opus mariss

Embroidering through Time and Space

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Tassels don’t have to be hassles


Embroidered Pouch – silk and metal thread on canvas, French 14th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York accession# 46.156.34

I honestly don’t remember when I first learned to make tassels. I have vivid memories of my sister and I wrapping lengths of yarn around the front side of cassette cases ( I’m showing my age here, are those even a thing anymore). Tying them, cutting them off, and then forming the head with with bits of burlap we had cut into strips. I don’t recall what that project was, but I am sure whatever it was we decorated with those tassels was fabulous.

I used the same basic idea to make the tassels for this pouch. Inspired by this bag at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most of the remaining tassels from this period are made with Turk’s Head Knot’s or similar type knot forming the top of the tassel. This particular pouch is a bit unusual because the tassel heads are wrapped and then couched with metallic cord.

tassel detail

Detail view of tassels

You might notice that the four remaining tassels on this bag are all different colors. I think that there was probably a fifth one in the center of the pouch at one time. Using unmatched tassels seems to be fairly standard. In this case the threads used are obviously the same color as the embroidery. And the red color used to make the tassel head are the same as the red in the main body of the pouch as well.

I used the same green in both the body of the pouch and one of the tassels that I made. The red and yellow are the same as well. But I used a different blue. I had originally ordered the bright blue for my piece but decided that it was a bit strong for the other colors. It works well in the tassels though.

Unfortunately this was the best image I could get of the tassels from the extant piece. Its a little bit out of focus but, you can still tell that the tops are made by wrapping red silk thread around a core and then stitching gold cording around the sewn ball. I’ve photographed the process for you.






Step 1- find some thing the length you want your tassel. You can also cut a piece of stiff cardboard to the size you want. I used a gift card for these tassels. Cut a length of yarn or thread, long enough to tie some knots in. This will be the hanger for the tassel so make it a little longer than you think you will need. Run it across your template.


Step 2- starting at the bottom of your template wrap the yarn or thread for your tassel completely around the card. If you are making more than one tassel write down how many times you wrapped your yarn. Wiggle your perpendicular cord up to the top of the template. When you are done wrapping, tie a square knot at the top of the tassel and carefully cut the threads at the bottom of the template. Then use one of the cords from the tassel body to make a half-hitch knot to form a little head at the top of the tassel.


Step 3- make a roll of linen the width you want and stitch it around the head of your tassel. Run a couple of stitches through the tassel to help keep it in place.


Step 4- wrap the linen cloth with silk thread in your choice of color. Use a few tacking stitches to help hold it in place if needed.


Your tassel should now look something like this. These tassels aren’t hard to make but a third hand would be useful. If you plan to make a lot of them you might want to rig up some kind of a jig to hold the tassel while you stitch.

Step 5- the last step is to couch a decorative cord, or thread around the head of the tassel. I couched mine in a spiral pattern, but use your imagination.

completed tassel for my heraldic pouch