Saturday, November 20, 2010

Millinery Inspiration From Our Natural Environment: The Pomegranate Hat Project

In her Pomgranate Hat post mon bibi stated, "Wouldn't it be lovely to have a hat as nice as a pomegranate?" So I commented saying, more or less, yes, lets make one--a pomegranate hat.  Well she was working on another project but gave me the OK to pursue this fun task.

When I took silver jewelry making classes some years ago, I purchased a jewelry making text book, including a Dover Publications reprint jewelry making book that I believe was first published in the 1920s.  Both of these books gave examples of jewelry designs from our natural environment, from the literal to the abstract.  I used what I learned (the thought process) from these two books to assist me in creating the two hats shown in the fruit bowl above.  I must add here that I also have a very vivid imagination.

The blue hat was my first attempt at making the pomegranate hat.  I was practicing on  my straw braid sewing machine, and I was extremely excited about how easy it was to shape the Toyo straw while sewing it.  I imagined that the pomegranate had exploded, filling the black bowl with delicious, beautiful, sparkling seeds--really, really I did imagine this.  This theme was also carried on to the red hat in the bowl.  Here, rather than adding yellow stamens in the center, I added seeds (rhinestones).

The Process

Blue Hat:  The blue hat was sewn on my straw braid sewing machine.  A vintage black straw braid bowl and a piece of blue braid was sewn to side of the hat.  Rhinestones were added to the bowl using tacky glue, a sweat band was sewn in, and finally a hat elastic added to hold the hat on the head.  I hope to put together a basic straw braid tutorial soon; stay tuned.  

Red Hat The red hat consists of three layers (leather, buckram, and suede).  First I prepared my hat block by carving a Styrofoam bump to attached to my tomato pin cushion, using stick pins; I covered this with plastic.  Next, the suede was dampened (on the wrong side) and laid over my tomato hat block and pined while I pulled the fabric on the bias.  Each layer was done in the same manner (leather dampened on wrong side also).  

When the layers were dry, the blocked hat was removed from the block; the bump on the top was slit into sections with a razor blade; and finally, the slits were flared out by hand.  The hat was set aside and a separate bump was blocked on the same block, but only suede was used.  This time, only a small amount of fabric was blocked over the bump, with a small amount extending beyond it.  After the bump had dried, I cut around it leaving a little of the extended fabric.  I attached rhinestones to the bump using tacky glue (this is one time I do use glue).  I also put glue around the extended section of fabric around the bump and pushed this bump, covered with rhinestones, up into the center of the hat.  I did this because I did not want stitches to show on my leather.  

A note here, the edge of the hat was wired and crinoline attached over the wire as shown in my post Foundations for my Cocktail/Fascinator Hats.  However, I had to pull the suede and leather layers back from the buckram, cut some of the buckram back, and proceed as usual.  Finally, a sweat band was put into the hat, followed by a hat elastic to hold the hat on the head.

I had so much fun making these hats.  Sorry I didn't add pictures for each step, and I did this for a purpose.  Sometimes we look for things in books (blogs) and they are not there and never will be there.  People figure out how to do something, and then someone writes a book, and then this becomes the written word, and then "it has to be done that way."  So, when I want to do something that's out of the ordinary, I visualize the process before I even start it; some sketch.  What is important is that the end result is neat and lite. For those  new to couture millinery, learn hand stitching and basic millinery.  I have added links to hand stitch videos and free online books in the upper right hand side of this blog under Speedy Resource Access.  Finally, practice, practice, and practice to make it yours.


If you have to use a glue on buckram, use rubber cement (mucilage?); it will not buckle the buckram.  I used tacky glue on the rhinestones because the amount I used would not penetrate the suede, and if it did it would not compromise this design.

Some of my couture millinery teachers would not have agreed with blocking three fabrics together, but I wanted to achieve a certain look and feel, and it was achieved by using this method. It was said that cheap hats were made this way.  Well, some of those famous designers/milliners didn't get the message, especially those making hats in the fifties, sixties, seventies, etc.


  1. Lee, this is amazing, great idea and brilliant execution, the result is beautiful.
    It is funny, but before creating complex hat, I usually create what I call a "mock-up" hat. Mr.Jones tought me this method since complex hats can have several "difficult zones" and it is always usefull to test how the fabric will react, will it be to heavy and so on. Thank you for sharing this with me!

  2. Thanks you Anya for sharing with me. I love learning as much as I love sharing.

  3. This blue hat is absolutely amazing. I would definitely wear it! Thanks for describing the process and the idea behind it, knowing the process makes some items even more precious. It's funny if I wouldn't have known about the pomegranate I would never have guessed where the inspiration came from.

    Thanks for following. Have a great Sunday.

  4. Brilliant! Love the idea with the leather. I'd love to see more posts about your work with the braid sewing machine. I think they are one of the great mysteries of the millinery world!! I've debated getting one but have been afraid I'd get it and not be able to figure the darn thing out. Lot's of scary stores out there.

  5. Thanks Jan. A basic straw braid tutorial is in the works.

  6. Very beautiful Lee! You have clearly mastered that machine. And as always, your ideas are so unique and inspiring.

  7. Thanks Colleen. As far as the machine is concerned, I still have a long way to go, but it's really fun.

  8. Hello Lee---I'm also like Jan, looking forward to the basic straw braid tutorial. I am trying to teach myself how to operate this machine, nothing out there, trying to find a tutorial is like asking for the recipe to make money. THANKS!!!! Rose from Dallas.

  9. Hi Rose,

    I was lucky enough to have a wonderful person to help me with the braid machine. You would be amazed at how many people feel threatened when certain information is given out. So, although I always planned to write a tutorial I was only going to share what I had learned on my own. I contacted this artist to get his permission to share what he had shared with me and he gave me his blessings and offered to send me additional input. This additional info is what I'm waiting for. He is very busy, and if I don't hear back from him in a week or so, I will proceed with the tutorial. So be patient with me, the tutorial is coming soon.

  10. El sombrero azul es maravilloso. Soy torpe cosiendo trenzas, le estaría agradecida con un tutorial sobre ello.
    Es fantástico como hace usted, realidad su imaginación. El sombrero granada es absolutamente genial.

  11. Gracias Carmen. Voy a crear un tutorial en breve.

  12. Hi Lee,
    THANK you for taking the time to answer back!!!! I am patient and whatever you have to share I'm VERY APPRECIATIVE!!!! Rose in Dallas.