Making Beaded Tassels and Fringe: Professional Tips
Have you ever tried making beaded tassels, or adding a fringe to your designs? If you have, then you’ve probably discovered something… The thread paths are very easy. But it’s actually surprisingly difficult to create a tassel or fringe that sits well and has that lovely tactile texture you want. So, what’s the trick? How do the pros do this so easily? That’s exactly what I’m about to share with you here…
The two most important things you need for making beaded tassels
Let me cut to the chase… The two things that will make the difference between good and bad beaded tassels (or fringe) are:
- Your tension
- Your thread
And it’s no good getting just one of these right. If you manage to master the tension, but you’re still using the wrong thread, then your tassels are likely to end up ‘lumpy’ or hanging badly, or maybe hanging crooked.
Similarly, even if you are using the correct thread, unless you also have the right tension, you’re going to end up with uneven bead strands and an unprofessional looking tassel.
So, how do you get both things right?
If you’re not sure what I mean by tension, then this is a basic beading term. It refers to how hard/tight you pull your thread through your beads.
Basic thread paths
In order to understand it in the context of making beaded tassels and fringe, let’s take a quick look at a basic thread path…
I started out by saying that the thread path for making beaded tassels and fringe is actually very simple. Typically, you will be working off an existing piece of beadwork. So, that could be a round piece, as you saw in the tassel photos above. Or it might be a flat piece as you will be able to see in the flamingo necklace design down below.
Either way, the thread path works like this. Begin by exiting from a bead in your base beadwork. Pick up a string of beads. Skip the final bead and pass back up through the rest of the beads in your string. Pull everything up tight to your beadwork and then pass into the next bead in the base.
Just keep repeating this process. That thread path is illustrated in the diagram above, left.
If you want to add something ‘more’ then you can easily shape your end, as shown in the diagram above, right. To do this, you would pick up your string of beads, skip the last THREE beads and pass back down through your string, beginning from the bead that is fourth from the end. Then, the same procedure, pull everything into place and pass on into the next bead in your base beadwork.
So, where does the tension come into this?
Well, that is the “pull everything up tight to your beadwork and pass into the next bead in the base”. So, you are essentially doing two things.
First, pulling the string of beads into place. Second anchoring that string against your main beaded structure.
Now, if you pull too tight, your string of beads is going to develop a slight curve. And if that is then anchored too tightly to the base, you will have a rigid string that has no room to move.
Think about a tassel or fringe that is made from a soft thread…that is flexible and will move around in your hands.
You are aiming for your beaded tassel to end up with that same kind of texture.
So, you might be thinking that loose tension is better for this. Well, the thing is, if you go too loose, then you end up with gapping down your string.
In other words, once the beads ‘settle’ you’ll have visible thread. Usually this will be at the top of the bead string where it is joining onto the base beadwork. But it is also possible for the whole string to be a little loose, so the beads will move up and down, exposing thread. You don’t want that.
You’re aiming for that ‘sweet spot’ in the middle. This is where your string of beads is firmly anchored to its base, has no gaps between beads, but also retains some softness and movement.
And yes, this is tricky to achieve… Which is why your choice of thread is so important…
The best beading thread for making beaded tassels
Again, let me get straight to the point here…
In my opinion, the best beading thread for making beaded tassels is Durathread. Now, if that’s not something you’ve come across before, then I have a whole blog post dedicated to this thread. So, you can read that here.
Let me just explain, very briefly, why it is that I think this thread is so good for making beaded tassels and fringe.
Basically, you need two attributes:
- Softness in the thread
- Something that doesn’t knot and tangle easily
So, let’s take the first of those…
Softness in the thread
When I talk about this, I mean how ‘bendy’ is the thread. So, if you think about something like Fireline, it tends to be quite stiff and have a life of its own. That makes it brilliant for projects like boxes and vessels, where you need to create a stiff fabric.
For a beaded tassel or fringed edge, you want the beads to be soft and flexible. So, if you’re trying to string them with a stiff thread, you’re really going to struggle to get that end result. However good your tension, the thread holding the beads together is just not going to be loose enough to allow them the movement you want.
Now you might be thinking, ‘so why not just use a nylon-based thread?’ And you would be absolutely right. But a lot of people who love using Fireline love it because it doesn’t tangle and knot too much. Whereas some nylon-based threads do. So, let’s talk about that.
No knotting and tangling
If you’ve beaded for any length of time, then you know that one of the biggest frustrations can be getting knots and tangles in your thread as you work.
This is bad on any project. But it’s particularly bad if you’re trying to make tassels or add fringe.
Basically, you want to be working with a continuous length of thread for your tassel/fringe strings. So, if that thread is constantly knotting and tangling, it’s going to cause huge problems.
And, since your thread path is taking you up and down long strings of beads, and pulling things up tight, this can cause tangling.
So, that’s why I’m very picky about what kind of thread I choose to use for making beaded tassels.
I’ve found that the Durathread has the best of both worlds. Like Fireline, it’s easy to use. But like a nylon thread, it’s soft and flexible… The perfect combination!
What can you do next?
Well, if you want to learn some more techniques for making beaded tassels and fringe, you can grab any of the beading patterns I’ve included in this post.
You can also explore different types of beading thread at this link. It’s surprising how choosing the right kind of thread for your project can make a difference to its ultimate success or failure. So, it’s worth trying out different threads and working out what is best for you. Also what is best for particular types of project, stitch, or technique.
And, this is exactly the kind of topic that I cover in my weekly e-zine, ‘Beading with Katie’. It’s completely free and gets delivered to your inbox every Friday. Each week examines a particular beading topic or problem in detail. So, it’s a great (free) way to learn lots and improve your skills. If you want to subscribe (and yes, it’s FREE!) then follow this link. [SPOILER ALERT: Issue 10 looks at the best beading threads to use for different types of projects]
Lastly, you can just stay here and browse through more beading articles. You’ll find everything listed on the Beads Index page (top menu) and also lists of categories to explore in the menu to your left.