This morning something came up in a FB group that let me know some people have a complete misconception of what I do when I make bonnets.
What I do Not do:
- I do not use pre-sewn hats, nor hat forms.
- I do not cut-down, nor reshape pre-sewn hats.
- I do not reblock pre-made hats or hat forms.
- I do not use synthetic thread.
- I do not machine sew straw.
What I do do:
- I work with straw plait in a variety of widths ranging from fine to coarse, a quarter inch (fashionable) to three-quarters of an inch (coarse.) These straws have included Milan, French and a British straw among others. The image to the right shows a comparison of the coarse straw and a nicer Milan straw.
- I hand shape and sew each row of plait with 100% cotton thread.
- I develop the shape of each hat and bonnet by adjusting the curve and tension of the straw. This is how I get different brim heights and shapes. I also bend the straw to make it around the curves and corners found in the different eras I am working with this year.
- I wire each bonnet and hat by hand, again with 100% cotton thread.
- I block and size each piece by hand using one of two sizings. For some pieces I have carved blocks to aide in the shaping.
It takes approximately 6 to 7 hours to sew a small hat and 7 to 9 for a medium size hat, while most bonnets take between 8 and 12 hours with some more unique shapes or larger bonnets taking longer. Some pieces are blocked all at once at the end while others I am trying to get particular shapes in are blocked in stages. With humid summer days, it can take over 24 hours of drying before I am comfortable photographing or shipping a piece.
Here are some images of work in progress to give you a better idea:
See the different straw shapes I have developed based on originals this year in my 2015 Shape Gallery.