Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cat Toys

If you don't have any table runners or belts lying around in need of tassels, here's another fun use for them.  Cat toys.

When making a belt with braided ends, a lot of the yarn that would have been unweavable waste is used in the belt.  But for all the other bands, there is a length of yarn that can not be woven.  The knots where all the yarns were joined are in this section but even after you cut those out there's a good amount of yarn left.  The question is what to do with it.  I hate to waste yarn so I've almost always bundled it up and set it aside for later.

Well, when I discovered how easy it is to make tassels, I looked at a couple of these bundles that hadn't been stowed away yet.  I thought, ''Wouldn't they make lovely tassels?''  But then what to do with just one tassel?

The cats have always loved my yarn.  I have to watch carefully or next thing I know Tess has a ball half unwound in the kitchen.  When I'm warping she can be that mix of annoying and cute as she attacks the yarn in my hand.  So I took to keeping a bit of yarn around that was designated a cat toy.  Now that I have these singular, otherwise useless tassels I decided they'd make good cat toys.  And the cats agree.  The tassel adds a nice weight that a normal feather or leather toy doesn't have.  And they can really get there claws into them.

I don't have the greatest pictures of them playing yet.  These were taken as they interpreted me trying to photograph other things:

Constructing the cat toys took longer than I'd expected but they are durable because of it.

First make a tassel using yarn of your choice.  See previous entry for instructions http://2horseweaving.blogspot.com/2012/01/tassels.html

Then cut three strands of yarn about 2 feet long (or desired length for dangling)
I knotted the strands every one to two inches to more or less form them into one strand.

On one end of the three strand knotted yarn, sew on the tassel using the tassels four loose ends.  Basically just bundle all seven strands together, stick the needle through the bundle somewhere, wrap thread around the outside a couple times, stick the needle randomly through the bundle again, repeat until you feel it's secure and/or looks good.

Tie the other end of the three strand knotted yarn to a dowel.  I think the size I used was 3/8 inches but really it can be any diameter you'd like.  It can also be any length desired.  I made mine 9 inches because it's long enough to be useful but still fits in the mailing envelopes I have.

Now you can be done if you'd like but I added a few feathers for a more enticing smell and tickle effect.

For the feathers put the needle through the shaft of the feather.  This is best done where the shaft begins to turn white.  If you can't see the color because the feather has been dyed or you're just not sure that's okay.  Just choose a spot about a half inch from the end.  If you go too near the end of the feather, the shaft might split.

Next put the needle through the yarn in the location you would like the feather.  If using yarns of the tassel, be sure not to go too close to the end of the yarn or it could unravel.

Wrap the thread a couple times around the shaft and yarn together.  Stick the needle through the yarn a couple times randomly.  I avoid going through the feather more than twice as it might split the shaft.  Again, wrap until secure and decorative.

If placing a feather on the ball of the tassel, you may pierce the tassel ball with each pass of the wrapping or you can wrap all the way around the tassel, whichever looks better to you.

I chose to glue the yarn onto the stick because I wanted these to be as secure as possible.  I was worried the toy might get pulled off.  I used gorilla glue.  It's very secure but I'm not happy with the look.  Maybe you could try wood glue, super glue or tacky glue.

Here's some pictures I hope will help.  Again, I can add pictures of the process itself if requested but I don't have any right now.

Hope you and your kitties enjoy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


The past couple months I've been trying to phase out having unfinished bands in my store.  I'm hoping if anyone wants a band for purse straps or whatever, they will see the potential in the sashes and just cut off the braided ends.  It seems that finished goods get more views which I hope will lead to more sales.  But that's left me with a problem of what to do with the bands that didn't have enough fringe for braids.  Do I unweave a section just to braid it?  What about the really wide bands?  I'm not convinced they look that good with braids.  Basically, I wanted more options.

Then I had the idea to make tassels.  It took me awhile to act on it but I finally have and I'm very happy with the results.  For sashes I want to finish off with tassels I just hem the ends and then sew on the tassels.  Here's a couple I've done so far:

Tassels are super easy to make.  I wish I could just share the image from the book I used but that feels like copyright violation.  If you can track it down, I used Weaving with Reeds and Fibers by Osma Gallinger Tod and Oscar H. Benson.  I found it in a Half Price Books for $2.  It's basically a basket weaving book.  Though I don't really have any plans to weave baskets, I picked it up anyway because it seemed interesting.  The tassels section is only a page and a half but if you make a lot of table runners or belts it might be worth it.

I'll try to describe how to make tassels in my own words.  I'm not the best at describing things, but maybe after a couple tries you'll figure it out.  It really is easy once you get the hang of it.

Step one:  Wrap loops of yarn around the palm of your hand.  For the tassels above I made 16 loops.  Use more or less for desired fullness.  Loops don't have to be all from the same length of yarn, so if you have scraps or want multi-colored tassels you can use more than one piece of yarn.  Just make sure all the loops start and stop somewhere between your middle finger and your pinky.

Step two:  Pull the loops off your hand keeping them all together.

Step three:  Lay the loops on a flat surface so you have a circle.

Step four:  Take a length of yarn 4 inches or longer.  Fold this yarn in half.  Lay this yarn under your loops so that the folded portion is inside the circle and the free ends are outside the circle.

Step five:  Take the free ends of the yarn from step 4.  Fold those free ends over the loops, and through the folded end of itself.  Pull tight.  You should now have a piece of yarn holding all the loops together.  It should be a circle on a string.

Step six:  Hold up your tassel by the string.  Bunch up the yarn of the loops so they are close together.  Now when you lay the item down again you should have a bundle of yarn with a string out the top rather than a circle of yarn with a string out the top.

Step seven:  You'll need another length of yarn about a foot long.  If you can, I found it best to not cut this yarn off of the skein.  Just pull directly from the ball of yarn until your done and then cut it off.  Leaving a tail about an inch or two long, wrap this new yarn around the top of the loops about five times or until it looks good.  

Step seven is where it gets difficult to say.  I might just have to take pictures.  If there is enough interest and confusion, let me know in the comments and I'll go ahead and make another post with pictures.  For now, let's call the top of the loose yarns from step 4 point A.  About 1/4 inch below the bottom of where you want to have the wrapped portion go is point B.  The top of the wrapped portion is point C.  

The tail I said to leave starts at point A.  In order to make the wraps you'll have to change directions causing a fold.  The fold starts at point B.  You'll begin wrapping around at point C.  

When you've finished wrapping around, cut off the yarn.  Do not cut flush to the tassel.  Instead cut so you have another two inches or so beyond the wrapping.  

Step eight:  Take the loose end of yarn from after the wrapping and place it through the folded yarn now held in place by the wrapping.  (the loop made from the yarn placed in step seven)  Pull tight.

Step nine:  Holding the tassel up by the four loose yarns, make the loops into circles again.  Cut the circles into even lengths by cutting directly across from the wrapped portion.

Step ten:  Even up the tassels by cutting longer strands.  Optionally you can knot together the four yarns on the top so they all start at the same location.  I found this makes it easier to sew them on.

I hope any of that made sense.  I'll add pictures if there's any interest.  Good luck!