In my mid-30s, I resigned from a well-paying but highly stressful middle-management position with an internationally-recognised tertiary institution – to open a needlecraft shop! I bought and renovated a little cottage in Rosebank and had the business (which was called Threads) for seven years. While I will never ever even consider having a shop again (for reasons too numerous to go into here), I don’t regret the decision I made at the time. I learnt about bookkeeping, how to think out of the box, how to handle stupid and/or rude people in a way that didn’t release toxins into my system, and about never giving up – until the writing really was on the wall in bright green neon letters (when it was no longer about giving up but about being realistic and doing the necessary). I didn’t learn how to get rich or how to achieve a healthy balance between work and family life, but, hey, you can’t win ’em all.
One of the things I did was organise workshops – cross-stitch for children in the school holidays (gak!), freestyle embroidery, tassel-making, beading, etc. I’d run the kiddies’ workshops myself but found a few lovely people who were experts in beading/ crewel work/ fabric painting, etc., to run courses from my shop, thereby bringing in more customers. I learnt about tassel-making from a wonderful textile artist called Marie (I can’t remember her surname now) and one of the tricks in her bag of wonders was a cord-winder. Traditional passementerie required one to make one’s own cord for wrapping the head, and since I had got bitten big-time by the tassel bug, I had to find a winder for myself.
Above is one of the first tassels I made, which I found at the back of a dusty box in the garage marked “kitchen stuff”. As you can see, the cord wrapped around the head is coming loose, but the idea is to show you how essential it is to have a cord winder for making cords of different widths and in specific colours.
I believe it’s not difficult for a handy person to make a cord winder from some kind of rotating piece of simple machinery and four cup hooks, but that person isn’t me. There was a company in the UK at that time that manufactured the winder pictured above, and of course that was the one I had to have. 23 years ago it wasn’t as easy to order things from other parts of the world to South Africa as it is today, so Plan B was to ask my then sister-in-law (who lives in London) to order one for me and bring it with her on her next visit to Cape Town. Her visits were frequent and regular, and within six weeks I had my new baby. I seem to remember that it was priced around 30 quid but Elaine generously refused to let me reimburse her.
Many hundreds of tassels were made until my enthusiasm ran out. I had a retired neighbour who had a lathe and he would make wooden tassel heads for me in shapes I liked. Here are some that I still have left over.
Where is this post going? you’re wondering. Does it have a point or is the crazy old bat just meandering around lost in her craftmaking memories?
The point is that, since I’ve started making fabric beads for my own necklaces, the idea of using handmade wrapped cord keeps popping up in my head. Here’s experiment #1:
I used some fuzzy blue yarn, some orange bamboo cotton and a novelty pompom yarn with greys, oranges and creams. I bound off the ends and turned them into tassels with beads. I did this when I should have been doing household chores like washing-up, vacuuming the rug and scrubbing the shower tiles. Over 24 hours later and those things remain unattended to….