First of all, a couple of explanations. Firstly, these instructions are for view C only. If you are making view B, there is an excellent tutorial here. Secondly these are my observations on the instructions which come with the pattern, they are not a substitute.
Now that’s all clear, let’s get started. The patterns calls for silk taffeta, but I used synthetic, and I don’t think it had an adverse effect. I used a plain, shot fabric (orange and black) because that was all I could get, and I think that a checked fabric like the one in the illustration would have looked better.
You begin by cutting out two brims from buckram*, basting them together, and turning under 6mm / ¼“ round the outer edge. I made one brim slightly larger to allow for turn of cloth, but it wasn’t necessary, as the staggered raw edge is entirely covered by the taffeta.
|Fabric scrap showing the orange weft, and the buckram brim|
The instructions say to sew 3mm / ⅛” from the pressed edge, and then feed the wire into the stitched channel. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the wire to go in any further than a few centimetres. In the end I unpicked all the stitching, placed the wire against the fold, and hand sewed through the machine stitching holes with a stab stitch. This worked well, and if I used this technique again I would probably ‘sew’ round the brim without any thread in the machine to make the holes, as four layers of buckram is a lot to sew through by hand.
Making up the first bias section and attaching it to the brim is straightforward. Be aware though that contrary to the illustration, it does not lie flat, but turns under slightly on the outer edge.
|First bias section basted onto the brim|
Next turn the brim over, and gather up the other edge of the bias.
|Bias gathered round the brim|
The second bias section covers the remaining buckram. It’s not obvious from the illustration, but the outer edge will not lie flat on the brim.
|The second bias section basted in place|
This means that when you come to machine the bias onto the buckram, there will be some pleats in the outer edge. The machine sewing will show on both the top and underside of the brim, so it’s best to be as neat as possible.
|The second bias section stitched in place|
Attaching the crown to the brim is tricky. Although the instructions say to “Stitch close to the curved edge”, I found it easier to stitch a generous 6mm / ¼“ from the raw edge, with a slightly smaller stitch length than usual, and then clip to the stitching.
It is the curved edge, not the straight edge, which is attached to the brim. I did this on my beginners’ lace pillow (a square of poystyrene with a cotton cover). I pinned straight through both crown and brim and into the pillow, then carefully eased the brim away from the pillow, which had the effect of pulling the pins all the way through.
|The crown, with its clipped edge, pinned onto the brim|
Again the illustration is misleading at this point. It shows the crown with creases in it, while the actual hat looks alarmingly pointy, and like something for a small witch!
While trying hard to stop singing, “Ding dong, the witch is dead”, I made up and attached the third bias section. The bias is only attached to the brim, not the crown. Stretching it as you sew helps the free edge stay close to the crown.
Although the instructions don't say so, the ribbons need to be attached to the hat with the short end uppermost, otherwise they will not hang correctly when the hat is worn (something which I only worked out once I had sewn them on, wrongly!).
|How the ribbon should be attached|
The buckram stay is bigger than it needs to be, and has to be trimmed to fit inside the crown of the hat. I marked the cutting line, and then did a line of running stitch just inside the line, to stop the stay from stretching out as it was handled.
|The stay, showing the amended cutting line and the stitching|
Although the instructions state to sew the bias onto the brim and then glue it to the crown, I don’t like gluing if I can help it. Instead I gathered the inner edge of the bias, sewed it onto the underside of the stay, put the stay in place, and then sewed the outer edge of the bias onto the brim.
|The stay, with the bias strip attached, ready to be sewn to the brim|
The illustration for attaching the bow to the brim is wrong. The bow pieces need to be attached right side up, not wrong side up.
|One of the bow pieces in place|
The brim is then bent up, and sewed to the top of the crown. This finally gets rid of the pointy/witchy look. I creased the crown slightly before I sewed it, to get it into an attractive shape. The sewing needs to be firm, otherwise the two sections will pull apart. For extra security, I made sure at least some of my stitches went inside the wire in the brim.
|The brim sewn onto the now bent crown|
And there you have it, an early 1940s hat.
I deliberately used a ribbon close to my hair colour, but the tails of the bow cover quite a lot of it, and a suitably 1940s up-do will cover some more.
I also found that putting my hair into a roll at the back provided extra bulk to hold the ribbon in place.
With hindsight, I would have used a different coloured fabric for the third bias section and the bow. The hat is undeniably fiddly to make in places, possibly because it uses unfamiliar techniques, but I’m pleased with the end result - I feel as if I should be leaning out of a railway carriage on Carnforth station!
Hopefully these notes have made the whole process a bit clearer. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to help.
* - Update 11 May 2020
The pattern calls for 'buckram', so I bought what my local fabric shop sells as under that name. Because I knew very little about hatmaking at the time, I didn't realise that what I had purchased was pelmet buckram, not millinery buckram (see this post for an illustration of the differences). Apart from the difficulty sewing through the layers, it worked fine. Personally I'm not sure if millinery buckram would be stiff enough for the brim; certainly you would have to position the two layers with the weave running in different directions.