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Hat Making…

jatman | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Has anyone on this forum ever taken a hat making class?  

I have recently signed up for a short course on hat making (something I’ve always been interested in) and I’m curious as to what I can expect.  I’m now having second thoughts on the class because it will be in a language that I don’t have a full command of.  Any shared experiences would be welcome.

Thank you.



  1. ldm55 | | #1

    I took a class where we started with a wool felt "hood" and steam shaped and stretched it on a hat block.  It was a lot of fun although I overstretched mine and a small army could fit inside.  My second effort (no more successful) was in a wool felting class, making the felt in a wet technique from roving and using an inflatable ball for a hat block.  I just didn't get a pleasing shape and good fit.  If I take another class, maybe the 3rd time will be a charm.  Still, I'd love to try again. I was just bidding on a hat block on Ebay.  Man, they're expensive.  

    1. jatman | | #2

      That's so weird.  I was just looking on ebay, too! 

      Thank you for the info.


    2. starzoe | | #5

      A hat block? Have you considered one of those wig stands made of styrofoam while you save for a real one? The foam ones are scarce, wigs being out of style, but they do turn up at garage sales and thrift stores. I use one for my felted hats and although it is not adjustable it does quite a good job.

      1. ldm55 | | #8

        There's no problem with the styrofoam tolerating the steam heat?  That would be a much cheaper solution.  I wonder if it's possible to make a smooth fitting cover from heat resistant fabric/fleece in case the styrofoam is smaller than the 22 1/2" size that I need.  What do you think? 

        1. starzoe | | #9

          I know that the foam head is fine with felted hats - the felting done in the washing machine and hat formed on the head. I have no experience with any kind of steam heat applied to the foam. How would you steam heat enough to felt on a form unless you had some sort of commercial appliance?

          1. ldm55 | | #10

            I don't remember the process of the wet felted hat class using an inflated ball.  I guess I'd have to research it.  Excuse my vagueness.  I thought that I remembered in the other class with a wooden hat block, that we used a steam iron on a prefelted commercial "hood", blocking, stretching and shaping it.  Now, I'm not sure.  Ah, another "senior moment".

            Edited 10/2/2007 9:40 pm ET by ldm55

        2. Ralphetta | | #11

          I had some work done on a very expensive wig at an equally expensive salon.  They put the wig, wet with chemicals on one of those styrofoam heads.  It fused to the wig and was badly damaged. There were chunks of foam fused to the inside of the wig. I think you are wise to be concerned about possible problems.

  2. starzoe | | #3

    A long, long time ago, around 1959, I took a hat course that lasted two weeks. Of course in those days, hats were definitely "in" and ranged from pillboxes to garden-type extravaganzas. We also sewed berets and a sort of nosebag (read "horse") with elastic around the edge so it could be worn a hundred ways, swirled, folded and crimped. I must say that I have used, if not all, a good many of the techniques since, especially the beret which has not gone out of fashion at all and now I sew it in fleece and velvet.Even if the instruction is in another language, take the course. You will never regret it.I see you are in Sweden - I had a Rotary Exchange student in 1984 from your city, and we are still in touch - she is now the mother of three and a veterinarian married to her childhood sweetheart.

    1. jatman | | #4

      I was hoping someone would say that.  I hope to learn something that I can use both in hat making and for other things, too.  I'm originally from the US and I can't say that I have ever seen a hat making class at home so that was my other reason for signing up.

      You know someone here and you've kept in touch all these years?  How cool is that?

      Thank you for the info!



      1. Tatsy | | #6

        I can't believe you are in Goteborg!  We had a foreign exchange student from Trollhatten whose parents have since moved to a lovely apartment in Goteborg. We have visited there twice and found it to be a beautiful city.  Our exchange student is now studying in Virginia and should graduate this spring.

        As for hats, I have never taken a class myself, but my mother had a year in millinery at the University of Brussels, so it doesn't seem so overwhelming to me since she talked so off-handedly about it.  I have done several sewn versions--berets, etc. but have never tried to block a felt or straw hat, although I keep thinking I will try something that's stitched over a wire frame.

        1. jatman | | #7

          That is so strange!  This is a part of the world I may have missed if my husband's job hadn't brought us here - it was never on our list of places we wanted to see.  But now that I'm here and have gotten to see the surrounding areas I know I would have missed out on a beautiful place had we not taken this assignment.

          I believe this class will emphasize blocking but we may have a choice about what we make.  I'm hoping to get some skills out of the class that I can use elsewhere even if I never make another hat.

          Your mother took a year of millinery technique in Brussels?  Wow.  Did she make hats for a living or use her millinery knowledge in some other way or did she do it because she loved hats? 

          I've found that here they still make hats.  There are a couple of hat places around.  They still make wigs here, too.  But I can't recall seeing anyplace (at least not where I lived - NY and LA are probably different) back in the US where hats/wigs/custom clothing stores had store fronts and you where able to walk in and talk to the person who would be making something for you.

          Thank you for the information!


          1. Tatsy | | #12

            My mother was never a student.  She took hatmaking because her parents insisted she go to the university and it was the least annoying major she could think of.  She stayed a year because the war broke out and that pretty much ended classes.  The real students were shipped out to the New University in Louvain, but she stayed in the city, got a job, served sandwiches at the USO club so  she could eat more than her ration card provided, met my dad after he fought his way through the Ardennes with the rest of the US Army, married him, moved to Minnesota and had 7 kids.  She was happy as clam, but boy did we ever learn how to do handwork!

            Sweden is one of the cleanest, most beautiful countries I've ever seen.  After visiting farms there, I understand why Swedes loved Minnesota and Wisconsin: the rockiest soil there is much more tillable than Swedish fields.

            Have you visited the cliff paintings museum yet or gone to the botanical gardens in Gothenburg?  They are both lovely outings.

          2. jatman | | #13

            Wow - she may not have been a student but she was very smart!  I've recently been reading a few WWII era books that mentioned the rations and the lack of food (and a lot of other things!).    Last year we went to the Ardennes and that was really interesting.  There was a museum in Bastogne that was fascinating. 

            Sweden is beautiful.  I love it here.  You are right about the soil.  Having grown up in Michigan and vacationed in Florida and South Carolina and a few other places with sandy beaches, it's become a running joke with me and my husband about what Swedes call a beach.  If there is a rock by some water and some sunshine, someone will undoubtedly spread out a blanket, slap on some sunscreen and call it a beach.  Not exactly what I think of but it works for them!

            I've gotten to the botanical gardens (beautiful!) but I've never heard of the cliff painting museum.  I may have to research that one.  We also got over to the Kosta Boda and Orrefors factories and watched them blow glass.  Very cool!


          3. Tatsy | | #14

            My dad just barely survived that battle in Bastogne.  Three times he got a creepy feeling and ran like hell just before a shell fell where he had been standing. His war stories put me in a better position to deal with my husband nightmares the year after he came home SE Asia.

            The cliff painting museum is a World Heritage site.  You might be able to trace it through the UN's website.  I know what you mean about the beach.  We saw some French tourists sunning on the bow of their boat as they were waiting to go through the locks.

          4. jatman | | #15

            Wow - what interesting lives you and your parents have had!

            I will look for the cliff painting museum.  It would be a shame to be so close to it and never see it!  Thank you!


  3. User avater
    CostumerVal | | #16

    http://www.vintagesewing.com has online books about everything.  You can read up on hatmaking before the class and it may help clarify some of the instructions.

    I use a muslin bag stuffed with sawdust, very similar to a seam roll or a ham.  They don't last as long as a big old carved piece of wood, but all the stuff is free.  Make a tube the same size as whatever head your doing and go to a nearby carpentry shop and stuff it full.   Good Luck

    1. jatman | | #17

      Thank you CostumerVal!  That's a great resource in case I get lost in translation!  Thank you for the idea of what to use as a block, too.  I will wait until the first class to see what is needed, but that's a really good alternative.  Thank you!




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