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Positively Fascinating

02/25/2007

For a super secret (!!!) reason I will not yet divulge to you, fascinators have been on my mind a lot lately. It was over a year ago when a kind Australian Craftster sent me a fascinator as a gift so I could figure out how to make my own. Not only did I figure out how to put them together, I swore to try and single-handedly bring them back into fashion. I seem to be making some strides towards that goal, and in the interests of pushing it even further, I’m going to give you all a nice little fascinator tutorial. One can hardly expect to bear the burden of resurrecting an entire fashion statement on one’s own, after all.

I suppose the first step is to actually tell you what a fascinator is. It’s a hairpiece, smaller than a hat, larger than a barette, and usually all sorts of fluffy and shiny and otherwise fascinating. Here’s one of mine, by way of example:

Blue Moon
Blue Moon

I tend to pull my hair up into a quick bun at the base of my skull and then stick the comb into the base of said bun to wear the things, and have been known to make a fascinator in the morning to match an outfit for the night’s festivities (which does not imply that they are quick to make so much as it implies that I can get a bit overexcited when it comes to wearing a fascinator). But enough about wearing! How about making?

First, you’ll need supplies.

Zee Supplies!
Zee Supplies!

It all begins with what’s referred to (for some reason I cannot fathom) as a side comb. Plastic seems to work best for fascinators because it gets along well with the glue and it’s lightweight, though I do use the metal ones for beaded hair pieces. Lightweight is important because you’re going to add a lot of weight- if it’s too heavy, hair won’t hold it. Next you’ll need ribbon, then silk flowers (I like to have both a centerpiece or two and accent flowers), feathers of many different sorts (ostrich plumes, peacock eyes and swords, hackles of various colors, the big stiff curly ones whose names I can’t remember), netting/lace, a needle and thread to gather the netting/lace, scissors and glue (I highly recommend E-6000). You also might want some variety of clip or clothes pin to hold things while the glue dries.

We’re going to be gluing a lot here.

Step one is to wrap the plastic comb in ribbon. This makes the base both prettier and bigger- and big is good, because we’re going to be trying to mount some pretty hefty things onto this little bit of plastic. Glue one end of the ribbon onto the back of the comb and then wrap it between the teeth from one end to the other, covering the end you glued on to start with.

Ribbon wrapping: it LOOKS easy, it IS easy.
Ribbon wrapping: it LOOKS easy, it IS easy.

When you get to the end, cut the ribbon with maybe an inch to spare, fold the spare over to hide the raw edge and glue it to the comb. This is where some sort of clothes pin really comes in handy -unless you want to hold it for a half an hour only to determine that you’ve glued the ribbon to your finger, not the comb. I speak from experience. It’s a law of fascinator crafting: given a choice between its intended place and flesh, a given object will always secure itself to flesh.

Hair clips can stand in for clothes pins in a pinch.
Hair clips can stand in for clothes pins in a pinch.

While this dries, play designer. Gather the various bits for the comb and try out some layouts. You don’t have to worry too much about what goes where until you’re actually gluing it to the comb, but it helps to have an idea. If I don’t try to figure out a gameplan before the heavy gluing begins, I tend to end up with an unbalanced, visually jarring piece of crap rather than a fascinator.

Dry run to determine a basic layout.
Dry run to determine a basic layout.

(Note: I do not think baby blue goes well with bright orange and black. For the purposes of this tutorial I put together two fascinators at once, so I could switch between them while waiting for glue to dry. I thought this would make things faster and more efficient. For reasons I have yet to determine, it made it take six hours. No, really, if you look at the pictures you can see how much the lighting changes as time passes.)

This is where it gets all sorts of fun and sticky. Pick up your glue, your design elements, and glue ’em on.

Then you just stick things on.
Then you just stick things on.

It is both that simple and that complicated. Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the past year:

-While logic would dictate you should glue elements on from back to front, I find it easier to glue on the back layers (feathers, netting), the main element/front layer, and then stick all the little middle bits in last. This is largely because the biggest flower is going to be the most difficult to secure to that tiny, narrow comb base, so you’ll want to do it with as little stuff as possible piled between it and the comb. Also, if you get the main piece on and are disappointed, it’s suprising what playing with accent flowers and feathers can do to a piece.

-Do not fear the glue. Do not get high off the glue (this is a serious hazard with E-6000), but do not fear it. Pile it on. Mound it on. It dries clear. Do not fear getting it on the teeth of the comb- you can peel it off once it’s dry. I’ve tried wiring pieces together, tried sewing and tying them together, but nothing holds like E-6000. If you mound the glue on, your flowers and feathers will break themselves before they’ll lose their hold on the comb. I tested this, to the ruin of my favorite fascinator (which I will one day glue back together, and thus resurrect stronger and faster and better).

Be careful not to get stoned off the glue fumes.  Bad for you.
Be careful not to get stoned off the glue fumes. Bad for you.

-If you’re using heavy design elements, you’ll want to keep it balanced not only for visual reasons but so it can be worn comfortably. My best friend makes fascinators a bit less overblown than my own (what can I say, I like things theatrically shiny), and she has a lot more room to play with balance and visual effect than I do.

-Gather the netting with the needle and thread before you glue it on. There’s all sorts of ways to do this. Fold it in half and gather it along the cut edges for a poofy look, do the same but gather along the fold for a layered look, gather it like a bow, gather it along one edge for a very long ruff. Big gathers, little gathers. Use tulle, use lace. Tatter the edges for effect. I have no picture for this step because I couldn’t find my sewing needle book and thus improvised with a bit of twisted jewelry wire. Not pretty.

-On the subject of netting, this is another good place to use your clips/clothes pins/what have you. Netting must be smushed into the glue and then held there until it dries. Notice the clip on the teal-and-white number in the above picture.

-Ribbon can be a fun design element to play with too. The feathers for one of the today’s pieces are actually nothing more than a pile of feathery ribbon trim. I glued the trim together in a zig-zag to get something fluffy and tall enough to actually show up behind the centerpiece flower.

You may have to improvise a bit to get things to fit.  Remember: glue is your friend.
You may have to improvise a bit to get things to fit. Remember: glue is your friend.

That’s all there is to it!

And presto!  Fascinators.
And presto! Fascinators.

Keep in mind that you can always come back with more glue and more glue-a-ble bits if you wake up the next morning and hate your fascinator. The first example I posted, Blue Moon, took months of tweaking before I liked it enough to admit it was my own.

I think I shall name the black and orange one “All Hallows”. I may also come back and tatter the netting and feathers a bit, to give it the “Hi, I’m a ghost!” ambiance. The teal and white one is a belated birthday gift for my mother, so I leave it up to her if she wants it to have a name or not (though I tend to think that the certain caberet sparkle of my fascinators demands individual names). I suppose, until I think of something better, I’ll call it “George”.

Look, more fascinators!

Snow White and Rose Red
Snow White and Rose Red

The Peahen's Envy
The Peahen’s Envy

Creamsicle
Creamsicle

Bringing Fascinators Back
Bringing Fascinators Back

This last one is also shamefully nameless. Any suggestions?

Also, anyone know how to get a good picture of the back of your head so I can show how very shiny these things are when worn by a human and not a table/lapdesk? I think I need an assistant photographer.

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