Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wire Frame Construction Hat--To Santiago, Chile

Before Christmas I was contacted by a potential client in Santiago, Chile--a gentleman who wanted to surprise is fiancee with a hat for Christmas. What a great guy, huh?

Below you see the picture of the inspiration hat. He had some changes, such as: straw crown, no polka dots, not as sheer, no flower or other embellishment, all black, straight brim.

After many emails back and forth across the distance, I started the project. Since I had to make some assumptions about the hat in the supplied picture, I decided that I'd use a wire construction brim. Instructions were that the brim was to be 8-9" wide! Now that's a WIDE brim, especially when using sheer fabric.
Follow the pictures below in the process of making this hat.

Blocking the crown from parisisal straw. Simple crown shape.

Black millinery wire, #18 guage. By using black wire with black fabric I didn't have to cover the wire with ribbon or fabric. You will see the wire because the fabric is sheer.

Cut and bound headsize rings, cut to the customer's headsize and ovaled out. Our heads are oval, not round.

The bracing wires have all been cut and shaped. They will hold the two headsize rings together.

Voila! A headsize piece for supporting the crown and the brim. A very important piece of the puzzle!

I've cut and joined the outsize brim wire. This was done with the 8-9" wide brim specification in mind.

I took the brim wire and used it as the 'pattern' for cutting the silk organdy--a stiff but sheer fabric I had on hand. It is a beautiful crisp fabric, perfect for this job. Note that I have cut TWO pieces of the brim fabric. One will lie on top of the wire and one on bottom. Remember that the client didn't want the brim to be TOO sheer, hince the double thickness of fabric.

Headsize opening cut out.

I've left out a couple of steps here. Suppose I was so intent on making the hat I forgot to document a few steps. Anyway, note that I've attached the headsize ring to the brim edge by using three arched pieces of wire. I did this instead of just typical straight wires because I wanted to add some visual interest. Particularly since you will see the wires as a part of the hat design.

Overlapping the cut fabric edge to the bottom headsize ring.

I chose to attach the lower fabric piece first. Here I'm attaching it to the brim edge. I don't have to worry too much about what this looks like because I know it will all be covered with a bias fabric strip eventually. Eventually! I do, however, pay close attention to make sure I'm pulling tight enough that the fabric is not drooping. It needs to be fairly tight.

Close-up of the stitching. Just an overhand stitch across the wire.

Trimming away the excess. Although I'll be putting on a bias strip, the sheer needs to be cut down so that it is not so wide as to be seen past the bias strip. Careful with the trimming!

Ready to attach the upper brim fabric.

This part is now complete. Whew! That took some time and patience, let me tell you. Since there is no block or other guide to this structure, you need to always be checking all parts of the hat. Things can go awry and get out of shape very easily. Check, check, check.

Close-up of the wide bias strip I added. Always adds a bit of luxury to a hat!

The crown has now been placed over the headsize rings and has been stitched into place.

Hatband added and that is the final step! Complete!!

The hat was so wide I had a hard time photographing it. Not a very glamorous shot here on my living room carpet. Keep in mind the brim is 8" wide from the headsize to the brim edge. Much bigger than it looks here with no reference.

Here she is on a mannequin head. I do love this hat and may try to recreate it for the upcoming hat show I'll be doing. However, it will not be exactly the same. I DON'T make the same hat twice.
Thanks for reading!!


  1. That was quite tricky! Elegant finish and so classy. I'll be watching for this hat to show up in some international society event.

  2. Thanks for posting! I love a hat to be a statement in itself. And this hat does that, doesn't it? Thought he did a great job of designing it himself. Hope she loved it!

  3. Wonderful hat and thanks so much for sharing it's build with us! I'm looking forward to following your tutorial and trying to create one on my own. Very inspiring!

  4. So happy you like! Wire construction is a millinery skill many do not attempt, but so many great hats can be made using this technique. Have you seen some of the other posts of students and their wire construction hats? Check it out!

  5. Fantástico, gracias por mostrar la forma de hacerlo, esto viene muy bien a las personas que estamos aprendiendo.
    Saludos desde Espa├▒a.

  6. Hi Jan,
    Thank you for an excellent simple tutorial! I have been thinking about making a wire frame picture hat. Some of the vintage hat books I have are very confusing. So showing how to make a simple hat pattern then constructing it was just what I needed to see.
    Sharon Doig :-)

  7. Thanks for reading and for the kind words! Great to see you on here, Sharon!