In the 7th Millinery class (the original, not the advanced…) the first hat I started working on was a red felt top hat.
Part 1: blocking the crown
I started by padding a 23″ top hat puzzle block with felt, and then steaming my felt hood. I began stretching the crown of a ‘short’ capeline over the top hat puzzle block but I needed additional help from one of my classmates to accomplish this because it was very difficult! From there I started pinning down the band of the hat, stretching the felt down bit by bit, working from North to South, East to West, (or 12pm/6pm, 3pm, 9pm depending on how you like) then doing the sections in between also from opposite side to opposite side. I pinned down about an inch and a half to start, then kept going down further bit by bit – stretching the length to shrink the diameter of the hood to the block.
Once I was down as far as I figured I could go but still leaving enough for a brim, I let the whole thing cool, pins and all.
When I removed the hat from the block, I did so carefully, because the puzzle block wouldn’t release! (The center section should come out easily when upside-down, so that all the pieces can be removed without stretching the felt any more, but it didn’t!) I let it cool a little bit more, and then began work on the brim.
I started by trying to shape the brim over an existing brim block, but found it tedious and not very functional, so instead I steamed the brim and hand-shaped it to start.
At that point the class was over, so the rest I needed to do at home…
Part 2: shaping the brim
Once at home I tried hand-shaping the brim a bit more, comparing it to two other top hats I have (one small, the other full-size) but really thought there was just too much fabric in the brim to get it to do what I wanted it to do.
So…I decided to iron my brim with lots of steam to shrink in that excess felt. But – I didn’t want the steam to affect the nice straight crown as well…. sooo… I got a crock pot, tipped it upside down over the hat, exposing just the brim. Basically the crock pot acted like a barrier against the steam. This worked really well to straighten/flatten out the brim. There was a bit of an impression of the pot on the hat brim, but I thought I could still steam/brush that out, or perhaps that would be the place where some decoration could rest.
Part 3: wiring the brim
So from here I wired the brim. I used the same techniques I have used before, so I won’t go into them here….
Part 4: trying it on and a decision to make…
From here, I tried on the hat – for some reason, I’m not keen on it. I’m not sure exactly what is wrong, but I suspect the brim is too wide. All that work I did getting lots of felt for the brim… and I think I will need to trim it down. It just looks too “Western” to me – which, living in Calgary (aka ‘the heart of the new west’) is exactly what I DON’T want. Cowboy and western hats are a dime a dozen around here (ok, not really, and certainly not custom/hand made ones, but you get my jist..) and not something I want to add to my collection.
So, here’s a question out there to other milliners, costumers, and fabulously stylish people – what are your thoughts? Am I right to think it’s the brim that is messing me up here? Should I make the brim narrower? Help! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.. I have a beautiful red top hat just waiting for me – I just need to make it!