ANATOMY OF A HAT IN PROGRESS
Thistle Cottage Studio Blog
We have recently completed our third competition, with the theme of the Royal Ascot Races this month, in England. We were lucky enough to get the well known British milliner, Mark T. Burke to judge this one. He is known for having studied under the royal family's favorite hatter, Philip Treacy. My recent entry for this project was an elegant black and white, 20 inch wide, semi-sheer silk organza brimmed hat, with a houndstooth motif, handmade flowers and feathers. The crown was formed from buckram and wire on my recently acquired, professional milliners balsa wood hat blocks. I experimented with using non-toxic milliners gelatin, which did a fairly good job of further stiffening the crown, after I steamed and formed the buckram, which has a glue already saturated into the fibers. I decided to add a few more secret ingredients to make it even stiffer. It worked like a charm. I may decide to reveal that secret down the road, so stay tuned!! The brim, however, proved a bit more resisitant to the gelatin. It is tradtionally used on wool felt and straw, which I plan to experiment with this coming fall. This brim was two layers of silk organza, with a layer of netting sandwiched in between for more texture. As I was working on this hat, which was so out of the box for me, I was sure I'd end up eating this one for dinner!!! After listing it for only 10 days, much to my surprise it sold!! So, to solve the dilemma of the not so stiff wide brim, I resorted to a milliners lacquer, that is very toxic, and not so environmentally friendly!!! I have offered up my repentance prayers to Mother Nature!!! The brim was first stiffened with the gelatin, then an additional two coats of lacquer. I tested a sample swatch of this to be sure there would be no adverse reaction of the two stiffeners. The Ascot hat is now drying in my dehumidified garage, and will be packed and shipped to it's new owner in New Jersey tomorrow, to be worn to a wedding.
My next hat, nearly complete, which was inspired by the Oscar winning film, The King's Speech, is a study in sculpture for the head. Based on a 1940's design, in a beautiful shade of heliotrope, the brim is not set onto the crown in the expected way. It is tilted in a more eliptical fashion, giving the hat a sophisticated, assymetrical tilt. Still not quite ready to tackle straw, I have been using a cotton/linen gossamer; a very light, semi-sheer woven material for this hat. Again, my secret recipe for stiffening the crown, did a fine job on this hat too, which by the way, would not have worked on the brim of the Ascot hat. This hat also evolved in its' detail with what I like to call, a "happy accident". As I was thinking about the focal point decoration, I wanted to further the sculptural quality of the design, and began to wire leaf shapes that I would use on the up-turned side of the brim. They were not to my liking, and I began to fray the edges to make them more texturally interesting. By the time I was finished with the first leaf, it looked more like a feather, and the lightbulb in my head went off!! Several more frayed "leaves" later, layered over one another, and sewn to a wired spine, resulted in some very beautiful, even lush ostrich-like, faux feathers. It didn't take long after for me to realise that the "feathers" were not only beautiful, but they would also be functional with their wired spines, in helping to support the upright positioning of the brim!! Happy, happy accident, indeed!!
This hat will be lacquered and finished in a few days, and uploaded to my ETSY shop for sale. It would be the perfect hat to wear to a summer or early fall wedding, formal occasion, or maybe it will bring you luck at the races!!
Hats off to you!!
Pattern or design used: My own design - Elsie Collins/Apparel/Costume Designer/Milliner/Teacher