Sunday, 25 October 2020

Autumn Roses hat - part 2, completing the hat

Once I had made the basic structure of the two hat brims, the next stage was to cover them in fabric. My stash contains several pieces of black satin, and I chose one which was lightweight and drapey, but thick enough to cover the white base well. I covered the brims with the fabric wrong side out, and made the binding with the fabric right side out, to replicate the contrast on the original.

Showing the shiny contrast binding

It’s always tricky to take 'in progress' shots of anything made in plain black, because they invariably turn out as just dark blobs of various shapes. Suffice to say that the lower brim was easy to cover, the upper brim was not, I had the sense to attach the binding to the upper brim before I attached the brim wire, and I made the binding slightly too wide. Then, when I came to sew the brims together, I discovered I had a problem.

Oops! Mind the gap

Although the upper brim on the original hat looks the same width all round, it's possible that it was made longer at the back so that the two layers would meet. My layers however were a long way off meeting. The original hat has a small, almost flat, crown, similar to the stay in Vogue 7464. I decided to make my version more curved, and to attach the back of the upper brim to this. Then, I struck lucky. While looking for some buckram scraps in my 'millinery bits' box I found a small fascinator base - I think it had been a freebie in a goody bag I received at an event at The Hat Works. It was the perfect size, and far more rigid than anything I could have made. I covered it with some soft, fluffy interlining to make it smooth, and then with a layer of fabric.

Freebie to the rescue

I had to put a strip of binding over the seam where the upper brim was attached to the crown, but hoped that once the hat was trimmed, it wouldn't show too much.

The completed, untrimmed, hat

Once the basic hat was made, it was time to trim it. This project has been percolating in my brain for a couple of years, and I bought the silks for the flowers ages ago. The colours were chosen to go with a length of dress fabric which has been in my stash for . . . ooh, ages. I couldn't find the templates from the silk flowers workshop I did with the Millinery Magpies, but fortunately this blog came to the rescue - I was able to recreate them from this photograph I'd taken at the workshop.

The flower shapes - thank goodness for blog pictures!

I made a mock-up flower, and discovered that I didn't need to use the largest template. Even so, cutting out six fiddly silk shapes for each flower took a long time. The petals were too small for my flower making tool to shape effectively, so instead I used my mini iron with the ball head attachment; and it worked perfectly.

Silk roses production line

Egg boxes turned out to be the ideal size to hold the petals while they cooled and dried.

My high-tech drying arrangement

With the fabric which inspired the colour scheme

To hold the six layers of petals together, I made stamens from embroidery floss, knotted round a length of black thread. Each end of the thread was stitched through the petals and tied underneath, then the threads were used to attach the flowers to the hat.

Making the stamens

In line with the original hat, I added a few leaves, made using silk from my stash. The template for these was easy - I simply snipped a couple of leaves off the rose bush in my yard! Then it was just a case of placing the roses on the hat until I found an arrangement I liked, and sewing them in place. Finally, I lined the crown so that there were no raw edges. Unfortunately, by the time I had done all this it was too late to get any pictures in natural light, so these ones will have to do. (Warning - hat spam ahead!)

Comparison with the original illustration

Side view showing more of the flowers at the back

Front view

This angle really shows off the shapes

Can you tell how much I love this hat?!

It's a while since I’ve done any hatmaking (I have really missed both classes and Open Blocking weekends at The Hat Works this year) but I'm really pleased with how this hat has turned out. It provided lots of puzzles to solve, and has kept me fully occupied for the last couple of weeks - and just now, anything which enables me to turn off from events in the outside world is particularly welcome. It's even made a further little dent in the stash!

Another metre used up

Update 17 November Just for fun I had a go at recreating the original image, although sadly copying the original hairstyle was beyond me!

The Tulip Gazette, November 2020

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Autumn Roses hat - part 1, sums!

Much as I enjoy dressmaking, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. So, I decided that before I started my October Vintage Sew A Dress A Month dress, I wanted to do something different - and it became far more different than I had expected.

This illustration is from the cover of a 1940s issue of The Hatters' Gazette. It used to be on display in the Hat Works Museum in Stockport (currently closed for refurbishment), and I've long thought that it would be fun to try to recreate the hat featured - Lystalite model W386. It looks as though it might have been made from fabric, rather than straw or felt, and that is what I decided to use.

My inspiration - from March 1942

I used Vogue 7464, view C, as the starting point, having compared the illustration with photo of me wearing the completed hat and decided that brim was about the right size.

The proportions are similar

I started with the lower, flat, brim, and made it using the 'wrong' buckram again, i.e. upholstery rather than millinery buckram. I know that it works for this type of brim, and it also makes a smoother finished surface and is less messy to work with than the hatting variety. However, I now know a lot more about hatmaking than I did in 2015, including how to attach brim wire properly. Instead of folding the buckram over the wire, I attached the wire round the edge. To make life easier for myself, I 'stitched' round the brim with an unthreaded sewing machine to punch holes for sewing into. I used my 1917 Singer for this, as I needed holes to be close to edge, and it was easier to do this with a hand crank machine.

Punching holes for sewing

The tradition way of sewing on brim wire is to make two overcasting stitches from the same place - one in the same hole and one in the next hole. This will be covered by binding so for the sake of my eyesight, sanity, and migraine prevention I decided against using white thread. For some reason I have got three reels of one shade of turquoise, so I used some of that - see picture below.

The wired brim was then hung on my hat block with two pins ready for me to work out the upper brim layer. Because the front section is only slightly larger than the lower brim and the back section is much larger, I decided to do it in two parts. Wallpaper lining paper worked well for making a mock-up; as it was thick enough to hold its shape, wide enough to cut out large pieces, and I had lots of it. I started with the front half - made a first draft, attached it to the lower brim with paper clips, and then refined the shape until I was happy with it.

The front half of the brim

The back section was much more complicated. First, I modelled the wavey outer edge in fine-gauge wire to work out how long it should be. I knew that what I needed to create was a shape which looked like part of a doughnut. I had the length of the outer curve (the wire), the length of the inner curve (half of the inner curve of the lower brim) and the width of the doughnut (the same as the width of the lower brim), but I didn't know what proportion of the doughnut I needed, or the width of the doughnut's inner hole.

The information I had to work with (in mm)

I was convinced, however, that it should be possible to calculate these from the information I had. This involved digging deep, deep into memories of O Grade maths, but to my complete amazement (and, I must admit, pride) I did manage to work it out. I should take a moment here to say thank you to Mr Foley my maths teacher, as clearly what he taught us about simultaneous equations has remained lodged somewhere in my brain for 40 years!

Showing my workings - I still prefer to do things like this on paper

The first draft didn't quite work, because I hadn't taken into account the fact that the centre back needs to be more tightly curved than the sides – more of a horseshoe shape than a doughnut. Armed with my newly-rediscovered mathematical skills, I split the back brim into two separate sections, and worked out their shapes.

The back half of the brim

The base for this brim was two layers of thick interfacing. In an attempt to avoid obvious join lines I created two, non-symmetrical, pattern pieces; one of the front and a side, one of the back and a side. This meant that the join was in a different place on each layer.

The completed pattern pieces

The pieces were butted together, and stab stitched onto the solid layer underneath. The edge of this brim will be wired, too, but I will sew on the outer fabric first, as the wired shape will be unwieldy.

The interfacing brim base

I'm quite used to needing to do odd bits of arithmetic when I’m sewing, but I never expected to have to do algebra as well!

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Hatbox heaven

(Thanks to my friend F for suggesting the title.)

A problem with hatmaking is that you then need to store the finished articles. Modern hatboxes (or at least, the ones I've seen) tend to come as flatpacks, are made from very flimsy card, and always seem absurdly expensive for what you get. So when a lot of 'assorted hatboxes' came up at the local auction, naturally I put in a bid - and got them. They are all sturdily constructed and as well as being useful, I've had great fun researching them.

Hatbox heaven indeed

Two of them are probably not actually hatboxes, but have clearly been pressed into use as such. Bernat Klein was a textile designer who established a business in the Scottish Borders. He seems to have worked mainly with tweed fabrics and yarn, and judging from this post, the box would originally have held wool. Spiers of Berkeley Square (the orange box) was a celebrity hairdresser, so this smaller box may have contained a hairpiece or haircare products (although hopefully not bottles of his egg yolk, rum and vinegar shampoo).

Nora Bradley is now a women's clothing shop in Belfast. It is described as 'long-established', but I haven't been able to work out if it is the same business as this shop in 1960s London. Scotts of Old Bond Street was set up in 1758, but in 1969 was taken over by the even older Lock & Co, founded in 1676. The Worth box is, sadly, from the London shop, not Paris.

By the standards of London's hatmakers, Christy's is a johnny-come-lately, having only been established in 1773. This splendid red box held a couple of surprises. First there was an actual hat, a very 1970s-looking felt by Frederick Fox, with an unwired brim and glued on (the horror!) motifs.

Lots of browns

Under the hat, I discovered that the box has an internal support; presumably to prevent ones topper from being shaken around in the box and having its brim damaged.

How to keep your hat in place

One of the boxes also contained this 'tebilized' label. Vogue Pattern Books from the 1950s contain lots of advertisements for tebilized fabrics; a treatment which made materials crease-resistant. I'm not sure why the label is in the shape of a hatbox, as Tootal were known for making fabric, ties and scarves, not hats.

Garment label in the shape of a hatbox

The remaining three hatboxes are all from Henry Heath. The large box is very plain, but the text-heavy lid of one of the others, dated June 1936, states that Henry Heath had several shops in London.

That's a lot of information

There's more on the box side

The main shop was 105-109 Oxford Street. and the factory was behind it in the same building. And what a building it was. You can read all about it, and its unusual but appropriate statues, here. I tend to avoid Oxford Street when I'm in London, but when I'm finally able to go down there again, I'll definitely take a look.

The box even contains the hatbox maker's label inside.

Made by George Howard of Southwark

The other box is similar but altogether sturdier. Clearly Henry Heath didn't just sell his hats in his own shops, he supplied shops outside London as well.

A box which could safely be posted

A shop's label has been added to the box

Walker and Ling's shop in Milsom Street, Bath, is long gone, but the firm still exists in Weston-super-Mare. This particular hat was sent in March 1935 to an address in Yatton Keynell, a village about 14 miles from Bath.

Close-up of the label

On the subject of hats and travel, I've saved the best until last. Also in the auction lot was this beauty.

6" ruler for scale just visible in front of the lid

Side view

F still teases me about the fact that a few years ago I went to this exhibition about plywood, and even worse, enjoyed it! Among the exhibits were some plywood hatboxes - the ease with which plywood can be bent makes it an ideal material for making something this shape. So now I have my own plywood hatbox.

The pieces are held together with metal strips

Sadly, the interior label has been removed. But when I turned the box over, I found this on the base.

Wanted on voyage

Close-up of the label

Enough of the ship's name was visible for me to be able to look it up on a list of Cunard's vessels and identify it as RMS Berengaria. Originally the SS Imperator, the ship was launched in Germany in 1913, and given to Cunard as war reparations six years later. Cunard and the White Star Line merged in 1934, becoming Cunard White Star Limited, so this label must predate that.

From what I have been able to find out, Cunard's 'vacation specials' could have been one of two things. A combination of a reduction in U.S. immigration and the economic depression following the Wall Street Crash meant that passenger numbers for transatlantic crossings dropped considerably. The supply of liners far exceeded demand, and shipping companies turned to cruises as a way of filling their vessels. So this may have been a perfectly innocent holiday trip. However, at the same time, Prohibition meant that ships registered in America had to be 'dry' whereas those registered elsewhere could serve alcohol once they were out of U.S. territorial waters. By the 1930s the Berengaria was, despite various refits, looking rather old-fashioned compared to newer vessels, and seems to have been used for a number of these 'booze cruises'. Either way, I like to think of this hatbox as having had quite an exotic life.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Style 2630 completed

A question over skirt length meant that I didn't quite complete my September Vintage Sew A Dress A Month dress in time for #sewvintageseptember, but it's all done now. Happily, there were no further unusual techniques to confuse me - it was just a case of getting on with things.

Long-time readers (thank you!) will be familiar with the faff that is me trying to choose buttons. This time it was quite straightforward; I found some small buttons with a pink rim and a transparent, slightly tinted, centre, which fitted the bill perfectly. As with Vogue 7422, I replaced the buttons below the waist with press studs/snaps because I prefer the look. I did put buttons on the cuffs, even though I can get the dress on and off without opening them. Similarly, the one at the neck is unlikely to ever get used.

With the neck buttoned - not my favourite look

While the buttons were straightforward, deciding on a belt was trickier. I wanted something more structured than a simple tie belt, but equally didn't feel that a buckled belt would be right. In the end I made a fabric belt with curved ends and a cord tie. I remember this being a very 70s thing, as seen on this Molyneux pattern from 1977.

Belt inspiration

I also remember these belts being very easy to discreetly loosen during a large meal - always useful! The construction was similar to the belt I made for Butterick 6582, with the cord sewn on to white cotton layer and then covered with dress fabric.

Very 70s-style belt

I think that what really makes this dress is the yoke: it's designed so that the sleeves fall from it perfectly. It does definitely need a soft, draping fabric, though - a stiffer fabric like a craft cotton would look very odd. This soft wool/cotton blend is perfect.

Yoke front

Yoke back

The pattern illustration shows the dress coming to just below the knee. However, I found that this length caused the full skirt to stick out alarmingly and look very dumpy. So, I took my tried and trusted approach of roping in Mum for a second opinion, and we both agreed that a longer length looked better.

Naturally, because this is a 1970s pattern, the dress has pockets. When I came to take the photos, I found that I naturally posed in pattern envelope illustration style with one hand in a pocket, just to show them off!

Pockets!! And an unbuttoned neck

When it came to recording this dress on the Stashometer, I wasn't sure what to do. The fabric was part of the 'assorted textiles' which were included in an auction lot which I bought, but the textiles weren't the reason why I bought it. In the end I decided to fudge the issue by including the fabric in the 'bought' column, but not including all the other fabrics which were in the lot. But I'm really pleased that after languishing in a stash somewhere for about four decades, this fabric has finally been put to use.

The dress is a 'stash neutral' make