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
This 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.
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 of 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
Three Ornaments made with full feathers
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Beacon Adhesives FABRI-TAC permanent adhesive If you're outside the US, it can be found on Ebay from US sellers.
For large hairpin and bendable hatpins: Fire Mountain Gems
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