Monday, January 11, 2010

Draped Vase Hat

I enjoy couture millinery because it's such a relaxing hobby for me.  I would prefer to hand sew a hat than to sew it by machine any day.  Most of the hats I make are similar (construction and material wise) to the hats that were referred to as "piece good hats" in earlier centuries.  These hats were made from bits and pieces of fabric that were used to cover willow or buckram hat frames.  Piece good hats are economical to make, fitting for the times we're living in today.  There are other types of couture hats that I like.  I'll discuss those in future blogs.  I estimate my material costs for this project to run between four and six dollars, not including the vintage Weiss brooch that I've attached to it. Of course the time I put into making this little cutie was priceless.  It doesn't hurt that I live near a wonderful discount fabric store either; so I don't have to skimp on fabric quality. 

Remember that vase from my last post?  Well, I felt that this extremely waisted (concave center) shape was perfect for a draping project.  I took tons of images to demonstrate the process only to scale them back so that I wouldn't bore you to tears.  So, if you have questions just leave them in the "Comments."

 First,  for those of you that are not familiar with millinery and millinery terms, Vintage Sewing.Info at is a Web site that offers free on-line millinery books.  I'll pass on the names of other sites in future posts; enjoy.   

To start, the buckram frame (see previous post) was cut from the vase using an extremely sharp knife.  

Next, the center back of the frame was sewn from top to bottom using a whip stitch.  Both top and bottom edges of the frame were wired with #19 millinery wire.  Although wire can be attached using a whip stitch, I prefer to use a buttonhole stitch because this stitch does a better job of keeping the wire on the frame's edge.
The crown tip (see the small round circle in the top right image) was whip stitched to the top of the frame.  Bias strips of crinoline were used to cover the top and bottom edge wires using a stab stitch for the top of the frame and a running stitch for the bottom edge of the frame.

Sheet wadding (quilter's batting for this project) was used to cover the buckram frame. Milliner's sheet wadding is used to pad millinery frames;  it was optional for this project.  However, if the cover fabric is thin and/or there are imperfections in the frame that affect the aesthetics of the cover fabric after it has been stretched onto the frame, the frame should be covered with wadding before draping to obtain a smoother outer cover fabric.

I prefer to use quilter's batting rather than milliner's sheet wadding because of quality issues.  Purchase the thin batting and split the single layer into two layers to make it even thinner.  Never cut the wadding/batting; tare it so that the fibers smooth together perfectly.

The tip and headsize were covered with fabric (see image at left).
The buckram frame was draped, first starting from the top center back of the frame down to the waist (middle) and then from the center back of the bottom opening up to the waist (one bias strip for the top and one for the bottom).  Six-inch bias strips should work.

The fabric was gathered into several folds.  Starting at the edge where the folds start, pin the fabric to the frame.  Maintaining the folds in the fabric, pull the fabric around the frame, pinning as you go.  After the top and bottom of the frame have been draped, place a few strategically placed stab stitches between fabric folds (see image at rite for inside view). 
The excess fabric was cut away from the waist.  A bias strip of cover fabric was placed around the center, over the draped material where top and bottom drapes meet (see final image at bottom of post).  Finally, the edges of the center bias strip were overlapped and sewn together.  This overlap was placed in front of the hat because the trim was to be placed over it, thus hiding the stitching.

 A lining was constructed from a triangle of fabric that was folded in half twice, and then the it was cut to its center along one of the folds (see dash--cut line on the right).  The two cut edges were overlapped until the square shape became a cone shaped.  

The cone shaped lining was adjusted until the it fit perfectly at the headsize.  One side of the lining's raw edge was folded under so that it would not show (see below right).  The overlapped edges were pinned together and the excess fabric extending beyond the headsize was cut away to just below the edge of the headsize opening.  The lining was removed from the hat and a circle was sewn around the tip of the cone (wrong side of fabric) and pulled together (see above right for sewing line and  below right for completed lining).  The lining was placed back into the hat and whip stitched into place one-fourth inch from the edge of the headsize opening (see below right).  This is probably the easiest lining to make.  The drape and lining are now complete. 

Next the headsize ribbon was swirled (curved).  The more times the ribbon is swirled the move it curves.  This swirling of the ribbon is extremely important because it is this extreme curve that causes the ribbon to hug the side of the hat.  After the headsize ribbon had been completed, the hat elastic was attached.  The metal pointed elastic edge of the elastic is pushed through the fabric under the ribbon and lastly through  the crinoline.

Finally, I attached the trim.  Usually I would do this before I put the lining in, but in this case sewing on the trim did not interfere with the lining. 

One more unfinished project completed! 


  1. Wow what a very nice tutorial! Thank you so much :)

    I don't think I'll be putting together any hats any time soon, but it is nice to see the process!

    Love the hat by the way :D

  2. Thanks Pattie,

    Maybe one day you'll get the bug.


  3. I was inspired by this post. I am going to try this technique with a vase that I found. I will post process on my blog. Wish me luck.

  4. Millinery,

    Please do; I'll be looking out.


  5. Love it! I saw this post a while back and then I was in the thrift store and TA-DA there was the vase! I am going to try it soon. If there is any progress I'll blog it. - City Girl Hats

  6. Hi Lee,
    I have a hat block that is NOT a puzzle one and your post helped me to STILL make use of it. It was discarded but found it today and blocking the buckram. Rose in Dallas....AGAIN THANK YOU!!!!

  7. now you are turning me into something else. I am already looking at wooden bowls with four eyes. Now vases too? Brilliant!!

  8. Dibs, you would never know that I had a ton of hat blocks. I love a challenge; so, I visit thrift shops for objects to block on.