At Passementeries we’ve been hand-making 18th Century French tassels and trimming since 1990, while teaching skills at training workshops over these past decades.
There are some people who simply love to watch how a tassel is made, and how an intricate braid is slowly created on the loom in front of their eyes. There are other people who prefer hands-on, learning actually how to make a tassel and twist up a cord. Some people like to make a simple tassel with me, while others ask me to craft their tassel while gasing in voyeuristic fascination.
I would say, in the past decades I’ve met few who truly have the knack to master these skills; those who can easily twist a thread and wind a tassel in no time at all. Even with my staff, it takes several days of making tassels just to perfectly make one, and at a reasonable speed. Converesely it takes much longer to train a true artisan who can glibly weave thousands of perfectly matched tassels on, say, a tassel fringe.
One of the special delights about training staff here is discovering Cambodians inert knowledge to craft trimmings and tassels. They are keen to master new ideas in creative design. Weaving is part of parcel of a locals’s daily life, and their deft application to other crafts is exemplary. Likewise, this is a special knack that I, too, love.
One example is a making a looped ruff. Such a ruff is applied to ornate tassels, and may also be used between the skirt and the head of a tassel (see image below). It is the one of the most difficult technique to master — and equally difficult to teach. Making this looped ruff incorporates two threads as the warp spins around a bunch of threads while the weft is twisted on a dowel. I learned this technique from a century old French tassel making book, and it took me hours to rig up the device and even longer to master the technique and its minute skills.
Don’t pull the threads too tight around the dowel, although they need to be bunched closely together. You will need to hold the warp taught and make sure you wrap the bunched threads around the dowel every 180 degree spin of the warp. Now in Battambang, I have four staff that know how to make the looped ruff as good as master trained apprentices. Seemingly, they already had the inert skills and techniques passed down from generations.
This is just one of the many delights about relocating to Asia, and having my trimmings and tassels made here.