Sunday, 17 May 2015

Hat Trick!

My millinery spree continues! After working with sinamay and fabric/buckram, I’ve now made a third hat, this time from the traditional hatting material of felt.

Well, sort of traditional. The hat was made over several weeks on an evening course at Hat Works, and we started off by making our own felt. I forgot to take any photos of the first part of the process, but we began by laying out pieces of teased out wool fleece on a textured mat. The fleece was placed in two layers, one with the fibres running vertically, and one with them running horizontally. Finally we added a few lengths of coloured fleece. The layers were then thoroughly wetted (and I mean 'thoroughly' - the tables were awash) with soapy water, and the mat rolled up into a tube, which was then rolled back and forth.

Fleece, mat, and an awful lot of water

This causes the fleece to felt; the wool fibres hook into one another, and the whole piece shrinks into a more solid mass.

The completed felt

Because the course was all about processes we could recreate at home, we didn’t use hat blocks to shape our hats. Instead they were blocked over household objects such as plastic jugs. First of all we put on a piece of wetted blocking net, and secured it with an elastic band. This stiffens when it dries, and forms the basis of the hat.

Stretching the net over the block/jug

Then we placed our felt over the top, considering the best placement of the coloured sections, and secured that in place as well. The whole thing was then left to dry thoroughly.

And stretching the felt over the top

The next week we had to decide how deep we wanted our hats to be, and sew round what would become the bottom of the hat, before taking it off the block. Then came the scary part; cutting off the excess felt!

Cut down to size, and starting to look hat-like

After that we stitched brim wire round the edge, to stiffen it.

The inside of the hat, and the sewn-on brim wire

Now the fun bit! Lorna the tutor had brought lots of luscious feather trims for us to work with, including peacock feathers, and a strip of iridescent teal and turquoise feathers which were perfect for my colour scheme. There was also a bag of fabric flowers for us to rummage through, where I found some crumpled and rather sad-looking blue five-petal flower shapes.

Feathers galore! - and the flowers just above my hat

I started off by couching some long strands of a peacock feather over the coloured strips of my hat. This also had the advantage of anchoring the strips to the white felt; they hadn’t felted in properly.

Peacock feather strands couched on to accentuate the coloured strips

Then at the front of the hat I added two small clusters of peacock feather strands and the teal and turquoise feathers.

Once all the feathers were in place, it was time to bind the raw edge. This also covered the ends of the feathers. I found some home-made blue crepe binding which I had made but not used for Granny’s collar, which was the perfect colour.

Finally I pressed the fabric flowers flat, painted the edges and part of the petals with bronze fabric paint, and curved the petals with a ball tool. In the end I only put one on the hat, and secured it in place with some dark bronze beads. Finally I added a couple of iridescent leaf-shaped beads underneath.

The completed flower (slightly bent in transit, I've not have time to fix it yet)

The hat is lined with a bias strip, gathered at the centre. Lorna showed us a gathering stitch which is a combination of overcast and running stitches, and which gives a lovely scalloped edge when pulled up; I can see this being used on other trims.

A sample of the gathering stitch

A small piece of the lining fabric was sewn under the central hole.

The completed lining

Finally we put elastic in the hats to hold them in place, and attached the lining.

The lining and elastic in place

The completed hat

Much as I like the end result (and a big thank you to tutor Lorna Young for a fabulous course), I can’t help thinking that a small veil would finish it off perfectly. It just so happens that I’m going on a veiling course in a couple of months, so watch this space!