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Want to make a real fashion statement? It’s hard to pack more drama into a small space than with a fascinator. If you haven’t been keeping up with Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, you might be unfamiliar with fascinators. They are basically very small, formal hats that are very big on embellishment. Captivating Kate has recently brought them back into vogue, but they are one of millinery’s (hat making’s) oldest and boldest creations.

Custom millinery can require many years of training, and the prices of designer fascinators could make even a royal’s pocketbook wince. But as we often suggest here on Sew4Home, making something yourself can be far more unique and rewarding than anything you can buy off the shelf.

Several years ago, we had the honor of talking with Janome Educator, Maddie Bushman about how you can make your own fascinating fascinators. Sadly, Maddie has passed on, by her creativity lives on through these and so many other wonderful projects. 

S4H: What inspired you to begin creating fascinators?

MB: I had never done any millinery before. I was making floral headbands for fun, and was at a sewing show when someone spotted some of them and asked if I’d ever made fascinators. I guess she thought the flower arrangements on my headbands were over the top! I did some research, found pictures online, got inspired, and just started doing it.

S4H: With their recent exposure by the always-popular royals, what differences do you see in today’s fascinators as compared to those of days gone by?

MB: I hadn’t really noticed them before William and Kate’s wedding, but today’s seem more fanciful, more “out there.” 

S4H: Obviously the embellishments are nearly limitless, but what are the basic supplies someone needs to create fascinators?

MB: My list grows with each new creation, but these are the supplies I turn to again and again:

  • Plastic headbands with teeth.
  • Circles or desired shapes cut from Timtex or craft felt (firm).
  • Wired ribbon with the wire removed from the side that will be ruffled
  • Permanent fabric glue (Fabric Tack is my favorite)
  • T-pins
  • Feathers
  • Flowers made using the Janome Universal Ruffler attachment
  • Rhinestone or decorative buttons larger than 1″ for the center of the flower(s), depending on the size of the finished flower
  • Doll hats covered with matching fabric plus polyester fiberfill to pack the dome of the doll hat so it stands firm
  • Styrofoam shapes
  • Hand sewing needle and thread
  • Hairspray (after assembly, I spray any ribbon that has glitter to prevent it from shedding)

S4H: Which kind of embellishments are the easiest for a beginner to “wrangle?”

MB: I’m a pretty firm believer of using whatever you like best, but some of the easier embellishments are: 

  • Feathers
  • Ribbons
  • Decorative buttons
  • Left-over holiday decorations that have glitter
  • Old jewelry (pearls strands, earrings, tie tacks, broaches etc.)

S4H: Which Janome and/or Artistic products do you typically use?

MB: I use the Janome Universal Ruffler attachment for almost every one I do. I love both the Janome and the Artistic thread. My favorite Janome model right now for fascinators is the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP. Oh, and sharp and precise scissors are a must.

S4H: How do you handle the issue of balance? That seems critical to a successful design you can actually wear! Is there a height limit?

MB: Some of mine are pretty, dang tall! If the fascinator is quite heavy or leans to one side, I attach a comb to the underside to help hold it in place.

S4H: When people find out you make fascinators, what are their reactions? What kind of events do they say they want them for?

MB: (laughing) Most people immediately ask how much I would charge to make them one. Someone once offered me $4,000 for the gold feathered one (I didn’t take it)! They want to make a statement and wear one to a party, wedding, family gathering… even just on a date.

Following Maddie’s suggestions above, you can complete a fascinator in just a few hours with beginning sewing skills, any sewing machine, and, if possible, a Ruffler that fits your machine model.

“Using trims, ribbons, buttons, feathers and a bevy of other embellishments, a work of art can come to life, ” says Maddie. “Some of the embellishments you may already have from other craft projects. Use your creativity to make a masterpiece unique to you!”

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