In my overview article I referred to two extant turbans from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston's collection. These two turbans, along with several of the Fashion Plates (1) (2) from the Romantic Era, lead me to the conclusion that many fixed turbans most likely started with simple caps with stiffened bands. I'm going to show how to make a base cap by adding millinery wire to buckram, covering that with fabric and adding a crown. Then I will show how to finish it by adding gathered fabric to the cap to create the Romantic Era style turban above. You could use a base cap to create a turban in many ways; this is just one method.
Wire Buckram Band
Cut a long strip of single weight buckram that is 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm) wide by your head size plus 1 in (2.5 cm) and two lengths of medium millinery wire as long as your buckram plus a little.
Sew the wire to the edges of the buckram using a wide machine Zig-zag stitch.
Cover the wired edges with 1 inch wide (2.5 cm) cotton bias binding, then trim the extra wire.
Determine the overlap by holding the band on your head at the proper level with the hairstyle you will be wearing and mark it with a pencil. You might want to do this in a mirror or have someone help you. Make sure that it fits with a little ease. By hand, with heavy thread close the band by sewing several crisscross stitches in the overlapped area.
Measure the length around your band and use the length and width to cut fabric to cover the band. Additionally, cut an oval piece of fabric 14" X15”. This oval should be large enough no matter what head size you have, but if your fabric is limited you might want to start with muslin to create a pattern first. You can cut these pieces on the straight of grain if it works out best for the pattern in your fabric, but cutting on the bias usually works best.
To cover the band first, with the right sides in fold the band fabric in half and sew ½ inch from the edge. Press this seam open and fold the tube around the buckram band and baste the seam edges near the band's top edge.
Put the fabric on your head and slip the band over the top. Adjust the fullness so that most of the pleats are in the front and back. Mark at the bottom edge of the band. This will become the cut edge for the crown fabric (or if muslin, the pattern).
With the right sides out and the seam allowances on the outside of the cap, pin then sew the crown to the band.
Here is a picture of my first finished cap from the side and the back.
I did not realize until after the fact that if I had created with the instructions I just gave you that all the seam allowances would be covered in the later steps and the inside of the cap would not need to be lined. Which is why I'm telling you do it as above when it is apparent from the pictures that I did it another!
Also you can see that I added a contrasting piping to my band. It looks good but as you can see the upper piping is covered in the finished turban and so it was a waste of time.
If you want to add piping on the base of band you would have to have two strips of fabric to cover the band (width plus 1”) and sew them together with the piping between them along one long side. Press that flat and continue as for the single piece above.
Do make sure that when you cover the buckram with this you organize all the seam allowances to the outside of the band as they can take up a lot of the inside of the band and could make the band too small for your head.
Turban roll and tassel
The major part of the turban is made up of two rectangles of fabric 14” by the full width of the fabric from finished edge to finished edge. These are sewn together to give one piece 14”(35.6cm.) by about 108”(2.75m.). To create a turban in this manor does not necessarily take this exact amount of fabric. If the fabric is thin and soft it might take more, and if thick and stiff, less. The fabric I used was quite stiff and mediumweight.
When you are sewing the inside edge of the rolled fabric to the cap you will be sewing into the inside of the cap, so make your stitches fairly close together so that you do not end up with long threads inside your cap that will catch on things like the pins in your hairdo.
The turban is complete at this point except for decoration. Because of the difficulties in storage it's best not to sew plumes on that stick out and could get damaged in transit, so making removable decorations is often a must. The bead/tassel decoration on the front of the turban in this shot (left) was added to a commercially available hair decoration and slipped into the folds of the turban. The aigrette is held in place with a “U” pin at its base.
Here, the turban is shown with a spray of burnt ostrich feathers that have been wrapped and glued together at their base with fabric that also covers the head of a 4” long hatpin.
There will be much more about decorations in the final article of this series, in two months' time.
Once again I would like to thank my model Laurie Hall who graciously took time from her Masters Thesis to sit for these photos.
Judith m Hats and Millinery Supply, 104 S. Detroit St, LaGrange, IN. 46761 (260) 499-4407 Toll Free: 877-499-4407 (US & Canada)
Richard the Thread,Los Angeles, Ca, Fax (323) 852-1604, Phone (800) 473-4997
Lacis, Berkely, Ca, Fax (510) 843-5018, Phone (510) 843-7178
California Millnery Supply Co., Los Angeles, Ca, Phone (213) 662-8746
Hats By Leko, 1 800 817 HATS(4287)
US Feathers by mail order or on the web
Lamplight Feather P.O. Box 867 Fort Jones CA 96032 Call us toll free (within USA) (800) 806-5149
Hollywood Fancy Feathers Co., No. Hollywood, Ca, Fax (818) 982-2919, Phone (800) 828-6689
Eskay Novelty, New York, NY, Fax (212) 921-7926, Phone (800) 237-2202
US Online silk fabric source
Thai Silks in Los Altos, CA
Here are a few UK-specific sites and locations - but don't forget the power of Ebay.co.uk for that unique bargain!
Whaleys - Bradford Ltd; Also try John Lewis
MacCulloch & Wallis - the transparent stuff is available per metre
CJ Millinery - download the price list and you'll find millinery wire at the bottom
Ostriches Online - Ostrich, pheasant, peacock, marabou and many more available for surprisingly low prices.
The Essentials Company or try your local florist