While I’ve always loved our simple, skinny Christmas tree with its white sweater ball garland, this year I felt it needed a little something extra. I looked everywhere for unique, non-traditional ornaments like these or these, but was not thrilled about the price tags… then I remembered my obsession with dip dyeing (I even wanted to dip dye napkins for our wedding but, alas, we ran out of time and nixed that idea). So I thought, why not combine my love of indigo, dip dye, and tassels to create some affordable, bohemian ornaments? Since we’ve kept the rest of our Christmas decor relaxed and neutral with creams, greys, greens, and you guessed it – blue, these dip dye tassels seemed like a no brainer!
I’ve created this little video tutorial because showing is always better than writing with these sorts of things, don’t ya think? 😉 But be sure to read the details below as I discovered some tricks and even a few mistakes so you won’t have to!
- Light Yarn (I used this cotton/acrylic yarn)
- Sharp Scissors
- Rectangular Form (I used a DVD case)
- Wide Tooth Comb
Dip Dye Materials:
- Rit Navy Blue Dye (or any color you’d like)
- Rit Denim Blue Dye (or any color you’d like)
- Metal Pot
- Stirring Tool (I used disposable chopsticks)
- Wire Hangers
- Plastic Fork
- Optional: Electric Burner (I dyed my tassels outside because, rest assured, dye spatters WILL FIND EVERYTHING hah!)
How to Make Your Tassel
I experimented with quite a few different types of string like white crochet thread, cotton cord, and yarn. This cotton/acrylic yarn, found at Michael’s, is my favorite. It’s higher quality so the ends will not fray like some of its cheaper counterparts, and the thread size is large enough so I don’t have to spend days wrapping tassels to get the thickness I want.
Begin by wrapping the thread around your form (not too tight or it will be difficult to remove from the form later). You can use anything rectangular that will hold its shape like cardboard or a book. I used a DVD case because… don’t we all have one of those lying around? Count the number of times you wrap the thread around the form so all of your tassels match in thickness (I wrapped mine about 50 times each). Trim the end and carefully slide the bundle off the form, keeping the loop intact.
Next cut a piece of yarn 6″ – 8″ long and tie a tight knot around the top of the bundle. For a tight hold, I twisted the thread around the opposite thread twice, pulled taut, then tied another loop – believe me I tried to find a technical name for this knot but no dice (please tell me if you know!). Have a look at the video to see this knotting in action.
The next order of steps is personal preference – you can cut the looped threads at the bottom while they are still in a neat bunch, or you can tie the tassel base so it’s secure THEN cut the loop (you’ll just have to make sure you cut all the loops since they will be a bit unruly after handling).
For the tassel base: Run your hands over the top of the bunch to form an even tassel “head.” Cut another piece of yarn about 25″ long and center on the bundle. Cross the string over itself and begin uniformly wrapping the bundle – wrapping one string upward and the other string downward. Once you have the tassel base wrapped the way you like, tie off another double twist knot. I always leave additional loose thread to hang down with the tassel after knotting.
Cut the bottom of the looped bundle. Comb so the strands are evenly distributed and trim. Lastly, tie another double twist knot at the top of the hanging loop to your desired length and trim the ends. And voila – you have a tassel! You can stop here if you don’t wish to dye. And because tassels are so versatile you can use this application for party decor, throw blankets, nurseries – you name it.
How to Dip Dye Your Tassel
I’ll preface the next instructions by saying yes, I purchased an electric burner (a cheap one at Walmart) so I could heat my dye bath outside and eliminate the terrifying possibility of staining our white stone counter tops… and floors…. and cabinets….. and rugs. I know myself and no matter how careful I may be, I will always create a splatter! So dyeing outside kept my blood pressure down and my mind sane. And in case you’re wondering…. there was splatter, and I was ok with it 😉 I even wore an old, navy sweatshirt for safe measure. You can, however, do this by heating water on the stove and transferring to a container elsewhere, but I found that having consistent heat helped the dye penetrate the fibers. Also, the amount of tassels and time it takes to dip each one would mean MANY trips to the stove to reheat and/or remix the dye – not ideal.
Heat water in a metal stock pot (I didn’t take exact measurements but fill the pot about half way). When the water is just starting to form bubbles at the bottom of the pot (pre-boil) that is the ideal temperature for the dye bath. I was especially pleased with using the electric burner for this because the highest heat setting consistently kept the water in this pre-boil state – there was never a rolling boil.
Add about 1 cup of salt (as noted on most dye prep instructions).
While wearing gloves, add your dye…. with caution. I mistakenly went a little wild with the first batch of dye, dumping nearly half of each bottle in the mixture which resulted in a dark, nearly solid purple tassel with just one dip. You want to keep the dye light enough so you can still accomplish that gradual gradient effect. After dumping the first batch, I combined a little less than 1/4 of the navy blue dye with about 1/2-3/4 of the denim blue dye bottle. *Note: the navy blue dye seemed extremely purple whereas the denim was more like the true blue I had imagined. Mix it well with a spoon (or in my case, a disposable chopstick) and test the color with a paper towel before dipping. And remember: Dye will dry lighter than it first appears so go a little darker than you intend.
Once you’ve achieved the color you like, soak the tassel with water and quickly dip into the dye bath. Dip once about 3/4 of the way up the tassel then begin dipping less, working your way to the bottom. Always keep the bottom strands submerged in the dye as this will create the darkest portion of your gradient. Because the dye dries lighter, continue to dip even when you think you’re finished. This will ensure a rich gradient vs a monotone dye job.
Step 5: Hang to dry for at least 24 hours. I strung the tassels on a few disassembled wire hangers for drying. 12-16 hours into drying time comb through each tassel with a plastic fork while they are still damp. This will ensure any wrinkled strands lay flat when fully dried (and you can dispose of the stained fork afterwards).
See the fail in the back :P? That was my first tassel, and although I couldn’t salvage for an ombre look, it did dry lighter, and I still think it’s usable.
After a little dye trial and error, I’m really happy with the results. You can even switch up the dye color or use contrasting thread for the base and hanging string if you’d like to mix it up.
This project costs about $15 total and produces 15-17 tassels (or about $44 total if you include the electric burner). It’s definitely something you can prepare in a single day, and provides the perfect bohemian touch to an otherwise ordinary tree.
So now that I’ve *hopefully* proven how easy it is to make tassels on your own, are you willing to give it a go? Will you be making tassels for Christmas or another special occasion? Comment below and let me know!