View Full Version : Fabric Folding Fan Tutorial

10-22-2006, 02:35 AM
This Tutorial is based on the double sided fabric fans I made for a future Carian cosplay from Magna Carta
If you don’t need to make a double sided fan I highly recommend you don’t since it gave me so much grief even more then the stain glass dragon wings in my gallery >_<

I’m going to start with the standard sizes you will find in your local china town/flee market.

Hand fans
These guys are the most common and come in fabric, wood and paper varieties. About $2 to $6 dollars

Wall fans (Medium size)
Also a common size seen in combat games (think Mortal Combat) tend to be made of paper as well. Paper quality may vary but tends to be cheap. For around $10 to $20

Large wall fans (more then half your height! )
Seen in Naruto and Dynasty Warriors. Made of better quality paper or laminated with poster board since the weight needs to me reinforced. I’ve also seen polyester fans as well. $15 to $60 even $300 in Japan O.o

Materials Needed

A Clothing Iron
Fabric glue and a butter knife
Fabric scissors
Fabric pencil
Epoxy glue and a plastic butter knife

Bamboo, Wood or Plastic: the basic structure for the fan is based on the sticks/spokes hinged at the bottom and laminated to or between two piece of fabric or paper. Bamboo is the cheapest of materials used but works well because the grain is always moving vertically.
I strongly recommend buying a cheap bamboo fan. This will be explained later.

Fabric: for a stiff fan I used a thick muslin but the colour was a tan in my case the fan would end up black I wasn’t concerned about the original colour. If you want to paint or dye the fabric go with a white muslin instead. You could use a polyester but I find the Iron works better with natural fabrics.
Note - Muslin is a treatment to cotton to produce a thick fabric.

Dissection of a fan
The segments found in all folding fans comes out to a odd number. Why because there is fabric segments in between each sticks/spokes to allow it to fold flat, which automatically gives it an odd number despite the number of spokes you start with. In my case the fans I bought had 20 spokes so I had 39 segments total 1 shy of even.
The fabric of the fan itself is cut in semicircle with a smaller semicircle cut from the centre and folded to the correct number of segments needed.
The spokes are of even length with the two outside ones are made thicker and larger then the thinner inside ones they are also taller then the inside ones. All the spokes are hinged by a smaller rod near the bottom. Also the total size of the fan is based on the length of the spoke from the hinge to the end of the spoke.

To understand why buying a cheap fan for the spokes is preferable is because of the math involved. To figure out how large your segments need to be you need to divided 180 degrees (half a circle) buy the number of segments

Example: 180 digress 39 segments = 4.615384 repeated degrees >_<

If this math confuses you you're not alone, for a more simple approach take a piece a string and cut it to the length of the outside circumference and another piece to the inside circumference. Divide the piece by the number of segments.

Example: 46.8” / 39 = 1.5" outside and 5” 39 =0.128205" for the inside
But in the long run in less you need at lest 10 fans this is way to time consuming.

NOW lets get started!

Step 1

The faster approach is to take your cheap paper fan and remove the paper from the spokes. If they are cheap they’ll come off with little problem most of the glue is placed on the two outside spokes. At this point flatten out the removed paper fan and trace the outside shape of it with your fabric pencil and where the folds are outside of the points at the end.


If you are doing a double sided fan just trace the outside of the paper fan again and cut this second piece out.

Step 2
(Ignore this next step if you are doing a one sided fan.)

For everyone else now’s the time to draw your fold lines from the fold point you placed on the first piece of the fan you traced from before.

Now that you’ve drawn the fold lines its time to use that fabric glue. I hope you bought that super thick fabric I mentioned before. You need to glue the segments between where the spokes will go and the two outside spokes up to the fold lines by spreading out your fabric glue in a thin layer with the butter knife since you don‘t want the glue to soak through. You also need to glue the top edge of the fan completely and leave enough of a gap at the top for the spokes you will be inserting later.

Then line up the second fan piece you cut out with the outside line on the first fan piece while the glue still wet. If you find the fabrics warping on you can take your Iron and flatten it out on medium setting will the glue still wet. Let it dry

Step 3

Paint your design . Have fun!
(Note: if you want a solid colour other then black you should dye your fabric before Step 1)
If you want to Make computer T-Shirt decals (I used Avery Dark T-Shirt Transfers) you have to do this after step 4. Trust me this is for your own sanity.


Step 4

Making the folds.
At this point you can cut the excess fabric away from the fan fabric but you must leave the folding point still attached. Using the folding points fold the fan back and forth and use your iron to crimp the fabric into place. If your worried of melting the paint you used use a sheet of tracing paper between the fan and the fabric.

Now that it’s folded you can finally cut the fold points away and cut the fan to shape.

Adding Decals
After you have folded your fan and cut out the decals you want to use press the iron with the direction of the folds so you don’t accidentally warp the plastic the decals are made of and fallow the instructions given. Now you need to refold where you place the decal. Using the transfer paper given and place it between the iron and the fabric or when you need to fold the back side place it between the two layers of decal that will be sandwiched when you ironing the backside.

Step 5
Placing spokes

If you made a one sided fan all you need to do now is thinly spread Epoxy glue onto the spokes with the plastic butter knife and then line up with the fold line side where the fan closes towards. The two outside spokes should line up with the fold line any excess hang can be trimmed from the fan.

If you made a double sided fan you need to open up the pockets you made back in Step 2 by pushing a stick up to the sealed top of the fan you glued at the top. Now that they are open slowly insert the thin spokes into there correct pockets until the fabric lines up with the two outside spokes. (this took me an hour of frustration >_<) Now that it’s laid out correctly you glue the two outside spokes to the fabric with a thin layer of Epoxy glue and let dry.

FINAL your done!!!!!!!
My double sided fabric fans with decals on both sides finished.

Few o.O that was intense to write out >__<

So If you can not tell, if you can buy your fan then do so!!!!
pretty cheap!

12-24-2006, 01:21 PM

02-28-2007, 07:49 PM
Oh how cool! I'll totally make one and bring it with me to the con i'm going to! ^^; I'm sure it'll make great use... Cause I'll be wearing a furr suit for 4-days o.O

Anyway, thanks for the tutorial!

03-01-2007, 01:37 PM
Thank U Soo Much This Will Help Me Sooo Much!!!! I Made A Life Sized Temari Fan And I Couldn't Really Figure Out How To Put The Fabric On. So I Guess It Doesn't Look Bad But It Could Lookk Tooooons Better!!!!! This Will Help Me So Much Thankies Again!!!!*glomp*

08-22-2007, 11:30 AM
thank u so much!!!

10-11-2008, 09:20 AM
Thank you so much for this tutorial! As soon as I have the money for a large base, I'm making one.

I was thinking- hypothetically, the same technique should work for re-covering a paper parasol, correct?

10-11-2008, 01:58 PM
Correct although the fabric would end up being thicker then the paper so I might no close as properly or completely.

04-10-2009, 10:21 PM
Thanks so much! This is going to come in handy for future cosplays. n_n

09-14-2010, 09:34 PM
Ok im still confused on what you use for the actual fan part

but um, very extremely amazingly helpful
my design wink

09-17-2010, 09:29 PM
I used a light weight canvas and painted it black with watered down acrylic, however you can used whaterever fabric you want that you can take an iron too.