Gustoweh Headdress Instructions
An Eastern Woodland Gustoweh (“Real Hat”) is a traditional Native American headdress. This is one of the most appropriate headdresses for Eastern Woodlands Indian Regalia. Follow these Gustoweh Headdress Instructions to make your own ‘Real Hat’!
- Barred Wing Turkey Feathers about 20
- Wood Splints for Frame
- Fabric (10” x 26”)
- Cotton Fabric Strips
- #1 Glover’s Needle
- Black Warp Thread
- Electrical Tape
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Glue or a Hot Glue Gun
- Wood Feather Sockets & Pin Sets (Optional, up to 3)
- Bronze Turkey Tail Feathers (Optional, up to 3)
You can acquire these materials separately or purchase a Gustoweh Headdress Kit from the Wandering Bull with the supplies you need to make a Gustoweh!
Create the Frame:
To construct the frame, wrap a piece of the Wood Splint around your head. This browband should rest about 1” above your eyebrows and at the top of your ears. Do not make it too tight because you will wrap the frame with fabric. Overlap the ends of the Wood Splints about 2” at the back. Secure the ends with the Tape. Use additional Wood Splints to make 2 cross pieces over the top of the frame. Place one from front to back and one from one side to the other. Place the browband on your head and measure each piece so it starts and ends at the browband and rests lightly on the top of your head. Secure these with the Tape as shown.
Cover the Frame:
Use Fabric Strips to cover the frame. Start at the back of the frame and completely wrap the browband part of the frame. Sew or glue the loose ends together. Sew or glue a new strip to the fabric on the browband and wrap the cross pieces. Wrap carefully, because a neat wrapping will be more comfortable to wear. Sew or glue the loose end to the fabric.
Note: The Mohawk and Onandaga style Gustowehs leave the wrapped frame exposed, so you do not need to cover the frame with the larger piece of Fabric. For Oneida, Seneca, Tuscarora and Cayuga styles, continue with the next step.
Use the 10″ x 26″ piece of Fabric to cover the entire frame. Using a whip stitch, start at the back and attach the long side of the Fabric to the bottom edge of the browband with the needle and thread. Then gather the top edge and loosely stitch the fabric together overlapping the edges. The fabric should stay loose, and not tight like a skullcap. You will attach the Sockets to the top next.
Prepare the Feather Sockets:
Choose the Gustoweh Style you will make to determine the number of Feather Sockets you will use.
Feather Sockets hold the Feathers on the top of the Gustoweh. You can make Sockets from old wood thread spools, old plastic film canisters or a piece of wood 1″ in diameter x 1.5″ long. Drill a hole vertically through the center of your socket if there isn’t one. Then drill two holes on opposite sides near one end of the socket.
You can use a wire coat hanger or a similar gauge wire for the pins. You will need two 4″ long wires for each feather. Use Needle Nose Pliers to bend a 1/4” eye in one end of one wire for each feather. Insert the Pins with the 1/4” eye into the Feather Sockets so the eye goes to the bottom. Run the remaining pin pieces horizontally through the holes at the bottom of the Feather Socket so it catches the 1/4” eye and holds it in place.
This will allow the pin to wiggle inside the Socket, and the attached feather will move when the headdress is worn.
Attach the Feather Sockets:
To attach the Feather Sockets & Pins to the Gustoweh Frame, bend the ends of the horizontal Pins down. Place the bent ends so they straddle the top Wood Splint. Gently push the Pins through the Fabric. Then bring the ends of the Pins together around the Splint and twist them to hold the Socket in place. Repeat these steps for the number of Sockets you are using. Place the first Socket at the top leaning to the back. Attach additional Sockets down the back.
Create Feather Strips:
Strip the webbing from the Barred Wing Turkey feathers to make wavy, loose feather strips. Carefully pull the feather sides down and away from the center quill starting at the top of the feather. It may take a few practice peels to get the knack of the process. Peel all of the Barred Wing Feathers (not the Bronze Turkey Tail Feathers). You can use all of the pieces, regardless of size.
Take 8 of the peeled feather strips at a time and wrap thread around the bottoms to make feather bundles. Add some glue to hold the feathers and thread in place.
Sew the feather strip bundles securely to the Fabric or the Fabric Strips. Start at the base of the Feather Sockets. Attach shorter bundles to the front and the longer ones towards the back. Space them evenly apart and arrange as many as you need to get the look you want.
Add one Bronze Turkey Tail Feather to each pin on the top. Snip the bottom of the Bronze Tail Feathers off to expose the hollow part of the feather quill. Slide the Bronze Turkey Tail feather on to the pin. You can remove the Bronze Turkey Tail Feathers for storage & transportation.
Decorate your Gustoweh:
Watch our 3 part video on How to make a Gustoweh