Sunday, 18 June 2017

1950s straw hat

(My 300th post, how did that happen?!)

Following on from the 1940s make-do-and-mend hat, the next millinery course at Hat Works moved on to 1950s styles.This time we had a choice of techniques; we could make either a small silk headpiece on a buckram base, or a wide-brimmed straw hat. I chose the latter option, as I've never worked with straw before.

The straw hoods

Unlike the 1940s felt hats, this time we started with the brim. There were a number of brim blocks which we could use, but the tutors Sue and Marie had also brought along some alternatives; assorted shallow wooden bowls!

Hat blocks, and bowls from IKEA

As ever, there were also lots of pictures to provide inspiration.

Hats by, among others, Dior and Balenciaga

The brim block I chose looks at first glance to be the same shape all round, but in fact is wider at the sides.

Brim block, crown block, straw hood, and all-important cup of tea!

The straw didn't need nearly as much steaming as a felt hood. It was pinned to the block round the edges, and the centre loosely bunched up and tied. Then the hood was ironed to smooth down any loose fibres!

Blocking the brim

Once the hood was dry, it was taken off the brim block and stretched over the crown block to create the 'stand' - the vertical section onto which the crown would be sewn.

Tied round the base of the crown block

Then came the scary part, cutting off the top section. I always dither for ages at this stage; it's the point of no return. The cut off part was then blocked to make the crown. I chose to use the flat underside of the crown block for this. The blocked crown was also ironed.

Blocking the crown - this really shows the weave of the straw hood

While the crown was drying, we sewed a petersham band to the inside of the brim stand to stop it from stretching. Obviously with a felt hood there is no danger of the cut edge fraying, but cut straw comes apart very easily, so has to be handled carefully.

The other edge of the hood was pressed down along the folded edge of the block, almost like folding a hem. Then brim wire was pressed against the fold, and sewn into place.

Underside, showing the petersham band and the finished edge

Next it was time to join the crown and brim. The two were basted together, and then sewn together with back stitch. Just to be on the safe side, I then sealed the cut edges of the straw with a dab of PVA glue.

Starting to look like a hat, with the yellow basting just visible

For the trimming I decided to keep it simple; a plain navy petersham band, with a small bow at the back.

Classic petersham trim

And that was it. Yet another completed hat! I'm absolutely thrilled with the end result. Please excuse the entirely non-period clothing; I was on the 1960s course this weekend (a Jackie-O style pillbox, details coming once I've completed it), and didn't have a lot of time to take pictures.

I can see this getting a lot of wear


  1. Oh my gosh, I love this hat! It could be worn for so many eras and is just perfect for the summer. If only I could invest in lots of different hat blocks!! xx

    1. Thank you Cate! Once you start hatmaking, you'll never look at wooden bowls in the same light again! The tutors have successfully used shallow bowls as brim blocks - something else to look out for in charity shops. The crown was made on the underside of a basic crown block, so you could use the one you've got already for that. xx