Sunday, 5 March 2017

Gatsby cloche

Another completed hat!

Two weeks ago I went on another weekend course at Hat Works, this time to make a Gatsby-style cloche. To be honest, every cloche I've ever tried on a has looked entirely ridiculous on me, so I was firmly expecting this course to be a learning experience rather than coming away with something I would actually wear. But . . .

As ever, Sue the tutor (sadly Marie couldn't join us this time) had brought along lots of illustrations of different styles of cloche to inspire us; both from the 1920s and modern interpretations.

Just some of the 1920s examples

The big difference from previous courses was that we used unstiffened hoods, as we were aiming to create a softer look than, for example, the percher hat. We used basic domed blocks, and could either stretch the hood entirely smoothly, or add pleats and/or pinched folds. I decided to add both.

Showing the pleat on the left, and the pinched fold on the top

The blocked hoods were then left to dry overnight, and we moved onto making feather pads for trimming the hats. I made mine from partridge flank feathers, as I loved the colours and the markings.

The complete feathers, only the top section is used

When I got home on Saturday evening I had a look though my button box, and selected a few buttons inherited from Granny T, which I thought I might use when trimming the hat.

The button I eventually used - balanced on a small  cotton reel to photograph it

On Sunday we took the hats off the blocks, and experimented with how much, if any, brim we wanted. The brim is part of the hood, not separate as with the brimmed hat. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so just folded the excess felt up, with the intention of cutting it into a narrow brim.

Just experimenting

But actually, I quite liked it as it was. In the end all I did was cut off a tiny strip to smooth off the edge.

The pleat on one side, and the turned up brim on the other

In order to keep the pleat in place, and to stop the hat from stretching out of shape, I added a petersham band inside.

Inside view and the petersham band

The one problem with my turned-up brim was that visually it just merged with the crown. I decided that it needed to be trimmed with a contrasting petersham.

Before trimming - too plain

None of the petersham ribbons for sale in the Hat Works shop looked quite right with the hat and the feathers, but one of the staff kindly let me have a rummage through an extra box of ribbons which weren't on display. Bingo; the perfect match with the feathers and one of the buttons, and just the right contrast with the hat!

Ribbon, feather pad and button

The one problem with the ribbon was that it was ½" wider than I wanted. Fortunately because the brim is so close to the crown, the inside doesn't show, so I pressed and attached the ribbon with ½" on the outside and 1" on the inside. Sewing the ribbon on had to wait until I got home, in order to get the right colour of thread.

The brim is now obvious

I was able to press a bit of a curve into the ribbon, and once it was all sewn on I used a tip which Sue had told me; dab round the edge with a damp sponge. This shrinks the petersham just enough to smooth out any bumps.

The ribbon trim completed

I didn't sew the ribbon all the way round, as I had other plans for the base of the pleat.

Pins mark where the edge of the brim should lie

I positioned the feather pad on the hat, and marked the outline with yellow pins. Then I sewed down the brim at the ends of the ribbon.

The brim stitched down so that it comes to a point

Then I folded up the pointed section of the brim. Before I attached it to the crown, I cut a slit in the felt and pushed through the shank of the button. The idea was to make it look as though the brim is buttoned in place; but I'm not sure if this really works. I still like the effect, though.

The completed hat

And the thing I really like about this hat? I can actually wear it!

A wearable cloche hat!!

The pleat is just visible in the side view

Because we used unstiffened hoods the crown isn't rigid, so I can wear it with the feather pad slightly to one side (above), or centred.

Slightly turned round

Side view

From the other side

Because the crown is so deep, the hat stays on and keeps my ears warm. A definite success!


  1. Oh I love this hat, it's so cute and really suits you. I particularly love it in the first photo of you wearing it, the big sweep of the brim at the front coming down to the point at the side is a lovely effect. The button does make it look like it's holding that section up.

    I've picked up so many little tips from your description too! I used just a small amount of stiffener on the hat I'm making as the 1930s one I own is quite soft. I had no idea if this was the right thing to do but you've put my mind at ease if you didn't use any stiffener in this one. Also, i didn't know about wetting the edges of the petersham, I'll give that a go!

    Thank you for sharing! xx

    1. Thank you Cate! Glad you found the description useful. I included the unstiffened hood reference with you in mind; I remembered that you mentioned that you'd bought stiffener, but also that you wanted to make softer, less structured hats.

      You only need a small amount of water on the petersham. I use the sort of sponge that you get in a compact, soak it, then really squeeze it out. Best to start with too little rather than too much. Sponge it, let it dry, and then redo it if you need to. xx

  2. Lovely! Those subtle colours in the feathers and the shade of the petersham work so well with the hat itself. And it totally suits you.

    1. Thank you Kate! There were lots of dyed feathers for us to play with on the course as well, and people made lovely pads from them, but I preferred to use the natural colours. I'm still slightly stunned that I've finally found a cloche style I can wear!

  3. This is fantastic! Love the turned up bit at the edge and the feathers. Gorgeous!

    1. Thank you Lauren! The turned up edge just suggested itself as a perfect way to use the button. I've only got one of that style, so hat trimming seemed to be the perfect use for it.

  4. Your hat-making posts are so inspiring to me! I so wish I could take a Hat Works course, but seeing your lovely completed projects is the next best thing. This one turned out so classy and chic, I love it!

    1. Thank you Chelsea! I'm really lucky to live so close to the venue; some of the other attendees have travelled quite a way.