Things to make and do

Create a gorgeous Georgian fan

Fans were very common in Georgian society. They were decorated with pictures in lots of detail and were even used to send secret messages! Read on to find out more about Georgian fans, and learn how to create your own.  


During the Georgian period, fans were extremely popular and fashionable accessories for wealthy women.  The colourful and often intricate designs made them really eye-catching, and they were so popular that they were made throughout Europe and even imported from east Asia.

The pictures and designs shown on fans varied greatly.  They ranged from scenes from the Bible to modern events. Examples of these included the trial of Warren Hastings, which was a very famous trial that took place between 1788 and 1795, or how to play whist (a card game) and not lose your temper!


By the 18th century, fans were so commonplace that some people came up with ways of using them to pass on secret messages. In 1740, an edition of The Gentleman’s Magazine published various motions of the fan to represent each letter of the alphabet, which must have been very complicated!

Other methods though were more straightforward and associated particular messages with certain gestures. For instance, if you held a fan in your right hand in front of your face it meant ‘follow me’. Or if you touched the tip of the fan with a finger, it signified ‘I want to speak to you’.  What other secret codes can you think of that you could communicate by using a fan?


Create your own Georgian fan and decorate it as colourfully as you can. You could create a snazzy pattern or even do a picture of your favourite things. Or if you’re feeling really creative, you could even come up with a story similar to ones you’d see in a comic – the more imaginative your fan the better!

Follow the instructions below on how to make your fan.

You will need:

  • 10 craft sticks
  • Plastic headed pin
  • Long nose pliers
  • Two sheets of paper
  • Scissors
  • Pair of compasses and pencil
  • Pen
  • Glue
  • Felt-tip pens or colouring pencils


  • Step 1

    Lay out 10 craft sticks and make a hole in each one, about 3cm from the bottom, using a pin. Thread the pin (or you could use a paperclip instead) through the holes and twist the end with a pair of long nose pliers to secure it.

  • Step 2

    Draw a semi-circle using the compasses on a sheet of paper and cut it out. Fan out your craft sticks evenly in the middle of the gap created by the semi-circle you’ve cut out and draw around them with a pen on the rest of the sheet of paper.

  • Step 3

    Coat one side of your sticks with glue and then stick them to the paper in the positions you marked out when your drew around them. Cut off the excess paper to form a fan shape.

  • Step 4

    On another sheet of paper, draw a smaller semi-circle with your pair of compasses and cut it out. Then coat the front of the craft sticks with glue and stick the rest of the second piece of paper to it. This is the paper on which you’ll create your design.

  • Step 5

    Cut off the excess of the second sheet of paper and glue the edges over at either end of the fan. Lay the fan out flat and, using felt-tip pens or colouring pencils, create your design on it.

  • Step 6

    Once you’ve finished your design, fold the fan together using concertina folds. If you want to, you could then glue a tassel or a plastic jewel to the bottom of the fan to make it look even more glamorous.

'step into englands story