As you make more things and develop more specific creative visions, it becomes very easy to imagine projects that require supplies that you simply can’t find anywhere. In my case, I wanted long fringe, more than a foot long. It’s not impossible to find, but it isn’t easy either. And when you do find it, the colors are limited and the price is high, especially as compared to the quality of the materials. It’s not the seller’s fault, specialty items come with a higher markup for good reason. But that doesn’t mean I have to buy it. It was time to figure out how to make custom fringe myself anyway, and I couldn’t be happier with the result, or how easy it is (especially if you have even the most beginner understanding of crochet.)
– nylon cord/crochet thread (as I’ve used) or almost any other string (more on that later.)
– a crochet hook appropriate to the size of your string
– matte board or something else that’s the desired length of the fringe
– a ruler
– a knife (if you’re adjusting board size)
– crochet thread or something else you don’t mind cutting up but not using in the finished fringe
– masking tape
– a heat tool OR scissors with a candle or fray check
– cork panel and pins
You can probably tell this is a pretty adaptable project. For string, polyester is what most fringe is made of. I’m using nylon because it looks good, comes in lots of colors, and, according to RIT dye can be dyed into even more colors. If this was a family holiday dress as opposed to a late bar dress I would have probably looked for silk to use. Nylon was created as a substitute for silk and is pretty good at it in the right circumstance. You can also go crazy on non-traditional fringe materials, it’s really about what look you want. Use wool to edge a scarf, use pearl cotton for a lighter weight version of what I’ve made, and experiment with any other stranded stuff you can find.
To figure out your yardage you need the number of stitches per inch or centimeter and the length of fringe. For each stitch you need 2x the fringe length, plus about an inch/2.5 cm for the slack taken up by the crochet stitches.
If you want fringe 10 inches long and you have 20 stitches in 4 inches you need:
20 (double the fringe length) x 20 (stitches) + 20 (1 inch per stitch) = 420 inches or 11.6 yards for 4 inches of fringe
If you want fringe 20 cm long and you have 15 stitches in 10 cm you need:
40 (double the fringe length) x 15 (stitches) + 37.5 (2.5 cm per stitch) = 637.5 cm or 6.37 meters for 10 cm of fringe
You can see that your gauge and fringe length will be very important to how much string you need. Swatch to double check before you start, especially if your materials are difficult to acquire.
Cut some cardboard to the length(s) of fringe you want. I had a stack of 12×12 matte board pieces that I used – the two longest lengths required me to tape boards together. You could just as easily use the ruler on the side to wrap your fringe around as the boards, just find or make something the right size. If you have a “hairpin” for hairpin crochet that would work. Be resourceful.
Tape your waste string across the bottom of the board. It’s there to reign in your loops. Don’t cut it from the spool, and switch the direction if you’re left handed.
Chain stitch to the length of the fringe you want.
If you’ve never chain stitched you start with a slip knot around your hook, and then wrap the string around the hook and pull it through the loop.
Do one more chain stitch to turn and then single crochet back.
I have books from the US and Europe and they don’t all agree on what a “single crochet” is. If you’re in England you might call it a “double crochet” instead. Or maybe you would have in the 1950’s but not now. To avoid confusion…
Place the hook through a loop in the chain, then draw through one loop.
Now draw a loop through the two already on the hook.
And that’s what I’m calling a “single crochet.”
Work to the end and double check that it’s still the right length. If it’s off make an adjustment and re-do the row.
Chain 1 to turn. Wrap the string down the front and up the back of your fringe board.
More single crochet. Put the hook through the row below.
Draw a loop through from the string coming up the back of the board. Make sure that fringe is straight up and down on the board and doesn’t have much slack, especially if you are making ridiculous mega fringe like mine.
Wrap the string around the hook and draw it through both loops on the hook.
One fringe done. Wrap the string down the front under the crocheted strip and up the back. Make another single crochet.
Keep repeating to the end. Slide it toward your ball of waste string as necessary. If you can keep it all on the board that’s slightly preferable, otherwise let it drop off the end.
Crochet to the end. IF THIS IS YOUR LAST ROW OF FRINGE turn around and do a row of single crochet. The last row of crochet stitches is absolutely necessary.
If you’re making another row of fringe, turn around and single crochet back. Leaving it on the board is easier if you have the option. If you’re switching cords (as I am) finish this strand by pulling the spool through the loop. Cut it, but leave a nice long tail.
My next string was much finer so I switched to a smaller hook and did two single crochet stitches in each stitch in the previous row.
Tie up the loops from the previous row and then gently ease the fringe off of the board.
It should look about like this.
Don’t forget to add the waste string to the board for the next row of fringe.
Repeat the same method as before, only this time you have to bring your string around the front and not get mixed up in the first row of fringe. That’s why we tied those loops up.
When you get to the end turn around and single crochet back, or switch to a new thread again.
When the single crochet row is done, tie up the last row of fringe and pull it off the board again.
Tying up those loops is really starting to pay off.
Repeat the pattern of fringe row and single crochet row until you’ve made enough fringe.
Don’t forget the very last row of single crochet!
When you’re done the strands might be a little crinkled or may not be laying right. Saturate it with water and lay it smoothly on a towel to dry and you should be able to work out most of the problems. Don’t do this if your string is not supposed to get wet.
If you’ve used a synthetic (like the nylon) you can use heat to finish the edges. I’m using a heat tool shown (really just a wood burning tool) to quickly melt apart the end and seal them.
I don’t have a good action shot because it goes too fast. Basically, starting at the crocheted end I found a loop, slid my fingers down it so it stayed even, and pulled the loop over the tip as shown. It melted apart and sealed. Super awesome, but the downside is that this thing can burn you (like, really burn you) if you aren’t careful with it, and you really need ventilation because the melting fumes are pretty terrible. Breathing protection would be very, very smart as well.
If you want sealed ends on a synthetic without a heat tool you can use the trick every mom of a kid in dance classes in the 80’s knew – use an open flame. Synthetics can be cut with scissors and then melted by hovering them over an open flame. For a project of this size you’ll want a candle. Practice a bunch before you try it on your fringe project, though. It works fast. And, obviously, be careful not to burn yourself or inhale the fumes.
If you’re using a natural material or would rather not risk burns over fringe you can just cut the fringe. If your material doesn’t unravel or you don’t mind the unravel you’re done. If it does unravel and you don’t want it to then using Fray Check or a similar product should do the trick. Again, be sure to test first, but this time for discoloration.
I pinned my fringe down to cork, pulled the other layers out of the way using their ties, untied this layer, and then went fringe by fringe, finding the center bottom point on the loop and cutting it. If you want looped fringe you can skip this step, just untie the fringe and you’re done!
A word of warning – this fringe really needs to be securely fastened to a backing – a garment, a strip of fabric or ribbon, just something to stabilize it. With enough stress (and depending on how slippery your string is) it can be possible to pull the rows apart.
With a bit of practice I was able to make a lot of fringe very quickly, especially when making shorter fringe. For my purpose I was able to make some very dramatic ombre fringe that was perfect for my project at about 20% of the cost of buying the equivalent in pre-made fringe, which wouldn’t have looked as cool. It’s heavy, cool, and swishy like the manufactured stuff, but custom fit to exactly what I needed. Now I need fringe on everything.