Tutorial – Ostrich Feather Caplet

found at www.bhldn.com

What to do when you and your ‘soon-to-be’ graduating sister spy an enticing puff of ostrich feather fashioned into a bolero? Obsess about owning one!

The one we found was similar to the picture above and was a mix of marabou, ostrich and coque tails (maybe?).

I couldn’t find any information on how much ostrich feather and fluff I needed.  So I took the risk, made one myself and thought I would post a tutorial for anyone caught in the alluring web of ostrich caplets again!

I hand stitched the feathers (which can take a few evenings) and I didn’t take any photos while I did it! Sorry!

Caplet Tutorial

What you need

  • 5 metres/yards of ostrich feathers (your desired colour)
  • 5 metres/yards of marabou/chandelle or ostrich feather boa (same desired colour). If you can get some with a little bit of ostrich feather mixed in without a big increase in price – get that.
  • 55cm / 22″ of a cotton fabric in the same desired colour which will be used for stitching the feather onto
  • 55cm/ 22″ of a lining in the same or complementary colour – or something dashing
  • Fray stop or a flexible glue that dries clear (like a craft glue) to seal the trimmed ends of your strung feathers (in case you purchase them on string or a glue bind – see below)

You may end up with some ostrich feather left over – but fret not – perfect for shoes, head pieces and bunny costumes (even the adult kind!).

Ostrich feather ain’t ostrich feather unless its more than 3ply!

Strung ostrich feathers can be purchased in different ply (1 to 5 I think).  The different ply refers to the number of feather layers.  The best for this project is 5 ply –  it is beautiful and lush.  When I ran out I bought what turns out to be 1 ply ostrich feather and not so good.

I also found the option to purchase it with the end twisted within twine, stitched into a satin bias or held within a glue bind (like a book spine).  the 5 ply was a glue bind and the 1 ply was a satin bias (which was easy to work with).

5 ply versus 1ply strung ostrich feather

If you can’t buy 5 ply (oh, please find it) then you will need to double (if not triple) your quantity of ostrich feather and stitch it to the caplet doubled over to give it volume.  I purchased the 5 ply on Ebay.

Marabou boa

You can also use a chandelle boa rather than the marabou which might give you the same effect as the BHLDN picture above (why didn’t I think of that when I made mine).

I purchased white marabou and also ivory marabou mixed ostrich boa.  I though the combined ivory boa would make a nice caplet on its own but only has a small amounts of ostrich along the boa.  I will post some photos or provide a tutorial if I do make it.  I super keen to make a  caplet with hot pink chandelle boa for Miss A!).

The marabou boa I purchased had a twisted twine centre – it felt very thick and I was initially worried (and disappointed) that it wouldn’t work for a delicate caplet.  It was a devil to hand stitch and look good in the end.

Marabou vs Chandelle boa - images from www.fairyandangelwings.com


This is a one pattern piece caplet and admit that it took a few tries to get this just right.  It isn’t perfect and you could use it without ostrich feathers.

I’ve made a small, medium and large version which should fit from a US6 (AUS10) to US14/16 (AUS 18/20).

You can download the pattern here.

Step A

Cut the pattern piece out on the fold and repeat for your lining fabric.

Step B

Fold over the arm (wrong side facing out) and sew the underarm seam.  Repeat for the other side.  Easy – caplet done.  Repeat for the lining.

Step C

You don’t have to do this step but I thought it would look nicer and be far easier than trying to sew the seams together after the feathers were on (it is)!  I didn’t try and put feathers into the seam itself.  I thought that it would fall against the neck/face and be uncomfortable.  Feel free to experiment though!

With right side of the material facing each other.  Insert the lining into the caplet and sew around the neckline and front opening.  I kept sewing about 2cm/1” past the underarm seam. Use a 1.5cm 3/8” seam allowance.

Step D

Ok, now to the feathers.  The first thing is to stitch the marabou feather boa around the outside edge of the neckline and front opening.  This gives a nice effect and hides your first line of ostrich feathers (see my completed pictures below).

When I purchased my boa I was surprised by how thick the twisted string was.  I hand stitched (tacked) it on, finished with a doubled knot and then repeated 1/2”/1cm for the next stitch.  I was paranoid of using a running stitch in case it broke and the boa started to fall away (it seemed rather heavy at the time).

Step E

After you place the first line of boa you can start alternating with ostrich feather (I’ve shown the line of the ostrich feather in black dash and the line of additional boa in blue dash on the diagrams).

Stitch the ostrich close to the marabou boa hiding the stitch of the ostrich feather (under fluff).

When I reach the end (from one underarm to the other), I snipped off the feathers from the remaining length and dabbed the end with fray stop. This stopped any unraveling of the feathers from the string.  If the feathers are bound on bias trim skip it.

Leave an allowance of at least 1″/2.5cm as you go over the shoulder for the hem of the arm sleeve.

Step F

Once the upper shoulders and front lines are stitched.  You can switch to shorter lengths down the remaining back.

Leave an allowance for the back hem of at least 1″/2.5cm.  I have about triple that when I finished (as I didn’t have enough feather).  You wouldn’t know as the hem was hidden underneath the last line of the feather.

Step G

The final step is to fold the raw edge of the arms and the bottom open section of the back and top stitch to close.

I loved my completed version and my sister looked wonderful in it.

Completed front – you can’t see the other marabou boa underneath the ostrich feather

Sigh - adorable!

Back view - you can see the 1 ply feathers at the bottom

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One Response to Tutorial – Ostrich Feather Caplet

  1. Samantha Anderson says:

    I just used this tutorial to make a caplet for an Emma Frost cosplay that I am working on. Came out great – sized well and was pretty easy. Thanks so much! I’ve shared it with my friends.

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