Ever wander through the fun-filled aisles of the craft store and notice the straw hats? They come in many sizes, from large sun hats to miniature doll’s hats. The kicker, though, is that they are not at all comfortable. It would seem that these straw hats are for decoration or dollmaking or some other strange purpose that does no involve humans wearing them….or so it seems.
These hats, while not wearable in their initial condition, can be cut, shaped, covered, moulded, decorated, flipped, curled, and generally manipulated to become the base for your Great Hat (or your VerySmall Perching Hat, or you bonnets, and on and on) . They are flexible and editable.
For my first Great Hat, I’ve decided to have a go at making my own from one of the two CraftHats I’ve had living with me for five years. My plan is to remove the crown and replace with with a large, gathered puff made of fabric, much like a caul but bigger. This is known as a “Capote,” or a “Mob Cap,” and Kendra has a lovely dress diary of hers over at Demode. Will mine look like the picture at left? HELL NO, much cooler than that! But you get the idea. Following the puff, masses of ribbons and feathers will explode from at least one side of the hat and all will be well.
Step 1 – cut the crown off the hat, leaving a bit of an upturned edge to sew the new cloth crown to. Don’t worry about the raw edge – it will be covered by the end. My Partner-In-Crime Maggie models the leftover crown, which I’m sure can be used for something, like a chip bowl….
Step 2 – What shape do you want the hat to be? In the last post on hats (click here), we looked at all the various ways to curve the brims of picture hats and straw hats upwards, downwards, sideways, etc. I love the shape of hats like this one shown to the left, what I call a “tunnel hat,” with the sides bent down and held by a big ribbon. I find, however, that the fashionable way to wear these is tilted up in back, which seems to have been to accomodated the big out-the-back hairstyles of a couple decades prior to our chosen 1790s. I do not want to squish my big hair, so instead I choose my other favorite shape, the big picture hat from “The Duchess” that I keep posting everywhere on this blog.
Conveniently enough, this is the same shape as the “tunnel hat” just turned sideways. And it doesn’t squish the hair!
Step 3 – Shape that hat! You haven’t sewn anything onto it at this point, it’s just the straw form. Pull out a needle and strong thread, or a stray shoelace or a piece of ribbon, and wrestle the straw hat into the shape you want. This can be as simple as curving down the edges, or as complex as curving the entire thing into a bonnet shape. Use as many thread lines or shoelaces as you need to keep the hat in the shape you want. It must be held independently in the desired shape, by the bindings (not your hands). Now get the hat wet. A spray bottle works best for this. You don’t necessarily want to soak the hat, just dampen the straw all the way through.
Step 4 – let it dry. Let it dry all the way. When you remove the bindings, the hat will have taken the shape permanently and can now be decorated to your heart’s content. To my knowledge, this spray-bottle-method only works with real straw, not synthetic, a blend, or plastic.
Hooray! Now you’re ready to sew on the poofy crown, and decorate!