Friday 29 May 2015

Klinkerklunk aka Yoki the fat dragon

Not at all related to hat making or historical sewing ...
I've made a toy dragon for Daughter No 1.
I just couldn't resist.

The starting point was this book that I am reading to her at the moment (again and again and again...)
"Heute ist Lucy Prinzessin"
and also "Heute ist Lucy Piratin"
 They are actually really nice and this Lucy has a dragon called "Klinkerklunk" who is adorable and loves rasperry jam. So I made a Klinkerklunk, too.

I ordered a kit (just batting  needed extra, very recommendable for stressed mothers...) and it all went together nicely. I recommend sewing it by hand. It's far easier than with the machine because of all those small part.

Here's the link to the dragon pattern
Yoki the fat dragon pattern on etsy
it's also availabe on
She also sells LOTS of other uber-cute patterns and kits (yeah!!) to maky fluffies yourself. :) 
Have a look at her page (and the hippo and giraffe and the octopus OH MY!!)

Klinkerklunk has joined her to nursery today AND survived it. :)

Have a great weekend, 


Evolution of a hat

I thought I'd share a few picture of how I made this hat:

 First I prepare the felt (3mm think, soft) with 2-3 layers of my shellac mix and let it dry. I covered the while sheet (A3) with shellac because I thought I might use some of it for decoration. As important as the shellac is tea and chocolate. fruit are optional.

After drying I cut the felt to an "easier to handle" size. The hatblock has a diameter of 17cms. In the backround you can see I never work without the help of chocolates.  I use needles that are 0,7mm thick. I prefer the ones with a plastik top, because it means I don't need a thimble. They are about 1,5cm long.

I use an old fashioned kettle with a longish spout to create steam, which works really well. Then I pull it over the hat block and attach it underneath with the needle. I start at a 12 o'clock position, then 6 o'clock, then 3 o'clock, then 9 o'clock, then in between those and always opposite until the felt lies smoothly over the hat block. ( i take it off the hat block stand for most of that)

 this is what it looks like in the end. In between I always steam the felt on the hat block. And in the end I give it a good steam before I set it to cool down and dry.

This is what it looks like after drying and removing it from the hat block. 

I cut of the excess felt with sharp scissors.I kept this scrap, it looks funny and I thought I might turn it into something.

The next step is to attach the Petersham / Grosgrain ribbon. First I shape it with an iron so be a bit rounded. 

 Then I attach it by hand (lots of modern hats have it attached by machine, but I think by hand looks nicer).

 After that comes the decoration. I chose 3 feathers from pheasant and 5 short goose feathers dyed black. I cut 2 leaf/wing shaped pieces of felt, steamed then into shape and tacked all into place. On the inside I attached a small comb so the beret can sit on the side of the head nicely.

I'll try and add a picture of the hat on my head at some point soon, I promise.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Some hats, some beans


after my hat stiffener experiment I had 4 hat bases. :) And let's not forget that first ever silk rose!

Below you see the hat bases with petersham ribbon attached and the betty hat with the bobbly has both bobble and comb attached, too. :)

 Diameter 13cm

Diameter 13 - 10 - 8 cm

Please do excuse me, I am not wearing make-up. I just didn't have the time... concentrate on the hats instead! ;)

I've combined the hat base with the silk rose and swirls of same felt.

I don't know why, but I find this a little "Parisian"... I LOVE it.

this hat HAS got a bobble hidden somewhere!

THERE is the bobble!

 I have attached a little bit of black veiling with self-made light beige dots to this one, it sort of reminds me of vintage hats with their lovely veils, but it is definitely a modern little thing.

with a bit of black veiling with light beige bobbles here.

 I am still working on the tiniest hat you can see above, it's going to get a tiny bobble, too, like a shrunk version of the above bobbly hat. I am also still working on the headpiece.

So long, have a lovely week!

PS: some of you might have recognized the "Blackadder II" quote of the title.

Monday 11 May 2015

The felt stiffener problem and its solution - an experiment

It seems that one of the best kept secrets ever in millinery is the ingredient of the felt stiffener you can buy. Apart from the fact that it is highly flammable I didn't seem to be able to find out more about what it actually contains (chemically). I also didn't manage to find/buy it in Germany. Highly annoying.

from Alice in Wonderland

So I ordered it from England. Because having to order stuff from England is less than ideal I looked for alternatives and came up with the following experiment to find out whether traditional recipes (easily available ingredients) are as good as "special" stuff (that also happens to be difficult to get).

Here we go

The Hertzwerk - Felt -Stiffener - Project

1. I bought mysterious felt stiffener from England (I am still not quite sure whether they should have really sent that highly flammable stuff via post... but anyway... there is no declaration of contents, I have absolutely no idea, what it is, I assume some sort of resin). That stuff is recommended in Sarah Cant's book "HATS!". She uses that stiffener before she starts shaping the hat. It's said to be waterresistant. (can only be used for felt).

2. The German book "Hut und Putz" by J. Barbe mentions, that most felt cones are treated with some sort of stiffener from the factory and possibly don't need extra stiffener. She does give a recipe (see below) for a shellack based felt stiffener which you can use on untreated felt or to stiffen bowler or top hats entirely (to "superstiff"!) or to give a hat just a little bit of extra "stiff". She refers to the readily available stiffener as "synthetic resin based" stiffeners, that make life a lot easier. She describes how to use the shellack based stiffener after shaping the hat. Shellack based stiffener is also waterresistant. (Shellack-sprit mix in a different concentration can also be used for straw hats to stiffen them and make them shine, as far as I understand the author...)

[Sabine from Kleidung um 1800 brought my attention to Plantago ovata/blond psyllum, or "Indischer Flohsamen" in German. Used mainly for silks but also for millinery purposes (historically). I won't be experimenting with this now, this is just for future reference. It is water-soluable, so it is only suitable for hats that definitely don't get wet (e.g. silk hats on buckram frame)]

The question:

What is better/easier and how do I use it: traditional Shellack stiffener vs modern (resin?) stiffener


Mysterious Felt stiffener from UK (some sort of resin?) (clear)

Shellack based felt stiffener (light yellow)
100gr Shellack flakes (lemon or lighter coloured) +
500ml methylated sprit ("Polierspiritus", it has to contain at least 98% alcohol)
(needs a few days to dissolve, but does this nicely without regular stirring, careful: make sure you use an absolutely airtight container!!)

Picture from book "Hut und Putz" by J. Barbe, p. 217, my shellack mix is lighter yellow than this

 - 2 pieces about A4 size (not hat felt, just ordinary felt) 100 % wool felt fabric (3-4mm thickness, rather soft touch, colour: mottled gray),
- 1 piece A4 size, 100% wool felt fabric (again, ordinary felt) 4mm thickness, rather dense and "stiff", colour: mottled off-white

The experiment:

1. I used one piece of grey felt without any pre-treatment (apart from moisture and steam) and shaped it on the hat blocks, let it dry thoroughly and then applied shellack stiffener inside.

2. I treated one piece of grey  felt before shaping with the mysterious felt stiffener (resin) (one layer) and let it dry. Then I put it on the hat block (on the stand) and used the leftover (too small for any hat block...) on the head to make a headpiece.

3. I applied 3 thin layers of shellack stiffener on the inside and let it dry. The felt was dense anyway and the shellack made it rather stiff. Despite the shellack stiffener being light yellow, you can see there is hardly any discolouration.

white felt with shellack stiffener -  3 layers on inside

(just out of interest I soaked a tiny piece of the grey felt in the shellack - it gets REALLY stiff. And darker and keeps a sort of "wet" look. But I think you could get the felt to a degree of stiffness that would easily hold up a top hat, even though the grey felt was rather soft in the first place)

edit: I've also made a sample on just normal felt to compare directly how stiff you can get stuff. This is more visual. :)

 the result:

While hat-blocking:
I found it really interesing how the felt became sort of fluffy on the surface after heating it (both did, the hair from the felt "stood up"), and of course soft and pliable.

I really liked working with it. 3-4mm thickness is a bit thick, 2-3mm would be easier,I think.
The 4mm piece was not only rather thick but also very densely felted. The shellack stiffener gets soft when heated, so that was not a problem, the thick felt itself was also soft and pliable but the sheer mass of felt is a bit of a hinderance when working with it. The finished hat gets a nice touch from the thickness though, so I couldn't say whether it was a bad idea, or not, to use such thick dense felt.

I am very happy with the hat blocks, they are nice to work with. The water kettle works fine for steam, I just have one word of advice for anyone wanting to do this stuff: steam is REALLY hot. Really really hot. No joke. Be careful.

in the middle of the experiment; front left 2 blocks are w/o stiffener

after drying

I've left the felt dry for 2 days in the loft (that at the moment heats up like a nice sauna due to the weather).
I removed all of the felt pieces from the hat blocks.

All of the felt kept its shape, no matter whether it had been stiffened previously, or not.

Obviously the non-stiffened felt was as soft as it was before, just in a different shape. Wobbly would be another word for it.I then took the shellack stiffener and applied one thin layer inside of the felt hats that had no previous treatment  (if you soak it, it probably wouldn't look nice on the outside), put them back on the block and let them dry. They went a little "crisper" but not hard. I then applied 2 more thin layers of shellack and let it dry again -  they turned out nice and firm. 3 to 4 layers seems to be the right amount for this size.
The shellack leaves a slightly "shiny/sparkly" sort of layer on the felt, but if you brush it with a suede brush it is barely visible.

The felt that I had treated with the resin stiffener was a little stiff, but also qualifies for "wobbly". I think 2-3 layers of resin would have been better. I applied 2 more layers of resin stiffener to the pre-treated felt hat to give it more "crispness", which worked fine.

The felt that I had treated with shellack stiffener was really nice. Not cardboard-stiff but stiff, not wobbly. No shine inside, no discolouration. Very happy with this method.

after taking the felt of the blocks, outside.

after taking the felt of the blocks, inside.

The above mentionned "fluffiness" of the surface gets less while drying, you can iron the felt carefully (I used the iron directly on the felt, maybe a cloth would be a good idea) to smoothen the surface.(NO stiffener on outside!)

After stiffening:

I cut the inside edges even and attached Petersham ribbon (slightly shaped with iron) to the edges. Then I attached a comb. Then decoration. (I will post about the actual hatmaking another time, this post is concentrating on the stiffener)


Both stiffeners work fine.

Personally I prefer shellack, it's got a sort of "traditional" feel to it. I know what's in it, it is a natural product, it's not some sort of mysterious chemical resin (or so...). And it is dead easy to make and comparably cheap AND easily available. The mixture of the above recipe (500ml sprit+ 100gr shellack lemon) will probably last me for... uhm...maybe 100 hats or so...?

I think applying 3-4 thin layers of shellack stiffener and letting it dry thoroughly before hat blocking works fine for the ordinary kind of felt I used. It is a lot easier than applying it after hat blocking, because you can't reach all corners inside as easily anymore after shaping the hat.

So personally, I am going to use that method in the future.

From Alice in Wonderland. Love the stripey socks.

Friday 8 May 2015

Marilyn's Dresses - "Misfits" headpiece

I've had a little bit of time to do things "DIY" (when not looking after the baby) and the first thing is an early 1960s headpiece, inspired by Marilyn Monroes headpiece from the film "The Misfits" (1961) (pictures further down).

Version 1

How come?

I've loved this picture ever since I saw it for the first time (which is a loooong time ago...). But only now I've come to the point where I started thinking about making the outfit myself. This year, starting with the headpiece.The dress and jacket are to come later in 2016.

As always, it is not as easy as it seems. My first thought was - that's just a bit of Chenille wire with a bit of bobble veiling. And then you start looking closer. (lots of pictures following) - and then I ended up watching the film. :) "The Misfits" on Youtube. :)

1. the veiling: it's fine black veiling with different size bobbles - small at the top and slightly bigger at the bottom. That's a real problem. Modern veiling usually has bigger nets (this one seems quite delicate) and bigger (if not to say huge) bobbles/dots. And how on earth is it attached???

2. I was torn between thinking it was a melusine fascinator and chenille wire attached and thinking it was really just chenille wire. it looks SO NEAT!

From the pictures alone my question (hat or chenille wire) couldn't be answered, but watching the film (and the headpiece already appears in the first 15mins) did help (and it happens to be a good albeit slightly strange film) :) It is indeed a headpiece made from black (chenille?) wire, attached to the aforementioned veiling. In the back it has two little bows - she's wearing it over a french twist/bun hairdo. Beautifully simple and elegant!

My versions:

Nice black chenille wire is not a problem, I found it right away. But the veiling was a problem... you don't get netting as fine as the one on the picture and you also don't get fine netting with chenille dots like that...

I made a prototype first because I wasn't quite sure how that veiling was actually attached. I am still not sure, but I like it this way best. :) 

the prototype

After looing for modern veiling with suitable dots (not available) and vintage veiling with suitable dots (didn't find anything in black and with dots in exactly the right places and it's also ridiculously expensive) I decided to make my own chenille bobble veiling.

Version 1
I continued using the prototype and experimented with different size chenille wire. Yes, the ordinary one from the arts and crafts shop. It might not be as great as millinery chenille wire, BUT it is available and looks okay, too, I think. When I finished I noticed I had attached the bobbles the wrong way round... the fat ones need to be at the bottom... I do like this version a lot though, nearly better than Version 2.

bobbles wrong way round BUT at least I look friendly, don't I?

Version 2
I made a new frame, slightly bigger tulle bows at the back and fat bobbles at the top and the rows with the dots slightly different from both prototype and original ;) 

sorry, not as neatly attached as I would like it but I didn't have the time

Sorry there is no back view, I will try and add one later, the back looks pretty much like the original. black wire and two small bows. :)

The original:

all pictures from Pinterest. and here somewhere ) These pictures were taken 1960 in Reno and on the Set of "The Misfits". 

better back view. It's really just a wire.