Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Threads Magazine: How to Make a [Facinator] Hat Base

There are certain magazines that I have to pick up every month, depending on their content for that month.  Threads Magazine is one of those magazines.  I've been loving it for years, and now even more so.  You see, Threads is featuring millinery tutorials, and from what I've read there will be more such tutorials down the road.  Millinery information is in great demand today, so take advantage of every source you come across.  There is always something to learn.

The image to the right, from the Threads' site, is just one example of what is being offered.  Check out how to make the bow for this hat, including how to make the faux feathers.  When you're on the site query on millinery, hat making, hat trimming, and hat embellishment for even more millinery tutorials.

Please note that, in the sidebar to your right, there is a link to Threads noting to check out their stitch videos.  Just query on your stitch of interest.  Have fun!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How to Sew Millinery Straw Braid by Machine: Tips and Results

When Rose, one of my blog followers living in Texas, commented on my post, How to Sew Straw Braid by Machine, that she had completed her first straw braid hat just by following the instructions given in the post, I had no idea that she had sewn such a complicated design.  Rose is definitely on a mission to conquer the iron monster.  She told me that her braid machine had been collecting dust since May, with very little progress sewing braid, until she read the tutorial.  She also credited her husband for his support and help.  Rose later shared with me another project she was working on using another material.  She shared what she had learned, and she taught me a few things I didn't know.  I asked Rose's permission to showcase her hat in this post.  She gave me her permission and offered some words of encouragement:

"I would advise anyone not to be afraid of trying [to sew straw braid]... The reward of seeing what you can do by practicing and patience is paying off.

I would say that Rose's diligence has already paid off.  Rose has used her hands and imagination to produce a very ornate straw sculpture.  Think about it!  I've heard of people taking months or years just to sew a straight round crown and brim!  Most of the time people just don't know where to start.  It's interesting that most of the manuals associated with "trade secretes" have virtually disappeared....  Thanks for sharing Rose.

Now, here are a few more tips I would like to share with you.

The Machine Tension 

Before you go further, take the time to familiarize yourself with the tension mechanism on you straw braid sewing machine.  Here is the patent for the Willcox & Gibbs straw braid sewing machine tension mechanism. I can't stress the importance of understanding this.  Most of these machines are similar, but this one may be the most popular.

Adjust Your Braid Spacing

I adjust my braid spacing by sewing-in-the-round (practice rows).  Here is an image; I've offset the top sewn braid from the bottom single braid for clarity.  After you become familiar with the placement of the braid guide in relation to where the needle penetrates the straw, you will be able to judge the braid overlap better.  I've noticed that most of these antique machines are missing the numbered measuring guide.

 The Button

Just follow the images.   Click on images for larger view.  Note that there is an oblong button; this will give you more of an oval shaped crown.  Study other hats to familiarize yourself with this type of button.  Remember that the button is first sewn by hand and then transferred to the machine.


Straw Preparation

If you are sewing a dry natural straw like the one above, you will have to dampen it.  Otherwise, the machine feed will literally ear the button!  The straw should be damp, not wet

Machine Oiling

If you are practicing or sewing braid for hours, you will have to oil this machine daily.  I use regular sewing machine oil.  It's up to you to research if there is another, more appropriate oil to use.  Unfortunately there is very little information on the straw machine.  I also have a regular Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine, so I use the manual for that machine as a guide for oiling, threading, etc., my braid machines.   There are many of these manuals located in the Smithsonian archives, probably because this manual belongs to a home machine. Yes, the machines are slightly different, but use your imagination.  Again follow the images.  Note that there are moving parts at the back of the braid machine.  So, where there is a hole, drop a bead of oil.  Never put oil in or on the machine's motor!

Machine Threading

Notice the difference between the tension device on the machine to your right and the braid machine above.  This does not affect the threading method of the machines.  Just follow the directions (numbers) to your right.  However, on the braid machine the thread goes between the disks.  Also note that the thread crosses over and goes through the loops on the braid machine (actually both machines).

For additional research go to the Smithsonian Institute located here, and go down to the bottom of the page to select Willcox & Gibbs.  If you have a different machine, I can almost guarantee you that your straw braid machine will work very similar to the one above.  There are zigzag machines, invisible stitch machines, etc., but you can still learn something from these instructions, if you do the research and practice.

A Few More Tips

1.  Go to the Smithsonian site and find the parts catalog for the braid machine (yes, that still exists).  Notice the feeds in the catalog.  There are different feeds for different straws; there are even different foots for different straws--fine milan (right), etc.  The milan feed is finer.  You can learn a lot from the parts catalog.  For example, one of my machines, see first straw post has an attachment that holds the straw firm to the machine (not the hook but another attachment--the outer edge plait guide--see below left image), see the patents, see the catalog.  I could go on and on, but it depends on how much research you are willing to do at this point.

2.  When the tipper is engaged, slow the sewing speed of the machine.

3.  Hold the lower single braid between the second and third fingers.  Hold the upper sewn braid between the thumb and the second finger.  So, with practice you will be able to guide both the upper (sewn) and lower (single) straws.  The left hand guides the crown.  Practice, practice.

4.  When all fails, read the patents.  It will be much easier now that you know more about the braid machine.

5.  Practice making different shapes.   Read how it's down in the first post.  After you have learned to make a full-size hat, practice by making smaller hats with various shapes.  By doing this you will save on supply costs.  Below, notice that only one side of the form has a brim. 

Show us your creations.  Good luck!