Imagine yourself as an Austen leading lady: you are at an assembly ball in your town with your sisters and friends in your best silk gown. Suddenly, you see a handsome young man across the room! What are you going to do? Surely 2014 flirting and dating norms are out of the question. But regency ladies had their own ways to be alluring and coy – and to get their interest and intention across.
I hadn’t known of the importance of the hand fan until I went to the Jane Austen Center in Bath, England. There, they had beautiful fans, instructions and a mirror set up so you could practice your new method of communication. It was so much fun! It is fascinating how a simple gesture can convey so much. A simple gesture can tell that young man across the hall that you would like to become acquainted with him or can tell him that you are already engaged!
Today’s DIY is a simple hand fan that will let you practice your flirtation, too. Even though mine is made with simple wooden sticks and decorative paper, fans in the Regency were made with wood or ivory, intricate silk and lace and even had jewels, mirrors and feathers. A girl would rarely leave her house without her fan and soon, the fan became a symbol of flirtation. Girls even spent months practicing their fluttering (fanning yourself with these gestures)!
Here are a few of the gestures and their meanings:
Open fan in left hand, covering the mouth: I would like to be introduced to you.
Open fan in right hand, in front of face: Follow me.
Closed fan in left hand, by chest: Please come and talk to me.
Hands clasped together, holding the open fan: Please forgive me.
Fanning slowly: I am married.
Fanning quickly: I am engaged.
Opening the fan wide: Wait for me.
Drawing the fan across the forehead: We are being watched.
Twirling the fan in right hand: I love someone else.
Drawing fan across right cheek: I love you.
- 12 x 12 inch scrapbook paper
- Wooden craft sticks
- Sewing pins
- Craft glue/glue gun
- Embroidery thread
- Hammer and pliers (not pictured)
1. Mark seven sticks, one inch from the end.
2. Using a pin and a hammer (like you would do a hammer and a nail), make a hole in the center of the stick at the one inch mark. Repeat for all seven sticks.
3. Push all of the sticks on to one needle. With your pliers, close the sharp edge of the pin, by making a loop.
4. Take your paper and make a mark five inches diagonally from a corner. Draw a line connecting the corner to the point.
5. Draw a line six inches in each direction from your point, closest to the edge. This should make a 160 degree angle.
6. Cut along the angle.
7. Start folding! Make ½ inch accordion folds, making sure that the apex of each fold is in the same spot. Fold very crisp folds.
8. Fold the fan and cut 2 inches off of the bottom (apex).
9. Count 14 triangles. There should be a pocket for each of the sticks to fit in. If you have more, you should cut them off.
10. Lay the sticks down into the folds. Don’t glue yet, just make sure that the sticks fit and it makes sense when you open and close the fan.
11. Glue the sticks down into the folds and let dry for about 10 minutes.
12. Fold the fan and cut the top so the edge is straight. You’re done!
To add a little tassel:
1. Loop the embroidery thread around three fingers, about 10 times. Make sure there is a tail where you stared looping.
2. Take the loop off your fingers. Squeeze the top 1/3 of the loop and wrap around. Cut the end and tie this end to the first loose end that you had.
3. Thread a piece of thread through the small loop and tie onto the back on the fan (where you bent the pin in step 4).
A little inspiration: Unfortunately, the language of the hand fan isn’t in use anymore, but you can teach your sweetie a couple of these gestures. You can surprise him by drawing your fan across your right cheek (look up to see what it means). This fan DIY is also a really fun project while your girlfriends are over for a Jane Austen movie marathon, and after they’re made, you can all practice your fluttering together! These fans can also be used as great decor; they instantly add a Regency touch to any room. Lastly, as we’re approaching spring and summer, the weather is going to get hotter – you can use these fans for their traditional purpose and cool yourself down in style. I am definitely taking mine along on upcoming picnics in the park!