Saturday, February 22, 2014

Creating a Top Hat Without a Top Hat Block (continued)

Continuing with my little top hat project from my last post, it has been a wonderful journey.  Because I didn't have a top hat block, I figured out a simple way to flare the tip (top) of the hat without such a block.  So the next challenge was to taper the crown down to the smaller head size, and also to create a more attractive curve from the edge of the tip to the head size.  I was pleased with the outcome, and I learned a few things along the journey.  Because of what I learned, my next step will be to create a cardboard or foam transition block rather than using my protein powder can.

I can't emphasize the importance of  experimentation in order to improve one's skills.  Had I asked someone how to do this, and if they would have told me how to do it, I would have missed out on all of the things learned in-between--hits and misses--including the new applications learned that could be applied to other projects. 

Anyway, above is an improved version and to your right is the first version of my top hat; note the taper, plus I decided to flatten the tip.  The technique for tapering the sideband came from my Pinterest board, How Other Milliners and Hatters Do It, the pin on creating a Fosshape top hat.  When you think about it, Fosshape has some of the same properties as felt, it's a non-woven material that stretches under steam and heat, etc., (1. non-woven material, 2. stretches under steam and heat).   So given that they share some of the same properties, it's intuitive that the sideband of the felt would be shaped in the same manner as the Fosshape top hat, correct?  Anyway, wonderful tutorial, but my tip was created in a much simpler manner.  I will be teaching how I created my flared top hat in my upcoming class on March 8, join us.  Wow, I just told you how to do it!  Pretty easy if you don't focus on how I did mine.  I can think of several other ways of doing this, and I'm sure that many of you can do much better than I did.

Forgive the lousy pictures; I'm having camera issues.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating a Top Hat Without a Top Hat Block; Another Example of Hat Blocking Without Pins and Nails

Creating a Top Hat Prototype

It's almost time for my felt blocking class that will be held on March 8.  Usually, I ask students what type of hat they would like to create in class.  One of the students wrote that she wanted to make a top hat.  OK, it's panic time!  I don't have a top hat block!  The top hats that I've made have always been flat pattern buckram hats.  So I told her that I didn't have a top hat block, but that she was not to worry because I'd figure something out. Usually I think up some over kill process to solve an issue. So I had two techniques I thought about using, but I scrapped those because, as I've grown older, I prefer to do less labor intensive things, or maybe I'm just growing lazy.  I prefer to let my brain do the heavy lifting.  That process usually starts by sitting in a chair, looking out into space, and just thinking.

Now as I was sitting in my chair thinking, I started looking around the room, and there I found my solution.  A two minute solution that I've been using for decades!  I became excited and started blocking my hat and shaping the flared tip (top) until hunger set in.  When hunger sets in, everything ceases:  the sun goes down, the air is sucked out of the room, my head "jumps time;" you get the picture.  So after I had cooked and eaten, I refined my project and a flared top hat prototype was born.  Note that I could have made a flat tip.  I can't wait to teach the technique in class.  Now all I have to do is taper the size down to the small head size of the student.  Stay tuned. By-the-way, I always keep pre-used  materials to practice on.  I love continuous experimentation and learning!

Another Example of Blocking Without Pins and Nails (American Style Hat Block)

OK, for those that have been told that you will not be able to get crisp edges, etc., on blocked hat materials (felt, straw, etc.) unless you nail it down, it's probably because they either don't know how to block without pins and nails, or it's because they haven't been successful at doing it themselves.  Also, you must remember that there are more components to blocking than steaming and securing the material to the block.  Here I have a 30s/40s doll hat block (small adult hat block).  Usually, when I see some of the cap blocks they have been pinned or nailed in the area of the bill (visor) where it meats the head size.  So if the block has been used often, that area has probably been destroyed.

Anyway, here are a few images that shows how to block a cap without pins and nails.  Keep in mine that as the  style of block changes, so does the solution for blocking it without nails or pins.  You have to use your imagination before you start banging into your block.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to Tie a Hat Blocking Cord; A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words; Felt Blocking Class

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I've been busy blocking some fur felts and a few buckram frames, so I thought I would share the felts with you.  Here, "a picture is worth a thousand words," is a great title for the image to your right.  When I visit a person's workroom on the Web, I immediately look around their workroom, and most of the time I learn something.  Here, not every blocking situation takes the same application.  So here is a little something for you to study.

My Upcoming Felt Blocking Class

Well my felt blocking class is a go!  I am so much looking forward to it.  I love to teach millinery, but as I mentioned more than several times, I hate setting up a class.  It just takes so much out of me; maybe it's the biting of tongue that gets me down.  Anyway I'm at a breathing point where the rent on the center and the materials  will be covered; that's more than enough for me.  If you are interested in taking the class, the fee is $325 minus a few discounts that you may qualify for.  You are free to contact me at if you are interested in taking the class; fees are now due.  For a few additional details, please see my previous post at  The class will be held on Saturday, March 8, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3330 Civic Center Drive, Garden Room B, Torrance, California, 90503.

Learn to Tie Your Own Blocking Cord

I know that I keep repeating over and over again that I don't nail/pin into my vintage sculptures (hat blocks), I'll leave that for my true work horses, my balsa wood utility blocks and my brim utility blocks.  My brim utility blocks are just brim blocks that conform to the average ready-to-ware hat brims.  If I can only get a few people to protect their vintage hat blocks from destruction, I would be so happy.  Just a little something you may want to think about; I don't think that I've ever seen a hatter (men hat maker)  nailing into her/his blocks, but yet they have some of the most beautifully blocked hats there are, even their soft hats.  I said hatter, as in a real hatter.  Anyway, if you don't know how to tie a blocking cord, I hope the following video I made for you will be helpful.  I don't know if all milliners tie their cords this way, but this method works for me.  By-the-way, it's more to blocking than tying or nailing materials to a hat block, just saying.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hatstruck Couture Millinery Class: Felt Blocking, March 8, 2014

OK, I''m running behind; no excuses.  I still have two posts that I need to address, plus the person that won the silent gift contest has not come forward.  Getting those issues out of the way, temporarily, I thought it best to move on and announce my upcoming felt blocking class.  It's a one-day, eight-hour plus class; I've never been a clock watcher.  I know, I know!  I hate one-day classes because I can't give homework, and I can't give constructive criticism after a student has worked on her/his hat at home.  Well the world is moving faster than I am, so I have to be more innovative when teaching a class.  How? Actually it's quite simple.  It's a combination of teaching students millinery techniques and trying to teach them how to see.  If anything I've learned over the years is how much better off those are that can see compared to those that cannot see. This is true for all disciplines.

Have you ever noticed that some milliners never get any better.  Many times it has very little to do with the number of years a person has been a milliner or the person that the milliner has studied under.  Basically, that stuff can be saved for a resume.  Yes, it sounds impressive, but if you can't see, you can't improve your work.  Now we're not talking about style and/or design skills here; we're talking about technical skills.  There are fabulous designers out there with horrible technical skills and no one even notices.  Well, there are some of us that notice, those of us that are so cursed that we can't enjoy the designs because we're too busy looking at those pulling stitches, that blocking job that looks like cellulite, that covered brim with the falling underside, that brim that looks like it's flying in the wind even if there is no wind blowing, etc.  Yes, it is a curse.  I think I've written this before.  I definitely need to return to couture millinery.  For me that's frame covered hats.

So what are the barriers to seeing.  Today it's the teacher, etc., that passes out stickers to everyone because they don't want anyone to feel bad about themselves.  Sometimes I'm guilty of this.  In order to say something nice about horrible work, I'll find something nice to say.  For instance I'll say:  "What beautiful whether we have today!"  I love it when someone points something out to me that would helps me to improve.  This is much different than when someone points something out to me because I'm doing it different from how they would do it as in, "This is the correct way to do that." When I started out in millinery, if you didn't earn the sticker, you didn't get the sticker.  My millinery teacher, Mrs.  Eloise King, would make you tear your hat back down to the frame while telling you what was wrong with it!

What You Will Learn in the Class--I Hope

So, back on track--the class.  I'll try to teach you how to see; this can't be learned in a day; you really have to practice this skill.  Even I'm going blind or I'm loosing my perspective on what good really is.  You'll learn how to block fur felt so that no sizing will be needed, and you'll even be able to walk in the rain without your hat loosing its shape (that's Southern California rain).  You'll learn how to put in a head size band.  You'll learn how to attach a headband (outside) that hugs your hat without gaps.  You'll learn how to finish brim edges (various finishes).  You'll learn how to polish your felt, if needed.  You'll learn how to "drop a wire" in a certain type of brim...and no, a dropped wire is not sewn to the hat (in most cases)! It floats! What you will walk away with is a professional looking hat.

Email me at if you are interested in taking the class.

When:  March 8, 2014
Time:    10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Location:  Torrance, California