Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mad Hatter: Part 1

I have decided to try my hand at hat-making. I know, I know, I do NOT need another project! But I do so love hats, and I also love being creative, so why not combine the two and attempt a new chapter of millinery madness?! If nothing else, it will be a way to make vintage-inspired hats when I can't afford to buy them!


Step 1: Buy how-to book.

My choice was the much-approved "From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking" by Denise Dreher (available from Amazon). Basically, the millinery bible, and an excellent resource for a beginning mad hatter! The book breaks everything down into easy-to-follow lessons with thoughtful illustrations.

Step 2: Practice making paper mock-ups.

While I eventually want to turn almost exclusively to felt work, I feel that it is important to know how to do all aspects of hatmaking. So, for my first project, I will be making a buckram hat frame that will be covered in cloth and decorated with a fake bird.

Since I love the beautiful hats of the late 1930s and 1940s, I decided my first hat would be a tilt topper. I made the hat with a pointed front and a curved-up back, and it will rest at a jaunty tilt upon my pretty little head! I constructed a flat crown with which to place my mock "bird" (constructed of styrofoam and feathers).

In order not to waste valuable (and expensive) materials, you figure out the pattern for your hat using cheap-ish paper models. That way, if you make a mistake, it's not as expensive! You start with your first paper pattern, which you cut and shape and tape to figure out curvature of the brim (if you do in fact want curvature - which I did!). My initial pattern is shown below the "Step 2" title. Once you have your pattern figured out, you cut out the "real" paper pattern. Then, you use that final paper pattern to cut out the buckram, sew it together with some millinery wire for support, cover it with fabric, and decorate!

Step 3: Don't be Idle - Play with Glue!

While waiting to order the buckram, I decided to work on my mock bird. My inspiration came from this hat displayed in the November 1944 issue of McCall Magazine. My bird will look very similar, except that the tail feathers will be shorter, and will extend upward a bit more (as they will be resting/attached to the upturned back brim of the hat.

To make the bird body, I purchased a medium styrofoam "egg" and cut it in half.

Using the wonderfully brain-cell-killing glue known as Fabri-Tac (DEFINITELY only to be used in a well-ventilated area and while wearing gloves!!), I glued on a layer of colorful feathers, working from the back and making my way forward (so that they would lay and look more natural).

The bottom I left as plain styrofoam for the moment, but will eventually be covered with a light fabric and glued and/or tacked onto the finished hat to hold it in place.

For the bird head/neck, I purchased a styrofoam "ring" that I will cut a piece out of and carve one end to look like a head. I haven't figured out what to use for a beak yet...?

Anywho, I finished gluing feathers to the bird body today, and hopefully tomorrow will start constructing the head and neck.

Here is the bird body resting on the paper mock-up. Imagine the spray of tail feathers coming out the back too (like the McCall hat)...

More millinery adventures to follow!...

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