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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ribbons Down My Back

Don't you love Irene Molloy? I do. And I love beautiful hats. I decided I needed a hat to go with my 1870s day outfit since ladies of that time would not typically go about during the day with their heads uncovered. It started out as a very rushed project because I thought of the idea during church and wanted to wear the hat that same evening. That's my excuse for using hot glue. But even rushing in that way, I couldn't finish in time, so I slowed down and have been using better techniques since then.

I started with one of the straw sun hats I bought from a thrift store (they had several for about $0.50 a piece, and these can be awfully useful as hat blanks). Most of the hats I bought at that time were undecorated, but one had ribbons and fake flowers stuck to it with large amounts of hot glue. The flowers and ribbons came off, but the glue would not, so I took several rows off the brim (where there was no hot glue) to add to one of the undamaged ones to make this colonial hat, but I never threw away the one with the glue, which you can see in the background of this picture.
The smaller brim would work quite well for a late 19th century lady's hat, but obviously it would have to be covered to hide the gargantuan globs of glue because there would be no getting them off without tearing up the straw. Looking through my stash turned up some remnants of the fabric covering this muff, which is actually left over from a medieval gown I had made.
I also had some 1-inch wide black satin ribbon, lots of the lace that decorates the edges of my red 1870s evening gown, the black bead trim from the same gown, some silver tulle, and a couple of other decorative items. What actually ended up on the hat was a bit of a "figure it out as you go along" process because I had some other fabric scraps I considered too.

The first thing I needed to do, though, was change the shape some. The crown of a modern sun hat is way too deep for an 1870s lady's hat, so I soaked the straw and started trying to flatten it. I could only change the shape so much doing that, so I ended up with this.
I didn't think about how much the dome going down into the hat would affect how it would sit on my head, so I began covering it with the black fabric. I simply pulled the fabric tight to give a flat appearance to the top. Next, I glued the black lace on, putting little pleats in as I went so that it would lay flat on the brim. Then I glued ribbon along the edge of the fabric and let the ends trail down the back. I pinned on silver tulle, feathers, and a brooch, and it looked very pretty, but it was about that time that I figured out that the hat sat much too high on my head and looked very silly.

At that point, the project got set aside for a little while because I certainly couldn't fix it quickly enough to wear it that night. Later, I decided to flatten the crown without taking all of the decorations off (though I did remove the bulkier, pinned-on portions), so I used a utility knife to cut the stitches between the rows of straw just on the funny-shaped part of the crown of the hat. I cut off some of the very center and re-wet the straw as much as I could without soaking the fabric and lace, making the straw more maleable.
Then I carefully began to hand-sew the straw coil into a flatter shape, leaving the center open since the fabric was in the way. It still wanted to curve inward/downward a little, so I placed the hat upside-down on a flat surface and placed a flat-bottomed bowl filled with black beans inside and let it dry that way.

Once this was done, and the hat fit okay, I sewed the tulle and feathers back on with clear thread--which I hate, by the way. It does its job beautifully, which is to be nearly invisible once it's in place. But its ability to do that makes it very difficult to work with because it is so hard to see it clearly to thread the needle or tie off. There was a heated argument between me and the thread before I was through. But then I was done, and it looked lovely. The brooch, which was a Christmas gift from my in-laws, was pinned in place, and the beads got left off as unnecessary. It still needs some more ribbon attached to the inside to tie under my chin, but I ran out, so I will have to buy more.

What do you think?

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