So. Many. Hats.

Menswear style hats  for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party - our staff holiday party

Menswear style hats for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – our staff holiday party

At work I’m the chair of our Social Committee, and one of our jobs this year was to plan a holiday party. Of course, it’s all very politically correct where I work, so we don’t call it a Christmas Party, and we’re actually going a wee bit out of our way to actually avoid anything that rings of Christmas… but I don’t mind one bit, because the theme that the committee picked was

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!

Part of this, included going out and buying hats – partially as give-aways, partially as decoration, and partially as costume elements for anyone who shows up without a costume or something in-theme to wear and want to fit in. We’re going to have a photo booth as well, and hats will make great props.

Mini top hats and bowlers for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party - our staff holiday party

Mini top hats and bowlers for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – our staff holiday party

This meant – I went shopping!

So many hats! First I went to Value Village, and then to the Halloween shop on November 1st – both places had their Halloween items on for 50% off, so I was able to get 38 hats for about $200.

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I picked up: 13 hats that likely will appeal to men, 22 hats that will likely appeal more to women, and 3 hats that I think anyone would like.  These included:

  • 2 mini-tricorns
  • 2 full-sized tricorns
  • 12 fascinator bonnets
  • 3 horsehair fascinators
  • 3 fabric crowns
  • 1 felt cowboy hat
  • 1 vampire-style mini-top hat
  • 1 grey rabbit-eared hood
  • 2 mini-bowlers
  • 1 mini-top hat
  • 4 classic men’s hats (two top hats, a  bowler and a fedora)
  • 2 mini-top hats with Jack Skellington on them
  • 1 Mad Hatter top hat
  • 3 soft hats (an engineer’s cap, a newsboy hat, and an aviator cap)

If you were to come to our party – which hat would you pick?

Read more about our party on the other blog I write for.. Happy Sushi Belly! 

Crafting a Viking-inspired belt

Home-made leather belt - more to come on this in a later post!

Home-made leather belt for my Viking costume

So, with a sewing table kind of full of things, it’s a lot easier to focus on some of the small elements instead for this costume, so my next project was the belt. I have a ‘tablet weaving’ belt from another SCA costume that I could wear, but while I was at Tandy Leather I picked up some leather (1″ wide latigo)  for a belt as well, and thought it would be nice to make this up too.

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Crafting Viking brooches

Letting the 'brooches' dry

Letting the ‘brooches’ dry

One of the first accessories for my Viking costume that I wanted to focus on was the turtle/tortoise/oval brooches which hold the apron.  The half-necklace/festoon hangs from these brooches as well, as does any other accessories like keys, needle cases, or grooming tools. I really didn’t think that I’d be able to make my own, so had been trying to figure out if I wanted to order them or not, when a friend said she had picked up hers as belt buckles from Tandy Leather.

From my previous post, here are the options I was considering:

  • Their Victorian Oval Trophy Buckle was  my first choice – it has a vaguely celtic look that I think will work well.
  • The Rope Edge Buckle Blank might also have worked – though it is only the starting point – but I decided against it when I went into the store and saw it in person.
  • The Night Sky Trophy Buckle was too blingy, and also too big for what I had in mind.
  • Finally the Oval Buckle Blank is another plain version that needs some embellishment, and the focus for this post!


  1. I started off with the buckle blank, along with a piece which I think is intended to be a frame for a decorative rivet. It’s called the Double Petal Bezel Concho. I’m glad that I picked it up – originally I was thinking of picking up some filigree, but when I went to shop for that – I couldn’t find anything that I liked – so the bezel concho filled in well enough!
  2. Next I grabbed two different shades of alcohol inks – a brown and a gold –  and used a Q-tip to ‘paint’ the ink all over the face of the buckle blank and the concho too. I think that this keeps the metallic look of the buckle, but tones it down a little bit.
  3. Finally I glued the concho onto the buckle blank. That black and blue tool is painter’s tape, taped down, with the sticky-side-out on the top of a pencil – I used this to pick up the concho and set it down onto the blank without getting glue on my fingers.

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Although I’ll be making a festoon to go with these brooches too, I also thought it would be cute to make a few other little things to hang from my brooches. I picked out some chain, some lobster clasps (which are totally inappropriate, but they’ll be hidden), and two vintage/antique keys – which aren’t right for the period either, but are simple and ‘close enough’ for the time being.

I also took a small scrap of leather and a metal ring and made a “needle case” – which is actually a little holder for my lip balm.

Keys and a 'needle case' to hang from the brooches

Keys and a ‘needle case’ to hang from the brooches

Stay tuned… I’ll be posting about my festoon soon!

Millinery: Black straw

The completed black straw cloche hat decorated with black embellishments

The completed black straw cloche hat decorated with black embellishments

After Millinery class #6, I took the black straw hood home to work on outside of class.  I envisioned the beautiful cloche like in some of my example inspiration photos, but it ultimately didn’t work out.  I just didn’t LIKE the cloche shape with my features.  For a review of the process up until that point, please read my post on the cloche.  

Marking the shaped hood with tape

Trimming away the straw to create the shape

But… it looks so cute on my Styrofoam head!

So… reworking was in order!

I started basically by folding up the brim and seeing what shapes I could create.  I stood in front of the mirror twisting and folding and I’m sure making a lovely mess of things.  This is one of those tasks best done when home alone I’m certain, because anyone watching would have likely thought I was quite a ninny…

Ultimately, I found a shape I really liked, but by then I had turned the hat inside-out, so I turned it right-side-out, and re-folded the hat back into the shape that I had liked.  At this point I just left it sitting alone (so it could think about what it had done!) and only returned later to trim the raw edge with some gorgeous bias I had made for a previous corset project.  (Its purple shot with blue dupioni silk and it’s luscious!)  As with the blue straw, I could have put the binding on partially by machine and partially by hand, but instead I ended up doing the whole thing by hand.

Then I let the project sit – while I worked on other things.

It seems I usually have several projects on the go at any one time…

When I got back to it…

When I got back to the project, even though I’d taken notes about the design, I looked at the hat, and thought “what was I thinking?” Not in a critical way – I just couldn’t see in it what I had seen before!

So, back to the drawing board, I removed the buttons pinning the hat into the shape I had created, and then used a generous amount of steam from my iron to re-shape the hat back into the original cloche shape. I tried this on… and suddenly… it worked! I don’t know if my face shape changed slightly, or if I just became less critical of my tall forehead (I did recently cut in some bangs/fringe, so that’s possible…) but it worked.

So, looking at some of my inspiration photos in the post I originally made about the cloche, I decided on a single-colour scheme with lots of black-on-black texture, and started previewing a number of laces, ribbons, flowers, appliqués, and other embellishments from my collection.

Auditioning the embellishments

Using super-fine pins, I started layering up all of the elements that worked, in the approximate areas where I thought I’d want them to permanently reside.

Once I liked what I had, I grabbed my beading needle (since it’s long and super-thin) and started hand-stitching each element down, working backwards.

In all, I sewed on:

  • A very wide lace trim – originally this was straight on one edge and scalloped on the other, but I trimmed off the straight edge so both edges have a scallop. The way this lace is made, I didn’t have to worry about fraying.
  • A great Venetian (style?) lace trim with rose and berry motifs
  • A vintage black velvet poppy-style flower which I bought from my millinery instructor back when I took the class. The flower was pretty crushed from storage, but she taught us to steam these embellishments to bring them back to ‘life’, which worked well.
  • A new synthetic triple-layer daisy-like flower from an accessories store. It has a pin back and a hair-clip back  (this one I did pin on instead of pinning on)
  • Three synthetic ‘craft’ flowers that I bought in a bunch of 10 or so from Dressew in Vancouver

The finished hat

So, here are photos of the finished hat – what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Maybe I’ll have the chance to wear it sometime soon and take some action shots!

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Viking Costume: So what’s needed?

Viking Costume: So what’s needed?

So now that I have a good idea of what I have, and have some inspiration ideas, I need to figure out what I want to make and what I’ll need to make that happen!



Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

I think that the most vital part to making this costume really work is the apron-dress (which even though after all of my research I know has  a few other names… but I’m sticking with this one for consistency..) along with the other items I already have.  I think this should be pretty simple depending on which of the several styles I want to go with. I’m inclined to go with the simple “tube” one-piece style myself, and think that the side-laced version with the skirt part open at the hips might be cute…  even if it’s not the most authentic.

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