TUTORIAL: How To Make A Native Headdress


Update: PURHCASE my handmade headdresses for RM210 (USD63) or RM230 (USD69). Head over to my latest post on headdresses for sale by clicking HERE.

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To be honest, I've always wanted to own my very own Native American/Red Indian headdress.
In fact when I posted the 'What to wear this Halloween' blogpost (and did that silly little poll) to ask you, my dear readers, what to wear to Halloween this year, I secretly already knew the answer.  Thank goodness some of you actually wanted to see me make the headpiece, otherwise I would've had to come up with some silly excuse like the art shop ran out of all supplies and only had feathers left... or something along those lines. 

Why I've always wanted a warbonnet although I have done nothing remotely close in this world to earn one? The Native American warbonnet is by far the best looking item in the long list of traditional costumes of this world, in my opinion. If you have not noticed, the warbonnet makes any outfit, any person in any photograph, look good because it adds so much character to the image!

Anyhoo, I'm so pleased that it was a great success! I'm proud to say that lots of people liked it and thought it was cool (the whole point of a Halloween costume, no?). Apart from the nicest and sweetest compliments (thank you people (((: ), the next question I got quite a lot during and after Halloween was "where did you buy it from?". The way I see it, it only means that it doesn't look homemade! Yay!

P/S: I've had quite a few people asking me what happened to the necklace I designed here. So, finally here is a look of my final product from Punto Jewelry! I am quite disappointed by the quality of workmanship and the how the final product looks very different than my original design, but I love it anyway (:






SO, as promised, here's how I made it. The entire process took about a day and a half, largely because I wanted some bits to dry properly overnight:

Entire list of things you will need:
- 1 sheet of A4 paper
- 2 sheets of foam (A4 size)
- Scissors
- Glue (I used Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue, highly recommended for this project)
- Hole puncher
- Eyelet puncher
- Black felt fabric
- Approx. 60 feathers
- Thread (sewing thread)
- Small wooden skewers
- Pliers to break wooden skewers (they can be quite hard to break)
- Small turkey feathers (in multiple colours)
- Stapler (optional)
- Puffy paint
- Red thread (I used DMC embroidery thread)
- Feather garland/boa (small)

1. Making the base

You will need:

- 1 sheet of A4 paper
- 2 sheets of foam (A4 size)
- Scissors
- Glue (I used Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue, highly recommended for this project)
- Hole puncher
- Eyelet puncher
- Black felt fabric

1. Fold a piece of A4 paper in half and draw the following shape (quite like the shape of a shark's fin, only a little more curved). Cut out the drawing you made. What you will get is a crescent like thing, so I'm just going to call it 'the crescent'.



2. Measure the size of the crescent, although I have a feeling it should fit most heads. The tail on each side of the crescent should roughly span from one side of your head (near your temples) to the other.

3. If the size is good, place 'the crescent' on a sheet of foam. Trace and cut the foam following the shape of the crescent. Otherwise, enlarge it using a larger piece of paper and foam. Do this twice so that you have two sheets of foam in the same shape. Do not worry if the crescent is slightly large on your head.



4. Using a puncher, make a hole on each side of the crescent's tail and place an eyelet. Make sure that when both pieces of foam sit on top of each other, the eyelets are in-line.



5. Cut two small rectangles of felt and glue the felt pieces to the sides of ONE sheet of foam. This is to extend the side bit of the base. It will look roughly like this. The other piece of foam will be used later.

6. I measured the whole thing on my head and trimmed the top to roughly 2.5" in height. So no more crescent.



2. Prepping the feathers

You will need:

- Approximately 60 feathers (depending on personal preference, this amount may vary. You may use duck or turkey feathers. Mine were approximately 12" from one tip to the other)
- Black felt
- Thread
- Glue
- Scissors
- Small wooden skewers (in the same number of feathers used, I used bamboo) (optional)

1. (This step is optional. I only did this to lengthen my feathers to make my headpiece bigger.) Grab a skewer and add a small amount of glue to its sharp edge. Then stick it through the opened tip of the feather. You might have to snip the tip of the feather a little if the opening is not big enough. Do this for all feathers.



2. Put the feathers aside. Then, cut small pieces (rectangles) of black felt, I measured mine approximately 3" x 4.5", also in the same number of feathers used.

3. Place a generous amount of glue on one side of the rectangle (as pictured) and wrap the felt around the feather. Add glue to the other end of the felt and glue it down.




4. Holding the felt in place, tie sewing thread around the felt to hold it tight. With the thread, you will need to first make a dead knot before going around the felt, leaving enough thread on the knotted end for another knot when you're done.





3. Making the main frame

You will need:

- Headdress base (both foam sheets)
- Prepped feathers
- Glue
- Needle and thread
- Small turkey feathers
- Stapler (optional)

1. Arrange the prepped feathers (step 2) on the base (made in step 1) according to desired height. Ideally, the taller feathers should be in the middle and shorter ones on the side, in order to create the curved shape of a headpiece. The piece of wrapped felt should sit nicely above the foam base.

2. Glue feathers down, I used a brush for this. I also stitched the feathers down using needle and thread for extra strength. Notice how the feathers were arranged to follow a particular direction? There are right and left feathers (each curving in different directions), so be careful to arrange them in order.


3. Fill up entire base and trim off excess of wooden skewers.



4. Secure the entire thing with more glue and then add several shorter feathers on the sides (on extended felt side) using the same method above - glue + needle and thread. The side feathers did not have skewers attached to them.



6. Then add more glue to the top row of feathers and cover the exposed bit with the extra sheet of foam (from step 1). Let dry for a couple of hours. Use weight, like books, to make sure it sticks properly.



7. Once dry (should not take long), cover the top sheet of foam with smaller turkey feathers. I wanted to use red but could only get black and white. Arrange them in any design/colour you like. I did it in such a way so that the white was at the bottom and the black on top for a little contrast. Same principle, longer ones in the middle, shorter ones on the side. Use glue or staples or both.



8. Trim off excess feathers following the shape of your base.




4. Making the decorative band

You will need:

- Black felt
- Puffy paint (I used this one by AMOS)
- Glue
- Scissors
- Red thread
- Feather garland/boa

1. At this point, your headdress is almost finished. Put some string through the eyelets, tie it around your head and see how it fits. The bit of empty space on your forehead (depending how wide your forehead is and how low you want the headpiece to sit), just beneath where your headdress sits, will roughly be the size of the decorative band.

2. Cut out some black felt. I measured mine roughly 2.4" in width and about 20" in length.

3. Measure 2cm distances at the top and bottom, and draw triangles.

4. Create desired design using puffy paint and let dry overnight for best results. Use a hairdryer to puff up the paint, to create the illusion of beads.



5. For the round bits on the sides, cut out four circles of felt slightly largely in diameter than the decorative band.

6. On two of the circles, with a needle and thread, sew feathers and other bits of string (or any other thing you can find that is interesting). I braided some coloured string, just to add a little character. The idea here is to create a little bulk. Don't worry if it looks messy. Secure the entire thing with glue.




7. On the remaining two circles, draw four lines across each circle (pictured above) and connect the dots to form a star.

8. You can either use puffy paint or thread to decorate the star. Since I had a little extra time, I used thread (see last picture).




5. Putting everything together

1. Attach the decorative band on the main frame of the headpiece using glue and thread (I only sewed down the sides).



2. Glue on the circles (the ones with the feathers and strings) onto the decorative band. Secure with some stitching.

3. Cover the stitching by glueing the circles with the stars directly on the ones from step no. 2 above.

4. Trim off edge of decorative band and you're done!



I hope you find this tutorial useful. This method is applicable for any other type of feathered headgear. As usual, comment below or send me an email if you have questions about making a chief's headdress.

It's really late now and I should really go to bed.
So good luck and speak soon! Looks like I'll be needing some luck to survive the work day tomorrow too /:

Photos by Moose Pixels.

69 comments:

  1. this is amazing!!!

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  2. Sorry i might of missed the part where you mentioned it, but what purpose do the eyelets have?

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    1. Hi Alex! Thanks for your comment. Sorry I wasn't being clear. The eyelets was where I put the strings (to hold the headpiece to my head) through. You can omit using eyelets, but the eyelets help to hold the foam sheets to your head better (so that they don't tear) especially if your headpiece is heavy. Checkout the last two photos, you can almost see the string going through the eyelets. Good luck!

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  3. this tutorial is soo helpful! thank you!! but where did you buy the feathers at?

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    1. Hey! Thank you, I'm so glad you find the tutorial useful. I bought my feathers at a local art supply store. I'm based in Malaysia. I'm planning to start making these headpieces and putting them up for sale (on pre-order basis). Check here later on if you're keen on purchasing one! (:

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  4. This makes it so easy!!! Thank you for the detailed tutorial!!! I can't wait to make one for the country fair in Veneta, Oregon this year!! Only 123 more days!!! I might even make a few and sell em if I have extra time ;)

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    1. Thanks Kristine! I'm glad you like the headpiece (: And good luck with making to sell. Send me pics when you're done!

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  5. I am going to a festival next month, and I was look online to buy one of these -- but, they were so expensive! I love this step by step, so detailed tutorial! I am definitely going to try out my creative skills an attempt to make this in time for the festival! Thanks soooooooooo much!

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    1. Thank you Maxine! I'm glad you found the tutorial useful (: If all else fails, I make a similar version to be sold for $100 (inclusive of shipping from Malaysia).

      http://www.jillianundercover.com/2014/02/closing-in-week-jillianundercover-x.html

      Good luck!

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  6. how do you secure the piece so it stays on your head? Also, if i wanted to extend the sides to be longer how would you suggest doing so? Thanks!!

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    1. Hi! Very good question, because I forgot to mention this in the post (: In step number four (under making the main base), I talked about making holes and securing them with eyelets. You put a string through the eyelets and this will be the thing to secure the headpiece to your head. I hope this helps, good luck!

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  7. Love your tutorial! ! Am from Malaysia myself. Which art store did you get your feathers from?

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    1. Hi Sherylyn! Very curious, my mom is a Bates and she mentions the Estrop family from time to time (: I wonder if our families know each other.

      Anyway, I'm not sure which part of Malaysia you're based but I get most of my stuff in KL. There are a few places where you can purchase feathers - Art Friend in Mid Valley, Bunga Reben outlets in KL and Multifilla in Balakong. Just google their locations and you'd be able to find their addresses pretty easily.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes! (:

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  8. Hey i love your tutorial, very helpful and easy, but where does the boa take place ? Like where does that go and how do i go about doing this ?

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    1. Hi there ! The little boa is for the bit that hangs off the side of the headgear. See number 6 of 'making decorative headband'. The boa and bits if string are glued or sewn onto the felt circles before attaching onto the headband. I hope this helps! Good luck! (:

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    2. Awwwh thank you so very much im almost finished its only the first but practice makes perfect. And thank you. :)

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  9. I need to ask a question!! How do you attach the felt to the foam crescent shape? You skipped that part. I tried to use the tacky glue to test out some small pieces but I'm not sure it's gonna work.

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    1. Hi Danielle! You're attaching which part of felt to the crescent? In any case, I used lots of glue - particularly Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue. If you're worried about it not holding properly, you can always secure it with a few rounds with your needle and thread. I hope this helps! ((:

      Good luck!

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    2. Tacky glue worked great, thank you! :)

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  10. This is a great tutorial. I am going to have to give this a try. I plan to make this as part of our school mascot. We are the Comanches. Thanks again.

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    1. Thank you for reading and I'm glad you've found this useful. Email me or comment here if you need any pointers or tips! Good luck!

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  11. This is great but can you substitute the a4 paper for something else?

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    1. Hi Katie!

      Thanks for visiting. Of course, as long as you are able to cut that shape out of the foam, you're fine! (:

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  12. How would you go about making the sides longer? For a longer headdress?

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    1. Hi Lexi!

      Good question. I've not actually tried it before but I think you can extend the sides to whatever length you want (see part 1: making the base, points number 5 and 6). Extend the felt/foam on the side downwards, add your feathers and they should look like traditional Indian headdresses with extra long bits.

      I hope this helps, good luck! (:

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  13. is it really A4 paper or is it a different size. It seems so much larger looking in the photographs on here than what I have infront of me. it looks more like 11"x17"

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    1. Hi Mel,

      I'm assuming you are referring to step number 1 to 3 in making the base?
      If you are, then yes, it's definitely A4.

      In any case, just make sure that the curve reaches from one side of your forehead to the other (roughly around the temples?).

      I hope this helps! (:

      Jillian

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  14. is it really A4 paper or is it a different size. It seems so much larger looking in the photographs on here than what I have infront of me. it looks more like 11"x17"

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  15. Hello, first of all thank you for posting this, it's going to be very helpful. Around how much money you spent doing this? I am planning in making the headdress this weekend to be ready for next friday.

    Have a great day :)

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  17. What kind of string did you use to secure it to your head properly ?

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    1. Hi Alexis! Thanks for visiting (:

      I used cotton twine similar to this http://factorydirectcraft.com/catalog/products/1302_2533_1204-25245-white_cotton_twine.html

      and this http://factorydirectcraft.com/catalog/products/1302_2533_1204-10298-cotton_butchers_craft_twine.html

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  18. I was wondering what is foam, is it a sort of fabric or paper and where would you buy it?

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    1. Hi Michael!

      Check this out -- http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/hobbies/craft-bases-and-essentials/felt-and-foam-sheets?filter=ProdType~Foam+Sheets/

      That is what it looks like (: You can buy it at most craft stores, might be in the kids section?

      I hope this helps!

      Jillian

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  19. Hi, I'm having trouble with the base..I do not have any A4 paper..don't know how thick it is (measurements) and I need to know what alternative I can use instead. I have foam and felt to use. But it seems flimsy..I have fur on my feathers so its gonna weigh more..worried it won't be able to hold what I've done so far..and hope im finished in time for Halloween.

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    1. Hi C Marz,

      I used the A4 paper just as a base for measuring. I did not actually use it on the headpiece. An A4 piece of paper measures 210mm x 279.4mm. What you can do is just cut a piece of paper to the measurements I gave you and measure your foam against that.

      Fur and felt is a bit flimsy on its own. What I did was combine several layers. If you follow all the steps, your headpiece should hold. What you can also do is secure the feathers to the felt/foam not only with just glue, but also needle and thread.

      Email me some photos so that I can see, and help you where I can (:

      Good luck!

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  20. How thick does the foam have to be? Mine is thin..and seems flimsy..maybe that's my problem.

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    1. The foam that I used is exactly like the one here:

      http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/hobbycraft-fab-foam-sheet-in-black/565433-1000

      Is yours similar?

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  21. Thank you. What are the measurements in inches? I have a measuring tape..not a ruler..its saying when I google it, that its 18x12?

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    1. Hi C Marz!

      In inches it is 8.267 x 11.692

      Good luck!

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    2. I was told that is a size used in Europe? Not sure if there's any truth to that. Is that why I can't find it in any stores?

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  22. Hi C Marz,

    Are you referring to A4 paper or the foam?
    A4 paper is used the world over hehe Foam on the other hand, I'm not too sure but I think they're pretty common for kids craft.

    Good Luck and Happy Halloween! (:

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  23. I want to post my headdress from last night, is there a way to do that?

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    1. Send me your photo! Jillianundercover@gmail.com

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  24. Great tutorial! I made one for my son for thanksgiving.

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  25. Hello!
    Your tutorial is not only absolutely amazing, but it's so detailed and easy to follow!

    I do have a question for you. Do you think it could be extended so the sides nearly brush the ground*I'm only 5'3*? I'm making a Peter Pan costume, and I decided to go ahead and make the headdress he receives from saving Tiger Lily. Not only is yours the most detailed and authentic looking tutorial/headdress, the silhouette is almost perfect.
    Thank you!!

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  26. Thank you so much for this Tutorial !
    It was Karneval in Germany and I made my own Headdress! It wouldn't have become so great without your Tutorial and I got a lot of compliments for it!

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  27. Could I use hot glue instead of tacky glue or would tacky glue be best?

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  29. http://apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-in-headdresses/

    here is the url, forgot to add it to the earlier comment

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  30. Hi! I think what you did is absolutely amazing and stunning!!!! I would LOOOOVE to do this for halloween but I am worried about negative feedback about it being offensive. Did you get any feedback like that?

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  31. Hi amazing work by the way, im making a headress for this coming halloween, and following your tutorial, im just not sure about one thing, the foam is it a thin styrofoam, is it like pretty stiff or more flexible. Also, i dont really understand the step from image 2 and image 4. On image 2 the crescent is higher and round, then on image 4 its cut off or?
    Thanks so much otherwise, hope you can reply soon, since im going to shop for the material in the next few days =)
    Otherwise il just experiment, and figure it out =)

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  32. Hello!!! Thank you soooo much for this tutorial!!! My 1st grader is doing a project on Native Americans and she chose to make a head dress as her model. So I bought children's products from Walmart totaling $42 and spend 4/5 hours on it lol lol we had a blast!! I wish we could upload a picture for you!!

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  34. I'm trying to make one of these for my art project bit I'm a little unclear on how to get it secured. Ive read all the. Comments bit it's still a little confusing. I want to secure so I can set it on a stand. And also what feathers did you use for the big ones?

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  35. hey! The headdress is really pretty and I'm making it following your steps but I don't quite get step 5 and 6.

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  36. Wow this headdress is amazing! My friend and I made it for a school project and could not be happier with the result! Thank you thank you thank you

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  37. Um.

    First of all Red Indian is not an ok term to describe the indigenous peoples of North America.

    Second of all, this is kind of offensive. What tribe are you representing in this headdress? Did you even research the patterns used and their significance? Or are you just making a caricature of a native person? Think about it.

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  38. Um.

    First of all Red Indian is not an ok term to describe the indigenous peoples of North America.

    Second of all, this is kind of offensive. What tribe are you representing in this headdress? Did you even research the patterns used and their significance? Or are you just making a caricature of a native person? Think about it.

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    1. that goes for a lot of things in cultures though.....a lot of things that are blown over...so? my culture has this done to it all the time and its sad but its also 2016 and people dont are about feelings or being offensive anymore.

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  39. As a non-native person, creating and wearing a headdress is quite offensive and racist. Headdresses are not fashion. They are not festival-wear. They are sacred ceremonial items to Native Americans. They must be earned just like military metals, and people who have not earned them should not wear them. To do so is racist.

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  40. Dear Jillian, love your post! deeply! this is amazing! really! I saw that you put your mail on a reply and I took the liberty to send you the pics of the result of this great adventure! My boyfriend and I made our own headdresses! Thank you!

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  41. Looks like shit.

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  42. Hi, awesome tutorial! I've been working on my own today, almost finished and it's looking amazing! I had a question about securing it on the head..I did all the same steps and used a shoelace for the tit's so it's really strong but it seems to fall forward and slip. I think because the weight and the foam might be slippery on my hair... any suggestions?

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  43. Omg not tit's, I meant TIES! Haha ooops

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  44. Hi amazing work by the way, i am making a headdress for this coming Halloween, and following your tutorial.Thank you so much for this tutorial.

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  45. Hi, I have my headdress made except the front band. What keeps it from falling down in your face. It wants to slide off my head. Does the front band with the puffy paint design prevent this. I don't think it is going to stop it. I am worried. It looks great and I want to wear it. Thank you.

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  46. Is it required to have skewers with holes inside?

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