January 22, 2008

Blocking the German vintage block #3102

Filed under: German vintage hat block #3102,Millinery projects — Cristina de Prada @ 11:37 am

Felt half way being blockedThe hat is well under way as you can see. I’ve used reed to mark the folds on the hat, like I did with the purple hat, and I’ve learned something in the process…

…I’ve noticed that when the pin is hammered vertical (talking now about the uppermost fold line), the felt pushes up as it dries and this shrinking causes a loss of definition (the felt is no longer in contact with the wood). I guess this happens because there is more felt surface on the upper part and that results in more shrinkage. On the other hand, when the pin is perpendicular it holds the felt in place much better.

Actually if you look at the picture on the left it looks like I was completely drunk (which I wasn’t, I promise) when I did it. The idea in my mind was that if I pinned in different angles the reed would stay in place, which is a valid idea, but the expected direction of the shrinkage should also be kept in mind.

Detail of the block... how did they block the felt?One funny thing is that when I look at the existing holes on the block I cannot, for the life of me, understand how they blocked it. The pin holes are all over the place, around, not on the fold, so I would love to hear your theory on this because I’m completely baffled by the markings.

Underside of block, notice excess felt to be trimmed awayOn the left you can see the underside and there are a few interesting things to notice. One is the hotel shower cap I’ve used to protect the block which was a suggestion from Meg, second is the fact that I’m using reed on the underside also to clearly mark the headsize and have an easier job when trimming the felt. And finally the fact that there was sooo much extra felt that I had to trim some of it in order to finish up the work (the picture is before trimming).

The whole process took some time because I had to carefully pin the reed on every fold and although I microwaved the felt first (using non flammable sizing) , I also had to periodically steam the felt (old fashion way) to pull it into place. Also, although I’m using hardened steel pins they tend to bend when I hammer them and that gets to my nerves! Any suggestion about the pins is welcome, but I don’t want to use the millinery push pins that are on the market because those make a huge hole on the block.

Soon I will post pictures of the unblocked felt (Jill, no worries, I managed to get it out), which still needs some trimming.

You can look at all the pictures I’ve taken if you follow this link.


  1. Shower cap: Doh! Why didn’t I think of that???

    A tip an interior decorator taught me: Use sewing machine needles to hang pictures when no nails are allowed. They can be hammered, and as they are tempered they don’t bend. Maybe that would work to ease the bending pin issue…but dang, how much would all those needles cost? Interesting question. There must be someplace to buy them in bulk.

    Can’t wait to see how this baby turns out. Oh I do love a good moment of millinery suspense!

    Comment by Jill — January 23, 2008 @ 1:40 am

  2. I found all those pin holes a bit baffling too. Perhaps former owner used the block to make other shapes as well so pinned in various places. I usually use a tough cord for blocking but can see how that would have been a problem for part of this shape. Wonder if there was once another piece that was to go with the block for holding folds in place? Can’t WAIT to see your hat. Don’t forget to save those scraps for trims. K Q:-)

    Comment by Kate — January 24, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  3. Suggestion for the odd pin spots: Perhaps someone liked the shape of the blocks brim only and decided to use it for a project. Who knows, the wrap around would make a magnificent sculptural piece.

    And I am glad that the shower cap worked out for you (yep I’m the Meg)… I found a place to get them in multiple amounts finally. No website yet, had a few life changes in between my last visit to you and now.

    Hope everything is going better for you now, I still am in love with your work and your creativity.

    Much love to you all,


    Comment by Megan — October 17, 2009 @ 11:08 am

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