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The ‘Jeff’ – Vol II

Right, so we left of with the ‘cap’ part of the Jeff flatcap finished, so on to the body of the hat. As a reminder, our block for this project was the Guru’s classic cap block.

The body of the hat was to be made in two parts. Firstly, the ‘ribbon’, which is the piece of fabric that runs around the head, and secondly the top of the hat which holds everything together (‘ribbon’ and cap).

To make the ribbon, I measured the circumference of the broadest point on the block, and cut two bias strips. Using the aforementioned careful ironing technique, I ironed the fabric to some stayflex (this comes in black or white) and then attached the two pieces together on the sewing machine (to form symmetrical side seams at the temple of the hat).

Jeff  ‘ribbon’ , with stayflex

Sewing the two parts of the ribbon together required the use of a sewing machine – tres fun! Although my abilities with sewing machines were near to zilch, they soon improved and very little unpicking was required.

Once the two pieces were symmetrically sewn together, it was time to block, starting from the back. I pinned the top of the piece in four places (usual method of front, back, side and side) to keep in place and put pin in the botton front first so that it would not move around and twist the side seams.

Jeff – body blocking

With help from the Guru, I blocked the bottom part of the fabric first, just over the block collar, leaving plenty of fabric to use as a seam later on.

Next, the top of the fabric was blocked. This required a lot of ‘gentle’ force, to make sure the fabric was blocked evenly all round. Fabric blocked, I then steamed it and left to dry.

Whilst the ribbon part of the hat was drying into shape, I cut a bias strip of fabric for the top. Removing the now dry ribbon, I blocked this, covering as much of the top of the block as possible. I made sure the pile was going from front to back – hats should always be lighter at the front (the effect of going with the pile) and darker at the back (against the pile) – this has always been the rule, so even though I’m not sure I understand… I went with it.

Top fabric blocked, it was steamed and left to dry. The next step was to sew the two together. The ribbon was pulled gently over the top – very carefully, as piled fabric is very keen to move and slip around. Once placed correctly, it was sewn into place using an invisible stitch.

A few notes:

  • Cord/velvet – never, ever touch when wet or right after steaming. It will leave a mark that won’t go away
  • Positioning the two pieces: a little bit of moving around and rough calculating of where the cap will go is needed. Unfortunately, there is no exact method for this, just trial and error.

And here it is, Jeff, stage 2. Next time, the beautiful lining, and final touches.


Jeff – ribbon and top of hat



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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.


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