Creating a Turban Over a Padded Tube or Tubes
turban turban turban

This article first appeared as part of a series of articles on European Turbans for the on-line costume magazine "Your Wardrobe Unlock'd" It was the third in the series.

Making a fixed turban by covering a tube of batting can be very economical; you can make something quite impressive with just a yard (meter) or less of fabric, a quarter yard (meter) of batting, a long strand of pearls and a feather decoration. The blue turban above (left) is such a turban it was added to a base cap, which also came from that yard. A turban made in this manner can be a single tube or multiple tubes as in the 1785 Marie Antoinette (above center). The tubes can be stacked as in the 1818 Ballgown La Belle Assemblée fashion plate (above right) or twisted as in the turban to the left. You can attach the tubes to a cap (article sections for instructions on how to make a base cap) or have nothing in the center i.e. crownless or you could use a red wool fez or red velvet covered buckram cap in the center and create a late 18 C headdress a la Turque.

Making one of these turbans starts with the tube, you could use cotton batting or large cotton piping, which comes up to 1" in (2.54cm) diameter in the US. I sometimes bundle three or four together to make my Chaperon hats but that can get quite heavy so I recommending that you use lofty Polyester Quilt Batting for this application. Most fabric stores sell it by the yard you will need enough to encircle your head plus extra depending on the diameter of the tube. A consideration when trying to figure the size piece you will need is that you will want to add a little extra with more tubes and larger tubes so that they can meet on the outside circumference (picture of turban with circles photo 1 below). I have made a table of approximate lengths for different sized tubes based on head size plus the thickness (diameter) of turban so that you can figure out the long dimension of batting you need. It starts with a modest 2” turban like the one pictured above and ends with a quite large 4” turban.

Tube diam.
















2"or 5cm








3" or 7.5 cm








4" or
10 cm








photo 1

The length is the easiest batting dimension to figure out, what takes a little trial and error is the other dimension. It might not be instantly apparent but as a rule the more tubes you use (if you twist or braid them) the smaller in diameter they should be unless you are creating an over sized Genie turban. Roll the free end of the batting up until you get the size of tube you want (figure 1), do not roll it tightly, just enough to holds it’s shape but still be compressible. The amount of batting will be depended by just how resistant to crushing the batting is and how thick of a tube you want.

Roll your batting into a tube and baste it so that it will stay in a roll (figure2). Double-check the length of your tube (tubes) by holding them in place on your head. Trim them if necessary but do not join the free ends. Lay your tube out over your fabric to determine how much fabric it will take to cover them. You have options, you could cut your fabric just wide enough to cover the tube plus seam allowance but I think that in most cases it is better to leave a little ease in both the length and distance around the tube, this will give you the drape that looks so good in a finished turban (figure 3). You can cut your fabric on the straight of grain or bias. Either one is fine but if there is a stripe of pattern it will affect the look of your turban. The turban above was cut on the bias.

With right sides together sew the fabric in half long ways (figure 4). Turn this tube of fabric right sides out over the batting tube (figure 5). Curve the roll into a circle and with needle and thread, join the batting tube end to end (figure 6). Note; I found it just too difficult to illustrate a striped tube so it is shown here and in the remaining figures as solid blue also it might be best to have the stitching from figure 2 on the inside of the turban and not the outside as I have illustrated as it might show thru the fabric. Adjust your fabric so that the seam in to the inside of the circle and fold the raw edges of the fabric under. With a matching thread sew the fabric tube closed (figure 7). If you are twisting two tubes or braiding three or more tubes together they have to be twisted or braided first then joined. Rubber bands can be great help to hold the tubes while you are braiding the tubes together. They can be cut away once you have joined the tubes.

This roll doesn’t look much like a turban right now you will need to spiral strands of pearls, metallic beads or trim around it. This is where the compressibility of the tube comes in. With a needle and thread anchor the strand of beads near the seam on the inside of the turban. Spiral the pearl strand around the turban six to eight times. Pull the strand tight enough to compress the batting, sew the other end off at the same place you started (figure 8). Adjust the extra fabric between the sections formed by the spiraling of the pearls. You can now tack stitch the tubes to a base cap or sew an oval of fabric in the center at the level of the seam. You will need to finish the edge of the oval and gather it a little. Experiment with the size of oval you need but it should be around 14 by 15 before you hem it.

The instructions above are standard instructions if you wanted to create a turban like the Marie Antoinette turban you would use ribbon for the spirals and not compress the tubes. If you wanted to make a turban like the 1818 Ballgown La Belle Assemblée turban you would stack two covered tubes and use ribbons coming from a narrow edge band the hold to tubes together. With the turban above after I twisted two tubes together and joined them then, I wrapped a strand of pearls and a rope of pearls around the turban. When you twist two tubes together it forms two troughs that just naturally work for two spirals of pearls.





figure 4

figure 5

figure 5

figure 7

figure 8

photo 2

Following the same concept of a tight strand of pearls creating the shape of a turban by compressing a center core, I created this 1780’s headdress by spiraling a wired strand of pearls around a simple velvet bag hat. I attached the pearls to the hat where they touched it and pulled strips of net through the pearl loops. There where three or four strips of net and the ends of the net do not get tucked in they hang over and are cut in a zig-zag manner to create visual interest (photo 2).



A decoration with curled feathers is added and the turban is placed on a wig with a wire support to keep the turban from crushing the hairdo (photo 3).

The beautiful corset in these photos below was made by Deborah Borlase and the handmade 18C shift was made by Claudine de Montigny.
Last Revision: 20 April 2009

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