Sunday 8 November 2015

Humatrope 8/Sewing Tip 8: Tassel Tutorial

Tassels give weight to the closure of the Humatrope collar, helping it stay in place
The tassels of the Humatrope collar are modelled on the ones taught me by my mentor and friend, the wonderful Vancouver couturier, Blossom Jenab. I spent a year of free time (seriously!) busily making an embroidered, beaded corset to Blossom's specifications. The finishing touch - the tassels - were fun to make and so over-the-top decadent, I just had to try a riff on them for the Humatrope collar. 
Tassels from corset made from Blossom's instructions; the left one is unfinished
Embroidery floss is wound around cardboard, much like a pompon is made, and secured at the top with heavy-duty thread to form a bobble, which is then beaded and attached to the braided cording that is the closure.

Here are the instructions, in case you want to make your own.
Ingredients for tassels: 15 year-old floss, needle caps, found pearl beads, cardboard 
You will need a folded piece of cardboard the height of the desired finished tassel, and some sort of thread or floss. I used a flattened box from my daughter's alcohol swabs and a left-over spool of glossy, woven embroidery floss from a beading class with Blossom, 15 years ago.
  • Estimate the amount of floss needed by quickly wrapping it around the cardboard until it looks the right thickness. Count the wraps as you go. I used 27 for each tassel. Add an arm's length, or so, for good luck. Unwind. 
  • For the optional beading on the tassel loops, count out the necessary number of needle caps and pearl beads - 1 set for each wrap. Poke a hole through the end of each needle cap using a sharp pair of pointy scissors and twist to make a smooth hole. Each of the tassels has 8 purple caps amongst the green, to represent my daughter's age. (We changed needle type partway through making the thing, and wouldn't you know but the new ones were a different colour!) 
String the beads before winding onto the cardboard, spacing randomly
  • Using a darning needle, string a needle cap onto the floss. String a pearl, which will act as an anchor, then go back up through the needle cap. The blunt needle will help avoid piercing the floss when working back up through the cap. Repeat with remaining caps and beads. The spacing will be only rough at this point. The floss will look kinked, like a string of Christmas lights.
Wrap in an "X" shape, one needle cap per wrap
  • Begin wrapping the floss around the folded cardboard, with the fold at the bottom. Wrap in an "X" shape. Slide the beads along the floss, if necessary, so that each wrap contains exactly one cap and bead. Wind both tassels in the same manner. Secure the thread tails with tape.
Beginning to sew the tassel
  • Thread a heavy needle with strong thread or embroidery floss. Knot both ends together, so the thread is doubled. Push the needle between the two layers of cardboard, under the floss at the top end of the tassel, then back through the doubled thread loop. Pull tightly, to secure the windings. Remove the tape and slip the mess of threads off the cardboard by bending it slightly.
A reject tassel - not thick enough - showing the bobble being formed. Too skinny
  • Sew repeatedly through the top end of the tassel, all over the place, to form a dense mass of stitches that will prevent the wraps from coming loose. Go in and out in all directions, wrapping the thread occasionally, too, to form the bobble. You will run out of thread once or twice. Re-thread your needle with a single ply of heavy thread and keep going until you have formed a nice, chubby ball on top.
Forming the handle around a pen. Note the bobble, made of lots of heavy thread

  • Make a handle on top of the tassel with two loops of heavy thread.  I formed the loops around a pen. Secure well by stitching in and out of the bobble a few more times.
The handle: two loops of thread, covered with buttonhole stitch
  • Cover the handle with buttonhole stitch, using whatever colour or type of thread your little heart desires. I used silver on the corset. On the Humatrope collar, instead of matching floss, I (inexplicably) chose old, pink embroidery cotton that probably once belonged to my grandmother.
The cord is braided right onto the handles
  • Bead the ball as you desire, to cover up the mass of stitches. I used random-coloured beads from clothing hang tags that have been amassing over time, cotton thread, and a very fine beading needle. I went through each strand of beads twice, just in case. 
  • Attach the cord by stitching it to the handle then covering with another layer of buttonhole stitch to hide the evidence, as I did for the corset tassels.
    Or attach by folding three strands of cord over the handle, and braiding the resulting six strands together, as I did with the Humatrope collar. This second method makes a clean finish, and doesn't require further embellishment to cover up the stitching.
8 purple needle caps because she is 8, and love in every stitch
All that's left is figuring out what to do with the exquisite little item you just made. But as Blossom says, make the garment and the occasion to wear it will present itself.

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