Make a modern hat into a
Victorian (1890's) summer boater

Create the Mood



The original modern hat was a good colour and fitted my head.

However it had too wide a brim and too shallow a crown.


modify hat shape

reduce width of brim

The brim was trimmed down with scissors to a size similar to fashion plates of the period 2" (5 cm) wide.

[photo: original brim, discarded piece]

I wired the edge of the brim, using 'magic wire' millinery wire, overlapping the ends by 2" (5 cm).
This helps to maintain shape and lessen damage that always occurs in use, however careful one is.

Bias binding covers up the wire and sewing.

Smooth the bias binding as you sew so that there are no wrinkles. Use tiny hem stitches that go through the hat to sew the top and underneath edges at the same time. Wear a leather glove whilst sewing as it helps to grip the needle when pushing through stiff material.

increase height of crown

I cut the sewing stitches that held the crown together, with scissors, separating the top and the bottom and added buckram to increase the crown height.
Two pieces of buckram were sewed ontop of each other down the middle, to have enough strength
to hold the weight of the decoration.

The two ends of the buckram insert are overlapped by at least 3cm. The top and bottom overlap the original crown pieces by at least 2cms.

[photo: outside showing sewing]

[photo: inside the crown, showing the original grease band and the increase in height.]

The white buckram can be painted with fabric paint for a neater finish, although it will not be seen when worn. I left it white so that I can demonstrate the methodology.

make silk roses

I made the roses using silk pieces as though I was a milliner of the time using up left-over scraps.
The silk came from furnishing fabric sample books. Each flower could therefore be slightly different.

A number of trial designs were made and this style of rose looked suitable.
The pink flower on the left looked the right size, according to the fashion prints.
7 flowers were needed to go around the hat.
The peach flower (right) was too large and the fabric is a little too floppy for wearing in the open air.

The petals are made separately and then sewn together into a rose.

Each petal is a square: the inner and outer petals are different sizes.

[photo: two cardboard templates]

Each sample of silk was washed and waterproofed using a wash-in liquid used for camping clothing. This was necessary since I planned to wear the hat out-of-doors in the English summer.

There are 5 inner petals and 5 larger outer petals to each rose.

To make a petal each square is folded into a triangle.

The two straight sides are gathered with running stitches, and the thread pulled up tightly.
The folded edge then becomes the outside of each petal.

5 petals for the inside of one blue flower

Each set of five petals is joined together with a row of big running stitches sot that each slightly overlaps the next one slightly.

The first and last petal are overlapped and sewn down.

This silk is quite sturdy so I had to pull the petals together very tightly to form this neat flower shape.


The outer circle of petals is made in exactly the same way.

Then inner and outer petal circles are tacked together.


For each flower centre a circle of differently shaded silk was cut, using a cardboard template.

Little running stitches were sewn 0.5cm from the edge of each circle.

Each centre was stuffed with a piece of cotton wool before the thread was pulled up to make
a tiny ball. The ball was then placed in the centre of each flower and tacked in place at the back.

I like to sew a safety pin on the back of each element so that the hat can be modified in the future.

Afterwards a circle of non-fray fabric was glued over the centre to cover up all the sewing
and to stop the fabric fraying.

Some flowers were given a little bee, each in a different place.
This adds a touch of humour and gives something extra to talk about when people admire the hat.

add decoration

add velvet hat band

Velvet fabric was measured and cut and sewn to fit the length and height of the crown.

It was folded so that maximum light would catch the velvet pile.

make fabric frill

The cotton fabric was chosen so that the frill matchs the skirt

A straight piece of fabric was measured, cut, hemmed by hand and hand-pleated

put 3 elements put together

Velvet hat band, pleated frill and flowers, alternating blues and pinks

Decorated band placed around the hat

add back decoration

The white feather decoration at the back adds a little height and softens the silhouette.

A piece of silk was glued onto, then wound around, the feather base.

The feather piece is pinned to the hat band.

The feathers are then secured to the crown with a few large tacking stitches.

The back brim was bent upwards and held in place with a pin.

original for inspiration

Velvet bow added for fashionable back interest (and to hide the pin).

original for inspiration

The hat with the rest of the outfit
summer 2008, after a hot tiring day in Wales.

It is held in place with two long hat pins.

[I did not have my Victorian glasses on for this photo. What a pity.]

Create the Mood 's costume craft workshops and practical demonstrations with have-a-go for adults and older children can be organised in the UK. You provide the people and the topic and Create the Mood organises everything else. Contact us to discuss your ideas.

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22 September, 2012

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