July 5, 2013

Adventures in Fly Fringe


Fly fringe, a historical trim which eludes costumers today and was very common on 18th century gowns. Made from silk filament threads tied and knotted in little arrangements then the cut ends fluffed into tiny cute little puffs. Usually woven into or sewn/knotted onto another base trim (like above) fly fringe is distinctly 18th century and can add a new level of frill and accuracy to modern reconstructions.

I have always wanted to play around with making some fly fringe trim of my own so last week I sat down with whatever I could find in my studio that would sorta work. The real fly fringe and the best reproductions are made from natural silk filament threads, meaning that the strands of silk fiber are not twisted into a stronger thread but left lying together parallel for maximum shine and fluff. I currently don't have any of this type of silk thread but I decided to play with what I had laying around, silky dmc embroidery thread. Wrong in so many ways, a twisted thread, polyester not silk and too bright to be naturally dyed but good enough for practicing.

these particular 'flys' were actually made from the long threads making up a polyester satin ribbon I tore apart

This is a combination of colors and knots tied onto ivory base trim, patriotic no? :)
The fly fringe itself is easy enough to make. First get some silky (preferably silk) thread and tie pairs of knots in the strand every inch and a quarter or so. See below
here I used one strand of white and one of black tied together
Once you have a foot or so of thread tied like this it becomes difficult to keep going precisely so its time to start cutting! Cut the 'flys' apart by cutting in the center empty space between the sets of knots. Once you have lots of these little cut 'flys' you can start sewing them directly to your base trim or project but often trims were built up in bunches with fly fringe so I kept going. Using a new strand of thread knot in the first 'flys' you made between knots.

here I have threaded the black 'flys' between the strands of white thread and tied knots on either side to hold the 'flys' secure
Then  you can cut these apart as before and have little crosses or keep them together in bunches of 'flys' and let them dangle off of your trim.

like so!
I made the ends of the cut 'flys' fluffy and frayed by running them over my finger nails like curling ribbon with scissors on a present. It seemed to work quite well and I was rather pleased with the fly fringes I was able to create with admittedly poor materials.

stringing on the bundles of fringes

some fly fringe mock-ups I came up with
In lovely pastel colors
 For the last sample I made I experimented with adding ribbons into the mix. Again silk ribbon would have been preferred but polyester didn't look so bad. I tied little layered lengths of blue ribbon into the fly fringe and also made little gathered flowers to sew on my trim every few inches.

The very fringy trim at the top of this image was made by taking frayed ribbon and knotting it together every so often
my sample pinned onto a stray silk bodice
As there is the Rocky Mountain Sew Expo in Denver this next week I am hoping there will be silk threads for sale from on of the vendors. Then I can make some real silk fly fringe to go on my soon to be remodeled robe a l'anglaise!

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