I’ve made a few hats on my sewing machine using Vogue patterns or just experimenting without a pattern (see “Sewing a Patricia Underwood Hat“). But I want to get a better understanding of construction. So I bought a few books on making hats. They each offer different levels of hat-making skills. Here’s my brief run-down.
Sewn Hats by Carla Hegeman Crim of The Scientific Seamstress, is just that – a book focused on hats you can sew on your machine. You’ll find nearly three dozen hat designs — everything from adorable baby bonnets and cloches to driving caps and fun party hats. The author includes nine of her own designs and the other are by a variety of contributors, including Kaari Meng of French General, Jennifer Paginelli of Sis Boom, Bari J. Ackerman of Bari J., and Kathy Mack of Pink Chalk Studio.
All the patterns are PDFs that you download from the publisher’s website (the URL is in the book). What’s cool about many of these hats is that most come in a wide range of sizes – from XXS (baby) to XL (adult) – and some are unisex. Plus there are plenty of great photos so you can see what the finished version looks like.
I’ve picked out a least three hats I want to make, the Liesl Cloche by Mary Abreu of Confessions of the Craft Addict and the Raindrop Hat by Alexia Marcelle Abegg of Green Bee Patterns, for myself, and for my hubby, the Delmar Driving Cap by Carla Crim.
Fashion Hats (Design & Make) by British milliner and hat designer Karen Henriksen, covers techniques on making hats from felt, sinamay (a type of straw from a banana plant), straw, and fabric. Making these hats (except for the fabric ones) requires specific equipment such as specially formed wood blocks to shape your hat material. Just think of a wool hat with those indentations in the crown, sort of like a fedora – you get that shape from dampening the wool felt and shaping it over a dome crown block and then steaming and making the indentations with your fingers, holding them in place until they’re dry. There’s also lots of pinning involved with the brim. But I’m not ready to invest in any wood blocks just yet but I will try making some of the fabric hats.
Though patterns are not included, Chapter 8 has instructions on how to draft patterns for a wide-brimmed hat, a brimless hat, a cap with a peak, and a beret. It’ll be fun to draft hat patterns and understand how the pieces work together to form a hat. And you can sew those hats on your sewing machine!
Last but not least is Hats: Make Classic Hats and Headpieces in Fabric, Felt, and Straw by British couture milliner Sarah Cant. This book is full of step-by-step instructions on how to make shaped hats with hat blocks. Some of the designs are quite fancy, with ribbons, feathers, and flowers. This book is for people who want to block hats, a meticulous and time-intensive endeavor involving plenty of hand stitching, steaming, pinning, and ironing.
One hat that took me aback was the so-called “Velvet Coolie.” Yikes – the term “coolie” is rather offensive. It had been used back in the 19th century to refer to Asian slaves or manual laborers but today it’s considered a racial slur (see the Wikipedia entry for Coolie). The book says: “The term coolie originally referred to the conical hats worn in East and Southeast Asia. In the west, the shape became popular with Dior’s iconic New Look movement in the late 1940s and into the 1950s.” Uh, OK but do we still need to use that term to refer to this hat shape?
I’ll be working on drafting my own hat patterns and will post about that experience (hopefully) next month. I promised my hubby that I’d make a hat for him.