Monday, 14 November 2011

A Fascinating Experiment

Australia has a country-wide obsession with horse racing. One of our national heroes is a horse, and he's enough of a legend that his preserved heart is displayed in a museum in the nation's capital. The Melbourne Cup, the biggest horse race in the country, is an event so large that it's a public holiday in the state where it's held. At my workplace it's effectively a holiday as well - our CEOs love the race so much that instead of a big boozy Christmas party, we have a big boozy Melbourne Cup lunch.

When fascinators first started being worn at the races a while ago, I found the idea of them odd. My teenage self couldn't understand why you would want to wear what was effectively half a hat. To be honest, I still don't quite understand it, but there's a prize for best fascinator at our Melbourne Cup lunch so they're pretty much required attire. I just try to think of them now as really elaborate headbands :)

Last year I bought mine and it worked well for me, but this year at my local craft store they were selling pieces for fascinators and hats cheaply. They also had a deal on - apparently if you bought all your pieces at the store they'd have a milliner make it up for you. It sounded like a good idea so I went off to the shop, only to find that none of the store assistants knew how the deal worked. This meant I ended up with lots of pieces for a fascinator, and very little idea of what to do with them.

Have you noticed that I like purple yet?
The basic idea I had in mind when I bought the bits was to have the bow stuck to the headband, then to have the other parts arranged around the side of it. The example hats in the store had the main parts sewn together, so I went ahead and did that with the bow. Given that the base was a bit of a lattice, it turned out to be surprisingly easy. The only tricky part was sewing around the actual band of the headband - I ended up having to sew blindly in and out between the base and the band and hope that I didn't prick my fingers.

My somewhat clumsy stitching
Gluing on the feathers was interesting. I borrowed my parents' glue gun, and I found that it's a deceitfully difficult piece of equipment to use when you're not used to it. A tip for working with glue guns if you haven't done it before - you have to be fast. Once the hot glue hits the air you have a very small window of time in which it's still hot. You have to be ready with the two pieces you're trying to stick together or you just end up with useless hardened lumps of glue on your item. It's also very easy to get long thin trailing bits of glue all over your work surface and yourself. Luckily, everything I was working with had pretty smooth surfaces, so it was easy enough to pick the glue off when it was dry.

Placement turned out to be harder than I thought it would be. As you can see in the photo at the top, the ends of the feathers were really thick and some were held together by black or white tape that stood out if you looked closely. (One of my friends later commented that you could see the tape.) The size of the pieces meant that it was hard to find room on the base for all of them to sit in. I ended up having to shove them into little folds of the bow that, for the sake for the sake of the fascinator's structural integrity,  I probably shouldn't have.

Once I was done, it felt a bit flimsy, but thankfully it looked okay and didn't feel like it was going to fall apart.

I think the angle of it was a bit off, and it would've been nicer if you could see more of the blue feathers when you looked at it from the front. But at the end of the day, it held itself together when I wore it and it didn't look half bad, so I was reasonably happy.

I'm not 100% convinced that making it was worth it. The price of the pieces was only marginally less than buying a one, even though they were on sale. It also didn't end up looking as good as I would've liked. Furthermore, I realised a couple of days later that one of the blue feathers had fallen off - I possibly should've used more glue.

It could just be that practice makes perfect, but seeing as these are only things I need once a year, I doubt I'll get much practice. I understand now why they're so expensive to buy, and I have a new found respect for milliners! It was definitely fun trying something new though.


  1. I'm likeing the work... I've always wanted to give making a fascinator a crack but have never been game... guess I'll have to wait till next year to see the next attempt then :)

  2. Thanks! I'm tempted to just buy mine next year though :)