Chapeau du Matin with a twist

The process of shaping a straw hat it is a bit different from the way felt is worked: you cannot use as much moisture otherwise it will damage the structure of the straw and permanently destort the weave. So instead of a steamer, a damp cloth and an iron do the trick. A cotton ribbon and a few pins hold the shape until it's dried and cooled off. Again, a dressing helps to retain the shape.

To add a twist to the classic shape of the block, I decided to lift up and fold the back of the rim. The effect was a nice upward slope to the edge that allows me to tilt the hat back slightly. A wire is inserted into the the rim to add a bit more structure to the curve.

The opening in the fold serves to pull through a band of fabric that will stay in place without stitching it to the hat. I like variety and now I can easily insert a fabric with a new pattern or colour to match (or contrast!) my outfit.


Felt Desire – hatmaking course

Decisions – the boon and bane of the creative mind! Hats suit me but not knowing which style to choose I always hesitated to buy one. So when my colleague Rita Hasenfratz, hatmaker and milliner at Theater Dortmund, mentioned her hatmaking course I signed up for the perfect opportunity to have a hat and learn a new craft.

The process starts with selecting a rabbit felt cone hood, i.e. a pre-shaped hat base made from rabbit hair. Red seemed like a good choice for winter – goes with darker colours and my favourite lipstick. The next decision is picking a hat block. I picked the one below because it looked like an interesting challenge to shape the hat with all these crevices.

The cone is softened up by the steamer and then pulled over the block. There is a lot of steaming up and pulling at this stage – you want to make sure the material stretches over the block somewhat evenly. Then there is a lot of massaging out of kinks and irregularities while trying to mould the felt into the shape of the block, stretching over the protruding tip and pushing it closer into the dents. Drawing pins help to keep the areas that have been successfully shaped from moving around again.

Probably the part that took the most time was getting all the excess material and folds on the bottom inside to shrink back in and sit nicely. Again, a lot of steaming and massaging. Once that is achieved the hat can dry. Then a dressing is applied on the inside to ensure the hat retains its shape even in the rain.

Finally a grosgrain ribbon matching my head measurement is stitched to the inside of the hat. The seam is positioned in the back, should I forget which way round to wear my hat!