Sunday, December 30, 2012


I love hats, even though it's a rare day that I wear one. Oh, I'll put on a ball cap to mow, or a sun hat to garden, but I don't often wear one for fashion. Not too awfully long ago, I encouraged my husband in his quest to find a fedora. We drove into Chicago, to Hats Plus, and found summer and winter hats for him, and I think he looks dashing. I rather love fedoras myself and had a straw one (that I loved but rarely wore) when I was a teenager. In a recent closet purge, I got rid of some... I never wore them, so why keep them? But dammit, I am 42 years old, and if I want to wear hats, why shouldn't I?

Yesterday, whilst running errands, we looked at a few casual hats at Target and JC Penney's. What they had were mainly cloches, fedoras, trilbies and variations on the newsboy cap. None of the fedoras were quite right, the trilby brims are just way too small, Marc didn't like the newsboys or the cloches on me, and the sequined beret was right out. So, frustrated and discouraged, I conceded defeat -- to my daughter's relief.

Back at home I started surfing, looking for someplace that wanted to sell me a hat that I might conceivably wear and not look like a dork. As usual, my personal sense of style and what the garment industry actually sells are vastly different. This is one of the reasons I wanted to learn to sew, after all. I remembered that Mom had given me some patterns that she had bought to make things for me, including a pattern for hats, from which she made many many berets. (Those I still have.) I have miles of fabric. I have piles of polar fleece, and polar fleece is easy-sew, has some body without being rigid, and I thought it would make some awesome hats.

©1986 - does that count as retro or vintage yet? Twenty-six years old...
the pattern may or may not be vintage, but knowing that makes ME feel old.
I dug out the pattern, and decided to try the pillbox style first, mostly because it used a small amount of material and was a quick and easy sew. I'm pretty sure that this was the fastest thing I've ever sewn. Unfortunately, hubby didn't like the silhouette on me; too hard. "Old lady-ish," he said. (I think it's cute and warm, but perhaps he's right about the silhouette.)

The star detail is made of felt, three layers, and stitched on with a button.
I thought that such a detail would keep it from being a boring pillbox,
but the hubs apparently didn't feel it was enough to keep it out of Oldsville.

OK, fine, I'll try again. I dug out some larger pieces of fleece, and found a lovely warm ivory and a creamy beige and decided to do some color blocking. I cut the top in beige, cut the sides on a fold to double the height in ivory, and then cut another piece (slightly longer than the pattern piece called for) to make a cuff at the bottom in beige. Since I was making it up as I went, this took a bit longer.

First I sewed the sides into a tube and stitched the top on, just like the directions called for. The only difference was that my tube was twice as tall. I cut the long beige piece on the selvedge because it had a nice rolled look to it, without being rolled. The disadvantage there was the visible pinholes from the manufacturing process. No problem; I stitched satin ribbon over the holes and got more detail -- problem solved. I sewed that into a tube, and then played with the pieces to determine how to sew it together. This piece needed to be longer (half an inch, maybe?) than the other piece, because it was going on the outside of the main body of the hat. Fleece is bulky, and I needed to allow for that. Fortunately for me, eyeballing it worked.

Once I got the cuff sewn on and everything turned right-side out, I tried it on. I thought I could just sort of smush it down to get the effect I wanted, but no. Fine, gathering it is. I used the front, back, and sides to gather it down, using a basting stitch and ruching it. I pinned on some embellishment, and figured I was done. (DH still didn't care for it, but allowed if I was happy, he was happy for me.) It bugged me a little when I went to bed, and it bugged me while I slept. I needed to gather it more, and use doubled thread this time. The four gathers were just not enough, and they were pulling the crown out of shape. This morning I added four more, and am much happier with it.

You can kind of see here how the gathering isn't consistent, since it's only on four points
on the crown, distorting it. Once I added more gathers, I got a much more consistent look
and the crown isn't pulled out of shape.

The feathered thing I got a JoAnn's, and was sold as a pair of elastic bracelets.
*shrug* I dunno, I thought it was goofy, too, but it worked.

So if he thought the silhouette was too hard before, the doubled/gathered sides softened it, plus the addition of the ostrich plume thingie and the vintage brooch made it more than just a warm winter hat. I love this hat, I really do, and I'm proud of it. I love the subtle colors, I love the texture, and I like the way it looks. (Like not love; I'd really prefer something with a brim, but I'm no milliner, and this was an experiment to see if I could do it at all.)

I ordered a couple more sewing patterns, and will experiment with those, too. I think I have to try a fleece beret while I wait for those to arrive...


Sharon said...

Good job!!! I am so proud of you and your ingenuity!!

Wendy said...

Thanks, Mom :) Did you see the new one? The little top hat?