March 28, 2009

Straw braid hats -machine sewn-

I’ve been trying to tame my straw braid sewing machine and here are the first results. I have used vintage straw braid from my personal stash.

These two hats have been created using a block that I have made myself. The block is made with Plastilina Jovi (a non hardening modelling clay similar to Play-Doh). I buy it in packs of 350 grams, and in this case I have used a long plastic  container as a base to minimize the waste of material (and give it extra stability).

Using a block is important when sewing straw as one goes back to it repeatedly, removing the hat from the machine and trying for fit, checking that the hat is adjusting to the block (and undoing rows of work when it’s too narrow or too wide).  When the hat is finished the block allows us to iron the hat and stiffen it.

My block has a serious drawback (but a design decision) and it’s that the distance between the center of the tip to the front edge is bigger than the distance to the back edge. That means that I have to add extra strips on the front (where the brim begins) to compensate for that. Adding those strips is a pain!

As for the way to wear these small hats, I did try fitting an elastic band (which is the most comfortable way to wear these small hats and hides nicely under the hair) BUT the elastic pulled the sides of the hat apart (because it’s pretty soft) and deformed it.

I used straw stiffener (before trimming) but for some reason it doesn’t stiffen the hat as much as I would want it too.

I had to think of another way of holding the hat on the head so I added a piece of elastic velvet ribbon, long ends sewn together to form a tube and then sewed the ends to the hat (being careful not to close the entry!).

That allows me to thread a metallic headband, with the advantage that I can move the hat to position it and I can change the headbands colour to adapt it to the wearers hair.

I will post some more on this subject soon. I want to share with you what I’ve worked hard to learn on my own, since (and it shouldn’t come as a surprise) there’s  nothing written on the subject on the Internet or in print and many of those who know don’t feel like sharing. As an example, I recently had the opportunity to talk to a person who makes straw braid hats (father and grandfather also did so) and when I told her that I had problems when starting the hat because it tends to curl up too soon she said “yes… yes…”, turned around and went on her merry way. Nice.

Be on the look out for more soon! All (that I know) will be revealed!


  1. Fantastic, Of Course! The hats are darling you did an incredible job wrestling the machine. You inspire!! Thank You Cristina you’re the cats meow..

    Comment by Montez — March 29, 2009 @ 7:10 am

  2. […] new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!Please check out this article on straw braid millinery. Another post from Cristina DePrada – milliner extraordinaire. I highly recommend that you view […]

    Pingback by Hatrevivalist changes Twitter user ID — March 29, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  3. Not everybody is as generous as you are Cristina 
    It’s fantastic the plastilina block, above all, bearing in mind the results… Congratulations!!!!

    Comment by Nila Taranco — March 30, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  4. Hola Cristina, felicidades por los sombreros te han quedado fantasticos y lo del molde es genial, yo soy mucho tambien de inventarme moldes con todo lo que pillo, pero lo de la plastilina me ha parecido muy buena idea, lo intentere a ver si consigo sacar alguna consilla interesante. Respecto a los consejos siento no poder ayudarte ya que en sombreros de trenza de paja ando un poco pez pero si alguna vez puedo aportarte alguna cosilla estare encantada de compartirla. Un besito

    Comment by mapi — March 30, 2009 @ 9:53 am

  5. That is adorable! I was wondering if you could use a wire inserted in a velvet tube and configured into a figure 8, then the circles layed one atop the other, with the top one sewn to the hat and bottom one opened (like a clam shell) to hug the back of the head? Just an idea….

    Comment by jill — March 30, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

  6. Those little hats are so lovely. I am very appreciative of your willingness to share your knowledge and your findings. Hope all going well with you. Cath

    Comment by Cath — March 30, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

  7. Hola cristina, vivo en sevilla y llevo visitando tu pagina durante mucho tiempo, cada vez me gusta mas .Te felicito por ella, para mi, es una fuente de inspiracion y enseñanza.
    Hice un curso de tecnico en vestuario teatral y otro de sombrereria y es el mundo de los sombreros, el que me tiene fascinada. Tengo ya, algunas creaciones propias y muchisimas, muchisimas, ideas. Me esta costando salir a delante , porque nadie te enseña nada y todo lo estoy aprendiendo, navegando en internet. No se ingles y estoy todo el santo dia, traduciendo con el google. ¡Te puedes imaginar…¡
    Ahora tengo una tarea entre las manos y es conseguir hacer azahares en cera, como los de las diademas de novias victorianas, pero al modelarlos se me parten todos. He preguntado, pero nadie sabe sobre el tema y el que sabe se calla. Por eso te entiendo, cuando te quejas de lo poco que comparten algunos sus conocimientos.
    Sigue siendo asi, Cristina. Te necesitamos.

    Comment by carmen aguadero — March 31, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  8. Thank you everyone for your encouraging comments!

    Jill, it’s funny you say this about the 8 shaped wire, because Montez ( suggested the very same thing! I’ve always wanted to try that kind of fastening system, but I have not been able to find the covered (or not) wire that has a spring to it (the wires I’ve been able to buy in the UK, no matter what the gauge, are easy to fold and don’t spring back). For the figure eight fastening I need a springy wire (the two loops effectively become a spring, and the resistance offered by the wire when pulling the two loops apart is what will keep the hat in ones head). Montez will send me some, but I believe it should be possible to buy it online too (I’ve been looking around and it can be found… and if it’s uncovered I can buy quite cheap galvanized iron wire in the uk turns out).

    Carmen, me alegro de que te guste mi blog. Me hace gracia lo de las flores de cera, mi madre llevó una coronita hecha con flores de cera en su boda, una copia de la que llevó Brigitte Bardot en la suya, se la hicieron en una fabrica que había en su barrio. Blaca del Piñal escribe algo al respecto de las flores de azahar de cera en su blog:
    Un saludo,


    Comment by cristinadeprada — March 31, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  9. Wonderful straw braid hats, Cristina. You are an inspiration to me and just maybe I will get out some of the vintage straw I have tucked away and get working on a hat. Thank you for being willing to share your technique, struggles, misses and hit the mark tries. These are right on the mark. Love them.
    All the best to you,

    Comment by Judith — April 1, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

  10. As I´ve seen those hats in person, I can say: really, they are fantastic; well done and colour combining!

    Comment by Blanca — April 2, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

  11. That sounds like such a tedious process, but you did a great job.

    Comment by Min — April 14, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  12. I am impressed with your straw braid work on your machine! I KNOW that is difficult but you seem to be mastering it quickly. I am with Jill et al. on the wire spring. The trick, I find, is to use a #19 wire and roll it into two overlapping circles, closing the ends with a join or more thin wire. Then, when you pull the circles apart they try to spring back together creating the hugging effect you are looking for. This was a very popular technique in 1940s hats. I teach my students to insert the wire into velvet tubing or anything else you like before joining to make the spring part of the pretty hat design. LOVE your wacky and wonderful block shape!! K Q:-)

    Comment by Kate — April 16, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

  13. love the tiny straw hats! love the attachment of the headband for keeping them secure!

    Comment by miriam dema — June 1, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  14. I have two machines, can you tell me where i can get table and motor?

    Comment by MS RICE — August 18, 2009 @ 5:30 am

  15. What is difficult to get are the machines, getting the table and motor should not be difficult. For a table and motor you should contact a local sewing machine repair house and ask for a quote on getting a table and motor. It might be necessary to get a carpenter to do the cutout on the table.

    Comment by cristinadeprada — August 18, 2009 @ 11:36 am

  16. I saw a industrial sewing machine table at Harbour Freight, will this suffice? I have a setup machine that will sew in wire and sweat bands, as well as, a straw braid sewing machine from Wilcox & Gibbs. I really love and appreciate what you are doing and being so kind as to share with others which is rare in the millinery industry!

    Comment by Ms Rice — October 13, 2009 @ 3:08 am

  17. You need the table to have a cut out area in front (to the left of the machine), if you have someone who can do that for you (cutting it out) then any table is good.

    Comment by cristinadeprada — October 13, 2009 @ 7:41 am

  18. […] who have been following me for a while might remember that I did a mini plasticine (aka Play-Doh) hat block to use it for making straw braid hats (like these […]

    Pingback by The rantings of a MAD HATTER wannabe… » Mini hat block out of cork — October 26, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  19. super vraiment fantastique, je recherche des conseils pour coudre la paille et trouver une machine, quelle générosité!!!! bravo

    Comment by anne — January 7, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  20. thanks for all the info. I’m new to millinery and I’m completely hooked!

    Comment by Cassandra — June 19, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

  21. I’m trying to re-sew a straw hat. What size needle do you use on your machine?

    Comment by Jennifer — March 16, 2016 @ 3:25 am

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