Fine Feather Hat Bands

Feather hat bands add a touch of natural elegance to cowboy hats and similar headgear. And you can make them yourself.


| November/December 1979



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Feather hat bands stretched out on the work table and in place on a couple hats.


PHOTO: ALLAN BOYER

My husband and I just hate to see anything go to waste when there ought to be a use for it. So when—during a drive to town—we encountered a dead pheasant that had been hit by a car, we naturally stopped to pick the bird up.

After all, we couldn't leave the fowl's incredibly beautiful feathers—copperred, green, brown, and white—just lying there (we natural-born scroungers have an instinct for such potentially useful raw material). Allan and I collected the unfortunate bird, skinned it, salted the hide down, and stashed it in the garage to dry.

Before too long, however, the feathered leather found its way into the house, where it had a habit of falling out of closets (and onto people's heads). We kept stuffing it into one dark corner or another while waiting for some use—we knew we'd find one—to suggest itself.

The Perfect Purpose

Sure enough, it wasn't long before I spotted a hat with a feather hat band and realized our pheasant's true calling. The first thing we did was to tear up the skin (now dry and almost brittle), and separate the clusters of pheasant feathers into groups with similar colors and patterns. (The hide "backing" holds the clumps together until we're ready to use the individual feathers, thus eliminating "pheasant blizzards" when somebody opens the door unexpectedly. This sorting method also keeps the plumage's natural patterns intact, and gives a better impression of how the feathers should fall for the most "artistic" effect.)

While the "dress" of any colorful bird can be used to create attractive hat bands, the variety of feathers found on a pheasant allows a craftsperson to get half a dozen totally different effects from one hide. The neck feathers provide a rich, coppery color. The bird's shoulder areas, with their brown and white design, are particularly effective. The gray-green, plumy feathers near the tail can be turned into a marvelously exotic creation.

Easy and Elegant

We found that making feather hat bands is an easy craft, and requires few special tools or materials. You'll need scissors, glue, leather, a hole punch of some sort, and possibly a knife. (Use the dull edge of the latter tool to uncrimp feathers that have a little too much curl in them.) As to the plumage itself, ask your hunting friends (if you don't "forage" wild game yourself) for their bird skins, or—as we do—simply watch for fresh road kills at any time of the year.





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