The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 1
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 2
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 3
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 4
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 5


RSN Diploma Passimentiere Part 1: The Cord

I just love learning new skills and making a tassel to fulfill the requirements of the passimentiere module of the RSN diploma gave me the chance to do exactly that!

My tassel is a combination of four separate components; a tassel head, a skirt (both under and over skirt), a ruff and the hanging cord. Making the cord was the first thing I learned how to do and it was so much fun! I was like a child with a new toy, winding away and watching a beautiful cord emerge as I twisted and twisted.


There are many ways to make cord with different ways of winding, but the basics are the same no matter how you wind the separate strands together. The cord winder you see in the photo above comes from Anna Crutchley who is the author of the book ‘The Tassels Book’.  It’s an amazing little device. Click here to purchase a cord winder from her.

If you look closely in the photo above, you’ll see there are multiple strands of thread hooked onto each of the four hooks. Those strands are twisted together, either in a S-twist or a Z-twist, before being wound together to make the cord. To do this, I strung the threads between the mechanical end you see and a piece of wood with four of the same hooks mounted onto it and clamped to a table about 3 meters/ 3.5 yards away. There is a lever to hold down to ensure that only the individual hooks spin either clockwise or counterclockwise, creating the individual twisted threads that will go into the cord.


Once the threads are twisted, you release the lever and continue to turn the handle in the same direction and all four hooks move on the metal plate at one time, no longer individually, which twists the individual threads into the cord.


During this part of the process I had to walk towards the wooden end that was mounted on the table since, naturally, the cord gets shorter as it’s wound more tightly.


Above is a photo of the first cord I made using long lengths of DMC cotton (not separated) and cotton crochet yarn, one of which had a bit of synthetic gold thread running through it. These materials were not expensive but when wound together created a very elegant piece of cord! Result!


The next piece of cord I made was the “real” one for winding around the head of the tassel. This cord was made of threads from Oliver Twists; two silver and two gold. Three of them are shiny, sparkly synthetic threads and the other is a grey gimp.


Again I used single pieces of thread and twisted them together first. Look closely at the photo and you can see the individual threads on the hooks ready to be twisted.

This piece of cord had to be about 3 meters long so the length of each thread to be twisted into the cord had to be 2.5 times the finished length or about 8 meters. We mounted the wooden piece with the hooks at one end of a large room in Kelley’s studio and I stood with the cord winder at the other end – you have to have space to do this to any length! Then I twisted and twisted and twisted and twisted and twisted… You get the idea! It was a LOT of twisting.


Finally the cord was done and ready to be tied off. This involves tightly wrapping one end of the cord – the end nearest the cord winder – with buttonhole thread. I removed the individual threads from the mechanical end of the cord winder and then I had to “walk” down the length of the cord about 2 inches at a time pinching the cord as I went so it wouldn’t untwist suddenly. When I got to the end I tied it off the same way as I did at the beginning and the cord was finished!


Below are the three different cords I made that day . The one of the far left was my learning/practice piece. The on in the middle is the one that will be wrapped around the head of the tassel and the one on the right is the hanging cord. The hanging cord is a double cord made of two cords that I made the same way and then twisted together to make a thicker cord.


I have to admit that I was so taken with he whole process and loved making cords so much that I sat down and ordered a cord winder when I got back to my room that evening. You can be sure I will be making cords galore in the future.

Have you ever made tassels? Did you love it as much as I did?

RSN Diploma – Ready to begin!!!

Now that I’ve finished my RSN Certificate course, I am, of course, going to go on to complete the Diploma, beginning with 6 ½ days in Bristol with my teacher Kelley Aldridge. I’ll be there for most but not all of a two week intensive which works out perfectly for me.

I’ve decided to begin with two very different techniques: white work and passimentiere. “What is passimentiere?” I hear some of you asking. It’s the making of tassels and other fabric embellishments.


The first thing I’m going to learn how to do is to make a tassel! Not a tiny, unobtrusive tassel – oh no! This is going to be an over the top, very fancy piece of embellishment! If you want to take a look at my inspiration/idea board on Pinterest, click here.

The tassel will be gold and silver/ gold and grey. The threads in the photo above are some of the ones I’ll be using. I can also use beads and other charms to make it really fancy schmancy! Why did I begin with this module? Well, because it will be fun, pure and simple. Of course I’ll want to do my best and create something that’s assessed highly by the RSN assessors. However, I want a break from the intensity of silk shading and this sounded perfect. I’ll write about every single step and I hope you have as much fun reading about it as I have doing it!


White work is the other technique I’ll be doing. If you’ve read The Unbroken Thread for a while, you will know I’ve been working on a Schwalm whitework piece by Luzine Happel. I’ve gotten to visit her here in Germany twice and just love her work and her designs. While Schwalm whitework is not one of the types of white work to be studied for the Diploma, I know the things I’ve learned from her will be helpful. I’ll be doing Richelieu whitework. The RSN defines Richelieu whitework as “a cutwork technique using eyelets and ladders.” As you can see from the photo above, I’ve gotten all my beautiful linen and whitework threads gathered together to take to Bristol.

Quite a few of you have told me that you’re either beginning the Certificate course or intend to begin it in the near future! That’s great! For those of you who want to know a little about the Diploma course, here’s an overview of which modules I’ll be taking.

I must complete three core techniques: 1.) advanced goldwork 2.) advanced long & short silk shading (embroidering either an animal/bird or a figure) and appliqué.

You are then required to do either blackwork or canvas stitches – it must be the technique you did not do at Certificate level – so I’ll be doing blackwork.

You are required to do either box making or stump work – I’ll be doing stump work.

And finally a selection from this group that you and your tutor may decide upon: Creative metal thread; Smocking; Tassels and cords (Passimentiere); Whitework.

This means over the next who-knows-how-many years you’ll be reading about my experiences taking the RSN Diploma and learning about how I mastered (or not!) the techniques of advanced goldwork, advanced long and short silk shading, appliqué, blackwork, stump work, passimentiere and whitework. Whew!

My next visit to the RSN for course work will be at the beginning of February 2016 when I’ll return to Hampton Court. I haven’t decided which technique I’d like to learn while I’m there but you can be sure I’ll let you know!



Blue Canvaswork: Water

This little canvaswork piece has really been a joy to stitch. Rather than having a specific idea of what it should look like when I’m finished, I am discovering how it will look when I use a particular thread and a particular stitch! The thing I like most about canvaswork is how easy it is to blend colors and create texture.


Towards the bottom of the design I decided to add some “plants’. It will be up to the viewer if to decide if these are underwater plants or beside the water plants – they could be either! I used a rayon thread that’s more like a ribbon than a thread. It’s actually a tube of thread that’s flattened out and is variegated in blues and greens. The stitch is leaf stitch and I’ve varied the length and placement of the stitches to create different shaped plants.


All around the ‘plants’ I’m stitching water using different shades of blue and turquoise. You can see that I put in stitches of the different colors scattered all around the area. I work until the end of the length of thread and then change shades and repeat the same process. This way the effect really is random and looks lovely.


As I stitch towards the top right of the area, the shades of blue will become lighter. In a few places the particular effect of this random stitching has created what I think looks like bubbles! I just love playing around with these threads and stitches on canvas – it’s so much fun! I think I’ll call this particular piece “Water”. I had plans to do 4 different colors of the same wave-like design.

There is a song called “Earth, Air, Fire, Water” sung by an all women’s choir called Libana. The lyrics are “The earth, the air, the fire, the water, return return return return.” It’s based on – or inspired by – a Native American song.

I would love to have a series of four of these pieces, each representing one of the ancient elements. What do you think?