Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Pretty Big Hat--Crowned

Last year I had a client come into the shop who was vacationing at one of our local beaches. She loved hats but had never been able to find one that fit her head. This is something I hear quite often. Commercial hats are either too large or too small for the purchaser's head. Well, gosh, as a milliner I'm more than happy to show clients what I can do to make a hat they can wear; not gonna fall down on the ears and not gonna squeeze your head. By-the-way, 22"-22.5" is the average headsize for today's women.

OK, so what was so special about this client's plight? She had a headsize of 26"! Now, I've made hats for some large heads, my own headsize is 23", but nowhere near a 26". Just try to find a hatblock even close to this. Believe me, I tried. I realize there are probably some men's hatblocks out there that are close to this. Besides, since she was only in Wilmington for a short period of time we didn't have much time to look for hatblocks in her size.

To be perfectly honest, her headsize isn't really 26". However, she is a lovely African-American woman who wears her hair in many, many tiny braids at all times. THAT is what makes her hat size so large. One of the many reasons I ask clients how they will be wearing their hair when they wear the hat I'm making for them. Hair styles can change the hat size.

She left town with the both of us agreeing we would look for a 26" hatblock and I'd make a hat for her if either of us was successful in finding a block. Long story short--neither of us found a block. Cut to the present.

Same client was back in town recently and came by the shop to see what we could do about making her a hat. I explained that I'd not found a 26" block but that I thought I had a remedy, albeit not the best way of blocking a hat.

Enter my recently purchased hat stretcher! Hat stretcher? To block a hat? Well, in a word--YES. And it worked!!

The capeline above was chosen for its neutral coloring. This hat was going to have to work at many, many different hat-wearing occasions for the client.

Here's the wooden hat stretcher. Jeeze, I've wanted one of these for a long time. And they really do work for stretching out a too small hat. But I digress...

Note that there is a crank on one side that opens up the two halves of the crown.

After I opened it up to 26" I placed Press and Seal clingwrap over the 'block' to protect it and also to somewhat close the gap between the two halves. I was a little worried that the straw would collapse at the place there was no block and thought the clingwrap might help, which it did.

Here's the crown being blocked over the hat stretcher. It may not be overly obvious in this picture but believe me this is a very looong (front to back) crown. Again, not optimum for blocking, but the best I could do at the time. The elastic is to help hold the straw against the block.

Here's the finished product. The client didn't want too much embellishment. We had to place the simple hatband, which she loved anyway, to cover the petersham stitching. So it was decorative and functional. The edge was wired because she wanted the option of changing the brim shape.
When she picked up the hat she told me, "You have a very happy customer!" That's exactly what I love to hear.
As she left town this year we made a plan for me to make a hatblock for her in a different crown shape. Can't wait to see her next year for yet another hat!
Millinery tip: Hair styles can change the hat or head size.

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