Millinery Thoughts: Things you may not know are used for straw millinery

When I mentioned using powered tools last weekend, it surprised a few people. So, I thought it could be fun to talk about some of the behind the scenes things used for straw millinery. This is very much the things I use at home, not those for a historic setting.

  • Blocks. I use a few different types of blocks, aka shapes to shape bonnets and hats over. I love original blocks. They can be hard to find and pricey. I also make my own from foam and wood. The foam blocks don’t last long, maybe a season depending on how many pieces are made on it. Wood blocks are much more difficult to make but last longer. 
  • Palm sander. I use a palm sander to sand and shape some of my blocks. I would love to have a lathe so I could turn some round blocks. I need to get braver and better with saws and chisels. 
  • Dremel. I use a dremel for marking blocks and for smaller, doll size pieces. 
  • Paint brushes. I paint my sizing combination on. No more clogged spray bottles. 
  • Icy Hot and Unkers. Icy Hot patches cut in half wrap nicely around the hands or wrists when they start spasming. Unkers is nice to rub in before bed. The rubbing helps too. 
  • Back massager. The back massager fits well around the hand or wrist when there are knots or the swelling needs to be worked out. 
  • Iron stone pitcher. The pitcher from my pitcher and basin set has become the parking place for straw. 
  • Clara. Clara is in charge of time management . She reminds me when it is time to take a break or to go eat. She is also a nice heating pad. 
  • Crocks and baskets. Hanks of straw seem to stand up nicely in large crocks and tall baskets. 
  • Washing machine. The washer has become the drying surface because it is cleanable compared to wood surfaces. 

Published in: on April 19, 2017 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Today’s Millinery 

I am rather pleased with this fashionable high crown Civil War era hat. The lines and proportions came out nicely. This is one I would like to make a permanent block for in two sizes, and possibly an oval one as well. I really do need a wood working shop. 

This hat is suitable for an average to smaller head. The crown is 20″ around and round, not oval. It sits high on my head. So, I recommend ties inside. 

The crown is 3 3/4″ tall in the front. The shaped brim is 2″ wide, 10 3/4″ diameter side to side, 10″ front to back with the curve. 

Find this hat in my Etsy shop. 

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm  Comments (1)  

Today’s Millinery – Aged Copper Brown Hat

This hat has a beautiful aged copper brown color straw. It is a fashionable shape with a curved brim. 

Suitable for an average to large head, blocked on the “Delia” crown. . The crown is 20.25″ around and a shallow1.5″ high on the sides. The brim is petite, 10″ across and 11″ front to back. 

Note: The stitching is visible on this hat up close. 

Find this hat in my Etsy shop. 

Published in: on April 17, 2017 at 12:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Common Hat Shapes for 1860-1865


common 1common 2common 3

common 4


Additional variations:

  • Smaller hats (Fashion)
  • Torque (High fashion without brim) and porkpie (High fashion with little upturned brims)
  • Taller crown (Infrequent fashion)
Published in: on April 13, 2017 at 6:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Tonight’s Millinery 

This hat has a flat top crown keep nice and shallow, 2″ tall in front and 1.5″ on the sides. The front of the brim curves down in front, while the back is curved just a little. This the “Delia” crown, 20.5″ around. The brim is 11.5″ wide. 

Find this hat in my Etsy shop. 

Published in: on April 10, 2017 at 5:51 pm  Comments (2)  

Today’s Millinery – A Little Blue

This fashionably shaped Civil War era hat has a little something extra – rings of blue straw around the crown and brim. 

Blocked on the “Delia” crown, it has a rounder crown 21.5″ in circumference. The brim is 11.75″ in diameter. 

Find this hat in my Etsy shop. 

Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Today’s Millinery – Shallow Crown 

Shaped following an original 1850s-1860s hat in the LACMA collection and an 1865-1870 hat from The National Trust Collection, this shallow crown hat has soft lines. It can be decorated simply or more lavishly. 

Find it in my Etsy shop. 

Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wearing the Mid-Nineteenth Century Hat

2016-03-16-13.23.13.jpg.jpegWearing nineteenth century clothes, we find they fit differently than our modern clothes. The waist is in a different spot. The bust sits differently. Seams are used to accent or de-accent parts of the body. The fit feels different and moving in the clothes is different. The same is true for hats and bonnets. In previous posts I’ve talked about bonnets and perch. Here, we are going to look at how a hat was worn and how it “fits”.

In the 1850s and 1860s, hats were worn much higher on the head than we are accustom to in the twenty-first century. Think about when you wear your modern beach or garden hat. You know that line across your forehead where it sits after a long hot day? You do Not want that. A mid-nineteenth century hat sat higher, at the top of your forehead, at your hair line, or even higher. Take a look at these fashion illustrations from 1860-1862. Notice where each hat sit. In a few illustrations, the front hairline is obviously below the crown line. In others, the crown sits just at this line. The hat sits atop the head, not encompassing it. The curve of the brim is what dips to the eye line, not the hat itself.



What does this mean for you when picking a size?

There are two factors for finding a comfortable fit: Size and shape.

The difference in wear or placement means we measure for a mid-nineteenth century had differently than we do for a twentieth or twenty-first century hat. The modern hat is measured just above the eyebrow. (This is also where many of us measure for bonnets. We want to keep you on  your toes.)  For mid-nineteenth century, we measure higher, at the hair line.  In this illustration, we can see the difference between where the two measurements would be.


These higher, hairline measurements are often smaller than those taken at the eyebrow. A hat worn at this point can be slightly smaller to slightly larger for comfort. So, add and subtract an inch to your hairline measure.

For example: I am 22.5″ around at my eyebrows and 21.5″ at my hairline. The vast land of the internet tells me that the average woman’s head measures 22.5″ to 22 5/8″ around at the modern measuring point. So, I am about average.  I comfortably wear a mid-nineteenth century hat that is 19.5″ to 21.5″

General guidelines I use:

  • Small = Less than 21″ at the hairline (crown less than 20″)
  • Average = 21″-22.5″ at the hairline (crown 20-21.5″)
  • Large = Greater than 22.5″ at the hairline (crown greater than 22″)

Just like every head measures a bit differently, they are each shaped a bit differently.


round oval

When looking from above, some people have rounder heads while other have more oval heads. Both of these shapes to the right can have a circumference of 22.5″. Yet, the same hat would fit each head differently.

I will try to indicate which hats have rounder crowns or more oval crowns. I am in the process of naming the crowns. Hopefully, that will help.

Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Today’s Millinery 

A fashionable Civil War era hat with a shallow,flat crown and shaped brim. 

This is blocked on the “Delia” crown and will nicely fit an average head (21″-22.5″ around at the hairline.) Crown is 20.5″ around and 1.75″ deep. The brim is 11.5″ in diameter 

Find it in my Etsy shop. 

Finishing ideas*&deptids=62%7C8&what=Hats

Published in: on April 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Because Sometimes We Have Absolutely Insane Ideas We Need to be Talked Out of…

Published in: on March 30, 2017 at 4:19 pm  Comments (2)