DIY Feather African JuJu Hat Tutorial

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The infamous Cameroon feather JuJu hat. I’ve been pining for one for well over a year now! I’ve pinned a million pins of all different colors, made a few small wool ones from this tutorial here, found a few decent priced ones on ebay, saved up to purchase an authentic one and debated back and forth which color I wanted best. With a semi-hefty price tag of $300-$600, these are definitely not a small purchase. But the heart wants what the heart wants and mine was set on a large white JuJu hat.

Then I came back down to earth and thought to myself: take your money and put it to use. Figure out how to make one!

When I first discovered JuJu hats, I googled a DIY version right away. Nothing came up and I wasn’t surprised. The authentic JuJu hat is hand sewn onto a raffia base. They are very detailed and intricate and I knew I didn’t have the patience or the know-how to figure out how to make one that way.

I did a lot of research on types of feathers. I spoke with several very helpful Etsy shop owners, including Katerina of StuffNFeathers. She helped me identify what types of feathers the traditional JuJu hat is made of and helped answer a whole slew of questions I had regarding my upcoming project.

At first, I looked at purchasing loose, bulk feathers to sew together, but one blessed day I discovered you could buy pre-strung feathers (feathers sewn onto a string). Whew! (And yay!) After I found out about strung feathers, I looked at several different websites, trying to decide what would be the best route to take.

I purchased my feathers through Feather Place/Zucker Feather Products. They had the best pricing and best selection. They were very friendly and great to work with, even allowing me to return a few strungs that didn’t end up working out for me. They are internet-based and have fast, cost-efficient shipping. (On a side note: do not plan on using different kinds of feathers, especially rooster schlappens. I tried white schlappens and they weren’t coarse enough. Rooster coque feathers work best for this project.)

Authentic JuJu Hats are around 30-32 inches in diameter and are made of rooster tails, or coque tail feathers. I was told that the authentic hats have feathers anywhere from 10-16 inches long. Strung coque feathers are usually sold the pound and measured by the yard. Because of the amount of yardage I needed, I decided to go with shorter feathers, because the shorter the feathers, the more yardage you get for your money, per pound.

Ideally, I wanted to purchase white coque feathers for this project, but white coque feathers are super spendy for some reason (well above what the other colors of coque feathers are priced at).  Feather Place offers a wheat/beige color and that’s what I decided to order.

Here are the specifics of what I ordered to make one 30 inch beige juju hat:

½ lb. of strung natural bleach coque feathers, 6-8 inches in size (buy them from Feather Place here). They are priced at $45.50 per ¼ lb. So, you’re looking at around $100 to make one juju hat. They have many different colors, beige was my favorite.

Other materials needed:

One large sheet of poster board

Hot glue gun

Hand-held hole punch

 

Now, I have to say that this is NOT an inexpensive project. It’s a fraction of the cost of an authentic JuJu hat and a good alternative,  but it’s still quite a bit more than I would normally spend on a craft project, especially when venturing out into unknown DIY territory. I’m happy to say it’s not unknown territory anymore. And I’m excited to share with you how it turned out! I know I can’t be the only girl out there who has been jonesing to put a heap of feathers on her wall.

 

And now a note on the difficulty of this project: it’s actually VERY easy! It takes some planning, as you do have to order your choice of feathers ahead of time. But once your shipment has arrived, it’s a project that takes maybe 30 minutes, at the very most. With a little bit of cutting and some hot glue, you’re there.

 

So, without further adieu, here we go.

 

To make the base of the JuJu hat, trace something circular (a pot, bowl, pizza pan), with the same diameter as you want your juju hat to be. Once traced and cut out, my cardstock base was about 15-16 inches in diameter.

(Note: with a 15-16 inch circle base, your finished JuJu hat will be around 28-30 inches in diameter.)

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Cut out the circular trace, as pictured.

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Fold the cardstock circle in half in order to find the approximate middle, then cut halfway through your circle, to the very middle, as pictured.

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Overlap the sides slightly (maybe 1-2 inches) and then staple them together a few times for added sturdiness. You’ll want a slight cone shape once this part is done.

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Once stapled like this, flip it over. You will be gluing the feathers to the other side.

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This is what strung feathers look like. Lovely! Someone else did much of the dirty work! It’s worth every penny!

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Take the feather strung and line it up, as pictured. Once it’s lined up, you can begin gluing it to the base.

Note: If you don’t get the strung lined up just right, don’t worry! I had to remove and reglue a few inches here and there. It may tear a few single feathers away from the strung, but it doesn’t ruin it by any means.

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This is what the JuJu hat looked like when I completed gluing the first layers. (There are a total of three layers to be glued.)

Once you’ve glued the strung in an entire circle (as pictured), you can clip off the excess and use it for the next layer.

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To begin gluing the second layer, place another strung of feathers 2 inches or so apart the first glued strung.

Before you begin gluing the second layer, I would suggest taking the remaining strung of feathers and layering them appropriately, to see your potential finished project. If you have a 15-16 inch cardboard base and have purchased 1/2 lb. of strung feathers 6-8 inches long, you will be gluing approximately three layers of strung feathers to your base. By arranging the remaining two layers before you glue them down, you’ll be able to approximate exactly where to begin gluing the second layer of feathers. That way you can see how many feathers you have left and how to use them proportionally, and hopefully you’ll be able to avoid running short.

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This is what the juju hat looked like after I completed my second layer of strung feathers.

Note: I popped up the middle of the cardboard base, since it was easier to glue that way.

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I glued a third and final circular layer of feathers in the middle of the JuJu hat. You may want to cut 1-2 inches off the very end of the remaining strung and use those to place a groupling of shorter feathers in the very middle of the juju hat. You can trim the groupling to be much shorter, so the juju hat looks groomed and more like the authentic, hand-sewn JuJu hat.

Once I got to this point, I hole-punched a hole on the back of the cardboard base so I could hang it easier. You may want to hang your juju hat someplace lower, say eye-level, so you can see which feathers need additional glue behind them to keep them in place. Some will likely fall forward. You’ll probably also need to fluff the feathers and situate the cardboard base a bit, as well.

Here’s my hat (which should really just be called a glorified wreath : ) just after the third layer of feathers had been glued.

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And here it is after it had been fluffed, nipped and tucked.

A $100 version of the $600 African JuJu Hat! Woooohooooo!

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Here’s the one I made for my bedroom. I ordered 1 lb. and it was enough to make two!

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Next up for tomorrow: a second way to make your own feather Juju Hat!

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