I’ve been doing a lot of one of my favorite forms of costuming lately: hat making. I know hats can be intimidating but I love them because they are nearly all “frosting.” And by "frosting" I mean that the construction part is much less fraught with all the fiddly fitting issues I have with say, bodices and sleeves. And once the construction is done the decoration can begin!
The majority of what I’ve learned about hats and hat-making has come from reading From the Neck Up and taking classes by Mela Hoyt-Heydon, Lynn McMasters and Mary LaVenture over the years. I highly recommend all of the above!
Most of the hats I’ve made are straw I’ve blocked, bought or covered or buckram I’ve covered with fabric, although I have blocked a few felt ones as well (not my favorite.) Anyway, I thought I’d pass along a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
- I double, triple or quadruple my ostrich feathers. Modern ostrich feathers look so sad compared to the thick fluffy vintage ones. That’s because the vintages ones are not just one plume but many that have been sewn together. A dull pair of child’s safety scissors can be used to curl the barbs of the feather for even more fluff (just as you curl ribbon for presents) and a curling iron is great for curling the shaft.
- I wire the brim of nearly all my hats. Like ladies in past times I often re-trim my hats. Just changing the angle and shape of the brim can give a hat a completely different look, and that's easy to do when the brim is wired.
- I never, ever use hot glue to attach my trimmings (well, anymore that is!) Again, because I like to re-trim my hats I stay away from hot glue because once it’s glued on it’s not coming off without a fight that often ruins the hat in the process.
- I always use double buckram. It makes my hats stronger and lets me get away with large brims without having to make wire spokes. It’s easy to make with a fusible, like stitch witchery, and two pieces of buckram. Just BE SURE to use a pressing cloth to protect both your iron and your ironing board from the excess glue.