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!

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