Celebrate! Dip-Dyed Tassel Garland Tutorial
This month is all about celebration at TAC–on June 8, we’re throwing a party to celebrate our fifth birthday, and we’re feelin’ festive! So, for this month’s tutorial, Lynn and I are getting in the spirit with confetti-style, dip-dyed tassel garlands.
We didn’t want to make just any old garland, so we turned to the tassel works of Sheila Hicks and the colors of the Southwest for inspiration.
Sheila Hicks, Double Prayer Rug. 1970.
We took Sheila’s oversized, neutral tassels, splashed them with desert colors, and arranged them on multiple, draped strings for a staggered, three-dimensional look. Learn how you can make one below!
Part 1: How to make CONFETTI TASSELS !^*!*^!
Gather a mixture of white or light-colored materials:
different yarn varieties, ribbons
fabric (that you can rip or cut) For this tassel I used knit, which makes a cord when cut along the grain and pulled. Woven fabric is also suitable and can be ripped easily, along the weave.
one book: the length or width of the book will be the height of your tassel. I used a large old picture book for making big party tassels!
Now gather the ends of each string in your hand and wrap them together around your book until it’s a nice thickness.
Next, remove from the book carefully,
Place the wrapped wheel of string you made on the table and double knot a 10 inch piece of yarn to the top:
Then, double knot a very long piece of string around the center (about 2 feet if the string is thin). The excess is then wrapped around and tucked inside tightly. This creates the quintessential neck of the tassel:
Here’s a detail of the tucked in string on the neck:
The last step is to cut the bottom loops to create the fringe of the tassel:
Here are a few finished confetti tassels together:
Now onto dyeing!
Part 2: How to dip-dye your tassels
The next step is to make these tassels colorful! We thought through a few options — splattering them with paint or dye, using non-white material to begin with, completely submerging them. But, we ultimately decided on the dip-dye method, where the tassel is partially submerged in a vat of dye, leaving the dipped portion colorful and the top white. For this project, we used synthetic fiber reactive dyes, rather than natural dyes. But the choice is up to you! We chose synthetic for ease and reproducibility, but natural would be incredible as well. For this method, you’ll need:
synthetic fiber reactive dyes
measuring cups and spoons
small jars or yogurt containers (for testing colors!)
several large pots
a clothesline/drying area
Before using our pre-made tassels, we experimented with different color mixtures and application methods. Inspired by colorful desert sunsets, we mixed up several different color options, ultimately deciding on a palette of four colors. For a confetti effect, and to capture the different transitions of the Southwestern landscape, we also created two batches for each color — one more concentrated, and one more watered down, for a diffuse, pastel look. Before jumping straight to your final project, do some experimentation of your own!
When you’ve figured out your colors and concentrations, you can get prepped and start dyeing! Before dyeing, we soaked our tassels in soda ash, a dye fixer that helps the dye create a permanent chemical bond with the fiber. You can either pre-soak your materials, like Lynn and I did, or mix the soda ash directly with the dye. However, once you add the soda ash to the dye, the dye will quickly lose potency, and you only have a short amount of time (about an hour) before the dye becomes less effective.
To give us some dye-mixing wiggle room, we chose to presoak our tassels. We also wanted them to be wet, to allow the dye to bleed up the tassels and to make them easier to submerge in our dye vats. To mix soda ash, stir well in hot water, so that the powder will dissolve. We did about a cup/gallon of water, and let the tassels soak for 30 minutes.
Now you can mix your dyes, based on your earlier testing! To mix a large vat of dye, begin by mixing a concentration in a smaller container, and then pouring it into your larger vat of water. That way, if there are any dregs of unmixed dye at the bottom, you can add some extra water and remix them before pouring them into your bath. Also, use a whisk for this part, as the dye can be stubborn about being mixed in.
Once your baths are set up, you can squeeze the soda ash out of your tassels and get to dipping. To create a more interesting, confetti look, we dipped ours at different levels, taping the top string of each tassel to the side of the pot to keep it in place. Having different dip levels, rather than one rigid level, also helped to create a melting sunset effect when we hung the tassels. Leave your tassels in the dye for 1 hour.
Finally, rinse ‘em out and see what you have! Ideally, they should be rinsed in cold water and then washed with soap and hot water. However, if your tassels are too delicate to give them a thorough wash, a good rinse and delicate swishing in soapy water should be fine, as they won’t be worn clothing items. While rinsing, check out how the dye interacts with the different materials in your tassels — from one dye mixture, we got a wide range of color, depending on the fabric or yarn!
We then hung ours out to dry — it was fun to see them change from heavy, soaking tassels to fluffy, colorful decorations.
Once they’re totally dry, you’re ready to arrange and hang them!
Post-dyeing material detail: The bottom of a bunch before hanging
Part 3: Hang your tassel garland!
To get the draping look of Sheila Hicks, we decided to add some dimension to the way the tassels were hung. We also decided to hang them directly on the wall, a bit like art.
First, start with some nails and some strong string. We put five nails in the wall at almost random places (It is a good idea to slant the nails up a bit, so they act as a hook). Each string is looped on the nail using a slip-knot. Slip-knots are perfect because you can create them as you go! Here’s a little diagram:
There are multiple strings going between the nails at different levels.
Now you can tie on the tassels! A double knot at the top works fine! Here is a bit of our progress:
I trimmed them a bit as seemed necessary, traditionally tassels have a nice flat bottom.
They are also really comfy to rest on after all your hard work.
PS. Come see the garland in person at our b-day party on June 8, 2-5 pm at our Brooklyn location!
Thanks to Joey Korein for help with picture taking and providing one of her Wabi-Sabi tee-shirts for Lynn’s wardrobe.