Creating Fixed Turbans Over a Wired Band

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This article first appeared as part of a series of articles on European Turbans for the on-line costume magazine "Your Wardrobe Unlock'd". It was the third in the series.

If you recall in my overview article I referred to two extant turbans from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s collection. These two turbans along with several of the Fashion Plates (1) (2) from the Romantic Era lead me to the conclusion that many fixed turbans most likely started with simple caps with stiffened bands. I’m going to show how to make a base cap by adding millinery wire to buckram, covering that with fabric and adding a crown. Then I will show how to finish it by adding gathered fabric to the cap to create the Romantic Era style turban above. You could use a base cap to create a turban in many ways this is just one.

Wire Buckram Band

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#1 Cut a long strip of single weight buckram that is 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm.) wide by your head size plus 1 in. (2.5 cm.) and two lengths of medium millinery wire as long as your buckram plus a little. #2 Sew the wire to the edges of the buckram using a wide machine Zig-zag stitch.
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#3 Cover the wired edges with 1 inch wide (2.54 cm.) cotton bias then trim the extra wire. #4 Determine the overlap by holding the ban on your head at the proper level with the hairstyle you will be wearing and mark it with a pencil. You might want to do this in a mirror or have someone help you. Make sure that it fits with a little ease. By hand, with heavy thread close the band by sewing several crisscross stitches in the overlapped area.
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#5 Measure the length around you band and use the length and width to cut fabric to cover the band also cut an oval piece of fabric 14 X15”. This oval should be large enough no matter what head size you have but it you fabric is limited you might want to start with muslin to create a pattern first. You can cut these pieces on the straight of grain if it works out best for the pattern in your fabric but cutting on the bias usually works best. #6 To cover the band first with the right sides in fold the band fabric in half and sew ½ inch from the edge. Press this seam open and fold the tube around the buckram band and baste the seam edges near the bands top edge.
step8 #8 With the right sides out and the seam allowances on the outside of the cap pin then sew the crown to the band.
photo1 Here is a picture of my first finished cap from the side and the back. I did not realize until after the fact that if I had created with the instructions I just gave you that all the seam allowances would be covered in the later steps and the inside of the cap would not need to be lined. Which is why I’m telling you do it as above when it is apparent from the pictures that I did it another. Also you can see that I added a contrasting piping to my band. It looks good but as you can see the upper piping is covered in the finished turban and so it was a waste of time. If you want to add piping on the base of band you would have to have two strips of fabric to cover the band (width plus 1”) and sew them together with the piping between them along one long side. Press that flat and continue as for single piece above. Do make sure that when you cover the buckram with this you organize all the seam allowances to the outside of the band as they can take up a lot of the inside of the band and could make the band too small for your head.

Turban roll and tassel

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Step#1 The major part of the turban is made up of two rectangles of fabric 14” by the full width of the fabric from finished edge to finished edge. These are sewn together to give one piece 14”(35.6cm.) by ~108”(2.75m.). To create a turban in this manor does not necessarily take this exact amount of fabric if the fabric is thin and soft it might take more and if thick and stiff less. The fabric I used was quite stiff and medium in weight. Fold back the short ends of the fabric about 1” then, sew two rows of gathering stitches along one long side and pull the stitches until they fit the cap band. Pin the gathered fabric to the cap just above the band with the opening off center about 2”(5cm.).
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#2 By hand sew this to the cap near the gathering stitches. Roll the fabric up starting on the side that you want to be the smallest pin it to the crown as you go. If you fine you are having trouble keeping the folds of the gathers then you might want a row of hand gathering stitches on the other long edge of the fabric. #3 The fabric creates it’s own padding at least at the start. You will need to use some fiberfill in the largest section near the front where there is no fold over only a seam allowance. The thinner your fabric the more you will need to pad the turban.
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#4 Before you sew the inside edge of the rolled fabric to the cap you will need to add a tassel if you chose. The pictured tassel was made from a tube of the fabric that was hemmed on one end with a length of beaded fringe added. The finish size of the tube was 6” (15cm.) by 20” (0.5m.). A loose knot was tied about 3” (7.5cm.) from the unfinished edge of the tube. This knot was tack stitched to the cap near the roll and the raw end tucked inside the roll. #5 When you are sewing the inside edge of the rolled fabric to the cap you will be sewing into the inside of the cap so, make your stitches fairly close together so that you do not end up with long threads inside your cap that will catch on things like the pins in your hairdo.

The turban is complete at this point except for decoration. Usually because of the difficulties in storage you do not want to sew plumes that stick out and could get damaged in transport so making removable plumes and other decorations is a must. The bead/tassel decoration on the front of turban in this shot was added to a commercially available hair decoration and slipped into the folds of the turban and the aigrettes is held in place with a “U” pin at its’ base.

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#6 In the last photo the turban is shown with a spray of burnt ostrich feathers that have been wrapped and glued together at their base with fabric that also covers the head of a 4” long hatpin. There will be much more about decorations in the final article of this series on turbans in two months.
Last Revision: 7 Aug 2009

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