How to decorate with short feathers

While working with the latest Tellerbarret and its feathers, a type of landsknecht hats seems to be covered with fluffy feathers poking almost straight out on the brim and at each top, decorated with a tip of some kind.

I couldn’t find any information about how to achieve the look, and started some small experiments to see what can be done to get a similar look. 

1) the feathers pokes almost perfectly straight out from the brim

– a normal wing plume top will “dip”, especially if you add a baubles on the end. 

– most feathers of “normal” length is too long, and would go too far out over the brim

Possible solution: cut the feather in desired length, use the stiff part …of course it hurts a little to cut off a perfectly good feather! But, it’s actually a good way to reuse any old broken feathers you may have (and I saved the nice fluffy feather tops to be used for later hats)

2) make the feathers look all round and fluffy

– one feather isn’t enough, sew at least two together

– each feather is curled to achieve maximum fluffiness 

I’ve used this technique before, read more about how-to-do or follow the quick tutorial;

 3) Attach the decoration
The First Book of Fashion describe one hat to be decorated with   “[…] white ostrich feathers […] augmented with gilt aiglets”. Excellent, and simple:


4) the result 

(Sorry for the potatoe quality, my iPads camera is getting a bit old nowadays)  

I’ve made two so far; don’t be tricked by the few steps involved in this tutorial, curling the vanes is what you’re going to hate the most… 2 down, 14-20 more to go before it covers the whole brim

How I made the hat
5) future changes

– I used high quality wing plumes for these sets, but since I’m cutting them in half, I wonder how it would look if I instead used ordinary feathers. The stiffer feathers might also be easier to curl ..and cheaper. Which is of course is a plus.


People on my Facebook page suggest the feathers to be called “frizzel/frizzle” feathers, the word “frizzle” dates back to the 16th c (Thank you W.Grant and D.Gonzales)


Graf August Johann Breünner Enkevoerth, Jacob von Falke (edited by M. McNealy), Landsknecht Woodcuts: Kriegsvölker im Zeitalter der Landsknechte, 2013 (originally published 1883)

Rublack, Hayward and Tiramani (edited), The First Book of Fashion: the Book of Clothes of Matthäus and Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg

Fabric Covered Tellerbarret

An inventory in the Textiler Hausrat mention a fabric covered straw hat, and I decided to try the technique by doing a specific kind of Tellerbarret. First book of fashion also mention hats covered in fabric, but doesn’t give any clues of what the base might be made of. Probably not all hats of this type have a strawhat base, but since it’s cheap and availble I found it suitable for a campfollower.  

The hat is based on Erhard Schöns “Landsknecht and Wife”, 1525-1530.

How I made the hat;

1) Take a straw hat and mark and cut of the top. Don’t worry if the hole is too big, you’re going to add a layer of fabric, which will reduce the size some, and if you planning to wear it on top of some kind of head cloth, you kind of want it to be larger than your head.

  In this case I used an old straw which was a bit damaged anyway. 

2) measure the width of the brim and double the measurement and add seam allowance, this is the width. Measure the outer circumference of the straw hat, and this is the minimum length of the fabric. My straw hat was exactly the width of my fabric, which was nice.

Tip: wool rips really easy: just snip and rip in perfectly straight lines.

Mark the middle of the fabric and put in gatherings threads, mine is about 1/2 inch (2 cm) between. I choose to make two rows on each side of the middle, to ensure that the pleats would stay neat on both side of the brim. (Honestly, I remade my gathering threads six times before I settled for this kind. Do as you believe works best for you)

3) pull the gatherings thread carefully, you-do-not-want-them-to-brake! I used a thicker linen thread, it still broke, and I had to remake it. Fun times… Fold the fabric over the hat and place the gathered part along the inner hole. I then pulled and pinned the fabric evenly over the brim, making sure it was evenly stretched.

4) I made sure I’ve pinned all the way around on the brim and let go of the pins around the outer edge, so I could fold and whip stitched the two layers of fabric on the outer side, without loosing the even pleating. 

5) the inner hole with the two rows of gathering thread ended up even and nicely 

6) I wasn’t able to find any leeds on how the top of a fabric covered Tellerbarret would look like, so instead I study several different other models of a wide flat type of hat around the same period,  to get an idea what would be most plausible design. Here is three examples of the construction of the crown: 


A) most tops seems very flat, some looks like they are made out of a cut out round circle, some like they’ve been shaped (felt? leather?) or possibly sewn out of several pieces. The design I chose is based on the first woodcut which seems to have a curve. 

B) some hats seems to have some sort of butto- like decoration on the top.

C) I’ve noticed that a cord during this period, often seem to go through the brim and over the head.

7) a friends pattern of a hat crown seemed to be similar to the shape I was looking for; measure the base to be sure it will fill up the hole on your hat, don’t forget to take any seam allowance into the calculation. Cut out four, sew together. 

8) the crown is then sewn on to the brim; the edge is folded to keep it hidden. The edge is then whip stitched to the brim, which also helps keep the pleating even.


9) add cords; when you look at the woodcut, the cords seems like they goes through/attached to the brim rather then the seam between the crown and brim, so I punched a hole through all the layers and pulled my cord through it.


10) …and the hat is finished to be decorated with feathers; I am still working on how to get the same look as the woodcut, I have some ideas I’ll experiment with and publish when I’m satisfied with the result.

Amount of work hours around 8-10 hours.


Things to work on:

When studying and compare my finished hat with the woodcut, a few things might need a tweak.

– thinner cord

– smaller straw hat; the size between head and edge is smaller then mine.

– more fabric? The woodcut shows more pleats, which is also smaller. Since I made the hat out of Melton wool, I would probably need to experiment with either a thinner wool or another type of fabric.


Zander-Siedel, Textiler Husrat: Kleidung und Haustextilien in Nürnberg Von 1500-1600. (English translation by Katerine Barich), 1990

Graf, Breünner, Jacob, Landsknecht Woodcuts: Kriegsvölker Im Zeitalter der Landsknechte (edited by M. McNealy), 2013

The first book of fashion: the book of Clothes of Matthäus and Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg (Edited by Ulinka Rublack and Maria Hayward), 2015

Tece de Kaxtone, Drachenwald,

How to keep the hat on your head

1) Lets tie this hat to the head 

The Graf woodcut shows some kind of cord thread through the brim and tied on top of the head and the woodcuts also shows the same construction on both men and women. (Swiss)

The Coloured woodcut shows a man with a similar construction, this time with the cord (which looks like it’s simply a piece of fabric) wrapped around the hat to keep it from fall off. (Swiss?)

And isn’t it pretty cool to see an extant piece of a very specific construction? The last pictures is a British hat made out of leather where the cord goes through the brim and it has also a little cut out, presumably to add a feather as the reconstruction shows. (Maybe they should have tied the cord on the head, though?) (British) 

This technique seems to have been used by Landsknechts as well. The first Woodcut may even show a slight,y different approach where the band might not really go through the brim, instead pulls throug the split of the brim (bonus detail; is it buttons, pins or the top part of a pulled through cord that is visible on the brim?) (Germany)

2) The stitched on cord 

The left picture shows a coif with the cord sewn on to the ear flap. (British)

The right woodcut shows a hat presumably hanging around his neck via a cord but without any sign of a cord that runs across the crown; It might be a construction similar to the coif, with a sewn on cord. (German)

3) The cord through the brim flap

Here the brim has been cut and that piece is folded down. The cord is attached either through a punched hole or sewn to the flap. (Swiss)

4) The cord through the folded brim

 Maybe this cord is attached according to the same principles as example number 1 …or maybe the cord just goes through the brim and hides behind the fold around the crown, or its part of the cord seen on the brim? At least we can say that this type of hat also can be equipped with a cord. (Germany)

5) Tied behind the neck

Maybe, maybe not; but doesn’t it kind of look like she has a bow on top of her head? If that’s the case, then the hat is probably tied around the neck since there isn’t anything visable under he chin. (Swiss?)
6) That special snowflake

I love it!



V&A’s Collection

Kunstmuseum Basel

British Museum

Museum of London

The Art Institute of Chicago

Museum Boijman Van Beuningen


Landsknecht Cap …what should a man wear underneath his hat?

Maybe you don’t want to wear your wool hat directly on your head, it can be itchy but it also makes the hat dirty with all that human sweat penetrating the hat for day after day. As a women it’s usually pretty simple, you just wrap a head floaty, where a haube or something else similar, depending on what kind of German class you belong to.

Lately several people have asked me for what a man properly should wear underneath his hat and it makes me so happy because I’ve tried once to convince my husband into wearing the awesome period caps you sometimes see in paintings, underneath his hat. He wasn’t as amused as I was, and to his defense, he more often puts on his Landsknecht outfit more to please me and make me happy …he definitely prefers early period clothing. So I let him wear his hat as he please, with either a Schlappe or a coif underneath, it’s not the end of the world.

But for those who might be a bit curious about what a guy can wear underneath a hat, I present the cap, a neat little haube for men and i only have seen it being worn once so far and it made me excited to see that little cap on this guy (thank you Sir Måns!), because paying attention to details is such a satisfying feature and I applause all those who do it.

Here is a small sample of different caps worn by men in Germany during the 16th century, and maybe I make one and just hope I’ll someday may convince my husband to wear it.


Schlappe, Kappe, Coif, Armoring Cap

A sneak peek on one of my several projects; decoding a pattern for the German cap. I’ve found 3 different kinds so far;







The patterns is probably something like this;


Step one; figuring out the proportions for the hat by using an old pattern for another kind of German hat



Need to make some adjustments of the top (to big, to square) and make the backside a bit wider.

Back to the drawing table!

Maybe the pattern for alt 2 is like this;

That would save some fabric, sewing and would be faster to make?

The idea worked out pretty good

And I found the same concept at Tece de Kaxtone’s blog (if you want some more inspiration for hats).

Feather, feathers and plumes!

How do I decorate my 16th century hat?

The ostrich feather, big voluminous plumes, in a hat is what catch your eye when you see the 16th century Germany dresses, even though many hats during that period didn’t have any feathers, or maybe only one single one. The feather comes from the ostrich, who derives from Africa, but now has spread all over the world via farms due to their adaptations to the climate. The feathers of adult males are mostly black, with white feathers on the tip of the wings and a white tail. Females and young males are greyish-brown and white.

The ostrich gives you a couple of different kind of feathers, depending on where on the body it was located, long, short, stiff, soft etc. The wing feathers provides the big fluffy and soft plumes.

The plumes has a very nice and soft tip that ‘bobble’ when you wear it, in contrary to feathers which have a stiff tip …but plumes are also more expensive then the regular feathers, so choose what you want to spend.

Wing feather/plume (left) and feather (right)

How many feathers should I use?
The feathers are important for the impression the hat is going to make, a hat without feathers can still be a beautiful piece of handicraft, but adding feathers always gets the ooooh and aaaah. Feathers also provides stiffening to the brim …as well as extra sail for the wind. How many feathers depends on how you planning to show them and depending on the purpose of your hat; is it going to become an art and science piece competing in period accuracy? Then you should choose feathers appropriate to your outfit, the feathers was expensive back in the days, and even today the feathers cost a lot (Plumes/wing feathers are more expensive then ordinary feathers, the one I use cost around $6-7 (45-50 SEK) per plume, and can be found at Pimp Your Garb or Kapitelhusgarden).

My small hats has a tendency to have around 7 feathers, that gives me the look I want too have (I loose some, I add some…).

To give you an indication of how feathers was used, study woodcuts and paintings of different classes and sexes and areas of what we usually define as the 16th century of Germany. There is woodcuts with Landsknechts, paintings with Saxon princess, religious paintings and portrait, you can study, depending what area you are interested in.

Here is some example:

You can spread the feathers evenly all around the brim like this:
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You can have one or two feathers, straight up or hanging down, or one point forward or both pointing backwards or evenly resting on the brim on both side of your head:
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You can choose an amount of feathers somewhere in between, and have them point straight up, or spread evenly on both sides, or all to the front, or all hanging in the back:
0da67f16fa11683a60fe96d4b6d7b095 5f8df91f5819b850965d99f7c6356043 82ff4f5764d902de2d5f9a354cbc1f22 a5876ccc40392befe4fa165b0199416b beb9d19a8c3dbb2a1f8686c98393236b ecd0214a2ec6107fa8c74e28e92a4a9f

Strictly speaking, the amount of feathers depends on your status: an officer has probably more feathers then a simple drummer, a Saxon princess has probably higher quality feathers then a trossfrau etc. An officers female follower has probably more feathers then a follower to a foot soldier, a middle class women has probably fewer then a general etc. There is probably even a different depending where in Germany you live, so there is all kind of different variable that needs to be taken in consideration when making a hat proper to your dress …or just choose to add the amount of feathers you wish to have, and be satisfied with your ooooh’s and the aaaah’s as you walk by.

Most of the woodcuts and paintings are portraits, often made to make the motif look their best, or sometimes a generalization of how a group is presented. The feather was probably not part of the everyday dress, especially for the lower classes, but more often used when posing, processing etc, and they could also been added as a symbol of power, purity or flamboyant. I’ll talk more about symbolism in renaissance paintings and woodcuts in the next blog.

If we then study paintings of camp scenes or painted groups of people, we will probably get a more appropriate window into the every day life:


Detail of painting of Karl V camp, 1546
You see around 50 people in the painting, and still nobody is wearing any feathers among the landsknechts and camp follower, even though almost every single one is wearing same style hat as above (one guy in a red hat has something that might be interpreted as feathers laying on his brim)

Feathers seem to be more common among the nobles (especially women …and men dressed in armour)…and landsknechts. The middle class seem to have a more humble approach and maybe only wear one feather, if they have any at all. The trossfraus, the camp followers of the landsknechts (which I’m specifically interested in), seem to wear feathers more often when posing; alone or in the company of a landsknecht, rather then during a march, cooking, or any other everyday chores (which makes sense of course).


One exception is the picture “La Lansquenette” (pic no 7) which shows a fully dressed trossfrau loaded with things and obviously on the march.

More woodcuts and paintings from the 16th century, Germany, can also be found at my Pinterest

How do I attach the feathers?
First you have choose the amount of feathers you wish to have on your hat, then you want to attach them in some way to prevent them from falling off. Some people stitch them to the hat, I prefer to use pins, sturdy pins around 2″ (7-10 cm) so I can re-arrange them if I want, but it’s also easier to get them to stick where I want them to be. I prefer this type of hat pins:

Before I attach them, I always curl them to give them that perky look, there is several ways to curl a feather, but I’m usually just start at the top of the feather, grabbing it carefully between my thumb and fingers and pull it towards the tip …working my way down the stim until I have reached the curl I want.
Normal feather and slightly curled feather …and curled feather and really, really curled feather that takes the shape of a spiral

Spiral curled feahter

Some feathers might have a thick vane, so you need to soften it: boil a pan of water and hold the feather over the steam to soften the stim before curling.

It becomes very obvious when you curl the feather from which side of the bird the feather comes from, use the natural right or left feather when decorating the hat.20130927-175641.jpg Left and right curl

Don’t rush this part of attaching feathers, it takes me around an 30-40 min to attach feathers to a new hat. Do it in steps: curled the feather, attach it, take a look, attach another two, take a look of the result etc. After you’re finished with the placement, then use the pins to be secure them in place.

20131016-151046.jpg 20131016-151055.jpg
Slightly curled feathers attached to a Saxon hat

Spiral curled feathers attached to the same hat

20131016-151220.jpg 20131105-145027.jpg
The hat to the left has 22 curled feathers, the hat to the right has 29 spiral curled feathers
Same hat, with spiral curled feathers, where the feathers are pointing upwards instead of resting on the brim.

Don’t forget to attach the pins to secure the feathers from not falling off in the wind.

How many feathers, how you curl them, depends on what kind of hat you have and what kind of result you are after:


1) My small hat: where my feathers points straight up (the surrounding people are very happy about that) and I use on top of my wulsthaube.
2) The easy one: that I can just slip on top of a simple headpiece
3) The Saxon hat that gives great protection from the Californian sun (and Swedish rain): The last hat should be used to a Saxon dress, but apparently I can’t find any picture of myself in one… I apologies for the slightly anachronistic way I wear it. But it was a GREAT sun protection! …note that I basically just added some feathers on one side on the last one.

How do I transport and storage the hat?
The feather is pretty strong, I usually just roll it into my veil, mostly because the feathers has a tendency to get stuck in the zipper… I rarely remove the feathers from the hat, but I also have soft hats with no wire nor buckram or anything that stiffen it. Just plain old double layer of wool. Well, except for my Saxon court hat, that one actually has a layer of plastic inside, and the size is perfect fit to my bag, but with out the feathers…

My feathers has been through rain and has always regain their fluffiness after they dried, but if the feathers starts to look a bit sad, then remove them from the hat and use a mild shampoo and rinse them in luke warm water, dry them with the tip down, or if you are in a hurry, blow dry them on cool settings, smooth the vane with your fingers during the time your air blow them and redo the curls if necessary to make them fluffy again.

Heat, sun, dust, soap etc can damage the feathers in the same way as your skin and hair, becoming dry and fragile. My feathers seem to have about 2-3 lifespan before they become dry and brakes when I curl them. (It doesn’t stop me from using them as filling between other more fresher feathers) The feathers can be attacked by insects and mites so storage your feather (and hat if they are still attached) the same way you storage your wool dresses, cedar has a natural repellent to insects, and you can buy cedar balls to put into your hat box, the box will keep the feathers away from direct sun light when your are not using it. Avoid storage the feathers in plastic bags, since that will prevent them from breathing.

(If you choose to use dyed feathers, then be sure that they won’t bleed in the rain, otherwise it may discolour your hemd.)

Lucas Cranach Digital Archive
– M. McDonald, Ferdinand Columbus: Renaissance (London, British Museum Press, 2005)
– Wikipedia
– Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce
– Bishop Museum, The care of feathers, 1996
– Pinterest