winding thread firmly against the tassel neck and wrap around and around, making sure not to cover up the base of the U completely. When you are satisfied with the amount of wrapping, cut the thread and pass it through the loop formed by the U-shape.
There’s no ‘correct’ amount of wrapping – you might prefer to only wrap around enough to secure the tassel. However, if you want to make a feature of the tassel neck, you can wrap around multiple times to make it quite long, or use different coloured threads to do so.
Pull the thread that was left free at the top of the tassel; this will bring the loop up underneath the wrapped section to conceal it. Trim off the threads close to the wrapping.
STEP FOUR // Trim the ends.
Cut through the loops at the bottom of the tassel to form its fringe or ‘skirt’ and trim the ends to get a neat shape. This can be done before removing the tassel from the board if you prefer, but when using multiple threads, they tend to differ in terms of tension and how they hang, so you’ll probably end up having to trim them to the same length anyway.
STEP FIVE // Put tassels on everything!
Use fine, delicate tassels to make jewellery such as earrings or decorate cushion corners and blankets with chunkier fibres. You could even pin a row of oversized tassels made from t-shirt strips to a wall hanging for a fun feature or make some in metallic yarn to hang as Christmas decorations. The opportunities are endless so get busy dreaming up all sorts of other ways to get more tassels into your life!