Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tutorial Time!: Fez Frenzy!

Imperial Fez-Fancier: Mahmud II

The fez is trademark headgear of the Age of Steam- not only because so many cultures wore them, but because the 19th century marked the peak of popularity for them. Understandably, the fez was named after the Moroccan city of, well... Fez- where the distinctive red dye used to color these hats was made. They were so distinctive that Sultan Mahmud(t) II declared them to be the national hat of the Ottoman Empire (to replace the turban). In other lands they became de rigeur fashion for armies (such as Algerian Zouaves) and civilians (such as jolly, port drinking gents in elaborate velvet smoking jackets) alike.
Fezzes can be worn by men or women, decorated or plain, used as a base for another hat or headdress or just on its own. To make one of these distinctive hats, follow the tutorial below (and pardon the atrocious webcam photos).

For this tutorial you will need:

- 1 sharp needle (for hand-sewing)
- Scissors
- A ruler (or other straight edge)
- A measuring tape (the more flexible the better)
- A marker (for making your pattern)
- Newspaper, a paper grocery bag, or butcher's paper (for your pattern)
- Sewing pins of any variety

- 1/2 of a yard (46cm) of the fabric of your choice (see reccomended fabrics)
- Matching thread color
- 1/2 (46cm) of a yard of Peltex (tm) one-sided or two-sided (if taking the lining option) interfacing. You can get Peltex at any big fabric store, just ask the folks at the counter. Yes, it is expensive- but you're not getting a full yard and it's well worth the dollar or so extra when you have smooth, stiff pieces to work with.
- Tassel or any other trimmings you may want to use (optional)
- 1/2 (46cm) a yard of lining material (optional)

Note: Blue tasseled, scarlet fezzes were the headgear of choice for the Turkish army.
Further note: Traditionally red was the only color used for fezzes in the Ottoman empire, however since this is steampunk, fezzes of all colors of the rainbow are welcome (and encouraged!).

Recommended fabrics: Felt (wool or acrylic, whatever is in your price range), velvet (cotton works better and is usually cheaper, but you could use acrylic. This is also the only time that I will condone the use of stretch velvet- BUT ONLY THIS ONE TIME), corduroy (corduroy makes some very handsome-looking fezzes), certain thinner weight upholstery materials (if you use too thick a material you'll be unable to hand-sew though it!).

Step 1: The pattern
This is the most difficult part of the process, I assure you. Take the measurement of your noggin and divide it in half (splitting this up will make a symmetrical, easier to draft pattern) and arrange the tape in curve, gently sloping upwards. Mark either end of your measurement, where the curve stops and where it ends. Using your straight edge, rough out the following shape. Feel free to adjust the height! My example fez is 6 inches (about 15 cm) tall- but you could make a 2-3 inch lady's fez, or a tall shriner's style fez for wrapping a turban around:

Pattern courtesy of luciusmonkey

Fold another piece of paper/sheet in half and trace your shape so that when you cut it out it's mirrored into a full arc.

Tape your shape together to test the fit, height, etc and adjust where necessery. Take a webcam photo of you being silly:

Shown: Silliness.
To draft the top, trace around the top of your base piece while it's taped together. Tada!

Step 2: Cutting it out
First, bring out your peltex. You might have to weight down the ends as it often wants to roll itself back up. Using a marker, trace your pattern- then cut it out.

The pattern traced onto the Peltex

Next, grab your outer fabric. For these pieces you want to add 1/2 an inch (1.3 cm) on all sides (except for the bottom of the fez- give yourself 3/4 (2cm) to a full inch. More on that later). This will be your seam allowance and let you clean up the sides.

Note: If you decide to line your fez (as I did here), cut the lining as you cut the peltex- close to the pattern piece.

Step 3: Fusing it together
Make sure your iron is good and hot for this! Now, the peltex has a shiny side to it- place your fabric on top of it, making sure that the back of the fabric is facing that side. Double check that you have your 1/2 in border on the sides. Press the hot iron to your fabric and interfacing, working from the outside in to assure that there are no bubbles or wrinkles in the finished product.

All pressed (now to iron on the lining!)

Optional lining step:
If you're putting in a lining, then peel off the protective plastic on the other side of the peltex and repeat with that fabric.

Step 4: Cleaning it up

Once you have your pieces bonded together, it's time to clean them up a bit.

Along the bottom of the base piece, fold the overhang over itself so it's clean and the unfinished edge is turned over. Handsew that down.

Do the same thing around the top of the base and around the circle piece. This will make putting it all together a lot cleaner and produce a much nicer fez.

Step 5: Assembling the base
Either with a sewing machine or by hand, straight stitch up the side of the base, making sure that the fez is turned inside out so that the raw edge is not visible. You should have the base done, and the flairing and arc-pattern will make that tapered cylinder that you want.

Miss Kagashi cheats with a sewing machine...

Step 6: Sewing on the top
Finally! Carefully turn your base right-side out once more. Take your top piece and set it on your cylinder- then whipstitch it into place. Be sure to take your time- if you do this too quickly your stitches will come out sloppy.

2/3 of the way there!

Step 7: Finishing it up!
So now you have a hat base with which you can stretch your creative and decorative wings! Of course there's the traditional tassel you can affix to the top- but there are other options. Such as:
-Decorative trim along the top and bottom.
-Buttons, studs, or jewelry charms or findings.
-A sash or veil pinned to the top and cascading over.
-A propeller.
-Hat pins or feather pins.
-Using your fez as a base for a turban.

After a fluffy tassel, a hat pin, and a bit of gold braid- this fez is done!

So go forth and make a fez! If you do- send me some photos (preferably of you wearing it) so that I can do an entire post to show off this menagerie of haberdashery! Happy sewing, world travelers!


  1. Thanks for tthe tutorial, I'll send you a picture of the Fez I made a couple years back for a play using your technique (although I wish I had had such a tutorial back then - I had to figure it out with just a pattern).

  2. Wow, thank you.
    I was wondering about the lining, but I've decided to play around with it. One could very easily put a pocket or elastic band inside to carry small items it would be troublesome to be found holding.
    If I may impose on your gracious petulance, I have two questions: would you put the trim around the top before stitching the top on, and do you think this pattern could be tweaked to make a reversible fez?

  3. Dear Paul-

    I would not place the trim on the fez before stitching on the top. The trim around the top is entirely optional, plus it might make it cumbersome to get a tight fit on the top.

    As for a reversible fez- what a wonderful idea! If you use double-sided interfacing and cleaned up you edges before putting the hat together, I think it would be possible! It's more in the manufacturing process than the pattern, however.

  4. I have a friend who is now going to receive a fez for Christmas. Thank you, thank you. If it turns out a jolly as I think, I'll be sure to send a photo...

  5. There's a fun project. As an aside though, I was told by a middle-eastern friend that only specific types could wear a red fez,it indicated a certain "adjustment" of male anatomy typically undertaken at birth. So some possibly interesting side-meanings to the hat.

  6. Perhaps that's why women's fezzes weren't allowed to have tassels...

  7. Fez is actually in Morocco, but other than that, fantastic article! I wish I was crafty, I would love to have my own fez.

  8. Been wearing one of these to steampunk events for a while now, as it represents my cultural heritage well (Turkish, South Asian, etc.) Great to finally see it being covered.

    See ya on the flipside,

    The Fez King

  9. Great article, and instructions... an ideal addition to any steampunk costume. Have posted a link back here for my readers... from my blog http://makinghats.com.au

  10. What a great tutorial! I had so much fun making this!

  11. if you pick a material that is too thick to easily hand sew, use a glovers needle. Its a leather working needle with a cutting tip. That and a handy pair of pliers will get you though just about anything.

  12. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I just finished my fez using your tutorial, and it is cool. http://dressdiary.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-fez-is-cool.html

  13. This was a great tutorial! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    1. What a cute fez! Glad you enjoyed the project, Kristin!

  14. I noticed you use the pattern from luciusmonkey... why do you recommend the whipstitch technique on the outside to attach the top of the fez, instead of the inside-out method suggested on luciusmonkey's tutorial? Is it just a personal preference, or does it make a cleaner looking fez? (I'd prefer to avoid handstitching if I can ^_^)

  15. I want to do some fancy embroidery around the sides in dark blue with a dark blue tassel on red felt. i would do it first before ironing the interfacing, right? Think I'm gonna cheat and use my friends fancy stitch machine. Making a fez for a friend going thru chemo. She cut off all her gorgeous auburn locks to donate before she lost it all. So she needs a fez and a bowtie. Any patterns for bow ties?

  16. I found your post while doing some research in preparation for Hat Day (1/16). It was most useful, thank you. I ended up making a video demonstrating how to make a fez from a brown paper bag for kids. But you can also use the video to help make a pattern if you want to make yours out of fabric, as I am doing now for our touring show. http://activatedstorytheatre.com/travel/2013/01/hat_day/
    I've got to make at least 6 of them and may end up doing 12. At first, I thought I could do more stitching with the machine, I am now learning otherwise. For some reason the shape of the hat and the machine don't get along too well. Live and learn.

  17. Just made two Fezzes with your gracious tutorial for a JoCo cruise my SO and I are going on. But we did notice that measuring the top was a bit hard. Ours were too big and then we had to trip it as we went a long and finagle and what not. Any recs on how to measure that part? Just tracing the inside and making it a bit bigger didn't take into account the thickness of the fabric and backing on the finished item. Thanks!

  18. A good tutorial indeed, but the hat originate from Turkey but the Moroccans make it Industrialized

  19. Lovely tutorial! I found a solid budget option in using old bubble mailers instead of Peltex - allows you to use glue fairly easily (perhaps blasphemous?), although of course I stitched it together to keep it solid.

  20. loved this tutorial! I've linked to it here:https://www.facebook.com/CostumeCon36/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel