Wednesday 25 February 2015

A Guide to Making a Vintage-Style Whimsy

It's Whimsy-making time!

I've decided to call this a guide rather than a tutorial, because although I will be showing you how to make one simple whimsy, I'm trying to provide number of variations and options, so that it is a more flexible and adaptable.

Our whimsy is made up of three parts: the veil, the main decoration, and the secondary decorations (optional). I'm going to take you through making a ribbon bow for the main decoration, and using chenille pompoms as the secondary decorations.

Tools & Materials

  • Sewing Needle
  • Scissors
  • Thread to match veil and decorations
  • Veil (see part 1)
  • Ribbon (or alternatives, see part 2)
  • Little chenille pompoms (or alternatives, see part 3)
  • Comb or clip for attaching the whimsy

Part 1: The veil

The main body of our whimsy is the veil. The picture below shows the kind of veil I'm working with, and here in Australia it's the easiest to find. You can often find it at Spotlight, if your local shop has some millinery supplies (sometimes only temporarily during racing season). For a bigger range, some Aussie millinery supply places are Torb & Reiner, House of Adorn, and Hatters Millinery Supplies. The only overseas supplier I have ordered from is Judith M in the USA, so that's the only one I feel comfortable recommending specifically, but I'm sure many others are excellent.

Other styles of veiling are fine too, whatever you like best! If you can find vintage, the range of veiling types is much broader. They also come in different widths. Mine here is 9 inches wide, which ends up falling to my nose.

I'm using a length of about 75 cm (29.5"). "Hats on Heads: The Art of Creative Millinery" by Mildred Anlezark recommends 1 yard (91cm) . You can get a tape measure and play with lengths around your own face and see what you think will work. I'm going to be gathering it up at the back, so keep in mind that doing so will require extra length.

Gathering at the back is a nice look, and saves having to worry about a neat join.

Cut your veiling length and trim to the diamond points (that's what I'm calling the little rectangles where the diamonds join in the veiling). We are going to join the two short (cut) ends of the veiling piece together. Thread a needle with a length of thread and knot the end. Thread through one of the diamond joins, at the bottom of one edge.

Make sure it is secure and knot more if needed. Line up your two veil ends. Sew through the diamond points, catching them from each veil edge alternately.

(Variation: if not gathering up the back, tie off your thread here. Then start a new thread to gather the top edge.)

Continue stitching around the top edge of the veil. Weave the needle through the top row of diamonds. You can also catch occasional diamond points if you like. When you have reached the back seam again, gently pull your thread to gather the veil. Adjust the gathering with your fingers to help it along.

(You may need (or prefer) to gather as you go, especially if your thread is too short.)

You should now have your basic whimsy crown shape. Tie off the thread in a secure knot.

Part 2: The Main Decoration - Ribbon Bow

There are many many options for the top decoration. I've chosen a ribbon bow. Another simple option would be artificial flowers (one or a few). I know many of you sew, and might have fabric scraps around to use, so another good option is to make a fabric bow. You could use off-cuts and make a whimsy to match an outfit you've made! There are many more possibilities. (See the bringbackthewhimsy Pinterest board or Etsy list for more ideas.)

I'm using a  4cm (1.5") wide velvet ribbon. I like the look of bows with wider ribbon, but use whatever you have. For this ribbon I have cut a longer piece at 47 cm (18.5") long and a shorter piece (the centre piece) at 10 cm (4") long.

Thread a needle and knot the end. Fold your bow as shown. Tie a few stitches to hold it in this shape.

Gather the centre of the bow a little. You can do this with a little gathering stitch or by just pinching the centre up with your fingers and sewing it in place. We aren't getting a total gather here, just a bit of shape.

 Take your bow centre piece. Fold the long edges under if it is too wide (as mine is). Wrap it around the centre of your bow, and stitch in place at the back.

Trim the ends of the ribbon into a diagonal or v-shape. Now stitch the bow to the veil, covering the bunchy gathered centre.

(Variation - For artificial flowers, simply sew in place. (Or glue if you want. I won't judge you. I love glue.))

Part 3: Secondary decorations

I'm using little chenille pompoms, because they are very easy, and also because I bought two massive mixed packs of them when I was getting materials for the Bumblebee whimsy. These packs cost about $8 (I think, I got them on sale at $4), from Spotlight. The pompoms are pretty easy to buy from craft shops and online, where you can also get just one colour.

Variations for the secondary decorations are vast. Anything you can sew or glue onto veiling! Consider the weight, though, because anything too heavy will change the way the whimsy falls. If it looks weighed down, you lose the light, floaty appearance that is so charming. Consider small beads, rhinestones, buttons, tiny flowers or smaller ribbon bows. If you are a crafter, you probably, like me, have boxes of miscellaneous bits that are bound to turn up something good!

Where it isn't ridiculously tedious or impossible, I recommend sewing on decorations like this, because the glue will show through on the inside of the whimsy. Honestly that wouldn't bother me personally, but sewing is certainly a more professional look.

Thread your needle and knot the end. Go through the chenille pompom first, because it will hide the knot in its fluff. Then through a diamond point, stitch a few times, and tie off. Repeat for each pompom.

Consider the placement of the decorations. You might want to put the whimsy on and work it out in the mirror, or use a foam head if you have one. You probably don't want anything blocking your eyes or sitting right on the centre of your nose or something.

Finishing Up

To make your whimsy ready to wear, sew on a comb. I've used a plastic one here to demonstrate, because they are so easy to find, but there are also metal combs available. Any style of clip is fine, if you have something you prefer wearing.

If using a comb, I like to run my stitches in a regular pattern like this. It makes me feel neat, which doesn't happen often.

Your whimsy is complete. Wear it with joy!

Also: Bonita has shared a fabulous tutorial for making a floral corsage brooch. I think the felt flowers and felt bow would also be a wonderful way to decorate a whimsy, if you are looking for some other creative options!

Please share anything you make with me. I'd love to see your creations! 

Don't forget to use the #bringbackthewhimsy hashtag on social media. And please just ask in the comments if you have any questions.


  1. Going to search local places for veiling. This is too cute not to have an arsenal of whimsies to decorate my head during the spring and summer.
    Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Ooooh have fun! I hope you find some and get to make some fun whimsies!

  2. Excellent! I am approximately 1/20th of the way through my crocheted veiling, so it will be a while before I have pictures.

    1. Haha! Slow work but I am sure it is going to look amazing!

  3. Dear friend, you are so creative. Looks so cute! Thank you for this wonderful tutorial :)

    Beta x

    1. Aww thank you! I'm glad you find it good :)

  4. You are just too f***ing cute! Seriously, I love that last photo. The blue is gorgeous on you.
    Thank you for such an easy to follow guide, I really want to give this a try. A couple of shows did veil/whimsy type things at the spring couture shows, and I just loved how they looked. This is a great way to replicate the look for not too much money.

    1. Haha thanks! I'm glad you find it helpful, and I hope you do give it a try.

  5. I made a comment that seemed to be swallowed up into internet ether? I do love this tutorial though, and I can't wait to get my sticky mitts on some veiling so that I can make myself some whimsies. I have ideas that must be realized! Thank you for sharing this tutorial though, you've made the whole thing look super easy and achievable. :D

    And thank you for the shoutout ~ it was really kind of you Tanith. I do hope I get to see some felt flowers on one of your amazing creations sometime! ;) ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. Oh I hate it when comments get eaten :(

      I look forward to seeing what your super-creative brain comes up with, and I'm glad you find the tutorial useful :)

      Happy to share your lovely tutorial, and I do want to play with more flower making, and felt is one of my favourite materials!

  6. This is nothing short of brilliant! You're an excellent teacher, dear Tanith, and make me, a total millinery novice (insomuch as creating hats, I mean) feel like this is something I could (and should) tackle. Fantastic whimsy tutorial. Thank you very much for sharing your expertise with us (this is getting bookmarked instantly!).

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you very much! It is always hard to be sure you are giving enough detail without getting too ridiculous, so I'm glad you think I have hit the right spot. I hope you give it a try yourself!

  7. This is a great tutorial and looks like so much fun. I am definitely going to have a go.

    1. Yay! Thank you, and I look forward to seeing what you create, Kate-Em!


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