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New ganutell handbook nearly ready!

Photo session for the Ganutell Country Flowers Handbook cover

I can now unveil what's been keeping us busy lately, as we are now in the final stages. The Ganutell Country Flowers Handbook is now in the final proof stages (off to print today!). Mark's had so many photos to take! 

This will be a spiral bound A5 handbook, I like spiral binding for technique books as the pages open flat, something important when you are trying to follow step-by-step instructions! 88 pages full of info - besides lots of how-to's to make many different traditional types of petal and leaf shape (so you could even go on to design your own), there are instructions to make 16 flowers inspired by the English countryside. Daffodils and bluebells, primroses and violets... lots of pretty flowers.

I am currently booked in to launch the handbook on Create & Craft on Sunday 28th at 3pm. 

Just as a little taster in the meantime, here's a photo of the session for the cover photography....

Workshop season

Button making workshop with Gina Barrett

This year, I've been running quite a few workshops. So I thought I'd share a few images (bearing in mind that I prefer to keep people's identity private) so that you can see what happens.


The workshops are fun and very informal. A big table, full of supplies - and coffee, tea biscuits, and cake of some description! Of course, people come from all walks of life, but there's one thing we all have in common, we like making things. Numbers are always no more than 10, which means that I can give a little bit of one-to-one if needed, and that everyone can feel relaxed and move at their own pace. 

Ganutell flower making workshop with Gina Barrett

Everyone gets a 'goodie bag' - materials to use on the day and usually some extra to take away. Whatever the subject, there will be a hand-out so that you can refer to what you've learnt later on. 


We talk alot, laugh alot, and learn alot from everyone who comes. And everyone walks away having made something tangible and, I hope, having learnt techniques that they can use again for their craft and creative work.


At the moment, all workshops are held at the Brook Whipper-In in Oakham, Rutland. We have a full day (10-4) and although lunch isn't included, most people do bring their own and stay in the room chatting during the break. 

Buttons made during workshops with Gina Barrett


I always find it interesting to see how everyone works with colour and design. As everyone has different ideas about favourite colours, or what does and doesn't 'go', it is lovely to see items worked in a way you might not first think to do yourself. This has resulted in the odd 'fight' for a thread colour! As you can see from the images, each person can create something entirely unique. 


If you would like to come to a workshop, you'll find details of all of the current ones by clicking here. New dates are continually being added, so do check back often. You can book your place online by paying a deposit, or the total in full.


Ganutell flowers made at a Gina Barrett workshopAnd don't be worried about coming if you have never tried making the items, or have never been to a workshop before. Everything is aimed at beginners or intermediate makers (unless of course it is stated as an advanced course), and everyone is able to take their time and work at their own pace. it is also a great way to meet like minded people!


I hope to see you soon!


Measuring & planning

Olney Ribbon gauge at Gina-B Silkworks frontHappy new year everyone! For me the holidays do seem very far away. January is, for me, usually quite a long month, filled with trying to plan and organise the next few months in advance. This is certainly the case this year - I have some writing planned, lots of research, and some more new kits in the pipeline. Added to that, the website is currently being redesigned, so planning it pretty important.

When making something bespoke, or planning a new kit, measuring can be quite important. One of my rather excellent gifts this year was this wonderful 19th century Buyer's Gauge, made by Olney Amsden & Sons.

As a researcher, i have always known that haberdashery has its own measures, and references to some of these in accounts and so on can be rather hard to envisage. This little gauge really sheds some light not only on how small many tapes and ribbons actually were - these days trying to find fine ribbon can be a bt of a feat in itself! - but the names of these are quite interesting too.

Olney Ribbon gauge example measures at Gina-B SilkworksThis gauge has a small metric and imperial rule (the imperial nicely divided into sixteenths, twefths, eights and quarters) and then a whole array of measures including Dutch & Imperial Tapes, India tapes, Star Tapes, Pink Tapes, a French Velvet Gauge (I assume for velvet ribbons), A Sarsnet Ribbon Gauge, and measurings for Filletings & Galloons. The brass slide measure is marked out for lignes - both English and French, so that the buyer can ensure the buttons they chose were the correct size. Yes, I have to admit this is one of my favourite parts - measuring my atique buttons... hopefully that is not too sad!

Although I haven't had a chance to really go into researching all of the types yet, from what I can glean in quick searches the Dutch tape is likely to have been linen (and probably the same as Holland tape), while the Indian, cotton. Filletings were often used for bindings - probably akin to a heavy unbleached tape.

Olney Amsden & Sons were founded in 1830. I've seen a version of this gauge made in ivory and brass, but I can't be sure of the date of this. I wonder if it was sold, or given complimentary to their best costumers? Armed with this little rule, the buyer would certainly be able to plan exactly what they needed to purchase before arriving at the shop!

Some of these measurements are really quite tiny. The galloons measure area, for instance, is no larger than 2.5cm. A galloon is a fancy braid - akin to what you would see on upholstery these days. However today, we can purchase this in much thicker widths. As this gauge only measures such a small width, it can be assumed that the 'standard' whenever this was made was much smaller.

This is really quite a gem if you are looking to recreate clothing, as choosing something wihtin the confines of 'everyday' (I greatly suspect that as always, money could buy different sizes if so required) would help the overall appearance of the finished garment.


Other news:

I will be adding Workshop dates to the website over the next two weeks. I have also got a Create & Craft show booked in for Sunday 8th Feb at 3pm.



Throwback Thursday: Antique Tassel Repair / Restoration

Antique tassel restoration - old and newI have always found that the best way to learn about how passementerie is made is to look carefully at damaged items. Hidden areas can show the intensity of the original colours, how stitching is used, if glue is present, and of course many techniques can be discovered by studying how something has come apart. These tassels remain some of my favourites, as they held so many surprises.

This article was originally published on my old website as a pdf back in 2008. 


Overall condition of tassels

Antique tassel restoration - original tassel 1

Although intact, the first tassel was very faded and had lost most of it’s silk decoration. (pictured left) The second tassel, broken, had also lost the majority of its silk. (below, minus skirt & cord).

Antique tassel restoration - original tassel 2

The embrace consisted of a four-element cord, finished with loops, which are enclosed within a silk needlelace section (grappé technique). Centrally, there is one decorative coulant, the cord then forms a loop from which the tassel hangs.

The cords were formed using silk-wrapped gimps. Most of the silk has either worn away entirely, or had faded. Beneath the silk, the cotton cores were dyed a similar colour to the original silk, as this now shows, there is still an impression of colour. By slightly untwisting the cords, you can get an impression of how bright the cords once were.

On both, the coulant was very damaged. Most of the silk covering, as well as the red and white decorative cords were worn and broken, leaving much of the wooden mould exposed. The red and yellow binding silk however was in fair condition. The true colours can be seen inside of the coulant, and beneath the binding silk.

The tassels consist of 11 individual moulds, with the addition of a holding disc and ball beneath the skirt. All of the silk covering, including the decorative cords were damaged, with faded silk and silk worn away to the degree that some molds have no visible traces of silk. Running centrally through the tassel is a hollow wooden core, through which the holding threads run. On both tassels this was broken, and parts missing. The skirts, made of a central area of wool bullion cord and an outer section of silk bullion gimp, are much faded - the silk worn away from much of the core threads, and faded where it remains. There had, at some point been water damage, as all of the moulds which originally had blue silk have blue staining; likewise there had been some insect damage, particularly to the wool bullion skirts and the intact tassel.

Separate sections of individual damage will be discussed further at each repair section.

The following refers to second broken tassel. 

Repair & Restoration

Work began with the second tassel, as this was in pieces, allowing for the first to be referred to if needed.  

All remaining original silk was removed. The original colours could be discerned by the silk which remains inside of each mold.

None of the original white decorative cords could be saved - all had broken on the outer edges. Only a tiny fraction of the original red decorative cord could be salvaged - enough for 2 rows on the top mould.

This needed to be replaced. New, very fine silk gimp was handmade, and the cords hand-spun.

All of the gold decorative cord was salvaged.

Every piece was covered using traditional passementerie wrapping techniques, with a strong linen or cotton thread to hold.

The following works from the top of the tassel down

1. Top Mould

Antique tassel restoration - top mould 

Recovered using a fine matching silk. 

Added the new red and white decorative cords, except for two rows of red, which use the original. 

Gold cord was lightly brushed to remove the surface dust, and turned so that the undamaged, brighter surface now shows.






2 & 10. Flat roundels

Antique tassel restoration - other parts

No silk remaining on #2, but #10 had small traces of white silk in the centre.

Wrapped both with fine white silk using traditional method.

3. Cloche

A very small amount of blue covering silk remains, plus some gold binding silk. The wooden mould badly damaged - chipped all around the top and with a section missing.

Using wood filler, the gap was closed and the top of the mould evened out.

Wrapped using a fine blue silk and gold silk binding, using traditional method.

4 & 8. Carved roundels

The white silk on one of these roundels was in fair condition, but the other was much worn. It was decided to replace the silk on both, as the new white silk would be brighter than the old, which was very dirty.

Wrapped both in fine white silk, using traditional method.

5 & 7. Flat roundels

Silk completely missing from top roundel, and only remaining in the centre of the bottom roundel.

Wrapped both in fine blue silk, using traditional method.

6. Rouleau

Antique tassel restoration - rouleau

All silk, including the white decorative cords, worn from edges exposing the wood. The silk that remained was very faded, except inside the centre hole, particularly the green which had faded to yellow.

Wrapped using traditional method, laying the 3 colours (red, green & yellow) simultaneously. 

Added new white decorative cords.

9. Cloche

Blue silk worn away at all edges, gold silk binding loose. Silk that remained, quite faded. One small chip on the bottom edge of the wooden mould; nothing too serious.

Removed all silk, re-wrapped in fine blue silk using traditional method, and bound with gold silk


11. Shaped mould, with rosettes

Antique tassel restoration - rosette mould, top 

Blue silk covering worn at edges, missing in most areas, faded nearly to white where it remained (except inside and underneath). Gold silk binding (beneath the rosettes) in fair condition. Most white silk decorative cord broken; could not be salvaged. Gold silk cord worn, but could be turned.


Antique tassel restoration - rosette mould, underside






The rosette ‘petals’ are formed from metal strips wrapped in white silk. This silk was very worn, missing in places, and dirty. However, the metal strips cannot be recovered without straightening the metal first - it is too old to do this as the metal would probably break. At the centre of each rosette is a small, green silk covered wooden button. The green silk was either faded to pale yellow at all exposed areas, or badly worn. Two centres were missing altogether. 

Antique tassel restoration - rosette mould, side

Removed all silk, taking care to remove rosettes and gold decorative cord to keep.

Wrapped the mould in fine blue silk using traditional method; bound the ‘neck’ with fine gold silk.

White silk cord - new, very fine silk gimp was handmade, and the cords hand-spun. Covered using traditional method.

Gold cord was lightly brushed to remove the surface dust, and turned so that the undamaged, brighter surface now shows.

Rosettes. Made new centre buttons in wood, wrapped in fine green silk to replace the missing ones. Re-wrapped all other buttons using fine green silk. Carefully removed dust and damaged, fluffy areas of white silk from the petals, but did not recover. Fixed all to the mould using traditional methods.






Although a great deal of the silk wrapping on the gimp bullion cord was faded or worn away, in order to ensure that the overall tassel still matched with the embrace, it was decided to use the original skirt. The skirt was unwound and holding stitches removed, then lightly brushed to remove the dust which had built up beneath the mould. The wool bullion had some insect damage - this was repaired by careful stitching. The skirt was turned, so that the slightly brighter threads from underneath now face outward. The skirt was stitched into a circle as it was originally, in order to fit beneath mould #11.

Embrace coulant

Antique tassel restoration - embrace coulantIn order to re-cover the coulant, the small holding loops either end of the embrace needed to be unpicked. This meant that the very faded, but otherwise in good condition needlelace (grappé) which covered the binding also needed to be removed.

All of the blue silk wrap was missing, except under the decorative binding. Gold cord worn, but as previously, saved to be re-used. All of the white and red decorative cords were broken, missing or very worn. 

Recovered the mould in fine blue silk using traditional method. Bound the depressions with fine gold silk. Over this, the decorative cords were added - new handmade & spun white and red silk cords, whilst the gold cord was lightly brushed to remove the surface dust, and turned so that the undamaged, brighter surface now shows.

Over these, a fine red silk binding was added. A gold silk twist thread was spun, to allow for the decorative, and holding ‘x’ stitches along the red binding.

Coulant replaced, and new blue silk twist thread was spun to replace the blue silk needlelace previously removed.

The embrace was then attached to the tassel, using waxed linen threads as the original. As the original hollow tube was badly damaged and missing in part, a drinking straw was used through the centre of most tassel parts, with the exclusion of the tapered piece beneath the skirt, which was retained, and fitted into the straw. The wooden ‘holding’ button underneath was replaced, as was the small silk covered ball, which retained it’s original silk.

Antique tassel restoration - recovered parts

Antique tassel restoration - before and after


Positive dating cannot be made, as the tassel is made using traditional techniques, all of which are still in use today. However, the dyes used may be helpful. The green has been created using a blue (probably indigo) dyed over yellow. This points to a date prior to the invention of a chemical green dye. Likewise, the way in which the blue had faded, along with the staining on the moulds beneath, indicate a use of indigo, as opposed to a synthetic colour. Synthetic greens were first invented in the 1870s, whereas synthetic blues date from the 1890s. (There were some earlier, but not extensively in use). 

Although it has been mentioned that there was what seemed to be some water damage, and certainly insect damage, the majority of the damage caused to the original tassels is probably from either brushing the silk, or more likely, vacuuming it. The force of the suction will pull the fine silk away, eventually causing serious damage. 

The image on the left shows the second tassel repaired/restored, alongside the first in its original condition.

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