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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

HSM 2016: #4 Gender-Bender - Cocked Hat

The Challenge: #4 Gender-Bender

Material: costume hat base, 100% wool, mystery poly lining

Pattern: None, but a pre-made costume hat was used as a base.

Year: Late 18th century (inspired by American and British cocked hats c. 1770s-1780s).

Notions: thread, spray adhesive, double-fold bias tape, cotton scraps, foam wig head

How historically accurate is it?: The design is heavily based on extant hats, with liberties taken on a few things.  I haven't found examples of the changes I made, but they don't seem too outlandish, so I'd say they're historically plausible.  The outer materials are accurate, the lining and interior (base hat) materials aren't.  Except that I did all the sewing by hand, the construction is almost totally inaccurate what with the spray adhesive and wonky patterning.

Hours to complete: About 1 hour to strip the hat and pick apart a skirt for fabric, and another few for actual construction/stitching.  Maybe 5-6 total?

First worn: Not properly yet, just for fitting and being saucy around the house.

Total cost: This was a no-cost stash-buster.  When I bought them months ago, the hat base was about $4 and the wool and lining came from a $2 thrift store skirt.  All the notions were leftovers from other projects.


This hat started its life as a pretty typical budget costume hat.  I got it wildly discounted during a post-Halloween sale as a cost effective and easy way to play with millinery.

Via Amazon
I stripped the trim and outer fabric - plastic-y lace stuff and feathers, and funky stretch velour - first and was happy to find that the core of the hat was pretty basic and definitely reusable. 

It seemed easy enough to re-cover the bottom of the brim and add new trim, and I considered just leaving the top as-is or experimenting with some faux suede spray I saw at the hardware store recently, but I ultimately decided to go all out and re-cover the top too.

Before I did anything more with the hat, I dug around in the stash for some potential fabric.  I totally lucked out with a black wool pencil skirt I bought at the thrift store ages ago, as it was 100% wool, with a lightweight lining, the color I wanted, and just large enough to cover the whole hat with some to spare.  (Perfect time to point out to the doubters why I buy random pieces of wool and silk clothing at thrift stores.)  After ripping that apart, I pulled some white double-fold bias tape from the stash too (or more accurately pulled it off the unfinished 18th century pockets it was pinned to) and found some cotton scraps and I was good to go.

I cut a hole in the cotton to make a pattern of sorts for the top of the brim and crown, and that was transferred to and cut on the wool.  I pulled the stretchy velour stuff off the top of the hat around the same time too.

The bottom of the brim was covered first by coating it liberally with spray adhesive and then setting it down on the fabric and pressing.  It stays tacky for a while, so it was pretty easy to rearrange the fabric and stretch it in places and generally just mess with it until it was completely flat.  I did the same thing on the top using the pre-cut piece.  Then I cut tabs in the fabric around the crown on the top and bottom, and trimmed the edges of the brim down to be flush with the hat base.

I don't have photos of the next bit while in progress, because it was a lot of fiddly stretching and pinning and darting and basting and cutting and stitching.  But it worked in the end.  Essentially I laid a piece of fabric over the crown, then another scrap under that piece at the back of the hat to cover a gap, and stretched/pinned/darted/basted/cut/stitched it until it fit over the curves of the crown fairly smooth.  This approach was definitely only feasible because the sides would be flipped up and therefore hide all the weird spots, but because of that and for what it is it worked fine.  When I stitched the circumference of the crown piece down, I ended up with some wrinkles in the front that are kind of eh, but again, with the sides flipped it's not so noticeable and I might even be able to smooth it down some.

I was thinking about lining the whole crown interior with just a gathered circle, but after reading some hat tutorials, I decided to do a strip of fabric with a casing to make the fit adjustable (inspired by Festive Attyre's Merry Widow hat).  Since I wasn't aiming for a particular year or even decade with this hat and I wanted it to be fairly multi-purpose, adjustability over the changing silhouettes in wacky 18th century hair is a bonus.

With all the handling, the spray adhesive started to give way and the fabric started to pull off the base in some spots around the edge, so I touched that up before moving on to trim.

I had planned to use petersham ribbon, but I can't find it locally and ran out of time to order any.  The white bias tape looks okay though, so while I might swap it for ribbon down the road, this works fine now.  The uneven seam in the back kills me a little, but it hasn't bothered me enough (yet) to redo all of it, so maybe I'll just think up some kind of trim to hide it.

The hat originally used snaps about halfway down the brim and crown to hold the sides up, but I decided to attach the brim just above the snaps.  This makes each side have a more pronounced curve (and hey, also hides my Franken-stitches better, so that's cool too).  I do still like the look of it the original way with the edges of the brim standing more upright though, so there's always the possibility I'll change it later (that is, if I ever get brave enough to let a glimpse of the crown darts show).

The bump from the snap will eventually be hidden by the cockade.
I attached the brim in back slightly differently, with the same stitching along the top but spread out in two spots instead of centered.  There was really no reason for this except ~*aesthetics*~ and it was the biggest liberty I took with the accuracy of the overall design.  I haven't found a historical example of this, but it doesn't seem too outlandish, so I'm tentatively putting it in the realm of historical plausibility. 

Last step was supposed to be the cockades, but like the petersham I ran out of time to do what I wanted so I just left it plain for now.  I always intended the cockade part of the trim to be removable, so skipping it isn't a big deal.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it, as my first hat and first completed HSM challenge, and I'm already gearing up to do more.