Approximating The Norwegian Tassel
I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of fringe and tassels. More often than not fringe looks untidy, and tassels often look like bunched up fringe. As such, I typically avoid them. Although, I’ve seen fine examples of fringe in treatments on the ends of woven bands I plan to explore, but tassels just never caught my eye. While there’s a skill and art to making a proper tassel, they’ve always seemed superfluous. However, my opinion about tassels started to change while I was pouring over a new book, Norwegian Pick-Up Bandweaving by Heather Torgenrud. In a few of the photos there are tassels that also serve a function. They secure the end of the band, and are quite decorative. Their construction looks completely different from standard tassels, and I found myself studying the images of these tassels made so long ago and in a distant land. I think, as a craftsman and an artist it’s our hope that someone will find inspiration in our work, even if it’s long after we’re gone.
Of the end treatments I’ve seen, I favor the turned hem, braids, and the over-twist and plied sort. They secure the end of the band and stay tidy. Coincidentally, I had a small band on my loom for demonstrating in a workshop I was hosting. I finished that sample band and decided to try a braided finish I once saw on a back-strap used for weaving. As such, this left a small disproportionate fringe at the end that likely wouldn’t stand repeated use. So, I decided to give the tassel I found in the book a try. I’m able to make the tassel thick enough to cover the fringe but thin enough it wasn’t like a huge powder puff. This type of tassel will serve to secure the end, hide the end of the braid and fringe, and be decorative. While the original tassel was made on the woven part of the band, I’m using it on the braid. However, I think the results should be similar.
In the book, the tassel of the Norwegian band is made through the band. Since I’ve found no instructions, I will work with what I can see in the picture. Lengths of the thicker pattern threads are passed through the band so that one half of the cut threads lie on each side. Then the thicker threads are gathered and bound together, presumably underneath the end of the band and secured. Hence, this would prevent the weaving from raveling and hide the end of the band. Since I’ve chosen to braid my ends, I will follow this same example where the braid ends. I have a cleaver little tool for making fringe, and I set it to make 8 inch lengths. Consequently, this gives me about 4 inches on each side. I made 20 fringe pieces for each end. Then I used a yarn needle to pass the yarn through the end of the braid two at a time. I tried to get these as straight across and even as possible (especially the second one). Once I was satisfied with its appearance, I trimmed the original braid fringe short so it wouldn’t peek out later and be a nuisance. Then I took a long length of yarn, and passed it through as I did for the others, leaving a tail for fringe. Then I wrapped the tassel at a place that would hold both the tassel and braid securely. When I was satisfied with the wrap, I placed a few half hitches to hold it and passed the tail under the wraps and down with the rest of the tassel yarn. All that was left was trimming the tassel ends.
I like this tassel much better than other decorative tassels. I think I’ll use it on bands where a tassel will look appropriate. Additionally, it will work great when I need to get every inch out of the band. I found another picture of a tassel made similarly and it had a lot more fullness with multiple ties giving it a completely different look. I will use this band as a backstrap, when I give backstrap weaving a try, and these tassels should hold up well. I still need to deal with the middle part of the band and I’ll likely use a “D” ring or triangle ring sewn into place to be used when I weave. There are other end treatments I plan to try, I still like a hemmed finish, but some of these other treatments add a flair to the band. Now my mind searches for uses for a band to weave so I can apply another “Norwegian” tassel.