Flower Crown with Real Antlers: Tutorial


For any Fannibal (that is, fans of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal TV series), a Flower Crown is essential head wear.  For those not in the know, this relates to both the irony of putting flowers on characters who behave very very badly, and to Shakespeare’s Hamlet where Ophelia gives out flowers to all as she is being driven mad, and ultimately to her own demise; surrounded by flowers.  Also, apparently, we nicked it from the One Direction fans (oh dear, oh dear!)!

Hugh Dancy and Me!
Here’s me looking exceptionally pleased with myself  with my Flower Crown on at Red Dragon Con 3, with a certain Mr Hugh Dancy! (Will Graham in Hannibal).

There are strings of flowers you can buy for hair decoration, but if you want to go BIG, your best bet is to make your own.  There are some examples on craft sites such as etsy, if you feel it’s too difficult…  But I suggest giving it a go, you might surprise yourself!

The Flower Crown in the above photograph is an homage to the “Ravenstag” character in Hannibal.  The Ravenstag is a metaphor for the mental state of Will Graham throughout the series.  It’s a big black stag, with big antlers, and feathers…

Flower Crown 1_small

If you don’t want to add the antlers, then you can still follow this tutorial and skip step 3.  All of the other instructions are the same for creating a “regular” flower crown, use flower and colour combinations of your own choosing.

To make this crown, you will need:

  • Pliers
  • Hot glue gun
  • Eye Protection (for dealing with the wire)
  • Black spray paint (optional, see below)
  • Wire, 2mm diameter.  Enough length to go around your head twice, plus a bit more.  Any colour, as it will be mostly covered.  Or black or green if you want to leave some visible.
  • Wire, of smaller gauge to bind around the antlers.
  • Fake flowers: Roses, white and black (or in my case all white, plus a can of black spray paint!), other smaller white flowers of your preference.  Choose those that have some nice leaves also.
  • Real Deer Antlers… please don’t go poaching for these!  I suggest eBay and other stores where you can obtain these from a legitimate source.  The ones I had are Roe Deer Antlers, 15 cm (about 6 inches) tall.  These were quite large, so I’d actually suggest getting slightly smaller ones that are easier to handle and position on the wire, and they’ll be lighter too.
  • Ribbon, black or green to wrap the band and both colours for optional tassels.

To make the Flower Crown:

1. Prepare the Flowers

If you need to spray paint some of your white roses black, make sure you have a well protected area in which to apply the paint.  Watch your clothing!  Take the heads off a select few of the roses, I painted 4, but only ended up using 3 blacks in the finished crown.  Use sticky tape to secure them to a board or table cover before giving them a few bursts from the spray can.  Take it slow, build up the paint in small bursts from all angles until you are happy, then leave to dry in a well ventilated area.  When dry, put the heads back on the stems.

Cut the fake flowers up: Cut each rose at the base of the wire stem, so that you have long-ish lengths to wrap around the crown.  Select two or three stems with leaves only and cut these with stems also.

For the smaller flowers, either pull off existing detachable stems of small flower clusters (as mine had) or cut them in the same way as the roses, with small stems to allow for wrapping.  Take a few leaves as well if you like the way they look.

Cut Fake Flowers
Cut the fake flowers with enough of a stem to wrap around the band.

2. Shape the Wire Head Band

First, loosely wrap the 2mm wire around your head to get the base size for the crown.  Leave a little room, as the crown will become bulky after you’ve added the flowers.  Do not cut the wire at this point, when you’ve got the right size, twist the ends together and  then begin to wrap a second band of wire around the first, closely to the original circle.  When you get back to the join, cut the wire leaving a little to bend the ends over.  Use the pliers to bend both the ends of the wire over to ensure the pointy ends are covered.

Flower crown wire
Wrap the wire around your head, and around itself, then bend the ends back to blunt the pointy ends.

Always assume that the join in the wire is to be the BACK of the crown.

3. Positioning and Wiring the Antlers.

This is actually the most difficult part, and the antlers will NOT remain stable until you actually start wrapping the flowers around in the following steps.  Don’t worry if they fall over all the time (mine certainly did!).  We just need to get them in the right position on the band.

Put on eye protection!  Place the wire band on your head, and look in a mirror whilst holding the antlers up to find the right position for you – note which is the proper left and right of the antlers, they naturally curve inwards with the points facing outwards.  When you’re happy, mark the points on the band with the pliers – make a scratch or dent for each position.  Take the wire off your head, and begin to make a cage for the bottom of the antlers with the smaller gauge wire as follows:

The base of the antlers usually have large “knobbly” bits from where it grew out of the deer’s skull.  This area is what we surround with the small gauge wire to create a base to attach to the main wire band.  Make sure you wear your eye protection – as this gets fiddly and I was very glad to have some goggles to wear myself.  Use the pliers to help you pull the wire tight, when wrapping over and under.  The image under the descriptions of the steps should help clarify what I mean.

  1. Begin by leaving a 5 cm (2 in) end and then wrap the wire around the base of the antler, just above the “knobbles” 3 or 4 times.
  2. With the end at the side of the antler, wind the wire around the first 4 wraps to hold it’s position, and then holding the antler at the correct mark on the wire head band continue wrapping the wire under the antler, under the headband, and up to the other side of the antler, wind the wire around the first 4 strands again on this side, and go back under the headband to the other side.  Do this 2 or 3 times.
  3. Wrap the wire once more around the antler as you did at the beginning, and then again wrap around and under the wire, this time 90 degrees from the wraps made in step 2 AND between the two strands of the main headband.  You’ll need to cut the wire before threading through the two strands and leave enough length to wrap 2 or 3 more times.
  4. Bring both ends together, twist together and hide the end underneath the antler.
  5. To tighten the structure a little make sure it is in the correct position on the head band and with a new piece of small gauge wire, underneath the antler wind it over and under each of the wire strands and the headband around in a circle.  Use the pliers to pull this as tight as possible, creating tension between our wire “cage” and the headband.  It still won’t be very stable, but this will change once we add more bulk to the rest of the crown.
  6. Repeat steps 1 to 5 for the other antler.

Attach Antlers Diagram

4. Add the Flowers to the Crown

Starting from the front centre, choose your first rose, and thread it in between the two strands of the headband, bend the wire to position the bloom in the right place.  Wrap the stem of the rose around the head band (not between the strands) and then when you get to the end of the stem, poke it between the strands to lock it in place.  You can choose either direction to wrap the FIRST flower, but from then on, always wrap the flower stems on the right to the right, and left to the left.  Continue to add a few large flowers at the front and on either side of the antlers, then swap to the smaller flowers.  You can wrap flowers all the way around if you like, my crown here has no flowers at the very back.

Always insert the flower between the strands of the headband first, then wrap the stem around the outside of the headband, over/around any previous stems already added, and around the underneath of the antlers, and then insert the very end between the strands of the headband.

Bend the flowers to get them to all point in the correct directions, and adjust as necessary.  After adding the flower blooms, do the same with any leaves strands that you prepared earlier.  Fill in any obvious gaps, and if the antlers are still a little loose fill in space around them with the leaves.

Check for any stems which are too long and may leave pointy ends which will be uncomfortable, trim these off if required.  Finish off by using the hot glue gun around all of the ends of the stems, along the inside of the headband, and where any parts of the flowers look like they may fall apart.  Leave until the glue is set.

5. Ribbon Wrap of Head Band and Optional Tassels

With a long length of ribbon, if possible use a single piece, begin at the back of the head band, begin to wrap around the wire and stems, leaving the blooms and leaves visible.  Wrap the ribbon over itself leaving no gaps if possible and wrap tightly around all the ends of the stems, pulling them closer together and making the head band more comfortable to wear.  As you reach the base of each antler, go around it once or twice in a figure eight, to ensure it is completely covered and blends in with the rest of the head band, continue to wrap tightly all the way around until you reach the start (at the back).  Cut the ribbon and fix the ends in place with hot glue.

Optional Tassels:  Simply cut lengths of ribbon and tie them at the very back of the headband.  I like to add a couple of tassels to ensure the ends of the ribbon wrapped around the head band stay in place.

Flower Crown Rear View
View from the back, with the ribbon wrapped around the band and tassels attached.

6. Put the Flower Crown on and practice not knocking things over or scraping the walls with your antlers around the house!

The wire headband should be nice and malleable, so that when you put it on, you can adjust its’ shape to comfortably fit your head.  The bigger the antlers, the heavier the crown, so you’ll need to practice wearing it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and trying this tutorial.  I’d love to see what you come up with, please leave comments and send me pictures!  If I get a few responses, I’ll put them up on a subsequent post for you all to see!

Go forth and be creative! X

rdc3-flower-crown

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Red Dragon 3: The Shattered Teacup Comes Together


Fannibals.  We are literally the fragments of a shattered teacup.  Once a year, that teacup comes together and reality as we know it stops as we form into a whole being once again.

The first year was “Red Dragon“, the second was “Behold the Red Dragon“, and this third convention was “Red Dragon 3” – on all  social media it’s #HannibalCon.  For other random pics from the con, see my Instagram feed (and search all sites using the #tag).

The guests this year were phenomenal (they are always great, of course!), we were graced with the presence of Will Graham himself, Hugh Dancy; Writer, Creator, (and Our Lord and Master!) Bryan Fuller; Demore Barnes (Tobias Budge); the amazing comedy duo that is Aaron Abrams (Brian Zeller) and Scott Thompson (Jimmy Price); and the very sweet Ellen Muth (Georgia Madchen).

Our new home for these events is the Radisson Edwardian Hotel in Heathrow, their conference rooms become the guest halls for Q&A sessions, parties, and the autograph and photograph sessions with the guests.  It’s a weekend of standing in lines and swapping homemade gifts with other fans (something no other fandom does.. we Fannibals are a unique and creative bunch!).  I took a batch of my Visitor Badges from the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and I loved giving them away to random people.. gives me an excuse to start a conversation anyway!

Although it says not to give the guests gifts during the signings, they still end up with a pile of stuff next to them!  So I couldn’t resist offering Bryan one of my IDs.. and he grabbed it with such glee, and put it on his collar… and it was still on his person when he came on stage (finally… he’s a slow signer!).  It made me so happy to be appreciated for my silly bits of art.

My loot, photo ops and Flower Crown selfies from the con:

I took my useful big Canon camera with me, plus a decent zoom lens, so that I  could get some good photos of the stars during the Q&As.  I also have to use a monopod, as I have a bad hand tremor.. so I hope it didn’t get in anybody’s view too much.  But the zoom and the steadying is required to get any half-decent photos from a viewpoint behind the Gold ticket holders and the Stewards!  My photos can be found on Flickr here:

Red Dragon 3 Album on Flickr

Some of the best photos:

Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Bryan Fuller at the Opening Ceremony
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Demore Barnes
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
A recreation of the human cello!
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Hugh Dancy by himself, before Bryan finished signing
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Smiley Hugh Dancy
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Hugh & Bryan mid-conversation, but LOOK, Bryan is wearing the BSHCI Visitor badge made by ME! *squee*!
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Demore and Ellen
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Demore asking the Fannibals what this show and the Fandom means to them. So many feels!
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
I love this pose! Scott & Aaron pay attention when you say something dirty…
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
…and then they have to investigate!
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Aaron is all of us, when these guys are talking!
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Hugh Dancy & Bryan Fuller. Look at those cuties!
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
I don’t remember what Hugh said, but Bryan is clearly amused..
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
Hugh taking the Q&A very seriously, for a moment…
Red Dragon 2017. Q&A Sessions.
…and then it all goes to pot!

Towards the end of Demore’s second Q&A session, he asked the Fannibals why we are all so fervent in our devotion to this particular show.  He went around the room and a few people spoke up about what Hannibal means to them.  The general consensus was (with my own opinion added here) that Hannibal is basically a show about two loner characters, they’re the odd ones out, they don’t fit into “regular” society, one is a criminal (but that’s incidental) he’s on his own and although has particular “tastes”(!) he is basically looking for a human connection.  The other character has social anxiety and is slightly on the autism/aspergers’ spectrum.  Both are incredibly smart, and yet have difficulty integrating.  But they find each other, and they understand each other, and they accept each other (for all their many faults!).  Ultimately, it’s a story about survival and friendship, against all the odds.  THAT is something that resonates with a lot of us.  I can definitely say for myself, that I have trouble sometimes making those connections with people.  Yet this show has given me hope that there are others out there who can understand where I’m coming from.  And now, that’s what I live for.  Our Fannibal Family!  Fannibals are totally inclusive.  I have found us to be a safe and supportive group comprising every type of person.  Together, we make sense.  And as an additional bonus, I’ve re-connected with an old school friend, who I hadn’t seen for years, and now we’re really close again.  How lovely is that?!

rdc3-musical-programme
Some of the beautiful artwork from the Hannibal Musical Programme.

One of the absolute highlights of the weekend, was the performance by a group of Fannibals of “Hannibal a Fannibal Musical”.  A parody/homage of all three seasons of Hannibal.  It was an absolute triumph of a show, brilliantly funny, and very cleverly put together.  AND performed by a group of people who had only fully met that day!  Well done indeed.  AND all of the celebrity guests came in to watch it too, and they showed their appreciation with huge laughs, applause, and running up to them after the show to congratulate them all.  Bravo!  Find out more about the musical by following them on twitter @FannibalMusical.

Until fate and circumstance bring us back to this moment, and the teacup shatters once more…

Red Dragon 4 will take place on 23rd to 25th February 2018 at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow.  Grab a ticket while you can from Starfury Conventions.

Contact by Carl Sagan


ContactContact by Carl Sagan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You need at least a minor background in science to understand the themes and terminology. But it’s worth it.

Contact – the movie – is one of my all-time favourite sci-fi films. It’s a slow burner, and full of political machinations, but the payoff is quite profound. The book is very similar in tone and the story is basically the same, however some events happen to different people, the time period begins some years before the setting of the movie (but spans a greater time period in total), therefore impacting the technology involved in the narrative, some characters are involved less heavily than they were portrayed in the movie, and relationships differ greatly. In my opinion, I think the book has greater realism compared to the movie, simply because it focuses more on the science, the mathematics, and the ingenuity of the people involved in decoding the “message” and building the “machine”.

Eleanor Arroway is a brilliant scientist working on the SETI – Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Using radio telescopes, she and her team search the skies for possible transmissions from outer space, from potentially advanced civilisations in the far reaches of the universe. A signal is received containing a questionable message, huge amounts of data in a language unknown to human kind, and completely changes the entire perspective of the people of the world. All the countries of the world put aside their political differences, and for at least a few years are all completely cooperative in trying to work out the mystery of the message, and what the function of the “machine” actually is…

Probably one of the most clever narratives in science fiction that I have read or seen (to date). I don’t know much about radio telescopes and the related technologies, but with google at your side, you can definitely begin to understand more and more of how such a thing would work. I’ve learned a few things reading this book.

Thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend to anyone with even a minor interest in space.

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Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates


Suicide Forest (World's Scariest Places #1)Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun engaging read. Blair Witch in Japan, but with less irritating characters!

Several years back, I watched an episode of a show called “Destination Truth” with Josh Gates going all over the world working out if monsters and stories of hauntings were real. He went and spent the night in Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest, and BOY did they see some weird ****! Nowadays, he’s on a show called Expedition Unknown on the Travel Channel (I like this guy’s style!). Check it out if you can.

Anyway, this book is set in that same forest. A group of friends initially meet up to climb Fuji-san, but bad weather forces them to find something else to do. They join up with another couple who they meet by chance, and decide to camp out in Aokigahara. Great idea! A day or so in, they lose their way, run out of food and water, and one by one the friends start to die.. or did they kill themselves?

A great narrative, characters you don’t mind hanging around with in a dark forest, and a satisfying eventual reveal of what is going on around them in the woods.

Would probably make a better horror film than the original Blair Witch! (Which I don’t dislike, but this is still way ahead).

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Addictive. Loved it. For anyone, like me, who grew up in the 80s/90s and is also a gamer, this is a must read.

The human race barely goes out any more, the real world is poverty-stricken and run down. In most cases all work, school, and leisure takes place in a virtual world – The Oasis. This platform was created by two guys, one of whom – James Halliday – dies, leaving behind an “Easter-Egg Hunt” of epic proportions. The winner of the hunt will win ownership of the entire Oasis system (and billions of dollars). Cue a race to solve all the clues, fight battles, argue over 80s trivia, and the entire life and times of Halliday. Not only are the users in competition with each other, but also against the (typical) evil corporation, who want to win the hunt so that they can gain control of, and monetise, what is currently a free-to-access system.

Wade Watts AKA Parzival is a poor kid who lives with an exploitative aunt, who’s only escape is the school system within the Oasis. When the hunt goes live, he and his online friends both help (and hinder) each other to try and solve the clues. Wade stumbles across an answer to the first clue, putting him top of the “leaderboard”, and subsequently putting a target on his back.

Filled with humour, 80s nostalgia, and references to all those old movies and games that you’ve almost forgotten about, Ready Player One is one hell of a page-turner.

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The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman


The Magician's LandThe Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pure escapism. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy of novels. Lev Grossman fuses all of the things I loved about Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and many other Fantasy influences into a new narrative that works when aimed at a more mature reader.

Part “macguffin” hunt, part quest to save an entire world. Some characters remain in the magical world of Fillory (High King and Queen, Eliot and Janet), and worlds in-between, whilst others (mainly Quentin) have to work out how to play their part from Earth. The legacy of the original family to find Fillory, the Chatwins, comes into play with both new and old characters. And it goes to show that relying on “Gods” is not all it’s cracked up to be! In order to get things done, you generally have to take charge yourself and make the hard decisions.

Old locations and characters are re-visited, and although the plot occasionally seemed to run on pure coincidence for it to move forwards, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story.

The SyFy series (it was/is broadcast on one of the Channel 5 iterations in the UK) is pretty decent, but not as emotionally complex as the book. They’ve modified and blended the story lines, and massively changed some characters (not always for the better). But if they were both identical, I would lose interest in one or the other. I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to my TV-escapism!

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The Magician King by Lev Grossman


The Magician King (The Magicians, #2)The Magician King by Lev Grossman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great adventure. And the back story of Julia, who I felt was a bit of a kindred spirit!

Wow, Julia had it really rough! Compared to Quentin, who’s charmed acceptance into Brakebills University set him on a guided path through his magical journey to Fillory and to then become a King, Julia suffered relentless hardship, rejection, depression, and violence. The missing time from the first book, where we only see the re-emergence of Julia for a very brief moment, is completed within this novel. Quentin, goes on a new adventure in Fillory, but through a series of events ends up back on Earth and has to go to Julia for help. Their quest takes them across the globe to track down friends to help them – and a dragon!

I particularly like how the characters in these books are not just “lucky” to be chosen for an adventure, either on Earth, or in Fillory, but are extraordinarily intelligent human beings who earned their acceptance into Brakebills, or their way up through the ranks of the “Hedge Witches” and beyond. There is some serious geekery on display throughout many of the conversations between Julia’s group of online friends. The story takes you across the majority of 2 worlds, yet the reader never feels lost. I devoured this book in only a couple of days. I couldn’t put it down.

The characters all have very distinct voices and personalities, which is a sign of a good writer. Without having to repeat the name of a character over and over again when their dialogue is written, you just know who is saying what, and it flows so much better.
I’m thoroughly enjoying this series.

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