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fly fringe braid

MET Fly Fringe

What is "fly Fringe"

Knotting evolved after the 2nd half of the 18th century to mean the knotting of "fringes"* and tassels, this confused me for some time, till I struck upon the notion that perhaps these "fringes" were the same as the "fly" fringes" which began to trim so many articles of dress around the same time.

Fly fringe or Fly braid was a delightful trim of little silken tufts that was seen to adorn a great many dresses around the 1750's and 1770's, It's delicate 3D texture gave the impression of tiny weaving veins climbing up the clothes it adorned.

Mary Delany references tufted knotting in her letters, as well as knotting a fringe with her new Golden shuttle to decorate the bag she kept it in, from this it would seem Fly Fringe is indeed an advanced form of knotting!

After studying photographs of fly fringe on dresses I was able to figure out the technique to make my own! Would you like to try it too?


Guide to Fly Fringe

Fly fringe looks really complicated, but the technique is really quite easy! It is created using knotting just like we showed you in our earlier tutorial. I recommend getting the feel of knotting by making some couching threads first with a heavier thread before moving onto knotting fringes like we talk about here.

Knotting fringes requires the use of a flat silk floss, these are embroidery threads with no twist in them at all, a twisted thread will not give the effect you want. I've found 2 types of flat silk, Soie Ovale from France which I like as the softest fluffiest of the two, and Japanese flat silk, which keeps a straighter looking tuft, it also snags less easily.



To knot fly fringes and tassels you will need...

  1. knotting shuttle (4-6" long)
  2. Flat Silk Floss (Flat embroidery floss has no twist in it, a twisted thread will not fluff out and create an attractive tuft)
  3. Knotting Bag (little draw sting bag to keep the fringe in as it gets longer
  4. Embroidery scissors


First you need to load your shuttle. You will need to at least double your thread.

I recommend 4 threads for Soie Ovale, and 6 threads for Japanese Silks

Wind on as much as you want to knot

fly fringe start

1) First you need to create your first knotted thread. This is the same as the basic single knot. Tie 2 knots about 1mm 2/16" apart, then a space of about 1cm 0.5" and tie the next 2 knots, keep going all along the thread.

These will make your first tufts, the bigger the gap the longer the tufts!

fly fringe braid 1
2) Now You have your first knotted thread, load your shuttle with a new set of threads. Tie a single knot as before. fly fringe braid 3

3)now slip your original knotting in between the threads, with a knot on either side of your shuttle thread


fly fringe braid 3
4)Tie another knot in your shuttle thread as close as possible to your first knot. This will neatly hold your future tuft in place. fly fringe braid 4
5)Repeat this all the way along the thread flyfringe braid 5

6) Now cut the spaces in your original thread in half, and you have your tufts!

It can be easier to cut the tufts as you go, this is slower, but can be easier to handle

fly fringe braid 6

This is how you make a basic fly fringe! You can keep fracturing your strings in this way to build up more and more complicated fringes. Just leave a space with 2 close together knots where ever you want your threads to join.

Examples Of Fly Fringe

Here are 2 fly fringes I knotted using the technique above


Art of the Embroiderer [Saint-Aubin/Scheuer 1770/1983]

18th Century Embroidery Techniques [ Marsh 2006]

Two Centuries of Costume in America [ Earle 1903 ]

Cut of Womens Clothes:1600-1930 [Waugh 1987]

Fashion in Detail: From the 17th and 18th Centuries [Hart North 2000]

Fashion [Kyoto Costume Institute 2007]

Mrs Delany: At Court Among The Wits [Johnson 1925]

Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century (Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Koda Bolton Hellman 2006]

Camilla [Burney 1796/1999]]

Costume in Detail 1730-1930 [Bradfield 1997]


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