Women's Craft: Tassel Workshop


Equipped with beads, scissors, and a box of colorful yarn, craft artist Negar Asef assembled her group of workshoppers in a large room at the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants in Oakland. The participants (all Cambodian women resettled in California) were not strangers to each other: they had gathered weeks earlier for a previous art workshop focusing on embroidery. In this session, they were to make tassels.


Like embroidery, tassels can be used to personalize one’s home and belongings, allowing those who were forced to reorient themselves in an unfamiliar country to further cultivate a sense of home in California. Varying in size, color, and thickness, the tassels could be used to decorate curtains, cellphones, and keys, and could even be used to make dolls for children.  


Negar showed the women the deceptively simple process of creating the tassels by first wrapping yarn around a 3x6 inch card, tying the top of the yarn, and then cutting the bottom to free the tassel strings. Using this technique, some participants even discovered that they could fashion the tassels into homemade earrings! Despite the crafting, music and merriment caused the workshop to quickly evolve into a festivity of dancing, singing, and joking.


As they worked, laughed, and danced, the participants taught Negar how to say “tie on top” in Khmer, and even began to call her “Lin,” meaning “jasmine” in their language. Seemingly as quickly as it began, the convivial workshop came to a close. Everyone gave a handmade tassel to CERI to use as decoration and kept the rest of the creations for themselves and their families, each looking forward to next month’s gathering.