I love making and wearing headpieces. Excellent head ornamentation makes you feel unstoppable. It's easy to understand why ruling power often comes with a symbolic headpiece. The right headpiece can often really define a look or a character, making the the rest of your outfit almost incidental. Sometimes before I go out to a party with an interesting theme, I give myself a few hours to create a new headpiece out of whatever materials I have lying around, it's a fun game, but you need to know how to create a good structure for your piece first.
In this Instructable I will show you a good way to make a simple, sturdy structure that can be used as the base for many different styles of headpieces. Then I will describe how I turned mine into a crown of illuminated flowering branches. This is really a surprisingly easy project, and I was really pleased with the results. Using the right fake flowers in combination with simple LED fairy lights and a hot glue gun, really creates a beautiful effect with a minimum of effort. This flower crown is a great accessory to wear to summer festivals, incorporate into a dryad, princess or fairy costume, or act as a statement piece in an etherial bridal ensemble.
If you are in the mood for more hands-on instruction, I also teach in-person workshops in which you get to make a version of this design! Sign up for one here.
The structure and style of this piece was somewhat inspired by the incredible work of Miss G, who is the master of elaborate embellished (non-illuminated) costume headpieces. This is a very simplified version of her style, but for inspiration on how to really take a headpiece over the top, you should definitely check out her work.
Also, to learn how to do the makeup Levity is wearing in these photos, see my DIY Makeup Stencils Instructable.
Step 1: Supplies
*I have made some simple changes to the base of this design since I wrote this Instructable. Some supplies and pictures no longer correspond. I've made note of where they differ.
- Fake flowers - Fake flowers come in almost as many varieties as real flowers, and some will be better than others for this project, especially for diffusing light. Make sure you get flowers that have a few layers of petals to nest the lights in so they diffuse, and are not too visible. Also, very dark colored flowers will just block, not diffuse light. I chose white flowers with hints of light green and yellow which are a good color for diffusing light, especially white or yellow light. It's good to get variety of flower sizes. I used two big lotus type flowers on each side of my headpiece, some orchids around the headband, and as few sizes of some other smaller tropical looking flowers to use on the branches. If you live in San Francisco, the absolute best place to go for fake flowers (and a lot of other amazing silly things) is Fantastico in SOMA. Otherwise craft stores like Michael's are a good bet, or for even cheaper options, try dollar stores!
- LEDs - I used two strands of white fairy lights 6ft long with 15 lights on each. I got the kind that are powered by two CR2032 coin cell batteries because they are so small and will fit on a headpiece well. I would recommend getting a lights the same or a similar color as your flowers, this will make the light diffuse better.
- A wide plastic headband
- *A small plastic hair comb - In the new version, I'm no longer using this.
- *About 2ft of 3/4" wide nylon webbing for a strap to go around the back of your head (not pictured). Or any other type of strap you want to use, such as leather, fabric, etc.
- *2" of velcro to attach the webbing
- Some stiff fabric in a color or pattern that matches your design - I used a thick black canvas type material. If you wanted to use a thinner material you could stiffen it with interfacing.
- About 10 yards of 1/2" wide strips of spandex, twill tape, ribbon or a similar thin flexible trimming to wrap your branches.
- Decorative trimmings - I got a variety of trimmings, not all of which I ended up using. The most important kind to get is usually referred to as piping, cordedge, or cord on tape. It is basically decorative cord attached to a tape that allows you to sew it into seams. You will need about a yard of this as well as a second tape-less cord.
- Thick wire - about 3 yards of 1/8" diameter wire that holds it's shape, but is fairly easy to bend, you can get this at most hardware stores or craft stores. Alternately, you can use the bare plastic covered wire branches from bunches of fake flowers.
- Thin wire - a few yards of a very thin (about 22 gauge) wire for wrapping the other wire (you could also just use duct tape or gaffers tape for this).
- Hot glue and a glue gun
- Fabric glue like Magnatac or Fabritac
- Wire cutter and small plyers
- Exacto knife
- Pencil, ruler and paper
- Optional - spray paint if you want to add some detail to your flowers
- Optional - a mannequin head or styrofoam head
Step 2: Pattern and Cut the Headband Cover
To have a wide sturdy base to attach your branches and flowers to you'll want to create cover to go over your plastic headband. This will also cover the ugly plastic of the band.
To do this, first measure the length of the whole headband, and mark where it goes behind your ears. The cover can only go down to right above your ears if you want it to still fit snugly on your head. Now draw a shape for the band cover, I made mine with a slight point in front middle and wide areas above the ears to accommodate the battery packs for the lights.
Cut your pattern out in paper, then trace it twice onto your thick fabric and cut out two identical pieces.
Step 3: Assemble the Headband Cover
Take one of the two pieces you just cut out and lay it on a piece of paper with the underside up. Take your piping and start gluing the tape down to the underside of your fabric with Magnatac or hot glue, starting in the center back (you could use hot glue, but it is a bit messier, stiffer, and harder to fix mistakes). Try to line it up so the cord of the piping is sitting just off the edge of the fabric. Go all the way around until you are back where you began. At this point I cut my piping and used a short piece of your twill tape to cover up the loose ends.
Now take your second piece of fabric and glue it down to the first, sandwiching the tape between the two layers.
Last, take your cord with no tape and glue this down where the fabric meets the first cord to cover the gap.
Step 4: Spray Paint the Flowers
This step is entirely optional, I just wanted to add some extra depth and detail to my flowers, and I do think it looked nice.
First I removed a bunch of my flowers from their stems and lay them out upside down on a large piece of paper in a ventilated spray booth. I used a quick dry, plastic friendly spray paint, and misted areas of the flowers to create a sort of ombre effect. I also painted some leaves which I never ended up using.
I kind of just loved the way they all looked lying on the paper, like a strange 3 dimensional painting.
Step 5: Make the Branches
While your flowers dry, you can continue constructing the base of the headpiece. The next step is to create the branches. To make branches the size and shape of mine, follow the steps below, otherwise just sculpt any branch shape you like.
Cut a length of wire about 50" long. Fold it in half and crimp the end together with your plyers. This is the end of the longest fork of your branch.
About 5" down take one of the wires and bend it out to create a second fork 4" long. Where this branch forks off from the main wire, wrap it with a piece of the thinner wire to hold it in place.
Another 2 inches down create a second fork 3 1/2" long on the opposite side, and secure it with wire.
Below this, take the ends of your wire and create some loops at the end of your branch, extending about 2 1/2" down from the last fork. Cut off the excess wire and secure the ends.
Go back up to the top of your branch and cut the wire apart at the top of the branch, pull one wire out to create a small fork just down from the top. Trim the end to shorten it a bit and secure it with wire.
Mirror this structure to create a second branch.
Step 6: Wrap the Branches
To give your branches some body and a good base for gluing, wrap them with twill tape. Start at the first fork and work your way up, hot gluing the tape down as you go. I wrapped all the way up the central branch then did each smaller fork separately.
Step 7: Attach the Headband Cover
Line your headband up with your headband cover and use a wire cutter or strong scissor to trip away about 1"-1.5" from each end of the headband so it fits just inside the cord on each end of the cover. (This is a change I added to the design later and is not pictured here. Also Ignore the combs, I took those out of the design.)
Mark the center of your headband cover and the center of your headband itself. Apply hot glue to about 3" of the top of the headband then line it up and stick it down to the headband cover. Do not glue it down any farther yet.
Step 8: Attach the Branches
Position your branches on your headband and mark where they should come off the head.
Cut a slit in your headband cover and insert the end of your branches so they rest in between the cover and the plastic band.
Using two strips of your twill tape, wrap and glue the end of the branch down to the plastic band.
Now apply hot glue to this entire area and glue the rest of the band cover down to the plastic band, covering the end of the branch wires.
Repeat on the other side.
Step 9: Add a Strap
After wearing this piece the way I had originally designed the base, I decided that it needed a strap around the back of the head to help keep it secure. I will add pictures of this soon, but for now, it's pretty simple. This strap will never make it 100% secure if you are moving around a lot, unless you put your hair up and fasten the strap under the updo! Then you can pretty much do cartwheels and it will stay on!
Take two lengths of nylon strap (or any kind of strap you like), each about 1' long. Burn the ends with a lighter to keep them from fraying. Sew about a 2" section of velcro onto one end of each strap so the two straps can overlap and attach at the ends.
Now you need to glue the straps onto the back of the headband so they reach around the back of your head, and fasten below the Occipital Bone (that bump at the bottom back of your skull). They will rest at a slightly different angle for everyone, so try on your headband and test to see where the straps seem most secure. The headband will sit fairly far forward on your head, kind of at the top of your forehead, and the straps will be almost in line with the band, making a circle around your head.
Glue the ends in place with lots of hot glue on the inside of the band, and trim away the excess strap. (It will look messy inside now, but you can cover it up later with fabric.)
Step 10: Decorate
Now for the fun part! ... At least I think this is the fun part because you get to really define the look of your headpiece in a freeform way using whatever materials you have.
Gather all your flowers and any other beads, trimmings or other fun bits you've collected. Put your headpiece base on a head-form if you have one, or if you don't, you can just alternately use your own head and another conveniently sized object like a roll of paper towels.
Now take your glue gun and start gluing flowers onto your headpiece. I started with my two big flowers on the sides and then worked up the branches with smaller flowers.
I made sure to leave room on the band below my big flowers to hide my LED battery packs later.
The nice thing about creating the branches with wire is that you can bend them around as you work to get them in a shape and position you like.
Step 11: Attach the Lights
Decide where you are going to position the battery packs of your lights, making sure that you can reach the switch and the flap that lets you change the batteries. Apply hot glue to the back side of the battery pack (not the side that opens), and stick it onto your headband.
To hide the initial section of wire, wrap it a few times around the large flower, then start wrapping the wire between the layers of flower petals so that the lights are evenly spaced and diffuse nicely. It is helpful to do this part in a somewhat dark room so you can see how the lights will look.
Continue wrapping your wire up the branch and nesting lights in each flower. Keep in mind that you only have so many lights, and you want to reach as many of the flowers as possible. Don't mind that the wire shows where you are wrapping it around the branch, you will cover this up later.
Getting al the lights in the right places in the flowers is a bit tricky, but it is really worth the effort to make them look nice. You can always add more flowers where there are bare lights if you need to.
Step 12: Cover the Wires
When your lights are all in place, take the remainder of your twill tape and re-wrap all the sections of branches with exposed wires, using hot glue to hold down the wrapping.
Finally, add a few more flowers where you need to cover up wire or hide the battery pack.
At the end, I usually also add a layer of fabric or leather to the inside of the band to give it a clean finish, and also cover the little teeth on the inside of the plastic that are uncomfortable. Just use your original pattern to cut out some fabric or leather and trim a bit off the ends (as this piece needs to fit on the inside of the curve which is smaller than the outside was. Geometry!) Glue this piece down to cover everything up!
Step 13: Coronation
Now put on your crown and go run through fields and forests... or streets an crowds. Wherever you go, fireflies and fascinated people are sure to follow you around and do your bidding... seriously, wearing a headpiece like this gives you power. I always feel like I can get away with anything when I'm dressed in this kind of outfit, it's magical.
Now that you know how to build the base of a headpiece like this, you can create a lot of other similar styles easily. The world of trimmings and fake flowers is a vast land of infinite combinatory possibility. Go forth and imagine new headwear!
Or, if you still want some guidance, try signing up for one of my headpiece workshops!