Elaborate hand fans were once considered a necessity for the well-dressed woman. In some cultures of earlier centuries there were closely observed rituals involving the use and handling of the fan. Every wave, gesture and flutter was rife with meaning. Long before Western ideologies accepted the notion of social equity for women, a pantomimed communication system evolved through the use of fans that allowed women to express their wishes and desires silently in situations when it would be considered improper to speak. Fans are only rarely used today as a fashion accessory. They appear more often in period costumes or are displayed as art.
Place the opened fan frame "face down" on a clean and dry work surface. You will know that the frame is positioned correctly if all of the ribs are lying flat on the table, with each rib making direct contact with the table's surface along its length.
Spread the ribs of the frame into a half circle with an equal amount of space between each of the ribs.
Lay the fabric of your choice on the table with the side that should face outward touching the table. The reverse side of the fabric should be facing you. Carefully lay the opened fan frame on the fabric. Use chalk to lightly mark the arc of the half circle at the edges of the ribs of the frame. Continue tracing the perimeter of the frame until the outline has been drawn on the fabric lightly in chalk.
Lift the frame away from the fabric to reveal the chalk semicircle. Cut out this semicircle from the fabric with scissors. Trim away any rough edges, making the resulting shape as smooth and even as possible. Perfection isn't necessary, but do try to be neat. If you will be trimming your fan with lace, any minor mistakes will be obscured along the top edge of the fan when you are done.
Set aside any excess fabric for a future project. Use your tape measure to locate the centre of the semicircle that you just cut out. Mark the centre point with chalk. Now measure 3 inches both left and right of this centre and mark these points also in chalk. From the centre point, measure straight up 3 inches and place another dot. You should now have three dots along the bottom of the fabric and one dot above the centre one. This will be a guide for you to cut out a smaller semicircle that will have a lower diameter of about 6 inches. If it helps, connect these dots by drawing a chalk semicircle before using your scissors to remove it. Put the smaller piece of discarded fabric with the other excess material, as you won't need it for this project.
Lay your opened fan frame on the resulting fabric arc. It should be a nearly exact fit. Use your chalk to draw fine lines to mark the points where the length of each rib touches the fabric's underside. Cover these lines with hot glue from the glue gun and press the fabric quickly but smoothly against the evenly spaced ribs.
Wait two or three minutes while the fabric begins to adhere. You may wish to apply light pressure to assist the process. Slowly begin to fold the fabric with the attached fan ribs accordion-style (think of a letter "Z" or a zigzag pattern). Take your time with this step. Make your creases even so that as the ribs are returned to their original position, the fabric is folded between them along the width of the fan.
Wrap a rubber band tightly around each end of the folded fan to help mould it and to retain its shape as the glue dries. After about an hour, remove the rubber bands and slowly open the fan. If you wish to add lace, do so now. Cut a 1/2-inch wide strip of lace that is up to twice the length of the top edge of the arc of the fan when it is fully opened. You won't need all of this fabric, but it will ensure that you won't run short when attaching the lace.
Place a line of glue (or closely spaced tiny dots of glue, if you prefer) on the fabric on the front of the fan 1/4 inch from the top edge following the shape of the arc. Press the lace strip with steady pressure against the adhesive; making sure that the lace extends slightly above the top edge of the opened fan. Trim away any lace that extends past the extreme left and right edges of the fan. You can add a smaller or shorter, second strip of lace a couple of inches below the first one to further embellish your fan.
Spray a very light misting of fabric spray starch on the rear of the open fan and refold it. Reattach the two rubber bands and leave the fan undisturbed overnight. When you open the fan the creases should have dried and become firmly set. Spray your favourite perfume or cologne in the air in front of you and allow the droplets to fall onto the opened fan to lightly scent it.
Always store your fan folded to help it maintain its form.
Avoid using too much glue as this can encourage the fabric to wrinkle. When spraying the fabric with starch, hold the spray at least 8 inches away from the material so that it doesn't become too wet. Don't spray perfume directly onto the fan as this may create stains.