Sunday, 22 May 2016

Almost silk headpieces

My latest course at Hat Works has been a two-part affair, on making fabric-covered headpieces.

All the hat blocking I have done so far has been with wool felt. On this course we learned how block buckram, and some of us got as far as covering it with silk!

Whereas the buckram I used for Vogue 7464 was like extremely thick interfacing, this buckram was loosely woven, and coated in some sort of sizing. Once sprayed with water it becomes mouldable (and extremely sticky). Sue and Marie had brought along examples of buckram shapes to show us.

Buckram shapes . . .

They had also brought several fabric-covered hats for inspiration. The hat at the back is a button base topped with a curl like the one on the left in the photo above. The hat at the front is made from the same block as the example on the right above.

. . . and finished hats

On the first day we made two different buckram bases, so that we could learn a variety of techniques. The first base was simply made by shaping a square of buckram over a basic domed block. While that was drying, we blocked a second piece onto a hat block. I chose a heart-shaped block.

With pen, to show the block size. Guess who forgot to bring a ruler?

It was impossible to block the heart-shaped hat in a single piece of buckram, so I had to block the top and side separately. It was a sunny day, so we put all the blocks outside to dry. The chimney pot to the right is at the top of a tall chimney in the museum's courtyard. Fortunately none of the blocks fell off the ledge; it's a long way down!

Drying in the sun

For the first piece, we drew out our hat designs on paper, cut them out, and marked round the edge onto the buckram.

I was to come to bitterly regret this choice of shape!

The shapes were cut out, and then we sewed wire round the edges. This was where I got my first inkling that my design had been, ahem, ambitious. Because of the tightness of the curves I couldn't just oversew the wire; it had to be attached with buttonhole stitch to keep it secure. (Actually I cheated and used blanket stitch instead - very lax.)

Once wired, I could manipulate the shape.

Moving away from the dome shape

For the heart-shaped hat, I trimmed the side piece to the exact shape, and the top piece to have a 1cm / ⅜" lip. Sewing the two together took me up to the end of the first day.

We had a week between the two Saturdays of the course, and some of us took our pieces home to work on them. However judging by the amount of sewing being done yesterday morning before Sue and Marie arrived, I'm not sure if many of us had been that diligent with our homework! I had managed to wire my heart-shaped hat (oversewed this time), but that was all.

The two parts of the hat, and the wired edge

The next step was to cover the wire with bias strips of tarlatan. Easy for the heart-shaped hat.

Tarlatan covered wire

If anyone reading this is thinking of going on this course in the future, it's great fun but do not design something with tight curves! Trust me on this. No amount of stream / cajoling / brute force could get that bias to lie flat. In the end I snipped into it in places, and lapped the sections one over the other.

More tarlatan covered wire. Eventually

Back view

And this was as far as I got with this piece. I know what I want to do with it, but I need some other materials, which I hope to get next month.

I also know what I want to do with the heart-shaped hat. So far I've just covered the top with ice wool (a stretchy, fluffy fabric) to smooth over the jagged edges where the pieces of buckram meet.

With the ice wool added

I've got the materials for this hat, but whether I've got the ability to carry out my grand plan remains to be seen, as it's stupidly ambitious.

To be continued.


  1. Awww, that's definitely a problem with learning something new. Without knowing the big picture we can design ourselves into a corner. That has happened to me many a time. I hope it happily all comes together for you. Thank you for sharing from your experience! =)The entire process looks fascinating!

    1. Thank you Laurie. I've made a little more progress, but this is definitely going to be a learning experience!

  2. I'd love to learn how to make hats like this, I wish there was a course around here. I love the shapes you've chosen to do and cannot wait to see how the curved one ends up, that one is very intriguing.

    1. People have come on the courses from as far away as Hereford, but I think you're in Somerset, and that's a whole lot further (as I know from my annual trip to Glastonbury).

  3. Oh how fun! I am utterly jealous of your hat-making adventures, and can't wait to see how these latest projects end up!