June 1, 2009

Gathered side beret from vintage block

One of the many things I find amazing about hat making is the fact that those casual bumps and folds that certain hats styles have are anything but casual and really owe that look to the artistic carving of the block maker.

This is very obvious when looking at this vintage block. If you look at the finished hat you might think that the straw has been gathered to form the pleats, and actually looking at the block it gives this strange impression of folded wood because the quality of the carving is so good!

To reinforce the folds I used reed, also around the head entry to keep the straw evenly tight. I figured out that reed would be great for this purpose myself, only to find out later that reed is what milliners have always used, talk about reinventing the wheel!… You can buy reed at basket making suppliers, and if you need the reed to take a particular curve you should soak it for a while in water which makes it very pliable and easy to bend into shape. I’ve used short pins to hold the reed in place.

The material I have used is straw braid that comes sewn into a cone. These cones are very stretchy and just perfect for this kind of detailed block. After cutting out the excess I did a zigzag stitch all around to avoid the whole thing coming undone. Although I’m one in favor of hand sewing, if the job is going to be done better by machine sewing I see no point in doing it by hand. This is the case with the sweatband because the material is folded under so the underside stitches of the sweat band will not be seen from the outside.

The only trimming on the hat is a vintage button (a gift of my friend Nina), it looks very nice although because it has a shaft it kind of wobbles a bit instead of staying nicely close to the hat.

This beret, in addition to looking nice is extremely comfortable (I can lean back with no problem which means I don’t have to take it out in the car). I’m happy!

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