I am planning to go to the Jane Austen festival in Louisville in July. Last year I went, and for the daytime promenade in costume, I wore a straw bonnet that used a commercially available straw blank. I had tweaked the shape of the blank a bit and decorated it, and felt it good enough to wear, but seeing all the beautiful bonnets both being worn and for sale at the event I wanted to try my hand at a silk covered bonnet.
I researched patterns for bonnets and came upon the Ophelia Bonnet pattern from Timely Tresses.
I have a large head, so I needed a pattern that works on larger head sizes, and from the description, the Ophelia fit the bill. The pattern has brim variations and variations for the stove pipe portion of the bonnet.
Timely Tresses sells the pattern for $16, a kit with the pattern and buckram, wire and a curved needle to make the bonnet form and a box to store it for $40, or the pattern, a curved needle and a completed buckram form for you to cover and decorate to your likeking and a box to store it for $75. I decided to go with just the pattern, to see what I could do using a different base material in place of buckram for the form, Fosshape.
What is Fosshape? Well it looks like a felt, cuts with scissors and when heated or steamed it hardens/stiffens so it can be used to make a hat form instead of Buckram – or so what I read about Fosshape said it can do. Here is what the manufacturer says about it:
Fosshape says it shrinks a maximum of 30%, so you have to experiment with it to learn how to use it. I thought I’d increase the size of my pattern pieces to make up for the shrinkage when I heated the material. For some applications, this would work just fine (I used fossshape to as an Insert stiffen a 18th Century stomacher/bodice piece and my sizing it up and shrinking it down worked well – but this wasn’t a precision operation connecting different pattern pieces together, like the bonnet). My eyeballing and experimenting with shrinking for a bonnet form was a complete failure. Live and learn. So instead I prestiffened a section of Fosshape by using an iron pressing and using steam until it was my desired level of stiffness. I then cut out the bonnet, and sewed the form together. It worked beautifully, and holds its shape without using millinery wire. So a shortcut from traditional buckram construction. Here is my form:
I went with the straight stovepipe, which because the head opening is oval and the top is round, it actually optically appears to flair out. There is also a tapered option, that looks straight, even though it is tapered. (Aren’t optical illusions fun?)
Next step is to cover the bonnet. I took the patten piedes and cut them from a pale gold silk.
I then went to sew the brim pieces together and put on the form. It wouldn’t lay flat; which caused me to actually pull out the directions I should have realized this pattern didn’t have the grain lines marked on it, and should have thought to read the Instructions before cutting. Fortunately I had lots of extra fabric because, Lo and behold, the pieces need to be cut on the bias – so I recut them. Lesson learned.
I began by doing a running stitch around the crown piece and laying it over the top:
Then I took one of the brim pieces and clipped the inner edge and laid it over the brim, smoothed it out and pinned it down. Once it was correctly in place, I sewed it down the seam at the back first.
Now it was time to put in place the fabric that would cover the center section, folding under a seam allowance on the edges that would attach at the top piece and where the brim joins to the stovepipe of the hat. I sewed it down on both edges catching the Fosshape in the seams. I then made some bias tape out of the same silk to bind the front edge.
I clipped it in place with these fabric clips -very Noah dynto use when it is hard to pin through the layers. I’m trying to make it as smooth as possible, but am not too,worried about perfection as I plan to add trim that will cover any minor puckers. Here are some fashion plates of similar bonnets and the way some of them are trimmed.
Covered in silk and before addtional trim, it is starting to shape up.
I am setting it aside now as I want to decorate it to go with my dress – and I have to actually make the dress to see if I have leftover fabric to make trim -or whether I need to look for something else that coordinates to trim it with. I’ll post a follow up when I’m working on trim!