Saturday, May 18, 2013

Boater and Bows

The boater is one of the simplest and widely used hat forms.  According to Wikipedia, fountain of all knowledge, 'It is normally made of stiff sennit straw and has a stiff flat crown and brim, typically with a solid or striped grossgrain ribbon round the crown'.  This may be where it started, but the boater has found fame in a huge number of incarnations from ladies elegant head wear, through barber shop quartet accessory, to school uniform staple.  This probably explains in part why the boater has so many different names, boater, basher, cady, can-can hat, Katie, Somer, sennit hat, or my personal favorite the 42nd street skimmer, according to P. G. Wodehouse!  I found a very charming version on the Metropolitan Museum Collection website, where I often spend a happy hour browsing through their fantastic costume and fashion collection. This version was a small red perching version, with black bow decoration made by Bergdorf Goodman in 1944.  It's a great example of the popular fashion of the 1930's and 40's for men's hat styles to be made in miniature for ladies  I had a red felt hood handy and a small round block to use for the crown.  I don't have any small brim blocks (yet!), so I thought I would try using  my tailors ham to block some shape into a flat felt circle for the brim (a tailors ham is a heavily stuffed shape that tailors use to press curves into collars etc).  I got a bit snap happy whilst making it, as I thought it would be nice to see the process of making as well as the end product, and to show how much work goes into each hat.
Having given the hood a really good steam I started pulling it into shape over the block.  As its a small block I cut the excess off the hood to use as the brim and to make it easier to pull round the block.
I needed to re-steam the shape, as the felt becomes less malleable as it cools, so I removed the felt from the block and held it back in the steam  then popped it back on the block and used a wide piece of elastic to hold the shape I'd already blocked whilst I dealt with the fold the felt around the bottom of the block.
Once I'd got all the felt pinned under I left the crown to dry overnight and marked the base line of the crown with chalk where I cut off the excess.
This is the other half of the hood, which I had to press flat first,  then cut out the circle for the brim.
To help get the steam into the felt I used a damp tea towel and an iron to press it over  my tailors ham.  I wanted to make it slightly down turned at the front and up turned at the back.
To attach the crown and brim together,  I cut a central circle out of the brim with a small seam allowance which I clipped and pressed upwards.
To help maintain the shape of the brim I sewed  millinery wire to the edge...
...which I then covered with black satin bias binding. To help keep the opening in the middle standing up I used the crown block and a bit more steam to mold the felt into place.
I pinned it all together to check that it all fitted together and looked good.

Having sewn the brim and crown together (stabbing myself frequently in the process-oops), The inside of the hat is finished with a petersham ribbon and a length of elastic to hold it on the head.
The best part of hat making is putting the decoration on! I really like these  pinwheel bows made from gingham ribbon.
The completed hat!
From this angle you can see the shaping of the brim.  I'm very pleased with how it turned out.
From above.

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