Monthly Archives: November 2010

The First Hat, Vol III

Well, here it is! The final installment of First Hat.

It was a long time coming, but the next session was so exciting.

I hadn’t finished the brim (I forgot the invisible slip stitch half way through, drama. In case you forget, here’s the link). Once the brim was finished – this took a while due to having to check that the fold of the brim was of even width all the way round every few seconds for couture perfection reasons – it was time to block the crown.

Fabric stiffener for cheap thrills

Blocking the crown was slightly different. Firstly, I cut out a piece of very starchy crown fabric and completely drenched it in water (which made it into a sort of gooey cloth). This was then placed on the block and the crown section of the capeline (the bit I cut out in my previous session) slid on top; I blocked both to form as smooth a shape as possible. Once it was dry (had to use a hair dryer!) I got to do my favourite part which is dab the whole crown with fabric stiffener. The smell is divine. It was upon declaring this that I was told a very funny anecdote about Vivienne Westwood participating in a class where they used such strong chemical stiffener that the whole floor of the building they were in (somewhere in Germany) had to be evacuated for health and safety reasons. Not me though, I love the stuff.

The next stage was, perhaps one of the trickiest. We had two things to do: firstly, place the brim over the crown and angle it correctly (the Guru had to do a lot of this as I could not be trusted) and, secondly, to trim the side of the crown that shows underneath the hat and drape silk over it to make it look nice. Both of these steps are easier said than done!

Draping silk chiffon to cover underside of crown

I took great care to bring a nice piece of navy silk chiffon with me for the underside of the crown; however, once this was cut on the bias for draping, it emerged that I had nowhere near enough. A significant amount of Guru expertise was used to drape not one, but three pieces of bias silk chiffon in place without it showing. Although difficult, this was one of my favourite parts of making First Hat. Silk draping is such an elegant art and the Guru and I had a long conversation about the technique and its hero Madame Gres. A simple version of what I was doing can be described as follows: pin the length of silk along the area you want to cover. Create folds that look natural, and continually pin into place (pin underneath the fold), aiming for there not to be a

First Hat on stretcher, final stages

beginning nor an end to the folds. Once you are happy that the folds look completely uncontrived, sew invisible stitches from pin to pin. Make sure the underside of the hat also looks tidy. And, unlike me, do try and use one large piece of bias silk instead of several small ones, as this makes things considerably easier!

Next it was time to measure my head for fit. I was so excited, as the hat was looking near finished. My happiness was short-lived however when, upon measuring my head, the Guru declared it to be slightly larger than average. I HAVE THICK HAIR I said icily, but enough on that. We measured my average-sized head and cut a hatband (or puggaree! but better known as petersham) to the right length. My love for the Guru was restored when she told me all about the signature petersham colours the couture houses use, petersham being the ribbons on the inside of the hat crown that make it more comfortable to wear. Apparently, each house has it’s own signature colour; as my hat was Dior-inspired, I used theirs which is rich brown.

If you look closely, you can see the evil fabric stiffener on the brim...

Once the hat band was cut and sewn into a circle using a simple stitch, I pinned the band to the inside of the hat, ensuring that the ‘hem’ of the band was at the back and that all the fabric and lining was tidy. It was then all sewn together. To iron out any wrinkles, I used a very thick piece of sinamay to place between the hat and an iron. Using the lowest heat possible, I ironed all parts of the hat very gently using my hand as a base (careful when doing this, it can get hot quickly!) to make the hat absolutely perfect. A moment of panic ensued when I got a bit too liberal with the finishing layer of fabric stiffener – you are only supposed to feather dust the finished hat with it but I, high on the chemical fumes, put so much on the poor hat started to look a bit gooey. I nearly burst into tears I was so distraught, but a bit of last minute dabbing saved the day.

So proud of my beautiful First Hat. Here it is on one of its first outings (on my friend Jess’ head, which is decidedly smaller and makes it look a lot better, sigh … )

Ta da! First Hat

The Guru and I were very pleased with the result. As is typical of me, I couldn’t wait to start making the next one. The Guru advised that fabric hats are a good learning curve for couture skills, so that will be my next project with her. But in the break between Guru classes (she has a lot of hats to make!) I decided to something a bit more fanciful. Tune in next time for the (shorter) saga of the First Cloche with the Doyenne of all that is Millinery, Rose Cory.

x

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Couture, Skills, Uncategorized

Pret-a-hat for winter

As promised, some beautiful hat trends in the shops to keep yourself a-head in winter millinery fashion (see what I did there? Terrible, I know).

Although we most often think of headwear in the context of pretty hats and fascinators for weddings and race days in the hotter months, hats are just as relevant if not more so in winter. Take a look at these everyday beauties.

La Cerise Sur Le Chapeau

Eugenia Kim

We’ll start with hats. This season’s take on the fedora goes back to its thirties origins. I particularly like this one by Eugenia Kim, brilliant for day and that bit of gold really helps warm things up.

A lighter weekend version is this beauty from La Cerise Sur Le Chapeau. These guys are particularly amazing as they provide a customize your own hat service, so maybe get it to complement the trusty winter coat? For those into a more fashion vibe, my absolute favourite is as follows, from American Brenda Lynn:

Brenday Lynn, Autumn Winter 2010

Another must-have in winter (and summer and any time really) is the trilby. What a versatile bit of millinery that, you can basically make a trilby to suit any occasion. I can’t wait for First Hat to be finished so that I can embark on a First Trilby project, soooo exciting! Here is one by Anthony Peto with a bit of leopard print to make it more exciting.

Continuing in the thirties theme is unlikely source Stella McCartney with her stunning cloche.

And let’s not forget the best of hair pieces for Autumn/Winter, the added benefit being that these can be work ALL THE TIME, indoors and out, day and night, casual and smart, etc etc etc! LOVE. But you’ll have to wait for the next post.

x

2 Comments

Filed under Autumn/Winter 2010, Inspiration, Shopping

The First Hat, Vol II

Previously, on the First Hat, you were treated to this blossoming beauty:

The First Hat, Vol I

Oh, the excitement – I was about to see my hat taking form, and could hardly wait till the next session. Would I get to design a trim? Would I be putting it together and trying it on?

Sadly not. After escaping several potential scooter accidents (far too excited to concentrate on driving), I rushed into the studio and was somewhat deflated at the sight of a nowhere near couture-like hat on my work bench. There was a smooth looking brim, but that was about it.

The Guru was quick to offer encouragement, insisting that today was one of very important skills learning. So we began. The brim now suitably stiff (remember, three parts to a hat brim, crown, trim – in that order) the next task would be to make sure it will keep its shape.

Use medium millinery wire

This is what millinery wire is for; it is sewn all around the outer edge of the brim so that the hat does not flow. First, the hat is removed from the block using pliers to pull out the blocking pins. The extra fabric from the brim is folded under, as evenly as possible. As we are employing couture methods, it is important to start learning to do every little bit as perfectly as possible – queue lots of undoing of folding by me. A link showing some of the techniques for folding and stitching can be found here.

Once we had a even fold all around the brim, I used a visible colour thread to sew a simple guide around the hat. Then came the painful bit (again, there is a lot of unexpected pain involved in this millinery business!). The wire for the brim needs to be straightened. After measuring how much you need, you have to cut the wire off the roll and then using really swift hand movements you tug at the length of the wire in order to remove all shape from it. This hurts. A lot.

Once you’ve recovered from this, you insert the wire between the perfectly neat fold of your brim. Remarkably, the wire is joined together (dont’ overlap too much) by, wait for it.. sellotape. Yes, this is actually acceptable in couture but you have to make it VERY neat.

The you must trim any excess material away as you see fit. You see, another rule is to never use any excess fabric – hats should be as light as possible. The brim is then stitched using an invisible stitch so that you aren’t able to tell it is hand-sewn from the outside. A video of the invisible stitch will come soon, but for now have a look at this, it follows a similar principle.

This took ages, so I had to take my hat home and hope to finish the brim in time to come back and start on the crown during the third and final volume of the First Hat. Here’s a sneak peek…

The First Hat, Vol II

Stay tuned! x

3 Comments

Filed under Materials, Skills