How to Make War Bonnets

Written by sarah coennen
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How to Make War Bonnets
Indians depicted with war bonnets (native wood image by John Sfondilias from

A war bonnet, or Native American headdress, is part of a costume that denotes the chieftain of a tribe. These headdresses are colourful, bright and long. They can extend past the waist and down to the legs. They are made from colourful feathers and a strip of leather. These can be used for Native American costumes for dress-up or Halloween. War bonnets were typical of the tribes of the plains. They would wear these war bonnets for special ceremonies and in times of war.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 30 eagle feathers
  • Soft and fluffy feathers
  • Bonding glue
  • Strips of thin leather
  • Wide band of leather
  • Thread or string
  • Pencil or chalk
  • Leather needle
  • Awl (optional)

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  1. 1

    Take the eagle feathers and glue some soft and fluffy feathers 2 inches above the bottom of the quill of the feathers to give them a fluffy and ruffled appearance on the stem. Continue gluing the soft and fluffy feathers up the back of the eagle feather. Repeat with all 30 eagle feathers.

  2. 2

    Wrap the quill end of an eagle feather with a piece of thin leather and make a loop at the bottom that hangs off the quill a bit. Glue the leather onto the feather.

  3. 3

    Tie a loop of string or thread through the leather loop. Glue the knot to secure the hold.

  4. 4

    Lay out all of the eagle feathers. Choose the best one for the centre line. Spread the rest out to either side and play around with the feather placement until you have the arrangement of feathers in the direction that you like.

  5. 5

    Lace a long piece of leather through the leather loops and tie the leather strap securely onto the feathers with the strings from the loops. Use a slip knot. Slip knots are adjustable knots, so this will add convenience.

  6. 6

    Fit a wide piece of leather around your head for the band. Trim off any excess material and glue.

  7. 7

    Use a pencil or sewing chalk to mark the centre of the headband; make this line thick to denote that it is the centre line. Place two small dots on either side of the centre line. Draw more lines along the headband until the headband is divided into 30 sections. Place dots on either side of the lines you drew.

  8. 8

    Use a leather sewing needle or an awl to poke holes where you drew dots.

  9. 9

    Lace some thread through a hole on either side of the centre line. Make sure there is enough thread to go all the way around the headband.

  10. 10

    Loop the thread through the centre feather's loop to which the leather strap is attached. Repeat until the feathers are all attached to the headband. They should hang down a bit from the back of the headband on the leather strips.

Tips and warnings

  • You can use cloth or felt material as a substitute for the leather strip. Dental floss is also an acceptable substitute for the thread or string. The eagle feathers can be imitation feathers; they do not have to be real. Some eagles are endangered so you may not be able to get some types of real feathers. Sew the headband piece of leather for a longer-lasting hold. You can buy any materials and tools you need at craft stores and tool supply stores.
  • Exercise caution when using sharp objects to avoid injury. This craft is not recommended for children to make by themselves.

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