My mother recently mentioned that she wished she had a fascinator. I've been making ones to match my various party dresses for several years now, so for her birthday I've assembled a custom piece to send her. There's no reason to pay big bucks on Etsy or in a boutique when you make elegant pieces right in your own living room. Using a simple layering technique and knowledge of feather types, I'll walk you through how to make one of a kind feather fascinators of your very own!
Step 1: You Will Need...
Barrett/Hair Clip --preferably the kind covered in a layer of ribbon, as this will ensure a better bond than trying to glue your feather pad to metal. I found a 4 pk in the ribbon section of my local Michaels' Crafts.
Craft Felt --preferably a color that reasonably matches your base feathers.
Multi-Media Adhesive --I suggest something like E-600 or Craft Goop. DO NOT use regular Elmer's Glue because it is too runny and takes too long to dry.
Toothpick --for applying said adhesive
Feathers --We'll talk about choosing feather types in the next step. For a finished piece, I'd suggest using at least 3 different types of feathers.
Rhinestones/ Sequins/ Buttons --you may wish to add a little bling as a final touch at the end. This is a great way to use up that random button, loose earring, or stray sequin you've been holding on to in the craft box. Up-cycle that "junk" into an accessory!
Step 2: A Bit About Feather Types
For those newer to working with feathers, here's a quick break down of popular types and their uses as they relate to fascinators. Obviously there are many other feather types out there, but this set will give you a core knowledge of some of the best/ worst. Use these as a guide to do some browsing and find the textures and colors that appeal to you.
My favorite resource for feathers is a Los Angeles shop called "Mother Pluckers". They have EVERYTHING feathery that is legal to sell and do a lot of custom costume work for Vegas. If you have the opportunity to go to the shop in person, its a sight to see! Many interesting feathers can also be ordered through Etsy and ebay.
A) Peacock Wisps --These are the little wisps that go up the shaft of a long peacock feather before you get to the eye. They are sometimes sold in bundles or pads, packaged in cart stores, or you can strip them from long feathers you buy. These are great little accents and can be curled with scissors like ribbon (you'll see).
B) Peacock Eyes --One of the most popular feathers for fascinators and jewelry. You can find natural, bleached , dyed (available in many colors, salmon shown here), and half-swords. If you buy feathers that are bleached white instead of natural white peacock feathers, be sure to look at the quality of the feather closely. Just as excessive bleaching can weaken fabrics, it can weaken feather structure. The bleached one shown here is noticeably more coarse than the other feathers, and would be more likely to break if I tried curling the wisps.
C) Mini Ostrich Plumes --great for costumes and more dramatic pieces for their volume and movement. "Mini" is anything under 7 inches. I don't use any in this tutorial because they do take a fascinator to a level beyond casual wear, and I don't want mom to have to wait for a formal ball invite before she can wear it.
D) Rooster Schlappen --Rooster slappin'? I feel like there's a dirty joke in there somewhere.... These are great for fascinators because they offer a nice amount of bounce and have enough body to be a base feather. These will almost always be black/iridescent green.
E) Rooster Saddle --shorter and finer than Schlappen feathers, but available in many bright colors. These also have nice bounce to them and are great for this project! Saddle feathers almost always come sewn together in a long strip and can be bought by the yard.
F) Goose Biot --These are very coarse, stiff feathers that are usually about 6 inches long. If you're doing a more dramatic piece where you'd like some stark and sculptural accents, these are kind of fun.
G) "Craft" Feathers --NOT RECOMMENDED. These are the standard craft feathers you've probably seen and bought before. They're usually a mix of neon dyed turkey and guinea feathers. These are fine for some projects, but overall they do not offer enough movement, body, or sophisticated color to use on fascinators. The one exception may be the polka-dotted guinea feathers, which sometimes make a nice little accent feather.
Step 3: Base Pad
Cut out a petal shaped piece of felt that is just slightly longer than the hair clip you'll be using.
This felt piece will really never be seen, so you can just eyeball this without worry for how symmetrical it is.
Step 4: Base Feather
I've decided that the base color of my feathers is going to be black.
As a base, I've chosen 1 voluminous marabou feather. These are typically too wispy to feature out front, but they give a nice little "foof" of volume to your piece.
Flip the feather over to the back.
Using a toothpick, apply your clear drying adhesive along the shaft,going a bit less than half way up from the base.
Apply to your felt pad and press gently. Allow to dry for a minute.
Step 5: Layering
Here's where we start layering. Think of this like a class photo: Tall kids in back, short kids in front. Each layer of feathers we apply will be shorter than the last so that we can see everything.
My second layer is Rooster Schlappen.
Repeat adhesive application steps, attaching each feather to the base of your felt petal shaped pad.
Apply feathers in a "fan" configuration for the most body.Secure the base of each feather as if they are all headed toward a single point, then tilt the tip outward. See 4th photo. This will effectively cover up the base layer beneath.
I used 7 Schlappen feathers. You may use more or fewer, depending on your final design goal.
Step 6: Saddle Layer
For my 3rd layer, I picked just a few golden brown rooster saddle feathers. My mom has sort of cinnamon colored hair, and I thought this might be a nice way to keep the piece looking natural and not too gaudy.
Repeat adhesive application process.
Apply in a fan configuration again. In this case, I only used 2 feathers, so they simply meet at a common base point.
* Notice the direction of your feathers. Some bend naturally to the left and some to the right. Generally speaking, try to use feathers that all flop the same way. Using ones that fight the flow of your piece can either look artsy and sculptural...or look like a crazy cowlick. See last photo for an example of 2 feathers from the same bag that won't really work together well due to opposing directions.
Step 7: Splash of Color!
My 4th layer is more rooster saddle, but shorter feathers that are dyed turquoise.
If your saddle feathers came sewn to a strip of fabric, you'll need to extract some to work with.
Grab a chunk of feathers near the base and pull. Many times they will slip right out of the stitching. If this doesn't happen easily, snip the fabric strip with your scissors to free the stitches holding the feathers.
Repeat adhesive application steps.
Fan out your feathers, as with previous layers (see 3rd pic).
I used about 10 turquoise saddle feathers to get nice body, coverage, and a definite opaque color in front.
* A note on feather quality: The last photo compares two saddle feathers from the strip. The top one is very full, while the bottom one is thinner and has chips out of it. Chipped, bent, or otherwise flawed feathers are not uncommon. You can still use these, just try to keep the good, full bodied feathers on the top most layer to cover them.
Step 8: Preparing Accents
Remember how I said you can curl peacock wisps like ribbon? Now is a good time to practice that technique and prepare a few for potential use on your fascinator.
Run a wisp between your thumb and one side of your scissors, just as you do when curling ribbon.
The more times the run a wisp over the blade, the curlier it will get. 1 times gives a natural curl while 2-4 times will get you tight spirals and curly-Qs.
Have fun with this and save a few on the side in case you want them later.
Step 9: Focal Point
Peacock eyes make an excellent focal point for a fascinator. Not only are they beautiful, but we owned a flock of peacocks when i was growing up, so this bird has some significance for mom and I.
My last layer will be a single eye feather. You could try two smaller eyes or throw a sword feather in there if you want to get more elaborate.
Apply adhesive to the back of the eye feather. You won't have much shaft as a guide in this case. Apply a line of adhesive extending up a little less than half way into your eye area. Take care not to use too much adhesive, as you don't want it soaking through to the front.
Press on to the front of your feather pad. Allow several minutes to dry.
If you wish, you can curl the sides of your eye feather using the same scissor technique. Be gentle and do this only after you're sure your piece is dry.
Step 10: Accents
I added a few curled wisps to finish off the sides.
Use a minimal amount of adhesive on the base of the wisp.
Apply as close to the base of you eye feather as possible for an organic look.
Step 11: Clip
Now its time to make this fabulousness functional!
Flip your feather pad, now dry, over to the back side.
Apply a generous but controlled layer of adhesive to the length of ribbon covering your hair clip.
Press the glue covered side of the clip onto your felt pad. Keep in mind that the head (CLOSED end) of the clip should correspond with the focal point of your feathers.
Allow time to dry.
Step 12: Optional Bling
I usually add a rhinestone or sequin accent at the base of my feathers. Aside from being pretty, they also hide the little nub end of your top-most feather.
Apply adhesive to the back of your chosen accent.
Press in place.
I kept things simple for mom's fascinator, using a matte black rhinestone and 2 smaller peacock green ones.
Again, this is a good opportunity to use broken jewelry, stray buttons, or vintage beads that you've had sitting in your sewing box for just the right thing! Turn that trash into treasure!
Step 13: Done!
You're dressed to impress! Who cares what the rest of the outfit looks like??
Now that you know just how easy these are to make, have fun experimenting with different combinations and make custom pieces as gifts or for themed parties. These are also a great project to do as a group for something like a bridal shower. If the bride is really creative/relaxed, all the bridesmaids could make their own semi-matching fascinators to wear during the wedding.