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Looking in the mirror

One of the most delightful things about writing this series of articles, and making the turbans shown, has been figuring out how to make similar turban decorations to those seen in some of the period portraits and fashion plates.

Along the way I have discovered some new products and techniques, at least new to me. Let me introduce them to you, and perhaps you will find them useful not just in making decorations for turbans, but in millinery and costuming in general.

I'm going to cover three very different types of ornaments:

  • Those made with beads and tassels that slip between the folds of the turban
  • Those made with parts of feathers that pin into the turban and those made with whole feathers
  • Whole feather ornaments attached to a turban by a couple of different methods, which I will explain.

Ornaments made with beads and tassels

Finished Turban OrnamentThis ornament was used in the second turban Masterclass on the two color wrapped turban.

It is basically beads on a hatpin that are secured and then the hat pin bent so that the pin will stay in the turban.

Here is how it is done.



Basic Supplies Elements needed to make an ornament:
  • one large bead
  • one spacer bead
  • two tulip cap beads
  • one blue glass bead
  • a pierced earring clutch
  • and one hatpin (two shown).

Beads are added to the hatpin and are being held in place with a pierced earring clutch.

The remainder of the hatpin is bent much like a paper clip and the sharp point cut off.

Step Two: Slide the beads on the pin
Step Three: Bend the Wire


The bent part of the pin is slipped between the folds of the turban and the angle of the first bend can be adjusted so that the ornament stands up correctly.

If the wraps of your turban are tight enough and the beads you use are not overly heavy it will not flop over because of the paper clip shaped base.


Tassel Ornament

Peacock Hurl and Tassel Ornament There are two ornaments on this turban. The one in the front is made with a tassel that has three red beads and two small tassels. I purchased it as is, then strung it together with one small gold bead, one very large gold and silver bead and another small gold bead. This string ofHair pin from Fire Mountain Gem & Bead tassel and beads was added to a hairpin. I got the hairpin from Fire Mountain Beads and removed the chain.

The hairpin (shown right) was just perfect because it was the right length (4” or 10cm) and had a ring as an attachment for the beads.

The ends of the pin slips between the folds of the turban. Note you can see the end of the hairpin where the beads attach to the ring in the close-up below the hairpin picture.



Ornaments made with parts of feathers

In the photo above and in the close up here, you can see an ornament being pinned into place.

Inside the cone shape bead is a bundle of black burnt peacock hurl. It is made in the same manner as the ornament below.

Closeup of feather ornament base
Pinning in the ostrich plumes

In this picture of an ornament made with blue ostrich vanes, black burnt peacock hurl and a gold aglet you can see that the pin has two points.

See below for the steps to create one of these ornaments.

If you are using ostrich vanes, pull them from the shaft. Usually they come off in short strings of 4-10 vanes. Close up of Ostrich feathers
Here is what you will need:
  • 50 to 100 ostrich feather vanes. I save these from other feathers that were just too long.
  • Thin thread-covered wire (in floral section of craft stores)
  • Clover brand fork pins
  • Paper backed 1/4 inch double sided tape
  • A cone shaped bead (shown in package of 6)
Feather Supplies
First, line your vanes up into two groups. First make two piles
With the end of the tape anchored stick the vanes to the tape. Leave them hanging over just a little. When you have used up your first group, add a piece of the covered wire that has been folded in half and colored with a permanent marker to match the feathers. From the loose edge, roll the tape and vanes into a spiral. The wire should be inside the spiral with the fold about 1” above the tape. Trim the bits of the shaft below the tape. Putting Feathers onto the tape
Wrap the tape area with a length of covered wire and color it with marker (left). Tape the remaining vanes as above and roll them into a spiral around the wire of the first bundle, but an inch or two below. This gives the ornament extra height and makes it just the right diameter to fit the cone bead. Making the second bundle of feathers
The glue I recommend for getting all the parts together is Beacon's FABRI-TAC. It has the habit of bubbling out of the spout unless you keep it pointed down as you use it so I always wedge the tip (red) into a large spool of thread. But those drops that bubble out and partially harden are not wasted (white blob in the center of the picture to the left). I keep them to plug up the cone bead and keep the fork pin in place. Glueing the bundles
At this point the dried glue and some new glue and the fork pin are added to the cone bead, see picture on the left. Use the free ends of the wire to wrap the base of the vanes as on the left and color the wire with marker. Add glue to the base of the feathers and stick the vanes into the top half of the cone bead. Final step
Here is a finished ornament pinned to the wire spool. You would use the same method with peacock hurl. These ornaments stay in place very well and even better if you spread the pin points apart just a little as you slide it into the turban fabric. Finished ornament

If you can't find a cone bead, here are some other choices. Click to enlarge the photo and see what they are.

Other feather base options

Three Ornaments made with full feathers

Burnt Ostrich Plume Ornament

The burnt ostrich ornament, shown here on the Romantic Period turban, was made with six feathers.

Burning feathers is fairly simple. All you need is household strength bleach and a plastic tub; it's not necessary to purchase already burnt plumes.

Wear a mask and rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Avoid breathing in the fumes.


If the feathers have been dyed they might lose some color in the bleach or the color might change, so test a small piece first.

Cover your feathers with full strength household bleach and gently move them around until the small side hairs on the vanes fall out. It only takes a minute or so to burn the small hairs. If you leave the feathers in too long they will become brittle.

Rinse the bleach off the feathers and fluff them dry. Detail picture showing the fabric wrapping at base of feathers

I trimmed and shaped the feathers and arranged them small to large.

Then I used Beacon's FABRI-TAC to glue the last inch or two of the shafts together in a stack.

I wired two long pins to the base of the feathers and covered this all with a strip of matching fabric. The fabric strip can be seen here at the base of the feathers (right). The pins are stuck in the fabric of the turban, holding the feathers in place.


Ostrich Plume Pin

Blue Ostrich plumes being pinned into turban

The next full feather ornament was shown on the 18th C turban.


It is made something like the part-feather ornaments above except that five 12” ostrich feathers are glued into the cone bead.

Once the plumes are glued into the bead you can use the back of a table knife to shape the stems so that they fan out as in the picture to the left.

Just put the stem of the feather between your thumb and the knife and press down.

This will make a dent in the back of the shaft that will cause the feather to curl.

Do it up the shaft until it curls as much as you want.

Here you can see the ornament being pinned into the turban.

Close up of base of Blue Plumes
Detail of base of blue plume pin

From the back you can see two pearl bead decorations on either side of the cone bead.

They were made on corsage pins. Each one has a blue enamel flower bead and then a large pearl added to the pin.

The remainder of the pin was glued into the cone bead beside the feather shafts.


Ostrich Headress Late 18th Century Ostrich Plume Topknot.


Last but not least is the late 18th C two-foot high ostrich plume topknot.

This was a challenge, getting ostrich plumes to stand straight up is not the simplest thing.

Here's how to do it.



First and most important is creating a bandeau with wire supports for the feathers.

You will need to use millinery wire at least 21 gauge thick; thinner wire will not give you the support you need.

I used a piece about 16” (40cm) long, folded it in half, twisted it with pliers for about 4” (10cm), then twisted one of the wires to form the front twist. Then both wires were twisted together again for about one inch.

I spread the wires apart and sewed them to the bottom edge of the bandeau as shown.

Silk Bandau base

The bandeau is covered with a tube of silk fabric that was slipped over the buckram before the buckram was sewn into a ring.

This silk fabric tube is pulled closed in the center front to cover the sewing of the wire to the base.

Silk Bandau base

The bandeau is placed on the head and held down by the long curls of the wig.

It is important to get the wire twist in the center front.

Adjusting the silk bandau on the head

Each of the two plumes on the headdress is made up of two matching ostrich feathers that are sewn together along their shafts with a modified button-hole stitch.

For a tutorial on how to join the feathers, see steps 3 to 6 on my website.

And here's a quick reminder of buttonhole stitch.

A notch in the base of the plume

Before they can be sewn together, part of the base of the shaft needs to be cut away with a razor blade cutter. (Please use common sense when handling sharp implements! For example, no-one should be using razors when tired!)

The front of the back feather and the back of the front feather should be cut away.

This hole needs to be large enough to slip over the twisted wire on the bandeau.

Front and back feather notches

For extra strength, bind the cut areas with fine covered wire. Then color the wire to match the feather shaft with a marker.

Slip the feathers in place over the twist.

It is not a good idea to glue the plumes to the wire but if you are going to face any wind then I recommend using something like poster putty around the wires, enough to fill the channels.

Joining the two feathers together

It is also a good idea to add a swing tack, at about 12” up from the base of the feathers, to hold the two feathers at the same distance apart as at the base.

You can make a swing tack in two ways:

  • One way is to anchor your thread and wrap it around the two shafts three times. Make sure that the shafts are not drawn together by the thread. Bundle all the threads together by sewing a button-hole stitch.
  • Or you can check out this site for another type of swing tack.


Tacking the feathers together



Beacon Adhesives FABRI-TAC permanent adhesive If you're outside the US, it can be found on Ebay from US sellers.

For cone beads: Michaels (US); In Europe, try Beads Direct

For large hairpin and bendable hatpins: Fire Mountain Gems





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