Saturday, May 14, 2011

Whether You Call It a Fascinator, Cocktail Hat, or Whimsy, a Little Trim Goes a Long Way

When I published the poll results showing the tutorials you would like to see here, I was a little disappointed with the results (disappointed is too strong), although they were anticipated.  After all, how many people would like to make buckram frames and cover them--a labor-intensive process on larger hats?   As you can see, the highest score went to trim. So, for this tutorial I decided to use two things that almost all of us have access to, feathers and horsehair (crin).

I like to make flat pattern, buckram frame hats; wire frame hats, large brimmed straw hats.  I'm in a meditative state when I'm hand sewing an intricate design, or solving a design issue, or experimenting with a new technique.  I never give trim that much thought.  I put very little trim on my hats.  Most of the time I prefer to make my own trim.  Other times simplicity, line, and contrast are my friends.  Trim, in some cases, would only obscure them. This only applies to my design style, for I like many different design styles.  Thus, I was hoping that flat pattern buckram frames would be the high scorer.  So, I looked on the positive side, and I pulled out all of the stuff I continuously collect, like fabrics for flowers, leaves, feathers, etc., etc.  After all I'm always putting off making the trim I do use.  The journey will be fun.

I didn't plan to put a veil on this fascinator, only the feather.  While in class, (I've been taking classes for a few decades now), I was laughing and talking with my classmates and not paying attention to what I was doing.  I had originally planned to put the prettiest section of my swirled crown to the front of the hat.  Coming off from those swirls was a length of cascading, unraveled horsehair.  Well, I put the front to the back by accident, so I cut off the cascading horsehair and added the veil you see here. The back of the hat is where the grosgrain ends and begins.  That reminds me, I should always have you to mark the center front and center back when constructing your hats.  This is intuitive to me but may not be to someone new to millinery.

On to the tutorial....

You will need a fascinator base, of course.  See the sinamay base tutorial or the buckram base tutorial, if you would like to make your own, or purchase a read made one; horsehair, an ostrich or other type of feather, a paint marker or acrylic paint (optional), and a hat elastic; including scissors, needles, paint brush, and thread.  See last post.

The Feather

I presented two YouTube tutorials in the last post, Working With Feathers 101 and Cutting Feathers.  I added these two tutorials because they dealt with stripping and cutting feathers.  The important thing here is the cutting of the feathers.  Note that the feathers are cut from the top down, very important.

Not so noticeable in these images is the pointed tip on the feather.  So, strip the feather and leave enough on the feather for a point.  Cut the end of the feather from the top down on each side, forming a spear shape.  Pin the feather to your ironing board as shown in the image.  Now, without touching the feather, run your steam iron along the length of the feather.  After the feather has dried, remove the pins.   The feather will hold its shape.  The point here is that feathers can be shaped by bending them into position and steaming them.  Of course there are other methods, and I will address them at another time.  Plus, you may also go to YouTube or other locations on the Web for videos on the subject.  Research, practice, experiment.

 If you have a colored feather, paint its sides where the stripping has removed its color.

Because I wanted my feather to appear as if it was floating on my hat, I used a small hand drill to drill holds in its side of the feather.  After which, I painted the the holes with a marker.  I should have drilled the holes before I painted the feather sides--a senior moment.  After the feather had dried I sprayed it with shellac because the acrylic had dulled the finish.  Also, notice the transparent thread I used to sew my horsehair and feather onto fascinator base.  This would be considered unorthodox...oh well.

The Horsehair Vail

Horsehair is an amazing material that can be manipulated in wonderful ways.  It can be cut and torn as shown in this video, also from the previous post.  It can be blocked on a hat block or it can be blocked using a pressing iron.  You're only limited by your imagination.  Experiment, experiment, experiment.

Making the veil is pretty straight forward.  Simply stick your finger through the horsehair and rotate it until the hole is as large as you would like it to be.  Using your iron with a protective foot attach and steam (I use steam) or a damp pressing cloth with steam turned off, press over the holes.  They are now set in place.  For a little challenge, put in the ripples around the edge of the veil.

The point here:  know the materials you are working with so that if you don't find a technique in a book or from an instructor, you can achieve the goal you set out to achieve.  Just by knowing that it is possible to block (form, shape with steam, dry heat, hand manipulation, etc.) horsehair, it is easy to figure out how to create the holes in it.  Take note that you don't have to do something exactly the same way someone else do it.  Your goal is to achieve sound results that will hold up over time, leaving you with a light, neat, and well made hat.

The Horsehair Swirl (crown)

In order to form the crown, simply pull the horsehair down and out while pressing it.  You'll get the hang of it after practicing.  Press both edges.  Do not press the center.

Finishing Up

So, you have your fascinator base, I used a sinamay base from the last tutorial.  All you have to do now is attach your crown, veil, and hat elastic.  I'll let you figure this out.  It'll be your challenge.

Remove the thread from the edge of the horsehair.  It will not ravel!

Below is a cute video showing various ways of trimming a hats.

FASHION FEATURE (click on black box to start movie)


  1. Though I cannot sew (not in a lifetime) I truly loved your tut! The hat is gorgeous:-)

  2. Thanks. Hand sewing is easy. It just takes a little practice. There are links to hand sewing videos in he sidebar.