Get ready to bump up your next DIY project with some drama! Tassels and fringe add weight, provide useful pulls, look cool, and are super easy to do.
What's the difference between tassels and fringe?
A tassel is a tuft of loosely hanging strands of yarn, knotted at one end and attached to an item. You'll see them on the on/off chain of a lamp, curtains, or the corners of pillows. They are also found on sweaters, scarves, blankets, attached to the tops of bells or used as stand-alone tools like bookmarks. A tassel has a ball shape on the top with a long strand emerging which allows you to hang it or attach it to something else.
Fringe is a decorative border of hanging strands of yarn used along the edge of a home décor item or clothing and is frequently used with beads. Fringe can be left loose, in its wild, unruly state, or knotted into tassels.
Let's make a tassel!
Wrap yarn around a piece of cardboard, a book cover, the palm of your hand or anything that is about the same length as the tassel, plus about half inch extra for thinner yarns and one inch extra for thicker yarns. For fat tassels, wrap more yarn. You can also use shorter strands to make fatter, squattier tassels. For thinner tassels, wrap less yarn or leave strands longer. When in doubt, wrap more yarn than you think you want.
Next, cut yarn leaving about 14” tail. Slip wrapped yarn off and take the long tail through the center. Keep wrapping tail under all of the wrapped yarn strands at the top several times and tie it firmly.
Cut through all of the strands at the bottom. The tassel will fluff up. If you need to thin the fullness, remove some wraps before continuing.
Flip it inside out to hide the knot at the top. Wrap the tail about half to one inch below the knotted edge, several times to create a little ball between the top of the tassel and the wraps. If you’re creating multiple tassels where you want each of the little balls to be the same size, then drape the strands over a large knitting needle, and wrap the tail around the ball close to the needle. Keep wrapping tightly until it’s secure.
When finished, thread the rest of the tail onto a tapestry needle and insert it from bottom to top, going up the inside of the tassel until it comes out of the top. This tail allows you to attach the tassel to something else or you can tie it to a cord or chain. With the tassel hanging from the strand, trim the ends on the bottom so they are all even.
To make tassels attached to a knitted edge, just like making stand-alone tassels, wrap yarn around a piece of cardboard, a book, or any hard object that is about the length you want your tassel, plus about half to inch extra for the knot. Wrap the yarn loosely and be careful not to pull it tight. Stretchy yarns will bounce back after being cut and may end up much shorter than you anticipated. Cut through all strands of yarn along one edge of the cardboard or book.
When determining how much yarn to wrap, figure that each strand of yarn will be folded in half, and depending on the thickness of your yarn, you may wish to have anywhere from 4-10 strands. If you want 10 tassels with 8 strands each, that’s 4 pieces of yarn folded in half per tassel so wrap the yarn around 40 times.
Pull out the number of strands you want for one tassel. Fold strands in half and with the right side of fabric facing, place fold on top of the place in the knitting where you want to attach the fringe. This is usually along the cast on or bind off edge. (Photo 1)
Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3
With a crochet hook or knitting needle, come in the hole in the knitted fabric from the wrong side and catch the strands in the middle of the loop that was formed at the fold. (Photo 2). Pull them through about an inch through the hole. (Photo 3).
Tuck ends through the loop and pull through. (Photo 4)
Photo 4 Photo 5 Photo 6
Don’t worry if the ends are uneven, since you’ll trim those later. If there is a big difference in lengths, pull the strands until they are somewhat close to being the same length. You will need to trim the tassels to the shortest length so keep that in mind before tightening. Finally, tighten the tassel. (Photo 5). Continue the length of your edge until all tassels have been attached. (Photo 6).
Fringe can be made using a self-fringing method as you knit. This is good for the sides of a cowl that will be worn around the neck or an infinity scarf.
To do this, cast on 1-2 inches of extra stitches on each end of your needles. Place a marker to separate these stitches from the pattern stitches and work these stitches in Stockinette stitch throughout. Before binding off, work the first stitches outside of the marker in Stockinette, bind off all of the center pattern stitches except the last one. Cut the yarn and pull it through the last pattern stitch. The last fringe stitches in stockinette will remain on your needle. Remove needle and unravel all stitches down to the cast on edge.
Your cowl now has “fringe.” If you want to tidy this up, you can tie your fringe into tassels. Starting at one end, tie two (or more) long loops together so they are knotted at the selvedge edge. Continue the length until all fringe is tied and knotted, then do the other side. Once all of the loops have been tied, cut the bottoms of the loops to open the fringe and trim to even them up.
Tips for the best tassels and fringe
The type of yarn affects the final look and function of the tassel or fringe. Silk, or a silk blended with nylon, bamboo or other drapey fiber, will create a sleek tassel that hangs straight. Fuzzy yarns, or light and airy chainette yarns will create strands that are plump and full.
Match Tassels and Fringe to Knitting
If you’re creating an edge for a knitted garment or accessory, the fringe or tassels should match the overall look and feel of the knitted piece. A thin, fingering weight lace baby blanket will look more balanced with light fringe or tassels than it will with fat, chunky ones. A larger item like a long scarf, large throw, or large shawl, looks better with long, lean tassels than it will with short, stubby ones.
Knot Tassels Firmly
Whether you’re wrapping the long tail several times around a tassel or pulling through a loop of fringe onto a knitted edge, make sure you pull it through to create a knot firmly or wrap tightly.
Before starting, choose a cast on and bind off that will make the tassels easy to attach. Stitch patterns with eyelets, yarnovers, or gaps make logical places to attach fringe. An edge with 21 gaps across the width of a cast on, makes it easy for a knitter to place tassels in every other gap with one on each end. Odd number of gaps are needed to balance the tassels if placing every other gap. This eliminates the need for the knitter to measure the space between each tassel.
Trim the fringe or tassels when you’re finished. Hang the item, use a ruler, and trim straight across. Even if you measured and cut exactly, the act of pulling through strands and knotting can create uneven ends. For a polished finish, dampen the fringe or tassels, and let them dry while hanging.
Hiatt, June Hemmons. The Principles of Knitting. Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Newton, Deborah. Finishing School, Master Class for Knitters. Sixth & Spring Books, 2011.
Stanley, Montse. The Handknitter’s Handbook. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles Publishers, Inc., 1986.
Vogue Magazine Editors. Vogue Knitting. Sixth & Spring Books, 2002.