Monday, February 1, 2010

Foundations for My Cocktail/Fascinator Hats

Within a few weeks I need to make quite a few hats  for the Downtown Fashion Walk this month.  The only way that I could possibly make the number of hats I will need is to make smaller hats; thus, I will be concentrating on cocktail hats.  I always have something sitting in the corner that needs to be completed.  In this case I had blocked a buckram frame that I was going to use for a draped hat.  Well I decided to make cocktail hat foundations from the frame instead.

Before I get started, I promised you more free on-line millinery book sources.  One of the most extensive collections of free on-line millinery books that I'm aware off is the University of Wisconsin's Digital Collection, The human Ecology Collection.  I have created a search for you located here.  I suggest that you read as many of these books as possible, take as many millinery classes from as many instructors as possible (even the bad ones), and finally practice, practice, and experiment, experiment.  Oh, don't let anyone tell you that something has to be done a particular way...but please don't use a glue gun!

Using a compass, I drew circles on the frame.  Because the utility block has nice curves, these curves would be realized in the small frames that I cut from my original blocked frame. I could have drawn a teardrop, a headband, or any irregular shape onto the buckram.

After cutting my little frames out I wired them using a buttonhole stitch.  To show how the wires could be finished off, I overlapped the wire of one frame and sewed it into place.  I used a millinery wire joiner on the other frame, crimped the joiner to the wire using a jewelry bead crimper.  Before I discovered this little tool I used wire cutters to crimp and secure the joiners to the wire.

Next I covered the millinery wire with a bias strip of crinoline, attaching it with a running stitch.  It's important to attach crinoline to the frame for two reasons--
 to cover the wire and to provide an anchor  for attaching the fabric.  I then covered the upper frame with wadding (not shown, see the Vase Hat post).

My next step was to cover the prepared frame with fabric.  I pinned the fabric to the frame by first pinning the right side, then the left, then the bottom, then the top.  In other words 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s, etc.  This causes the fabric to fit the frame better--an even pull.  Notice the curved needle at the bottom of the images at left and bottom.  I use a curved needle when I have a difficult time retrieving the needle from the fabric.

When a curved needle is used the needle exits the fabric in a curve, thus making it easier to pull the needle out of the fabric.  You could also save your bent millinery needles and use them for this purpose.  I  used the whip stitch to attach the fabric and the feather trim to the frame.

I'm such a plain Jane when it comes to trimming a hat.  I prefer very little if any trim, but I realize that many prefer a little bling.  So, I'll add some trim, put in a lining and headband, and finally add a hat elastic.  I'll post pictures after I trim this little hat.


  1. Great instructions. Love the feather trim on the cocktail hat.

  2. Hi Lee,
    I really like you blog. I am making small hats for now 1 year. I think you have seen my blog. I was very much interested in this post and followed delightfully your step-by-step explanation of how you make "bibis". At the beginning, I was also wiring my hand made bukram pad, but I found that under thick felt (my hats are made of felt, hand felted by myself) it didn't make much of a difference to me. Also, it was time and material spared. What do you think? Do I do wrong? Should I go back to wiring my pads?
    Your blog is a great source of reflection for me!
    Many thanks in advance!!!

  3. Hello Mon Bibi,

    Thanks for your kind comments. Regarding the wire and buckram, I don't use buckram frames under my felt. However, the wire defines the edges of your felt "bibi." The wire makes the edges look really crisp. So, after blocking and sizing your hand-made felt, straighten out your wire and then set it inside the fold of the felt where the edge fold in. The wire will spring into a round circle. Next, finish the felt edge off with grosgrain. I hope this helps, please let me know if you have any other questions. When I'm feeling better, perhaps I'll create a tutorial.

    Thanks again,


  4. hi Lee,
    Sorry if it took a while to reply. Thank you very much for replying to my question. I will nevertheless stick with my technique. My handmade buckram frame felted covers are made really thick and I believe they don't need an extra wire. You would need to see them to understand what I mean. If the wire is only there so they look more crisp, I think they are crispy enough, lol! I though perhaps the wire was there to strenghten the hat as well. Wow, anyway, thanks for sharing you precious knowledge. I love you blog.

    I hope you are feeling better!

    Greetings from Berlin

  5. Nice tutorial. I need all the help I can get:)

  6. Thanks Bece. If there is something would like to see, just let me know.

  7. Me encanta tu pagina, es muy interesante nos enseña mucho a las principiantes como yo.Gracias por seguirme,soy Mariquitayanita.

  8. Hi,

    I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and I love it! I appreciate all the tips and tutorials. There are NO millinery classes in my area and would like to ask a question. I'm making a felt "beret". I've blocked the felt on a 6.5" fascinator base and have stiffened it as well. However, I'm completely stumped at this point. I don't know how to wire the hat and if I should or shouldn't line it. If I should, how do I do that? The hat is super skinny as it was blocked on a fascinator base. Please help!

  9. Thanks anonymous,

    Please send me an image.