Sunday, 21 May 2017

'Making do' on the hat front - part 1, the block

I've got very behind on blogging about my hat making activities; since posting about the Gatsby cloche I've been on not one but two more courses at Hat Works! Time to catch up a bit. The second course was this weekend, and while it was as much fun as ever it was also tiring, so this will be a shortish post.

Way back at the end of April, I went on a course to make a 1940s hat. But in true-make-do-and-mend style, we made our own hat blocks as well!

(Almost) Everything you need to make hat blocks - paper, card, masking tape and a glue stick

First we made a head-shaped block from the paper. The sheets were folded double, then taped together to form a cylinder which fitted to your head - a bit like making a chef's hat out of paper. Next we cut down from the top, but not all the way. Here my dressmaking habits came to the fore, and as a result I made my cuts longer, and closer together, than was necessary.

The paper base cut into strips

Because I'd made the cuts so deep, mine would not stand up

Next we worked in pairs, folding the strips over each other's head, taping them down, and trying not to tape hair in at the same time. The end result was a head-shaped dome.

Dome-shaped block in progress

This was then covered with more (lots more) masking tape to make it more rigid, then packed with scrunched up newspaper, and taped across the bottom to hold the paper in place.

The other method of block making we tried was to make a shape using card. Sue and Marie, the tutors, had brought along a fabulous hat which they had made on a cardboard block.


They had also brought the template for the block, so I decided to use this rather than make my own.

Unfortunately all of the photographs I took of the block-making process on the course were with the flash on, which has blotted out the details. So I took some of the completed block at home. This at least gives an idea of how well it stood up to being used.

The block is slightly asymmetrical, and consists of two top sections and a side. I made my block slightly less tall than the template. First the top pieces were taped together, then the side was taped into a tube shape, and finally the two were taped together.

Making the cardboard block

Then as with the dome block, lots more tape was added. The shape was packed with newspaper, paying particular attention to stuffing the edges of the top, and yet more tape was added round and under the block.

The completed block

Showing the asymmetrical shape

Careful packing keeps the shape of the top crisp

The underside, with the paper packed and taped in

The block could be covered with a thin layer of papier maché and varnished, to make it more durable, but it worked perfectly well as it was. But the hat itself is a topic for another post.


  1. Fabulous tips to make your own hat blocks, I will definitely bookmark this for a later date! I actually have a Pinterest board dedicated to hat making with a few other techniques for doing this too, so this will fit in well. Can't wait to see the hat you made! xx

    1. Thank you Cate! It was great fun to do, and it's given me ideas for a few other blocks I could make! xx

  2. Oooh, this looks like it could be fun! I hadn't considered making my own hat blocks, as I had assumed they needed to be wood or something just as sturdy. It's good to know they can be made out of paper and tape!

    1. Yes, it opens up lots of possibilities! I don't know how easy it would be to block a stiffened hood on one of these blocks, but for softer shapes made from unstiffened hoods they are fine. The main thing is to make sure that you pack the newspaper in tightly, so that the card stays rigid.

  3. Wow! That's such a clever idea! The hats look great