Depending on when we entered into the millinery scene will determine our affection for and choice of millinery materials. For me, it's buckram and finely woven parasisal (replaced with inferior grades). For my millinery instructors it was willow, also referred to as espartre in some portions of the world. They spoke of willow as if they they were speaking of fine wine or exquisite diamonds.
When it comes to millinery foundation materials, my knowledge is limited to my exposure to it, including the successes I've had with it. So here are a few reasons I prefer buckram over most other foundation materials:
It is a natural fiber: So what's so good about buckram being made from natural fibers? Well with the number of ladies I see fanning themselves these days, I think some of you know one reason. Light natural materials breath and they allow you to breath. Enough said.
It is light in weight: One of my millinery teachers, Mrs. Eloise King, would always say that, "A hat should be as light as a feather." Well buckram with its mesh construction delivers this lightness.
It is easy to sew through: Although buckram frame edges are covered with crinoline (the fabric) or another thin bias cut material for the purpose of attaching fabrics to the frame, sewing through any portion of the frame proves to be an easy task.
It sticks to itself: Now this is a big one! Some don't realize this, or they do realize it but they don't take advantage of this property. The reason I know it is because when it comes to those deep brims and concave crowns, some reach for the spray adhesive or some other type of adhesive. Although this adhesive property does not work on all materials or for all situations, it works on the majority. Further, you would only use this property depending on the fabric and the finished effect you would like to achieve. I can't tell you the hell I would go through before I finally figured out how to take advantage of the buckram-sticky-thing when working with really deep cuff brims. I'll also say that I absolutely hate when I see the underside of a hat brim falling and not hugging its underside (top or bottom), as if it was the lining falling from the top of an old 1954 Chevy. I just want to shout, "WILL YOU FIX THAT THING!" None of the hats here have any type of adhesive on them thanks to the flexibility of good old buckram. I'm not against adhesives; they've always been used in millinery--yes even couture millinery. I'm just not too fun of glue guns, but that's my issue..
It can be used to construct flat patterned frames: Not much explanation needed here, except that the frames can be as simple or as complex as needed to be.
It can be used to capture any hat block or object shape (molded frames): Yes, any! I mentioned this above. The hat form (frame) to your right was molded over a wooden bowl. It was used to construct the hat in my previous post. You may also remember the post I made on the Draped Vase Hat. The hat frame used for that hat was blocked over a ceramic vase, using one piece of buckram. The frame to your right was constructed using multiple bias strips. The way you construct your frame depends on your mood, your preference, and/or the type of fabric you use to cover your frame with, and it also depends on the complexity of the object you are constructing your frame on.
No matter what the shape is, you can always get buckram to conform to that shape. You don't have to stitch it, and you don't even have to tie it down. The frame above was neither stitched or tied down or pinned down. However, you can secure the buckram if you feel you should.
It is affordable: At 60 inches wide and coming in under $10 a yard, you can make many hats from one yard of buckram, depending on their sizes. Remember the post "How Many Hats and Accessories Can You Make From One Yard of Fabric?" Well, this also applies to buckram yardage. The image to your right shows the hats I made for that post, and the video shows the accessories. By the way, all of the hats made in the video were blocked on wooden bowls, the black hat two bowls taped together to form a small crown and a brim.
If you don't live near a millinery store or ordering it over the Internet is not an option, and all you have is a fabric shop, you can you may be able find it in the upholstery section of your fabric shop, unsized; or you may be be able to find it amongst the tailoring fabrics in your fabric store, again unsized. This means that you can size your own buckram. If you can't find unsized buckram, one of the cotton upholstery or tailoring fabrics can be sized and used exactly in the same manner as millinery buckram if you don't have access to it. But I will speak on this in another post. We don't live in a perfect world so we must make the one we live in work for us.
I can go on about buckram, but I don't want to bore you. It all depends on how well you master buckranm how much you will grow to like or dislike it. No, buckram is not the latest kid on the block. It's not sexy; but it works, and it works well. If you don't like it, it's probably because you haven't learned to use it to its fullest extent. Go out there and explore the many other alternatives to buckram if you have a desire to do so and find your best fit for your millinery era. Just have fun doing it.
Last, I thought I'd share images of a few of my latest acquired hat blocks. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love a bargain. Well one of my latest bargains was the acquisition of almost a dozen blocks. Here are six of them. I also found another mannequin head that matches my other display head, both coming from the Salvation Army. The blocks came from one of Mrs Essie Edwards' farmer millinery students that was hanging her hat up for good. No matter how many blocks I pick up, the majority of my blocking occurs on bowls or utility blocks. So you see, millinery is a very affordable craft, depending on your choice of materials and equipment.