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The Floppy Toque

Hats - 141
Hats - 142

"Floppy Toque" is not the correct name for this hat. I don’t know what is. It’s a slightly untidy look that’s great for characters who are a little down on their luck, generally dishevelled, countrified, or who generally wish to convey that "aiming for fashion but missing" appeal. The following instructions assume that you have already made your Basic Brim Patterns. If you have not, you’ll want to follow the link and do so.

The Toque was a popular style in Spain and Italy. (Hence, “Spanish Toque” and “Italien Bonnet”.) This example is unfortunately rather large in the crown — that’s the hazard of trying to write a mess of articles all at once. It should look nicer than this. It’s also better made in a fabric with a firm pile, in my opinion — cotton or upholstery velvet –because it gives more body and form to all those cartridge pleats. I’ve seen people use
gold thread for the pleateing, or insert pearls or beads as spacers on the stitches, which has the added benefit of being decorative. It’s a great noble hat if you take it that far. Unfortunately, I kinda hate them. If you don’t get the upper row of stitches right, or your pleats just don’t feel like standing upright, they look a fright. Mine, unfortunately, are not the best examples of the breed.

Note: These directions do not teach a modern Milliery approach to hat-making. I’ve completely eliminated the use of standard hat sizes and head-size ovals, because I’m assuming that most of the people reading this are *not* trying to set up a hat-making shop. The method I’ve worked out below works, but doesn not produce standardized patterns sizes unless you are one of the lucky few who actually possesses a standard size head.

The Large Crown Pattern

These crowns start with your Basic Brim Pattern without Seam Allowances. You will also need a piece of fabric (the size depends on, or may determine, the size of the crown you make), a ruler, a marking device (chalk is preferable to the sharpie I use in this demo!), sewing machine, scissors, thread, and three hand needles and strong buttonhole thread (these last two are for the cartridge pleated hat only).

Place the brim pattern on the fabric. We’re going to enlarge it by marking out from it with a ruler. I generally enlarge by no more
than twice the width of my brim. In this case, my brim is 2″, so
I am adding 4.5″ (2×2″ + 1/2″ seam allowance).

When you finish marking, you’ll have a great big oval. Using your ruler, transfer the Side and Front/Back marks to the outside edge of the oval you just marked. Cut this oval out.

For the Cartridge Pleated Crown

Turn up the seam allowance around the oval and machine stitch it down at 1/4″. You will use this stitch line as a guide for your cartridge pleat stitches.

I find it easiest to work all three lines of stitch simultaneously. Thread three needles each with a long doubled piece of buttonhole thread. Starting at the outer edge of the crown, sew large running stitches (about 3/4″ long) for 10″ or so along the stitching line. Start the second needle 1/2″ in from the first, matching the stitches up with the first line. Here’s the tricky bit: these stitches will be a hair shorter than the first row. Since we’re working with an oval, think of these stitches like they’re hitting on the edges of thin little pieces of pie — the closer they are to the center, the shorter they are. Start the 3rd needle 1/2″ in from the second. Repeat in 10″ segments around the crown.

After sewing, pull up the threads to bring the crown into a standing shape, instead of a big flat oval. Use the Basic Brim Pattern without Seam Allowances to check the size. When you’ve got it, knot the gathering threads securely inside the hat.

You should end up with something that looks a little like a popover.

Bonus hat: This is also a basic pleated mob cap pattern.

Making Up a Soft Brim

A Soft Brim is simply two layers of fabric, sewn together and finished as a complete oval. This is the simpler of the two brims we will go through here.

To make the soft brim, you will need your Basic Brim Pattern With Seam Allowances, enough fabric for you to cut two basic brims with seam allowances, a yard of thin single fold bias tape, and of course thread, sewing machine, scissors, and pins.

Lay the pattern on a double thickness of your fabric (so you can cut both pieces at once.)

Trace around both sides of the pattern (ideally on the back side of the fabric and with chalk, rather than the ink pen I’m using here). Be sure to tranfer the Side and Front/Back markings, as these will help you line up the brim and the crown later. It is very helpful, at this stage, to be working with the right sides of the fabric together so that you will not need to manipulate them later.

Pin the layers together inside the brim and cut around the outside of the piece only. (We cut the center oval out later. We want to hold off as long as possible to minimize the chances stretching, as most of an oval is technically on the bias.)

With right sides together, machine stitch the two layers of the brim around the outside edge of the oval at half your normal seam allowance. Use a slightly larger stitch than normal to reduce stretching, and do not pull when you sew. Let the machine do the work for you.

Sew a second line of stitch at the normal seam allowance
(if you used my drafting directions without modifications, that’s 1/2″), with normal stitch length. (Note: I use a 2 – 2.5 setting for stitch length.) It’s still important not to tug on the brim while you sew it, but you can be a little rougher on it this time.

Trim the seam allowance back to just next to the first
line of stitch (1/2 the seam allownce).

Clip small triangles out of the seam allowance, being careful not to snip the inner line of stitches. This is to reduce bulk when you turn the brim right side out.

Turn the brim right side out, and smooth the outside edge into a nice oval. If you’re prone to ironing and/or using a fabric that can be ironed, now would be an excellent time to iron the brim.

Sew around the inside brim at your normal seam allowance.

Check point: At this point, you should have an oval with a fully finished outer seam, and one seam around the inside edge. If this is what you’ve got in front of you, you’re ready for the finishing steps.

Trim the inside seam allowance down as far as your farbic will allow. I’m using felt, which doesn’t ravel, so I’ve trimmed it to 1/16″ or less. If you’re using an unstable brocade, then a) you’re totally insane, and b) a little fraycheck will be a huge help for you. You need to get the seam allowance to under 1/4″.

We’re going to seal the edge by applying thin single fold bias tape. The most important thing to know about applying this stuff is that the fold is slightly offset — one edge actually sticks out past the other. You want to put the long side down, so that you are looking at the shorter side while you sew. This radically increases the odds that you will succeed in sewing down both sides of the tape at once, instead of sewing the side on top and having the bottom side sewn intermittantly or not at all.

Note: I’m using a contrasting color bias tape for this demo so that it’s easier to see. I’d really recommend not doing that in your own hat, because it’s too easy to see.

Sew the bias tape along the edge, short side on top/long side on bottom/fold at the edge of your trimmed seam allowance. Sew slowly, few stitches at a time, about 1/8″ away from the inside edge of the bias tape. (You’ll notice there are no pins in this picture. I find that it’s actually harder to get thin single fold on when it’s pinned — it get’s pulled slightly out of line when you pull the pins out before sewing over them (you do pull your pins out before sewing over them, right? Of course you do). If you’re really, really worried about your ability to line this stuff up while you’re sewing, you can baste it, or dab a little glue stick on the fold and press it firmly over the edge of the brim to hold it temporarily.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably find that you missed a titch of the bias tape here or there on the back side of the brim. You can hand tack those. (Or if it’s late and you’re in a huge hurry, you can stick a little drop of fabric glue in and call it a day, but it’s probably best to make sure no one finds out you did that…..)

This is what your finished, fully bound brim should look like.

On the head form, you can see the brim sitting about where it’s meant to. It’s not too floppy, because I’m using a double layer of felt. If this were made of a thinner fabric, you’d see a more exaggerated floppy effect.

Attaching Crown to Brim by Machine

Line up the Crown and the Brim, outside of Crown to top of Brim, matching the Side and Front/Back marks. Pin if needed. Since these pieces no longer have seam allowances, sew close (1/8″ is sufficient) to the edge around the crown/brim join. Be sure to catch both crown and brim. Easy, eh?

The finished join.

Hats - 142

All Done!

One Comment

  1. Glass Fringe
    Glass Fringe March 7, 2010

    Nice post. You are in google rss reader now so I can read more from you again.

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