Thursday, March 19, 2015

Grey Feathered Everyday Hat

I got a new block for my birthday, and what with one thing (my crappy health) and another (work stuff) I still had not used it nearly six months later!  It's  a block I commissioned from the always fabulous Guy Morse Brown.  It's a mixture of some of the designs they offer in their catalogue, and it will work with all the other blocks I have previously bought from them.  I really like crowns with valley details round the top, like the classic pork pie hat.  Unlike the pork pie, I also wanted the valley to have a small 'v'cut out at the centre front and gently sloping sides rather than straight sides-  

You can see the brim block that I used in the background.
So, now I'm finally feeling a bit better and have some time, it was at last time to try my new block out.  It has also been ages since I have done any feather work, so I decided that I would do a feather hat band on my new shape, as it would not distract too much from the nice shape of the crown.  I've learnt a lot about using feathers in millinery from one of the first millinery books I ever bought- Classic Millinery Techniques by Ann Albruzio.

I don't think that this is still available in print, but you can certainly get it second hand on Amazon. The designs in it are perhaps a little dated, there are a lot of 1980's style pill boxes, but the techniques it teaches are very useful, and well illustrated, especially the feather work.  So the first thing was to block the basic shape in the grey felt cone I had chosen-

The detail in the crown top is held in place by a piece of blocking reed and pins, the bottom of the brim is created with a finger groove and string.  I really like having a finger grove at the bottom of a brim shape as it makes it so easy to get a really smooth clean brim line.   Once the felt had dried, I used size to stiffen the crown and hold in the shape and trimmed the excess felt off the bottom of the brim.  I replaced the hat on the block to make gluing the feathers to it easier, as having the block to press against gives you a stronger bond.  To keep the hat band straight and level I marked the line I wanted with chalk and my hem marker. 
The first thing to do when adding feathers to a hat is create a 'lift'.  This is basically a long, thin piece of paper folded in half and pinned to the hat at the centre back, as you can see above.  You can then glue the first feather to the hat over lapping the lift.   Before attaching the feathers its best to hold it in place first to check how it will look (see below), and then trim some of the fluff from the bottom of the feather.  Don't remove it all as it will give the next feather a bit more volume, but you can trim the fluff down so it won't show through the next feather, or poke out from the top or bottom of the band.   You should also remove about a cm of the fluff from the quill of the bottom of the feather, so you can glue the quill really securely to the hat..  You can cut it off with scissors but the easiest way is just to grip the fluff in one hand close to the quill and hold the quill with the other, then just pull the fluff away with a quick downward movement. The lift is then left pinned in place as you work around the hat, feather by feather.
Because feathers are not man made they will all be a bit different, so don't expect every single one to line up perfectly or the hat band to be the exact same width all the way round. What you are aiming for is as smooth an overlap as possible and trying to keep the band the same width as much as possible.  Once you've worked your way around the hat towards the CB you can use the lift to raise the first feathers up, which allows you to then glue the last feathers underneath them and create an invisible join.
The lift holding the first feathers out of the way.
Can you see the join!?
As you can see, feather work gets very messy! It doesn't matter how careful you are, the stray fluff will get everywhere and stick to everything...  The best way I have found of tidying it away is to use a piece of sticky tape to catch it on, then fold it up and throw it away, I've even been known to put the tape in a bag and then throw it away. However, I guarantee you'll still find bits of fluff for the next few days, especially on your socks!  Another good tool to have on hand when using feathers is a toothbrush.  Its very useful for brushing small areas of the felt and also giving the feathers a light comb once they are glued on.  I'm hoping to get a lot of wear out of this design as it should go with everything, the next hat will be a bit more flamboyant!

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