Friday, July 10, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly- June. Out of your comfort zone

Yes I know I'm late but I've been in and out of Papworth both as an inpatient and an out patient and deadlines have rather gone out of the window. I'm actually finishing this post from Papworth as my stupid lungs have landed me back here again... Oh well, I did just about manage to cobble together something for the June challenge, and I did not want to miss it completely. My May challenge will get finished when I can get home and get back to my sewing machine... Currently it's only pinned together....

So anyway, June in the HSM is Out of your comfort zone, a perfect excuse for me to finally try blocking straw.  Despite having made loads of hats I've never blocked a straw hat from sctatch.  One reason is that we didn't cover straw blocking at RADA and straw hoods are actually pretty expensive so I have always balked a bit at spending on something I might totally screw up! Also, due to my rubbish health I cant get to take all the millinery classes I'd like, so I've always wimped out of trying straw. However, with a lot of reading up (see bibliography at the bottom) and researching on the net it seemed that blocking straw is not any more complicated than blocking felt so I bit the bullet ordered myself a very nice pink parasisal cone and jumped in.  My inspiration for my hat is a charming cloche hat from the V&A made by Kilin Ltd c.1925-
I''ve admired this hat for ages, it's such a classic 1920's shape, and the decoration is so pretty. Fortunately, I had a combination of hat blocks that could make a very similar shape, I use the multiblock system by the fantastic blockmaker Guy Morse Brown, this lets you swap the brims and crowns about to get more shapes without having to buy new blocks for each hat.
To block straw you only need to dampen the straw for it to become malleable. I sprayed the inside of the cone liberally with water and left it for a couple of minutes to soften then pulled it over the block.  The straw cone will either have a cross or a button at the centre top- where the weaving process starts.  Mine had a cross, which you want to centre on the top of the block with the X running at 45degrees to the centre line. This will give the maximum flexibility to the most curved areas of the block.
Cross running at 45 degrees
Once you've centred the cone you then gently but firmly, pull the cone fully over the block and secure it with pins under the brim. You start by securing it at the CF and CB, then the two sides. Then pin half way between these four pins spreading the fullness even around the circumference.
Many, many pins
It's a little weird seeing the way the straw moves and stretches as you pull it, because the straw has an clear weave its much more obvious how the fibres are adjusting-unlike felt where you really can't see the stretching at all.  To ensure a snug fit around the join from crown to brim I used a wide elastic band to hold it in place.
Once the straw was dry I gave it a good iron to set the shape and try and get some creases out. Unfortunately the way it was posted left it very crumpled but I got the worse creases out. I then painted it with two coats of water based stiffiner- one inside and one outside. The finishing was then very similar to a felt or sinnamay hat- blanket stitch millinery wire round the brim edge and then cover that with petersham ribbon. To make the petersham conform closely to the curve of the brim I first pressed it in half along its length and then pressed it into a curve- this is often referred to as 'swirling' which I think sounds a lot more fun then it actually is! The decorative panel was created from more petersham and the flowers were made from felt off cuts. Sadly, I've not had time to fully secure the panel in place but I managed to get a few mock up shots done before I was dragged in to Papworth. They are not good pictures being taken with my iPhone in fairly rubbish light, but I really wanted to have something to share for once...

I think I made the panel too big if I'm honest and may change it in the future to something I'm more likely to wear as I'm really pleased with the basic straw cloche part, although I need to get some more creases out next time. No longer shall I be afraid of straw and next time I'll buy an even nicer one! 

The Challenge: June- Out of your comfort zone
Fabric- Parasisal straw cone, petersham, felt
Pattern- Hatblocks from Guy Morse Brown
Year- 1919
Notions- Thread
How Historically accurate it it? Some of the felt is not 100%wool so not period accurate-90%
Hours to complete: Approx 10 hours exclusive of drying time
First worn: Not worn yet as I'm stuck in hospital....sigh...
Total cost: Straw Cone £23.26, Petersham £4.50, rest from stash = £27.76

Classic Hats EBook from
Hats! Making classic hats and headpieces in fabric, felt and straw.  By Sarah Cant
Fashion Hats. By Karen Henrikssen
From the Neck Up.  By Denise Dreher

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