Tuesday, September 1, 2015

FlapperHacks: Re-blocking Wool Hats

On today's edition of FlapperHacks, I'll share a couple of wool hats I've created for my Autumn Miss Fisher wardrobe.

These hats were formerly in one shape, and have become another - that is, I've re-blocked them, rescuing otherwise tatty headgear and giving it new life. In the case of these two hats, they were a favorite with the moths last Winter. The hats were both in a state of disgrace, but instead of throwing them away, I decided to experiment.

Now, let me urge you to consider the recycling of wool hats for the following reasons:

  • Thrift stores are choc full of sad wool hats for cheap, whereas new un-blocked hoods and capelines start around $15/piece and go up from there.
  • Cheap, new hoods and capelines don't necessarily contain 100% wool. When thrifting wool hats, many will have a stamp on the inside that says "100% wool." Snap those up.
  • Re-blocking hats is ridiculously satisfying. It's creative, physical, and results in something totally unique, and that you'll actually wear.
  • Recycling, Retrocycling, Upcycling...whatever you call it, it's kinder to the world in so many ways.
  • Block and block again - wool is resilient. Don't like what you've done? Soak that sucker and re-block it! A wool hat can literally last you your entire life, in many incarnations.

For my two new Autumn hats, I started with a picture hat and a cowboy hat:



To revert a wool hat, remove everything that has been sewn or glued upon it - hat band, decoration, sweatband, wire or plastic edging. Rip out all the stitches, then soak the hat in cold water.



Squeeze the excess water out of the hat, and you'll have something like the above reverted capeline. Now you can block the hat while it's wet like this, or you can save it for later. Remember, you can always go back and re-wet the hat to revert it!

*For cloche hats, you only need a basic head form in your head size. You can buy one new, but there are tons of vintage ones out there. They start about $60 and go up from there, but it's the vital piece, so I urge you to make the investment.

Wooden Millinery Hat Form or Block from punksrus on Etsy
The ivory hat I blocked wet, with no stiffener. It was very free-form and creative, and happened quite quickly. I used elastic around the crown, then pins and clips to hold things in position for drying overnight. Unfortunately the pins and clips I chose rusted onto the ivory wool, so I don't recommend that method! (Use stainless pins, elastics, or some other method to position things)


Those little brown "X" stitches are where the pins rusted, so to mask my mistake, I purposefully stitched the pieces on in a contrasting color and tied it in with the brown ribbon on the front.
(My inspiration for this hat was a Behida Dolic hat, which you can see here)

For my second hat trick, I reverted the cowboy hat, which was a very thick wool. I did not work this one fully wet, but moistened it as I went, and steamed the heck out of it. The thickness of the wool made it a bit harder to work, and I had to start over a couple times, but here's how it turned out:



You'd never guess this was a cowboy hat once!

Now I have two "new" hats to wear this Fall. My hat collection is growing rather rapidly, but one can never really have enough hats! Despite thinking my wool cloche hat collection was complete, I picked up this sad little thing at a garage sale:


Now what might it become?

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Summer Straw Cloche for Mom


I've been on a hatmaking binge, ever since I refashioned my black straw Gatsby hat. No hat in my house is safe now. Even the moth-eaten hat husks waiting to go out to the bin have been rescued, reverted, and blocked (and I will share those adventures shortly).

I've been wanting to make my mom a proper 1920s wide-brimmed straw hat for years. The twisted toyo (paper) capelines I recently acquired presented the perfect opportunity to get creative, even though I felt unsure of what I was doing. I had 5 ivory toyos to play with, so I could mess up, learn from it, and still be able to complete the project in time for Mom's birthday.

The fun thing about going banzai on a hat form is that you learn that they can withstand just about anything. Each material has its own characteristics - the toyo reacts to steam and moisture by wilting, and it takes very little to make it pliable - but it's *really* hard to actually ruin something unless you cut it up too much. (And even then.....those pieces are usable!)


Mom's hat is a wide-brimmed cloche cut very short in the back, with the brim curving around the face and turning up at the top. It's bound in ivory petersham, which was a little tricky to work on the flimsy, open-weave material, with a petersham band. I stiffened the whole thing lightly with gelatin.


I thought the hat looked quite blank, so I engaged my new ribbonwork concern, and made a big satin rose with some leaves. I'm very happy with how the whole thing turned out.

And Mom liked it too.


Watch out Mom, you might be getting a hat for Christmas, and Mother's Day, and next year's birthday too.... :-)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Orientalism in 1920s Fashion

Orientalism was a big trend in 1920s Western fashion, taking design for textiles, silhouette, even makeup, from Japan, China, Russia, India, and the Middle East.

I noticed that Miss Fisher wears a lot of Asian-influenced clothing. Her entire look, with the flowing trousers and long robe-like coats, is very Asian, as well as the fabrics used, too. It fits in nicely with her "woman of the world" character, and also ties in with Australian interest and proximity to Asia.

I have an Asian-inspired jacket that's been lurking in a closet for many....many years. It's straight out of the 1990s, is a very boxy cut, with huge sleeves and shoulder pads (ugh!). It's not a traditional cut, but a modern jacket made in Asian-inspired fabric. It's pretty unflattering, so I'm hoping to retrocycle it into something for my Miss Fisher wardrobe.

To the Pinterests!

Here are a few of Miss Fisher's robe-coat-things, for reference:

My absolutely favorite thing she wears, and very much with Asian influence, but perhaps a little Russian too?
The trim on this looks like it's from an Indian Sari
Heavily embroidered coat with a Mandarin collar and frogs. Stunning textile
A VERY similar short version of the coat above
Now, some original items that Miss Fisher would totally wear:

1920s Chinese silk coat with embroidery, lined in fur - Doyle's New York
"Mandarin" coat - Paul Poiret - 1923 - KCI
Art Deco Kimono Jacket - 1st Dibs
1920s Silk, Velvet, and Gold Asian inspired Cocoon Coat - click through for more views, especially the back - 1st dibs
House of Worth coat - WOW! - Timeless Vixen Vintage
There are loads of fascinating Asian-inspired garments at Vintage Textile too.

Looking at these examples now, they're just so opulent. My humble little thrifted jacket, which isn't even silk, has a looooong way to go....


Monday, August 24, 2015

The Famous Regency "Manchester" Boots!

Boots. Manchester Art Gallery. 1949.97
Ladies, since several of you expressed that you're not getting our updates on Facebook, I'm posting the results of the latest Exclusive Cycle 6 poll here.

Congratulations to the "Manchester" boots, which won the poll and will be our next Exclusive! These are seriously cool - Grecian-inspired sandals with lacing tabs and delicate silk ribbons.

The original boots are made of green twilled worsted wool edged with a darker green binding. They have a spring heel (slightly built up heel, but otherwise flat) and blunt toes without toe boxes. Manchester Art Gallery puts these around 1820, made by Ascott & Parnham, Nottingham.

The maker's mark on the insole.
Our version will be cotton sateen, also bound in a darker color, lined in linen, and soled in leather. I didn't want to limit choice concerning ribbon colors, so there will be a selection of colors to choose from for your lacing, when the boots become available to pre-order at AmericanDuchess.com. Yay for choice!

If you've just got to have a pair of these, please cast your vote for your favorite colorways here: https://apps.facebook.com/my-polls/alvyrt