A (twisted) Mad Hatter’s Hat construction (part 2)

Pinning the lining of the hat into the hat

Pinning the lining of the hat into the hat

Before taking a little break to show you how to wire buckram for millinery, I was talking about the construction of the (twisted) Mad Hatter’s hat. Let’s get back to it!

Once the Pillbox hat that would go inside the Wellington was (essentially) completed, it was time to move on to the Wellington!
(Want to start from the beginning? Click the Mad Hatter`s Tea Party category for all of the posts!)

Constructing the Wellington hat

Adding the Wellington band to the Pillbox hat

I started off with the Wellington band  cut out of buckram, which then I fused the inside (what would normally be the lining) of the band to more of the black stretch panne velvet. I normally don’t love this fabric, but since it’s not really seen, it will work well for the inside of the hat – adding some depth and texture, plus a slightly ‘luxurious’ feel.  This was actually cut out of used clothing – my back-up high school graduation dress!

Next I pinned the band to the band of the Pillbox hat, matching up the edges. I knew that if I sewed up the seam first, and then tried to put the Pillbox inside, I might have a challenge, so I actually sort of went back and forth with these steps, basting the two bands together, then hand-sewing the back seam of the Wellington band, and then finally wiring the bottom edge of the Wellington band where it met the Pillbox band.

Once the lower edge was wired, I wired the top edge as well.  I could have used a heavier wire for this, but I’ll know that for next time! (Want to learn more about wiring buckram? Check out my previous post, or click my Millinery category tag for all posts about hats and hat-making.)

Attaching the brim

Once I had the band of the Wellington added to the Pillbox hat that would sit inside, and the edges wired, I was ready to attach the brim.

The brim cut out, wired, and with the inner seam allowance clipped and folded upwards

The brim cut out, wired, and with the inner seam allowance clipped and folded upwards

I started off by cutting out the buckram, and sewed a line on the machine where the seam allowance was.  I wired the outer edge of the brim, and then clipped the curve so that it could fold upwards.

Close up of the folded seam allowance

Close up of the folded seam allowance

This folded edge is what attaches to the band of the hat. By hand I sewed the brim to the hat.

To see another example of attaching a brim to a hat (although in this case a dommed shaped hat), check out my post about my red silk tricorn, or my teal mini-tricorn hat.

Covering the hat

Next up I was ready to cover the outside of the hat.

For this I really was interested in a) a fabric with a bit of a stretch that would be a bit forgiving b) a fabric dark and dense enough to cover up my hand sewing and marks and c) a brocade or damask fabric that would be somewhat similar to the fabric used in the Tim Burton movie hat.

I settled on more used clothing – this time a shell and cardigan (way too small for me) made in gorgeous stretch velvet with a purple, gold, bronze, red and orange brocade/paisley-type print. I was really lucky a few years ago to inherit from a family friend, a whole stash of gorgeous high-end clothing made of beautiful fabrics – given to me expressly for sewing and crafting. (Although a few moved into my wardrobe too!)


I cut out the velvet fabric for the band, and for the brim (a second brim was cut out of the same velvet, but this was treated as “lining”. I draped the band fabric around the buckram to test the fit and pinned it in place. Once the fabric was fitted I sewed the seam (because I didn’t have enough length of fabric, I did this in two pieces, so I needed to make three seams (and that’s why I had to double-check the fit too). Once I had a tube for the band, I sewed it by machine to the fabric for the band. If I had been using yardage and could have just cut out the Wellington band from fabric, I wouldn’t have needed to test the fit.

Once I had the outside of the hat sewn up, I (carefully!) put it over the wired buckram frame.

Adding a lining

Now I was ready for the lining! Using the same pattern as for the Pillbox hat, I sewed up lining with a tip and band for the lining of the pillbox. I used red taffeta for this, rather than regular lining fabric because I wanted this to ‘match’ the trim I’d be making for the hat, which was intended to match a different part of this costume. Plus, I didn’t have any dark purple or dark red lining on hand!

The red taffeta Pillbox lining

The red taffeta Pillbox lining

Once I had the Pillbox hat lining sewn up, I was able to attach the velvet band piece. Then I dropped the lining into the inside of the hat and pinned the seam edge to where the brim meets the band of the hat.

Pinning the lining of the hat into the hat

Pinning the lining of the hat into the hat

Little by little I folded the brim lining fabric back into the lining of the hat (see below) and hand-sewed the lining to the buckram.

Sewing the lining of the hat to the buckram at the brim edge

Sewing the lining of the hat to the buckram at the brim edge

After that, I fused the top edge of the brim buckram to the velvet fabric, and then popped the hat onto a headform and gently shaped the brim into the curved sides shape I wanted. Then I basted the brim fabric and brim lining fabric together around the wired brim, and trimmed off the excess velvet.

I also needed to finish the top edge, where normally the tip of the hat would be attached. For this I ended up just folding over the seam allowance of the patterned velvet over the top wired edge, and into the inside of the hat. Since the velvet is a knit, and not prone to fraying (not that it would get a lot of abuse even if it was) I didn’t need to finish the edge. I simply hand-sewed the fabric down (very neatly!).  I could have added a trim in here, and I actually contemplated doing just that – adding a layer of lace to cover up the ‘hem’, but I found that with the lining, and the evenness of the hem, it really wasn’t necessary.  Plus, I’m tall, and the hat is tall, and most people won’t even see the inside of the hat when I’m wearing it!

Making the Wellington tip

With the bare bones of the open Wellington done, it was time to focus on the tip of the Wellington. It was only going to be attached at one point, so it was a bit different than a regular tip. I didn’t need seam allowance for the buckram for starters…

I cut out and marked my buckram tip for the Wellington, and then wired the edge. After I was done, I realized I could have probably used a heavier gauge wire for this edge, and maybe even doubled-up on my buckram, but the hat works as is anyways.

Tip of the Wellington in buckram and wired

Tip of the Wellington in buckram and wired

Next I used the pattern to cut a rough circle (the tip plus some seam allowance) and fused the lining to one side of the tip.

Covering the tip of the hat with velvet

Covering the tip of the hat with velvet

Once the lining (the black panne velvet) was fused, I more carefully cut the outer fabric (the patterned stretch velvet) for the tip, and hand-sewed it in place to the other side, treating the ‘hem’ the same way I had treated the band.

Then I just slip-stitched the tip to the band at the location I wanted it to go, popped a stuffed animal in to test the “fit”, and added a few more secure stitches as needed. The hat pretty much looked DONE at this point!  (This is also the point that my camera battery died… so while it was charging I kept working…)

Adding a sweatband

So while the hat looked done, but it still needed a sweatband.  This is pretty simple, just cut Petersham ribbon to length, steam-iron it into a very subtle curve (more subtle/less of a curve than when applying a Petersham binding), and then  hand-stitch the band along the lower edge to the inside of the hat where the lining meets the fashion fabric.  The sweatband can collect dirt and oil, and can be “easily” replaced (easily is subjective!) compared to replacing the entire lining. The sweatband can also be folded out to let it “air out” which is why you only sew it to one edge.

To see another example (with photos) of adding a sweatband, check out my red silk Tricorn construction post.

Trimming the hat

Finally the basic hat was done and it was time to trim!

Instead of a classic Petersham hatband (steamed into a curve like the sweatband) I opted for a long tail with fringe, very much like the Mad Hatter’s hat from the Tim Burton movie.  From the same red-shot-with-black taffeta that I used for the lining, I cut a long rectangle, and sewed it right sides together into a long tube. On the short ends before sewing them closed I sewed in a length of black fringe.

I folded it a bit to give some dimension, and then tied it around the hat where the hatband would normally go, securing the knot invisibly with a safety pin in the back (mostly in case I totally changed my mind and wanted to do something different later…

Then, just time for my critter, and the hat is done!

Stay tuned.. and I’ll show a post with the finished hat (although not the finished outfit…)

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2 comments on “A (twisted) Mad Hatter’s Hat construction (part 2)

  1. Tabitha says:

    I can’t find the end result of your Mad Hatter’s Hat – I would really love to see it! Thank you so much for your tutorials, they are so helpful! I can’t wait to try some of the techniques!

    • Dawn says:

      I’m afraid that I got sick right before the event that I made this for.. and haven’t yet posted the completed hat, because I didn’t finish the rest of the outfit… once the event had passed I was focused on other projects instead 😦

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