In the advanced millinery workshop post I mentioned a black and a silver topper – this is the spotlight post for the silver/grey topper. I’ll do a separate post for the black one as well.
These aren’t “real” top hats for a few reasons – the band is straight, rather than the slight hourglass shape typical to top hats, and the brim is turned instead of being blocked on their own and reattached. I liked how the silver topper was turning out so well when I was working on them that I decided to work with a black one as well (even though I already have a black top hat…)
The first steps on this hat were:
- Stretching out the fur felt hoods with steam and a rounded block
- Flipping the rounded block to use the flat ‘bottom’ as the top of the crown, and used a plastic template to solidify the bottom. (My instructor didn’t have a flat-top crown block in my size, so this was a great alternative, and my instructor suggested the plastic template.) I used a scrap piece of felt on the (now round) bottom to absorb any pressure to avoid damaging the rounded block.
- Using loads of steam, I blocked the topper into the flat-crown top-hat shape, waited for it to dry, and then steamed up the brim, hand-shaping it.
After the hat was dry the instructor suggested I stiffen the sharp line where the crown met the band. I started using the water-glue mixture that my instructor had recommended. This took quite a long time to dry, and left considerable marks. (Luckily the thick fur felt didn’t show these marks on the ‘good’ side of the hat.) The water-glue mixture didn’t add much stiffness at all, so after that I tried spray starch the instructor had brought, and had much better results.
When I got home, I went through my stash of embellishments and ribbons to see if I could find a nice match for the silver topper in materials I already had. I picked out a few things, but my first goal was to see if I could re-work the brim at all.
A frustrating brim
I started out just trying to press the brim which didn’t work well, then I steamed and pressed it, using the pot I had used in the past as a block. The size didn’t really work out this time because of the rest of the brim being curved, so that didn’t really work. I just steamed it, and held it down with a box to dry, and that worked a bit, but it wouldn’t hold the shape. So, I wired up the brim, which made me a little sad because I really do like the raw edges.
Wiring the brim
Before I wired the brim, I ran a basting stitch in the areas where I wanted to ultimately keep the brim curved. I tightened this up to keep the curve in the brim, and it worked really well. From there I wired the brim like I’ve done before (while watching a terrible movie (The Hulk) on TV!) which took about an hour or so.
Trimming the brim
Of course, once I had wired the brim, I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy that nice rough raw edge anymore, so I needed to trim it. Like the black fur felt topper, I folded some grey grosgrain ribbon in half and pressed and steamed it into a subtle curve for the curve of the brim. This I carefully stitched on by hand (I don’t know why it took me so long – possibly because I was being especially cautious to keep my stitches nearly invisible in the rib of the grosgrain, but this took nearly 2 hours… crazy! Still, the result is really clean.
At this point I stopped working on the topper for a while. I was mostly uninspired, but also busy doing other things. When I finally got back to the project, I selected a 1″ wide black grosgrain ribbon and some black lining fabric. I cut out a tip and band of the lining fabric and sewed it together. From there I:
- Hand-basted the lining into the hat
- Hand-stitched the sweatband into the hat, covering the lining edge
- Hand-stitched the hat band to the exterior of the hat, covering the basting stitches with the hat band.
I picked out a black band instead of grey because I had a black flower to add to the hat band – I clipped this onto the hat band to finish the hat.
What do you think? I love the result, and can’t wait for the weather to get cool enough to wear it!
Great info. Lucky me I recently found your site by chance (stumbleupon).
I’ve book-marked it for later!
Cool! I’m afraid I don’t use stumbleupon – what kinds of things do you find there?