1795 Barn Owl Costume: Feathers At Last!

Sep 18, 2009 10 comments
The half-finished, un-feathered robe has been sitting on the dress form for months with so little love given to it...until TONIGHT. (ok, well technically last night, but y'know...)

The base gown is complete except for the addition of the cap sleeves, and some minor interior finishing. This wasn't enough to stop me from diving into the box-o-schlappen and begin sewing the rows of feathers on.

They are attached with a simple running stitch, as this worked best with how the feathers are already strung together. So while there are no problems with the feathers staying on the gown, the other problems began surfacing almost immediately.

I had noticed before that the strips of strung feathers varied in size within the strip, one end being long feathers, the opposite end being quite short. To solve this, for the first several rows (from the bottom), I cut the strips in half and used long ends all the way across. Then I started to, uh, run out of feathers.

I'm not sure if I miscalculated, since now it appears I will come out exactly on the feathered dot. It may have been more a hope to save some money, or just that the feathers were not uniform in width throughout the strip (that's my best guess). I managed to just barely squeek up to where the taffeta ends and the broadcloth begins, though I count myself lucky. Now for the tricky parts.
What to do with the feathers at the top of the gown, where they needs to "end" in the dress without a sharp, ugly line of quills. The plan is to taper them up into the pleats, using a mix of leftover rooster bits, bleached goosefeathers, and real owl feathers sent to me by The Dreamstress.
The front of the gown is another challenge - there are pleats here too, but smaller, and knife pleats. I may need to get creative and fade the smaller owl feathers out of these knife pleats and into the body of the plumage.

If all else fails, I can blend in some taffeta "feathers," cut from scraps, and hand sewn to the dress. I like the idea of this, and may use it anyway.

More to come!


  1. Very exciting! Must get started on mine soon...

  2. Oh. My. Word.

    That last photo looks.... Words fail me. Lauren, you are either insane or a genius. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

  3. Hmmm. Is your taffeta polyester or silk? If it's polyester, you could do your taffeta 'feathers' and melt the edges with a candle flame so you don't have to worry about fraying.

    Okay, now you have me thinking of making feathers now. Dammit.

  4. Wow! It's is amazing! I can't wait to see pictures of you in it.

  5. Thanks, Ladies! I think it's more on the "insane" side right now, until I can get a clearer view of how it will be when finished. It's going to be a weird organic process of creation - doesn't that sounds all hippe-dippy? hahaha. Will post more later :-)

    Aranel, that's a great idea! The taffeta is indeed synthetic. I had thought to cut the feathers diagnoly on the bias so it would fray and "feather" a little bit but not completely unravel. If I go go with this, I will have to do some tests.

  6. Hello!
    Found you while searching for Barn Owl Masks, and discovered this amazing project you are working on! I have bookmarked you so I can follow your progress! Very wonderful!

  7. Awesome, Ulla, thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy! Thanks for bookmarking :-)


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