FlapperHacks: Re-blocking Wool Hats

On today’s edition of FlapperHacks, I’ll share a couple of wool hats I’ve created for my Autumn Miss Fisher wardrobe.

These hats were formerly in one shape, and have become another – that is, I’ve re-blocked them, rescuing otherwise tatty headgear and giving it new life. In the case of these two hats, they were a favorite with the moths last Winter. The hats were both in a state of disgrace, but instead of throwing them away, I decided to experiment.

Now, let me urge you to consider the recycling of wool hats for the following reasons:

  • Thrift stores are choc full of sad wool hats for cheap, whereas new un-blocked hoods and capelines start around $15/piece and go up from there.
  • Cheap, new hoods and capelines don’t necessarily contain 100% wool. When thrifting wool hats, many will have a stamp on the inside that says “100% wool.” Snap those up.
  • Re-blocking hats is ridiculously satisfying. It’s creative, physical, and results in something totally unique, and that you’ll actually wear.
  • Recycling, Retrocycling, Upcycling…whatever you call it, it’s kinder to the world in so many ways.
  • Block and block again – wool is resilient. Don’t like what you’ve done? Soak that sucker and re-block it! A wool hat can literally last you your entire life, in many incarnations.

For my two new Autumn hats, I started with a picture hat and a cowboy hat:

To revert a wool hat, remove everything that has been sewn or glued upon it – hat band, decoration, sweatband, wire or plastic edging. Rip out all the stitches, then soak the hat in cold water.

Squeeze the excess water out of the hat, and you’ll have something like the above reverted capeline. Now you can block the hat while it’s wet like this, or you can save it for later. Remember, you can always go back and re-wet the hat to revert it!

*For cloche hats, you only need a basic head form in your head size. You can buy one new, but there are tons of vintage ones out there. They start about $60 and go up from there, but it’s the vital piece, so I urge you to make the investment.

Wooden Millinery Hat Form or Block from punksrus on Etsy

The ivory hat I blocked wet, with no stiffener. It was very free-form and creative, and happened quite quickly. I used elastic around the crown, then pins and clips to hold things in position for drying overnight. Unfortunately the pins and clips I chose rusted onto the ivory wool, so I don’t recommend that method! (Use stainless pins, elastics, or some other method to position things)

Those little brown “X” stitches are where the pins rusted, so to mask my mistake, I purposefully stitched the pieces on in a contrasting color and tied it in with the brown ribbon on the front.

(My inspiration for this hat was a Behida Dolic hat, which you can see here)

For my second hat trick, I reverted the cowboy hat, which was a very thick wool. I did not work this one fully wet, but moistened it as I went, and steamed the heck out of it. The thickness of the wool made it a bit harder to work, and I had to start over a couple times, but here’s how it turned out:

You’d never guess this was a cowboy hat once!

Now I have two “new” hats to wear this Fall. My hat collection is growing rather rapidly, but one can never really have enough hats! Despite thinking my wool cloche hat collection was complete, I picked up this sad little thing at a garage sale:

Now what might it become?


  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    September 1, 2015 at 9:06 PM

    Oooh la la! They re so very cool! Have you also seen the Mrs Bradley Mysteries? Diana Rigg's hats are all very complex like these. I don't care for how they are blocked, a it close to her head, but they are fascinating. I love reading about all of your experiments and creations 🙂

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 1, 2015 at 9:28 PM

      Thanks! I just learned about the Mrs Bradley series, and will have to find it to watch. I LOVE Diana Rigg, so it's a must. I saw a few images with a couple of hats, and they were right up my alley, but very complex, as you say.

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 3, 2015 at 8:38 AM

      This kind of thing is totally up your alley. I can just imagine you muscling the steaming wool over the block and gettin' all cray-cray with the scultping 🙂

    • The Laced Angel

      September 6, 2015 at 12:25 AM

      My mom just took me out to a bunch of thrift shops today, so I picked up a handful of ugly 100% wool hats, plus a couple of woven straw. Now to get a hat block…

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 6, 2015 at 2:27 AM

      Good girl! You'll have so much fun with this. If you still have access to wood-working machinery, you can make your own hat blocks (I have the envy), and create some really cool shapes.

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 3, 2015 at 8:37 AM

      Yes, do! You won't regret it. The basic round head is super helpful in all kind of millinery, even if you just use it as storage or display

  • Bianca Esposito

    September 2, 2015 at 8:04 AM

    Gorgeous results! I have been meaning to invest in a head size block for so long now, but never seem to make the leap. I'd love a few cloche hats to wear with all of my 20's dresses, but I don't know how I would wear them with my rather long hair. I have seen cloches with a sort-of bun cut out in the back but I'm not sure I like the look. Still, your fantastic re-models have me dreaming of cloches again!

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 3, 2015 at 8:39 AM

      Yup, the really short brim in back, or no brim, with a low chignon. Some can be frumpy looking, but others are super chic, it's just about finding inspiration that appeals to you. The round head block can be used for other kinds of hats, too, so it's a good thing to have around. 🙂

  • Hertzwerk Freiburg

    September 4, 2015 at 8:23 PM

    I love the outcome! So stylish and unique! And it's such a great thing to give neglected hats a new and pretty life!

  • PinhousePlaymate

    September 6, 2015 at 9:35 PM

    Brilliant! I have a selection of western hats from when I used to ride, that sits unloved in my closet. I never figured I could reshape them into some fabulous cloches! Must try this, thank you for the inspiration 🙂

  • Lauren

    November 6, 2016 at 6:43 PM

    This is so inspiring. I've got a wide-brim floppy 100% wool hat I'd like to re-fashion into a cloche, but the brim is stitched to the crown. Does that make a difference?


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