By Karen Carruth

The beauty and iridescence of feathers cannot be underestimated as an additional statement to an outfit. Whether it is a hat that needs dressing up with a splash of colour or a brooch that just needs that something a little extra to lift it, then Kirstie Aitken, of Bespoke Feathers is the lady to contact.

Kirstie works part time on her small business producing various feather accessories using pheasant, grouse, peacock, guinea fowl, parrot and some dyed goose feathers. There is variety, colour, texture and glamour involved in all her creations.

Based in Lockerbie, in Dumfries and Galloway, Bespoke Feathers started around 18 months ago, after Kirstie had dabbled with making a few things, and started getting commissions which kept her busy enough to realise that maybe there was an opportunity to turn it into a small business, around her part time job with Robinsons Scotland.

Feathers are naturally a waste product, whether through moulting or through game shoots, so Kirstie is more than happy to make something useful out of them.

Sourcing the feathers hasn’t been difficult. Kirstie, her husband David and their little girl Pippa are fully immersed in country life. There’s ponies, dogs, and David regularly shoots, and beats, so they have contacts via gamekeepers etc that can supply them with feathers. Or in the raw state of needing plucked.

“I do pluck the birds for the feathers when I have to, but bizarre as it sounds, I’m scared of birds. It’s a joke in my family that I have this fear considering what I am now doing. I would say I’m a little better now that I’ve had to be more hands on, but I still don’t like them.”

It started with a feather bow tie that her husband asked her to make. “It wasn’t great, looking back,” she laughs, when we meet her at her home where her workshop is. She has been perfecting her skills since then, and now has a large range of feather-based items that she sells online, through retailers and via commissions.

She spends most of her time now working on requests for wedding parties. Hand making button holes for the whole wedding party is a popular request. Customers often send her samples of the kilts, and she selects and makes a mock up for them to view that co-ordinates with the colours, before she glues or sews them all together.

The centre piece for her range is often a gun cartridge, or a bullet casing. Or, if you would like a softer touch, a vase setting, which is a pretty little ‘V’ shaped casing for the feathers to sit in. Or you could have a vintage button as the centrepiece.

She can also make co-ordinated kilt pins, and feather combs for the bride or bridesmaids, or if you have a day at the races coming up, she also has hairbands which are basically feather fascinators… a featherator, perhaps. Maybe not!

She also makes brooches, hat pins, shoe clips, boot clips, all of these can be pinned elsewhere to dress up another outfit.

Her hat pins are very popular in the equestrian world, particularly for those that show, and she has taken samples to point to point meetings, Blair Horse Trials etc, where she has managed to find many customers who love her work.

After many requests, she now stocks her own hats with co-ordinating feather pin. The wonders of parrot feathers are that they have the most tremendous vivid colours that really make them pop among the more autumnal colours of the game bird’s plumage.

Aside from the clothing accessories, Kirstie has been making a striking range of wall art. Circular wreath-like wall hangings, with a huge display of feathers arranged to make a centre piece that’s unique.

Her inspiration comes mainly from her customers who come to her with an idea in their mind, and she has to figure out how to make it work, which she loves. She shows us a stunning wrist corsage, which is a thick band of ribbon with a colourful feather display attached. It’s quite stunning.

Kirstie says: “My daughter Pippa (4) often shows ponies, and she has a little co-ordinated hat to go along with mine while I am on the lead rein. People always ask where we got our hats from.” The equestrian market has been very supportive of Kirstie’s work.

There is a hat that has been commissioned for Cheltenham that is being boxed up to be sent off. It’s a striking electric blue with a feather pin that is bold and highlighted with a bright blue feather tying the colours together.

Kirstie’s market has expanded from ladies’ accessories and hats for showing enthusiasts to incorporate gifts for men, including a range of cufflinks made from gun cartridges. She says they are very popular with young farmers and as gifts for groomsmen etc.

She has also dabbled in home furnishings, making feather arrangements which can be pinned onto a lampshade to completely change the look of it.

A new venture this year has been to hold workshops. She has one coming up with the Ayrshire Dairy Society as part of the alternative programme for their annual conference, where she will show the clients her range of work and give them a demonstration on how she works, giving them a hands-on opportunity to make their own. This is an avenue she hopes to follow up.

Being a small business, Kirstie has worked hard to find support and to give support to fellow cottage industries in the local area. She supports the local florists, who do the same for her, passing on each other’s names when enquiries pop up. She also supports local charities with items for auction or raffles. She is also a regular on the Women’s Institute Circuit talking about her work at their meetings. It all contributes to letting people know she is out there.

After showing us some of her range, Kirstie talks about her future plans, she has ideas that she would like to try out, belts, dog collars and maybe expand her interiors range.

As well as working, doing Bespoke Feathers, being a mum, having horses, and lots of dogs to look after (with pups on the way), Kirstie is a busy women. However, she still finds time to go to wedding fayres, and some country fairs to promote her work. Look out for her at your local Borders agricultural or horse show this summer. You can also find Kirstie at Ayr Show craft tent.

For more information or to talk about a commission, go to:


Tarff Town and Country, Mrs Illingworths Vintage Shed, Carol’s Creations, Memories Forever.