I have written a couple posts in the past about caring for or storing our bonnets. Lately, a few specifics “uh-oh” fixes have been asked of me. So, I thought it would be good to put together a more detailed article on millinery care and first aid. Here I will be talking about Straw millinery only.
Preventative Care Your Bonnet
The best prevention is to store a bonnet or hat on an archival stand, under a glass dome with its own security system. ….. A dream, right?
(If I could have all the storage space in the world and start over – I would attach two stands to the inside of the lid of a tote (I think they are the 15 or 20 gallon totes) With the lid as the bottom, the tote becomes the top. I could then place a bonnet on each stand with the ribbons rolled up. No wrinkles, no dust, no issues. Again, that is my dream.)
I’m going to boil this down to my list of dos and don’ts:
Do – Keep you hats and bonnets on stands
Do Not – Use foam heads for storage. These will release chemicals that will discolor your bonnets. Even covered with other fabric this can happen.
Do – Cover your bonnets some how to keep dust off of them. Yes, a box is best.
Do Not – Store in overly moist or overly dry areas. Moisture can cause mildew, mold and color issues. Dryness can cause silks to shatter.
Do Not – Store a bonnet on its face, side or bavolet. This will cause crushing, wrinkling and misshaping.
In Case of Mishaps
Rain – A gentle sprinkle can usually be okay with a gentle drying while on the bonnet stand. If you find you were stuck in a heavier rain with your bonnet on, first remove all flowers and ribbons from your bonnet. Hang your flowers upside down. I have this awesome stand from Wilton that was meant for cake making that works great. You may want to use clothes pins to hang them from a clothes hanger. Lay the ribbons flat to dry on a paper towel or old towel as not all ribbons are color fast. You may find you want to remove the bavolet as well. Lay it flat, net side up. Most bavolets can be pressed with the aid of a pressing cloth once dry.
For the bonnet itself, press any mishapings out with your hands gently against the counter if need be. Take a roll of paper towel. Unroll it to about the size of the tip of your bonnet. Place the bonnet face down on top of the upright paper towel. If you left the bavolet attached, let it lay open but not touching the bonnet. Arrange the pleats and work out any wrinkles carefully with you hands. Allow it to dry completely. In the case of a hat, you may need to shape the top of the paper towel roll to reflect the curve of the crown and lay a layer or two of towels over it to make a smooth surface.
Reattach the ribbons and flowers.
Wrinkled ribbons – Ribbons get wrinkled and crinkled when tied and untied. Bonnets should be stored untied with the ribbons neatly rolled into a coil. (I even roll some of mine around little ribbon pillows I’ve made.) Rolling the ribbons will help coax the fibers that were inside in the bow to relax back where they should be while keeping additional wrinkles from forming.
If you find your ribbons to be holding their wrinkles, you can steam them to help relax the wrinkles then roll the ribbon. You can also try pressing the ribbon with an iron using a pressing cloth. (Most silk ribbons are vintage with older fibers, while newer ribbons, even high quality ribbons are a combination of rayon, polyester and nylon. A low temperature and pressing cloth is safer than ending up with your ribbon stuck to your iron or breaking.)
Squashed Flowers – a Flowers can become squashed during wear or storage (or oopses). For velvet flowers, I find a light spraying of spray starch and reshaping with my fingers works best. Spray just a small area at a time, 1 or 2 square inches at most. The petals should be barely damp, not wet. Gently work the damp petals and leaves back into shape. Allow them to dry fully. If you have removed them from the bonnet or hat, clip the flowers to something so they stand up to dry.
For organza or other faux silk flowers, a light steaming may work to help coax the fibers in the petals to be manipulated and reshaped. Allow them to dry fully as well.
Crushed Frill – a A slightly crushed frill can be steamed and reshaped with the aid or a bodkin or hair pin. A severely crushed frill needs to be removed and pressed with an iron. Silk organza or cotton organdy should be able to be pressed on the designated setting. Lace should be pressed on a low setting with the aid of a pressing cloth. I try to press the frill while it is still pleated. (un-pleating and re-pleating is timely.)
Crushed or Shattered Straw – This is a though one. I’ve had a couple people ask me about bonnets that have been sat on or crushed in baggage. If the straw is not completely broken just misshapen, I suggest removing the flowers, ribbons, etc. Dampen the area(s) that have misshapened. Reshape the area(s) with your hands. Use objects in your kitchen for support if need be. Allow the straw to dry fully. If needed, mix some millinery gelatin or white glue & water (1:1) and brush it on the area for firmness and strength.
If a single or only a couple straws have been broken, it may be possible to replace or support those areas with additional plait if a matching plait can be found. To support, clean the break with fine scissors or nail clippers so the cut is along the diagonal of the plait. Unpick the stitches connecting that row of plait to those adjacent. Cut a piece of straw 2 or 3 inches long with diagonal cuts. Slide the piece into the fracture. Line it up carefully. Sew the piece into place catching the layers and the broken strips.
If multiple rows of plait are broken or it is a woven straw, the best chance is to realign the straw (dampened) and support it from the back with sinway or a piece of woven straw. The front of the straw will need the aid of a bodkin and/or tweezers to get the right look. You will want to use millinery gelatin or a glue solution to firm up the realigned straw. I would only recommend this if purchasing a new one is out of the question as it will be very intensive.
Dust or Cobwebs – If you store your bonnet or hat on a stand, you may get cobwebs. My favorite solution is a can of spray air, like the kind used for computers. Spray gently and at an angle.
Squashed Bavolet– A bavolet can get squashed during storage. If this happens, Turn the bonnet upside down. If need be, tie the functional ties together and hang the bonnet from the loop. Steam the bavolet encouraging it to flop over the tip and sides of the bonnet. Steam both the silk side and the net side. Smooth out tough wrinkles with your hands. Once the bavolet is back in shape, let it dry fully and spray with spray starch.