I wanted the padding to be a feature of this design and tried out a couple of ideas. To raise the cords at the centre of the knot more than the loops; I cut two shapes, marginally smaller than the cords, from black felt and stitched them into place. I then couched twisted padding cotton along the centre of the cord, using 20 strands of cotton, as I normally would for a double central cord.
I used the same weight of padding under the sections of cord stitched with real gold but gradually decreased the number of strands as the cord changed to silk and blended through the shades. The padding under the cream silk is made from 8 strands of cotton.
My original title for the design was 'Rags to Riches'. I planned to stitch one tassel with fine string and embellish it with 'natural' beads, such as tiny shells or wooden beads. I envisaged the cord gradually changing from cotton to silk to gold, ending in a gold tassel. The title of the competition was 'Rags or Riches' and I was concerned that this idea did not fit the brief. I altered my design to be 'Riches'; I kept the gold tassel but changed to other one to pearl and chose silks that graduated from gold to cream in colour. I love blending from one shade of silk to another and how it looks.
In my original design, I intended for the 'rich' tassel to be much fuller and plumper than the 'rags' one. I liked the way the tassels looked together and decided to keep them in my final design. I accentuated the effect with the padding. While the smaller tassel is only lightly padded, the larger tassel has seven layers of padding. Given that I only had 2 days to complete the tassels, I perhaps should have used less padding but full, sumptuous tassels were always my intention and I was reluctant to compromise on that.
At this stage there were other things that I could have simplified to lessen my work load, but it seems I don’t know how to say no! I had a mental picture of how I wanted the gold tassel head to look. I lay awake for most of the night thinking about how it could be done, and much of the following morning trying out my idea. In the end, it looked more or less as I’d imagined, although not as neat as I would have liked but I accepted that I did not have enough time to do it again. At least the skirt of the tassel was straight forward to stitch – a horizontal foundation in flat silk. I couched pairs of #4 gold to look like strands and hold the silk foundation.
On the last possible day that I could do any stitching, the obvious thing to do was stitch the pearl tassel as quickly and simply as possible and, of course, that is exactly what I didn’t do. I wanted the foundation to look pearlescent. I threaded 3 needles each with two strands of pearl coloured silk and a quarter strand of either pale pink, white or soft grey. As I stitched the horizontal foundation, I switched between the needles at random after every 1 or 2 stitches.
The effect is very subtle, so subtle in fact that I am not sure whether it was worth doing! The strands on the pearl tassel are tight twist of the same shades of silk used for the foundation.
I couched a pair of katayori around the edge of each tassel skirt. I’d made the katayori the night before and forgot to make a note of what I used but I think the gold one is 11 strands of silk plus one strand of #4 gold twisted with a one strand of silk. The pearl katayori is fewer strands of silk, possibly 7, twisted with a single strand of silk. Again I incorporated all of the colours used in the foundation. Finally, I stitched real gold beads and imitation pearls to the skirt. I placed them randomly but also tried to 'hold' the foundation with them. It needed a little short stitch holding in one or two places to hold a few remaining long foundation stitches.
With hindsight I wish that I had at least self padded the whole of the pearl tassel. I think that it would have made the colour richer; otherwise I am really pleased with.
Unfortunately, it did not come anywhere in the competition but I enjoyed the experience of creating and stitching my own design, even though this is an adaptation of an often seen Japanese motif rather than a completely original design. Although I have begun the practice of recording how much time I spend on each piece, it did not do it for this one. That's a shame, it would be nice to know how long it took me. My best guess is that it took 50-60 hours and most of that was done in a 10 day period.
P.S. to answer Gail's comment on my previosus post. I simply laced it onto mounting board, covered with silk wadding to absord some of the fullness of stitching on the reverse, as I would do with a piece for framing. I was a bit nervouse about it being displayed uncovered but trusted that fellow stitchers would not be tempted to touch it!