June 26, 2011

Going to the final of the Hat Designer of the Year 2011 competition: The leather bubble cap

Here is the bubble cap:

Collage bubble hat blog

Here is the sketch:


This cap design just came to my mind after seeing lots of beautiful 60’s hats on books and magazines. With all my designs for the competition I wanted to do something new, completely original, and not a copy of something I had seen. The truth is I have never liked 60’s hats. In my mind that era was the swan’s song of hats, with hats being slaves to the crazy hair-do’s of the time. But while researching to make the hats for the competition I came across many extravagant and fun designs that made me change my mind. Perhaps it has also to do with the fact that the 60’s are inspiring today’s fashion more and more and I’m on that wavelength too.

You may feel the need to remind me that the theme for the competition is La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini’s film that premiered in Italy in February 1960), and that the hats there tended more towards 50’s looks that 60’s. Well, that is up for discussion since many hats from the film were pretty adventurous and outrageous, but not only that, the competition called for 50’s and 60’s inspired hats. So there you have it. That is why I came up with this design.

I like my hats to look as good on the inside as they do on the outside, so here you can see the lining of the cap made with a gorgeous vintage kimono silk (disclaimer: no kimonos were harmed in the making of this hat, the fabric comes from an unused  vintage bolt). I interfaced the silk with heavy iron on interfacing to get that structured look also on the inside.


The first step to making this hat was creating the pattern. It is a totally new design and I didn’t know anything like this, so I had to make it from scratch and my favorite method for that is making a plasticine model of the hat (modeling clay that does not harden) and from there make the pattern pieces. It’s not the first time I’ve done this and shared it with you, you can check it out here: flat pattern out of a 3D shape

[THERE IS MORE!! This is a long post with many pictures, click on the MORE button below to see it all]

This is a picture of the model sculpture of the hat halfway made. I had to compare frequently with the sketch. The insert piece was not done by this method because the pieces were too small for this system to work.


In order to get neat sections I used a piece of brimlock (thick nylon monofilament wire) to mark the sections:


After that I covered the shape in plastic wrap and then with masking tape, being carefful to follow the curves. Usually I cover the whole shape in tape and then cut the sections, but in this case because the sections were marked on the clay I used the masking tape on one section at a time (and only on one half of the hat, since it’s simmetrical).

On the picture below I was beginning to trace the pattern pieces into paper. In order to keep them flat I had to notch the edge, which made the pieces longer. That is something that corrected later afterwards. I made the sinking square insert by trial and error. Through my plasticine model I knew the size of the square sides, and I made several versions until I found one that sunk in without me needing to shoot a shotgun at my forehead for the cap to fit.


I must confess that I had to tweak this pattern many times and the final hat was the 4th version of the pattern. I modified the clay model and I modified the pieces until I got what I wanted, a working practical version of the sketched design.

On my sketch I say that the bubble cap can be made with sturdy fabric or with leather. Elvis Pompilio, renowned Belgian milliner and judge of this competition, asked specifically that I make the hat in leather, and so I did.

I was lucky to find a very good supplier of lambskin leather in Barcelona where I bought two gorgeous skins, one white, one orange. They were really soft which meant I had to use an iron on heavy interfacing to give the cap more structure. I even toyed with the idea of using corset boning on the inside to keep the cap in shape but in the end it was not necessary, it keeps beautifully its shape without any additional help.

One important thing I found out in the process of making this hat: a domestic sewing machine (or mine at least) cannot handle the heavy duty intricacies of leather. I could sew the main seams without major problems, but when it came to the top stitching my machine gave up altogether and started skipping stitches like crazy. And yes, I had a leather needle and a teflon foot and a top feeding foot and whatnot. Did not help. I was ready to jump off the window when it occured to me to beg for help. I was lucky to have a local leather workshop let me use one of their sturdy industrial leather machines and that was a life saver. Those machines will take whatever you throw at them, I wish I had one at home! My heartfelt thanks go to Mr. Xavier Barris of Pell Xavier for letting a perfect stranger use one of his machines. What a wonderful team of people!!

Disappointingly I don’t have pictures of the sewing process. By that time I was pressed for time and not very optimistic about the outcome. But if anyone has questions I will gladly answer them.

It was an amazing journey and I’m really proud of the final result. I hope you enjoy it!

P.S. The third had I made for the competition will be on the Premiere Classe show in September, when the final judging will be made, and will remain a mistery until then!


  1. Bonjour Christina,
    Je découvre ton blog car j’adore les chapeaux!
    Les tiens sont super beaux!
    J’aime beaucoup l’originalité de cette cloche en cuir! C’est une très belle idée!

    Comment by Dentelline — June 26, 2011 @ 7:43 am

  2. LOVE the Cap its amazing!! I also love the new Header.. Bravo!!!!

    Comment by S. Montez Murphy — June 26, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  3. Oh Christina (this is Jane of glorioushats – just a new name & new blog). Your hat is smashing, absolutely wonderful, I am pulling for you and cheering you on in this competition with your beyond beautiful looking and beautifully crafted amazing hat. Can see the 60s influence, yet a very fresh approach and fabulous colors. Wishing you all the best. Jane

    Comment by Jane of A Tranquil Nook — June 26, 2011 @ 11:23 pm

  4. I always enjoy your instructive posts. Thanks for sharing this. Beautiful job!

    Comment by Lee — June 27, 2011 @ 5:49 am

  5. Merci beaucoup Dentelline !!

    Thank you Montez!! Thank you for noticing the slightly different header! 😉

    Jane, how wonderful to find you again!! 🙂 I’ve been out of touch for too long. I like very much your new blog, great job!

    Lee, thank you for your kind words, you’ve been doing a wonderful job on your blog!

    It’s good to be back and find new and old friends!


    Comment by cristinadeprada — June 27, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  6. I love it! I especially love the sinking square, and the tiny orange visor. Great tutorial, too.

    I hope this comment doesn’t go into your spam, I left one last week on a very old post of yours, about the Hat for Ship and Shore, which I have just made several versions of to travel with.

    Glad to see you posting again, but I see why you have been too busy to do so!

    Comment by Rachel Pollock — June 27, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  7. Rachel!

    I’m glad you like it. The sinking square was a headache but I love the way it has turned out too 🙂

    I’ve checked my spam folder and your comment is not there!! I want my comment!! Can you write it again? pretty please? I want to know about your Ship and Shore hats, can we see pictures?



    Comment by cristinadeprada — June 27, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  8. Fantástico trabajo. Gracias por compartir los amplios conocimientos.

    Comment by piki.pikonna — June 29, 2011 @ 9:20 am

  9. WOW! You deserve to win the competition for sheer dedication and tenacity. I love all your competition designs but especially the bubble cap, it is fabulous. I hope you win, good luck x

    Comment by Catherine Povey — June 30, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

  10. Thank you Catherine!!!

    Gracias Piki!!


    Comment by cristinadeprada — July 1, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

  11. Cristina, it is so nice to have your posts coming again. We’ve missed you! I adore both of your hats for the Hat Designer of the Year and wish you much luck! Your work is superb!! Very clever and fabulous workmanship.

    Comment by Jan Wutkowski — July 3, 2011 @ 1:59 am

  12. Dear Cristina,
    I love your blog it is so generous and most of all so much fun and I am really happy to see you in the competitions finalist, I shall keep my fingers crossed for you, absolutely love this leather piece, and otehr designs, buena suerte!
    Eva xx

    Comment by Eva — July 20, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

  13. Just came across your blog – can’t wait to look at your previous projects.

    Great attention to detail. Hope the competition goes well for you.

    Comment by jane gibson — August 4, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  14. What a WONDERFUL design! It makes me think of the marvelous styles of Mary Quant! Congratulations on your spectacular design 😀 Thanks so much for sharing this project with us!!!

    Comment by Jean — September 1, 2011 @ 4:38 am

  15. Wow. I am in awe…the unique vision, the engineering, fabric, give. As always, you totally rock. Nothing “wannabe” about you anymore at all!

    Comment by jill — September 12, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

  16. Thank you Jill!! So nice to hear from you! And your opinion and compliments mean a great deal to me.
    Also your visit to my blog has prompted me to visit yours and I love the bridal headpiece you did, the bride looks radiang wearing it!

    Comment by cristinadeprada — September 14, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  17. Por favor, puede decirme dónde puedo comprar en Madrid (o por mail) pies o cabezas para sombreros. Son para mi uso particular. Solo encuentro venta al por mayor. Gracias y sldos. Lola Cintad

    Comment by Lola Cintado — March 27, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

  18. Hola Lola,
    Yo soy de Barcelona. Las cabezas de trabajo se pueden encargar en Antigua Casa Ballesté. Pies se pueden comprar en la tienda online de la Sombrerería Mil.
    Espero que te sirva de ayuda.
    Un saludo,

    Comment by cristinadeprada — March 27, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress