Sunday, 26 November 2017

A hat for St Catherine's Day

Yesterday (25 November) was St Catherine's Day. In Britain St Catherine was traditionally the patron saint of lace-makers: the day was known as 'Catterntide' and marked by the baking of 'cattern cakes', small cakes containing caraway seed.

In France things are a bit more adventurous. There St Catherine's Day is the day when unmarried women traditionally pray for husbands. Unmarried women who are 25, known as 'Catherinettes', are given extravagant yellow and green hats, usually made by their friends, to wear for the day. However Catherinettes who are lucky enough to work in couture houses traditionally have their hats made for them by their bosses! All of which means that St Catherine is now also the patron saint of couture workers and milliners.

Catherinettes, Paris, 1909 - from Wikimedia Commons

I may not be an unmarried 25 year-old, but St Catherine’s Day still seemed like a good reason to abandon my current project for the day, and make a hat. Or more accurately, finish a hat. (I have so many hats to finish and Hat Works courses to write up, but Life keeps getting in the way!) It's not yellow and green, and it's nothing like as outrageous as the picture above, but it is now finished, so yay!

I started this hat at an Open Blocking event in August. Open blocking days are for hatmakers with previous blocking experience. There is no tuition, but irons, steamers, and Hat Works’ magnificent collection of blocks is made available for use. Over two days I blocked or reblocked six hats, so it’s fair to say I made the most of my time!

Blocks available for use on an Open Blocking day

Stupidly I forgot to photograph the actual block, but it’s in two parts; a deep brim and a shallow crown section which fits on top. The pieces can be blocked separately, or in one piece from a single hood. I chose to do the latter, and used elastic to hold the hood in place around the crown and brim.

Elastic holding the hood in place for drying

This was the hat I brought home, and this was how it stayed until yesterday.

The blocked hat

As ever, I hadn't put the hood on the block entirely centrally.

Underside, showing the uneven excess hood

The first job was to trim off the excess hood. Then I added a petersham ribbon band inside the crown to stop it from stretching, and sewed brim wire round the edge of the brim. The wire was covered with narrow black petersham; folded in half, and stretched slightly so that the outer edge would be longer than the inner.

Partway through covering the brim wire

I had found some wonderful textured petersham for trimming, but unfortunately it was wider than the narrow crown. So instead I went with an idea I’d seen somewhere; use more of the narrow ribbon as a base, and wrap the fancy stuff round it.

Textured petersham ribbon

Wrapped abound a band of the plain petersham

The whole trim was finished off with a small bow at the back.

Back view

And here is the finished hat. The 'lampshade' style and super-shallow crown mean that the brim is nowhere near my head. I can’t use an elastic to hold the hat on, as it would bend the crown. Instead I secured it with a hat pin.

Completed hat

By the time I finished the hat, and it stopped raining for long enough for me to take photos, it was so dark that the underside of the brim shows as black. Eventually it got so dark that the flash activated on my camera, so here you can see the underside.

The underside isn't black after all!

It may not be green and yellow, but my St Catherine's day hat goes perfectly with my red and black swing coat, and I'm very pleased with it.


  1. Such a cute hat and it does indeed go with your ensemble. I could just imagine Audrey Hepburn wearing a hat like that. xx

    1. Thanks Cate. I first came across the block at the Hat Works summer school, which was based on Audrey Hepburn's hats (that was in July, and I haven't written it up yet). Other people were using the block then, so I had to wait until the Open Blocking days to get my hands on it! xx