As some of you may (or may not!) know, I brought over eighty fans to the Jane Austen Festival to give away as freebies last year. As I didn't want to give away plain white fans, I got very well acquainted with different ways of decorating fans- I bought a pack of 100 fans, after all!
This tutorial was initially how I wanted to decorate the freebie fans, but it turned out to be a little too time-consuming. However, this experiment won't go to waste as I can share the method so you can make your own decorative fans!
Beautifully made and decorated fans were big in the Georgian and Regency era; as an almost required accessory for the wealthier classes, it made sense that women (and men!) would show off their wealth through intricate and delicate fans.
I first became aware of souvenir fans when I saw this one at the Holburne museum. You find a lot of 'souvenir' items dating from the Georgian/Regency era, and later, and not just fans; I have found purses, garters and needle cases all with 'souvenir' stitched into them. I especially love the fans as they usually have representations of the places they're a souvenir from.
There are also other examples of painted fans depicting current fashions,
tributes to opera singers
and (one of my favourites) ones that you can actually use as masquerade masks!
If it happens to influence your sourcing, brisé fans (fans with pieces cut out of the slats to give it a lacy appearance) were very popular during the Regency period. Fans also became a little smaller during this time in order to fit into women's reticules (small bags).
A fan: in this tutorial I'm using one made from paper and wood, although I'm sure this would work with other materials, so long as you have the right adhesive.
The style I'm using seem to be branded as 'party favours' and they're very cheap, but oftentimes come in a multipack (which may be worthwhile, actually, with how long it took me to get these right...).
An image: large enough to cover your fan!
I had to use an A3 printer in order to cover the size of my fan, so keep that in mind when purchasing your fan base if you don't have access to an A3 printer. Even using an A3 printer, there were still some white bits that I had to cover up using a dark pen.
Sourcing a large image from a picture frame or buying a print would also work. Piecing an image together is also an option.
For this tutorial I'm using this image from the Rijks Museum, which is an absolutely marvellous online source; all of the images on there are fair use, and are such good quality it's actually mind blowing.
Glue: normal PVA is fine, if you're working with the same materials I am.
Plus: a pencil, scissors, blu tack (and optional: bulldog clips).
If you've only got one fan, you may want to take a picture of it, front and back. This will make things easier when following the direction of the folds later on.
1. Remove the old covering from the slats.
Try to be as delicate as possible with this as you'll need that covering to make a pattern in a second!
2. Make a pattern from the old covering.
I used card to make the pattern, just so it would be a little hardier, but using normal paper is fine too.
On your pattern, mark which side is the front (this is very important as fans aren't perfect semicircles, so if you start working from the wrong side it won't work). Also mark out each fold in the fan and the direction that the fan folds.
Marking out the folds can be tricky as if you move the semicircle by even a millimetre the angle will be completely wrong. Be aware of this as you make your markings.
3. Acquire the new fan covering.
This may be a print-out, or something you sourced from somewhere else.
If you are doing a print-out, I have a few tips for you: if you scan the pattern in using the A3 printer, you can put that on a document as use it as a guide when selecting images to print. You can see if they will work with the shape of the fan (remember that it's in an arc shape, so the composition has to compliment that), and also cut down any unnecessary extra bits to save on ink.
For finding period-appropriate images, I've already recommended the Rijks Museum, but the Met, Smithsonian and the British Library flickr account all have good quality images (I've put some nice images I found at the end of this post too).
4. Transfer the pattern to the new covering.
Using the pattern you drew out earlier, trace around your picture using a pencil (a pencil is best as it has a slight shine, so even if it's a dark image you'll still be able to see it).
Make sure the pattern is the right way around- double check you can see the marked 'front' on the pattern, and the image is the right way up.
I'm using pattern weights to keep the pattern in place as I trace it, but you can also use blu tack. Do be careful if you use blu tack though, as it can leave a residue on your image.
5. Cut out the new covering.
Try to be as precise with this as you can.
6. Copy the marks from the pattern onto the new covering.
I'm doing this on the back so I can see the marks easily, and I also don't ruin the picture. Again, make sure the pattern is the right way around, although it should be obvious if it's wrong at this point.
To keep the right angle, I pre-folded my pattern so I could turn each piece back and out of the way as I marked it.
7. Fold your new covering.
I did many experiments, and this turned out to be the best way to get a neat finish, and to make the gluing process easier.
Following the markings, pre-fold the new covering. I had a spare fan to reference the way the fan folded, but if you don't have a spare, now is the time to reference your pictures.
This is quite a tedious and precise business, so have some music or a podcast playing! I am not a terribly precise person, but it does pay off to try and be as neat as possible (even if you get bored halfway through like I did- maybe take a break in the middle!).
You should end up with a lovely little accordian!
8. Attach the end slats to the new covering.
On my fan (as with most fans, I think), one side of the covering is stuck on top of the end slat and one is stuck behind. Reference your pictures to get these the right way around.
As you glue either side, make sure that the rest of the slats are behind the new covering. If you do glue the slats on the wrong side- don't fret! Just circle them around and they should end up on the right side.
[Optional] You can keep the covering in place as it dries using bulldog clips. On the side that's glued on top, I put a little paper padding just in case the wet glue softened the paper and it came away with the bulldog clip.
Leave to dry. It shouldn't take very long!
9. Glue the rest of the slats.
Now, this part caused me a lot of trouble too. After a lot of very poor attempts, I found that the best way to do this is by gluing down one or two slats on either side of the fan, then doing one or two in the middle, and working your way in from that.
If you start gluing from just one side, the image tends to drift and you end up with it not matching up with the slats at all, despite being ever so precise with your cutting and folding efforts.
(An example of one gone wrong!)
Make sure the slats are in the right order too! It's very easy to glue them in the wrong order, and then the fan won't fold at all.
It also helps if you fold the fan up, either after gluing each slat (if you don't mind waiting for each one to dry), or after you've glued down a couple. This helps you make sure that the fan can fold neatly and there isn't any bowing in the slats or mismatch in them once they're folded.
10. Neatening up.
If there are any overhanging bits of paper you can cut them down, or if any slats are poking over the top you can cut them down too.
Once the fan is completely dry, you can tie it up in elastic bands and leave it overnight, just to set the folds and ensure it will fold easily.
And voila! I'm sure you can see why I said this method was too time-consuming, but it was fun figuring out how to do it anyway. If you do follow this tutorial, show me your fans and let me know if you did better than me on your first time doing it!
If you're curious about how I printed the fans for the JA Festival do ask, as that was a learning process too! Printing on fans is no easy task!
Until next time,
(That I think would also work well with fans!)