October 28, 2011

Wrestling With Millinery

Finally!  I've had the urge to try my hand at making a hat from scratch for ages, but the closest I've gotten is gluing a handful of crap haphazardly to a cheap hat and calling it good.  Years ago I purchased Lynn McMasters Early Victorian Bonnet pattern, but I never got around to trying it until a few months ago.  Since then the project has sputtered along in fits and starts while I tried to figure out what the hell I was doing.  This hat making business is hard!

 I made a few mistakes in cutting out my buckram (note to self: read the ALL the instructions next time!) so I had to piece in some extra bits to get it right.  I learned that my machine has a love/hate relationship with sewing through buckram and over millinery wire, and my fingers have a hate/hate relationship with handsewing through buckram.  Between all the stitching holding two layers of the stuff together plus a third and fourth layer in some areas, I created... the FrankenBonnet!

The FrankenBonnet sat on a shelf for a few weeks until I got around to mulling it (mulling is the process of covering the form with flannel to smooth out all the ridges and bumps).   After covering it with one layer of flannel I could still see a lot of ridges from all the stitching, so I stuck another layer on to be safe.  I needn't have bothered, as the fashion fabric I ended up using was rather thick in its own right, but at the time I was considering covering it in a thin silk which would have shown every bump.

The hat sat around for another few weeks as I tried to figure out what to do with it.  I wanted something much plainer than what was pictured on the pattern, and I wanted it to go well with my Dickens dress without being too matchy-matchy.  A remnant of brown and black wool fabric in a donated box at work caught my eye, and I decided it was perfect.  Now to get it on the hat...

 Pinning everything inside-out to get a proper fit

Lots of pins to hold it all in place while the glue dries

Thankfully, it didn't go too terribly!  The pattern has you put trim everywhere there's a join in the fabric, so you don't have to be too neat about it.  I chose not to put trim at each seam though, so I had to make neat seams with as little bulk as possible.  I'm amazed it turned out so well!

I got a bit crazy and decided to use some of the extra evil silk gauze of evil from the lattice gown for the inside of the bonnet.  It behaved as per its usual bitchy self, but by and large I wrestled it into submission.  I gathered a loooong and wide strip of it and fitted it along the inside, stitching it down along the outer edges and a couple of inches in from the back of the hat.
 Yup, still evil.

After attaching the silk and the last piece of outer fabric, I bound the edge with a wide strip of brown silk ribbon.  I sewed it down on the outside (and wow my machine stitched through all that like butter), then flipped it over to stitch the inside by hand.  Unfortunately, you can't successfully use a straight needle on an inside curve like that, and my only curved needle was a honkin' big upholstery one that was ill-suited to making nice neat stitches.  I ended up gluing the inside edge down, which left me with an uneven edge and bits of glue showing through the thin silk.  *sigh*  I'll pull it off one of these days and redo it properly by hand, but for now I'm crunched for time and it will have to do.  At least all that gathered silk looks preeeeetty. 

I've left the inside back unfinished for now while I wait to get my wig.  I want to see how the hat sits, and whether I need to add anything back there to help it fit right.  The FrankenBonnet is still visible, and that amuses me greatly for no particular reason. 

Oh hai.

Now the fun part- trimming!  My boyfriend generously donated the first cravat I made for him to the cause, and I added a few flowers from Michaels.  I'll be adding more very soon so that the poor bonnet doesn't look quite so bare, but this is it for now. 

The little ruffle that covers the back of the neck is only half the length it should be, but I ran out of fabric, so it'll have to do.  

All in all I love it, and I can't wait to see how it looks worn with the wig!


  1. It looks great! Hahaha, "franken-bonnet," but you know what? All that stabilization really helps. The more layers and stabilizing stitching, and structure, the better, I say. My first (wait...my only) Dicken bonnet was a mess, so floppy and soft and stupid, because I didn't have enough franken-bonnet-ation going on.

    It looks so good, Chrissy, I'm jealous. You're so lucky I'm not coming to Dix, otherwise I might do a drive-by-bonnet-napping right off your head!

  2. Aww thanks! Isn't it funny how things that seem to be mistakes often end up being good in the end? I think it might be one of my favorite parts of making things. I never know for sure how it's going to turn out, and often the changes I'm forced to make result in a better piece. At the very least I learn something!

    And why are you not coming to Dickens? How am I supposed to drink tea with you at Cuthbert's or dance with you at Fezzi's if you don't show up? HMMMM?

  3. That is FABULOUS! I can't believe how perfectly the gathering came out!

  4. I'll admit I'm just as amazed :P I'm in awe that such a persnickity, difficult to work with fabric can do such beautiful things. Now I just have to make sure I never have anything sharp in my hair when I wear it- the gauze snags if you so much as look at it! I was thinking of adding some flowers and such to the inside brim, but if I do so I can never take them off since the process of sewing them on will damage the gauze so much.

  5. Thanks so much! I had a great time making it.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. The pattern is made and sold by Lynn McMasters. For some reason I can't link directly to the pattern on her site directly, but here's her main site-
      Choose the "Patterns" link, then choose "Regency, Romantic and Victorian; 19th Century". The pattern is called the Early Victorian Bonnet with Ribbon Work Decoration 1845-1865

      You can also purchase the pattern on Amazon here-

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I don't see why not. I'd try mocking it up in thick cardstock or thin cardboard. You can play with the shape until you get it right without wasting pricy materials. Good luck, and show us when you've done it :)


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