Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blocking a Fur Felt Hat...before France!

I have been busy packing my bags for France for the last few days, but have had loads of nervous energy that I had to expend some way.  So I've been making hats!  What else?

This Summer I was lucky enough to purchase about 15 fabulous vintage hatblocks and I've been using those with some soft, luxurious fur felt hoods.  This post is about the latest hat from one of the blocks.

Here's one shot of the final product.  The photos are not going to show the interesting color of this felt.  It is somewhere between hot pink and orange, with a tint of purple-blue.  At first I didn't like it but it has grown on me.

Here's the block covered in Press n Seal, which works much better than clingwrap.  (It actually sticks to the block and protects it better.) I love the deep 'S' in the tip.  This is the kind of block that creates the complete hat, not just a crown that will be added to a brim.  I'm not keen on brim brimmed hats so this suits me just fine.

...and a better view of the tip.

I've steamed the hood and pulled it over the block, using a wide elastic band to hold it against the block at the headsize opening.  That elastic also allows me to pull any fullness under it.  I've used smooth roping to hold the felt against the tip indent--the 'S' on top.

After the felt has cooled down and dried I remove the roping and let it continue to dry underneath.  I don't saturate my felts with water as some milliners do.  The steam and maybe a spritz of water where needed work just fine, and it cuts WAY down on the drying time!

I don't like stiff felts so I don't always use sizing on my felts.  However, the fur felt in pretty flexible and I want it to be a little stiffer, particularly to help hold the shape of the 'S'.  I sprayed the inside of the hood with felt stiffener, and used a foam brush to help the stiffener penetrate the felt.

Here I've cut the excess away from the bottom of the form so that I'm left with the hat shape.

I've tucked under the edge of the hat so that there isn't a raw edge to the headsize opening.  I've used clothespins to help hold the edge under, plus I've dampened the edge to help hold it to the inside.  The pins are also helping to hold the hat up without it laying flat on the table and perhaps misshaping the hat shape.

After I've creased the edge of the hat I then unfold it and pin my petersham ribbon to the edge.  I love to add a different color petersham as a surprise to the inside of the hat! Sew on with a very tiny stitch.  No visible stitches!!!

To help keep the 'S' in the tip I've added some invisible stitching to the outside of the hat, but very visible on the inside.  I cross back and forth on the inside, pulling the edges of the 'S' toward each other.

Not sure how much you can see here, but this is the inside of the hat with the stitches to hold the 'S'.  Stitches are to the right of the needle in this picture.  I've seen this technique in many vintage hats to help hold a crease, a shape, an edge.

Front view with the fan made from the roundings cut from the edge.

Further around the side with the fan and the velvet orangy-red velvet ribbon with the purple satin underside, laid out in a chevron style.

Close-up of the velvet ribbon chevron.

I will be posting again once I return from my teaching trip to France.  I hope to have some fantastic pictures of some amazing millinery establishments in Paris.  Stay tuned and I'll see you in about 4 weeks!!!

 We will be making some additional changes to the look of the blog over the next few weeks.  Enjoy!


  1. This is wonderful! I received a few hatblocks as gifts last Christmas and haven't used them much yet because I can't seem to find reasonably priced fur felt hoods. Where do you purchase yours from?

  2. this is a wonderful hat block! and i just love the result. press and seal. I wish I could find something similar in Germany...

  3. Thanks to you both! Yes, I love these old blocks. As for finding reasonably priced fur felts I suppose it is all relative. They are more expensive than wool felt but block so much easier. I get mine from Hats by Leko and Manhatco, here in the US. Gigi, you might want to look again in the shops to see if there is something similar in may not be named the same thing. Cheers!

  4. Thanks for such an excellent tutorial!!! Any tips on finding hat blocks other than eBay?
    I'd love to see more tutorials...such wonderful ideas and clear instructions!!

  5. Thanks, Esme! I do plan on more tutorials in the coming year. I enjoy doing them...when I have time, and everyone seems to like them.

    As for blocks, try second-hand shops or antique shops as they have them sometimes.