June 16, 2009

Hand sculpted straw hat

Filed under: Hand sculpted straw hat,Millinery projects — Cristina de Prada @ 6:19 pm


I sprayed a sisal straw cone (a “second” I bought at the Kopka sale) with water in order to block it  on a vintage cloche block but as I was manipulating it (and wondering which was the right side) I became fascinated with the shapes it was taking, as if it had a life of its own, and finally decided to shape it by hand and skip the blocking altogether.

It was talking to me, and I listened.

I folded the edge under twice over itself for a neat edge finish and adjusted the final shape on top of a cork head, to make sure it would sit comfortably on the head.

I applied a coat of straw stiffener (the chemical stinky type), but it was too thick (the bottle must have stayed open too long at some point) and in some areas it left a white film on the straw when it dried. I had to spend a couple of hours, in panic, rubbing those spots with a cloth soaked in alcohol until I finally managed to clean it and then I reapplied stiffener (from a different bottle!). It has a nice varnish shine (which can become a problem when applying this kind of stiffener because you lose the natural look) but in this case I believe it looks good.

This is the raw material:

The hat is finished on the inside with a grosgrain ribbon, and as you can see on the picture below I had to pleat the ribbon on one spot to make it stay flat (on second thought the ribbon should have been joined there, duh!). The hat is comfortably kept on the head thanks to an elastic band (the ones you buy ready made finished with metal ferrules that slide between the stitches of the grosgrain) . Some detail pictures:

I love manipulating straw and felt and letting the material talk to me, it’s strangely therapeutic.

I also like the fact that every time the result is unique.


  1. Next time, don’t laugh… try a matte or satin style clear spray paint. Really!

    Comment by sayra — June 16, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  2. Glad to have Sayra’s tip too…I have made several of the hand shaped hats, and usually just use a hat pin to hold them in place. It is so theraputic sculpting a hat with one’s bare hands. I’ve even done one with a capeline, just shaping the crown and leaving the brim flat. Such fun.

    I am SO glad you decided to keep blogging all those months ago when you thought you’d quit…I’ve learned so much from you!

    Comment by jill — June 16, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

  3. Beautiful. Where does one purchase the sisal straw cone? It really looks like it would be fun to try.

    Comment by Dolores — June 16, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  4. Thank you Sayra, I will have to give it a shot!

    Jill, You’ve done some wonderful stuff with straw sculpting, you’ve got a talent for that (and I love your trick with clothes pins!), and believe me when I say that YOU were the reason I kept blogging all those months ago. Your messages of encouragement made all the difference when I was down. Thank you.

    Dolores, you can buy the sisal (also known as sisol) at any millinery supplier. I bought mine at http://www.kopka.de they’re in Germany.

    Comment by cristinadeprada — June 17, 2009 @ 12:05 am

  5. Oh I LOVE that! It’s simply amazing! Great job.

    Comment by Janel M — June 17, 2009 @ 1:40 am

  6. Love that hat.

    Little worried when hats start talking to you!


    Comment by Joaco — June 17, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  7. Hey Joaco… You’re right, I might be finally losing it.

    Comment by cristinadeprada — June 17, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

  8. Love your hat, Cristina! Free form work is so rewarding. Fun to see where the creativity takes you, isn’t it?
    Keep going…. Kate

    Comment by Kate — June 17, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

  9. ¡¡ES PRECIOSO¡¡ eso es arte cuando son las manos y el talento los que hablan .

    Comment by carmen aguadero sanchez — June 18, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

  10. It’s beautiful! Looks like a flower about to open up…

    Comment by Rachel — June 18, 2009 @ 5:37 pm

  11. Marvelous Metamorphosis… Simply Beautiful.

    Comment by Montez — June 19, 2009 @ 12:21 am

  12. I’ve found that the structure we give the free-form hats like this actually help in keeping them stabilized without sizing or stiffeners. And very few need a petersham. (Like the ones you saw on my blog.) Sometimes, however, the twists and pleats need a tacking stitch (from the inside) to hold them in place. As always, love your stuff!

    Comment by Jan Wutkowski — June 20, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  13. Nice work!

    Comment by Candice Herne — June 24, 2009 @ 3:35 am

  14. Love this hat, glad they are talking to you! x

    Comment by Cath — June 24, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

  15. Gorgeous!! I absolutely love it.

    Comment by Jo — October 20, 2009 @ 11:49 pm

  16. Ya había visto este post en su día, cuando lo publicaste; pero ahora, releyéndolo, tengo que decirte lo guapísma que estás con el sombrero.

    Comment by Blanca — November 28, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

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