This is one of my favorite Elizabethan era hats. It has style and panache, and it’s often completely over-the-top in stature. You can pull the wired brim into a lovely arc, which has always seemed to me to be the Millinery equivelent of a raised eyebrow. It’s a smart hat, extremely suited to the prosperous merchants and casual nobles. Women should be careful to make this hat a bit small, so it sits on the hair rather than the head and allows the caul to be seen. The following instructions assume that you have already made your Basic Brim Pattern. If you have not, you’ll want to follow the link and do so.
Incidentally, for those who are unfamiliar with Jiffy Pop, it’s this weird popcorn that comes in a little foil tin with a handle. It’s meant to be made on the stove, and as it pops, the top expands into a giant silver dome from all the popcorn inside. In the Bad Old Days(tm) before cable tv, this was quality entertainment. (Until you open it and all you smell is the burnt kernals on bottom. Fun to pop, not so much to eat.)
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.
For the Pleated Crown
Pleat the crown.
(Sorry, I’ve been working on this article for two days. I’ll try not to be a smarty-pants about it.)
Measure one quarter (ie, Side to Front) of the inside oval of your Basic Brim pattern. Measure the same quarter along the outside of your crown. I had a brim measurement of 5.25", and a crown measurement of 15.5", which tells me that, in order to fit my crown onto my brim, I have to pleat it down to roughly 1/3rd of it’s current measurement. Well, since your standard pleat takes three times the fabric as you get in pleat length, I’m pretty much golden. I pinned in 1" pleats all around.
Place your Basic Brim without Seam Allowances over the
pleated crown to check to see if the pleated size is right. You can adjust it at this point if you need to. Mines about right.
Now sew down the pleats at your standard seam allowance. Yes, we still have a raw edge, but we’ll fix that in the next step..
Note: I’ve made the classic mistake of making pleats that face into my sewing machine, so the foot wants to catch them and flip back the beginning when I sew. If you make the pleats face away from the machine, this doesn’t happen and you probably won’t be cursing like I was. (Make them open out clockwise, not counter clockwise.)
Now turn under the seam allowance and sew it down about 1/4-1/8" from the folded edge.. This gives the crown a nice edge and encourages it to stand when it’s on the hat.. If you’re worried about the raw edge being seen, put a piece of ribbon over it (around the crown, one edge at the edge of the crown and the other to the inside) while you sew this seam. That ribbon will cover the seam in the finished crown.
Making Up a Stiffened Brim
A Stiffened Brim has an interlining layer in some stiff material, usually with Millinery wire along the edge. This gives the brim a very smooth look and a degree of shapeability. (Note: Millinery wire isn’t really exactly period for most of history. Um, at all. Sorry. You can buy it online through www.JudithM.com)
Traditional Millinery uses buckram for this interlining,
which is great so long as you never, ever get it wet. A lot of hats made for ren faire purposes use plastic canvas as an interlining (an idea that nearly caused my Millinery teacher to faint) — great, but kinda heavy, and hard to go through with a sewing machine, and it can show through the outside of the hat if you’re not careful or the hat gets wet. Trust me, because I’ve don this many a time. A double layer of craft felt sized with regular Elmer’s White Glue will work in a pinch. I’m going to use a Pellon product called PelTex, which is a super heavy duty sew in interfacing. It’s expensive, unfortunately — 8$/yd, last I checked, but you can get a lot of brims out of a yard.
As well as your interfacing, you will need about a yard of Millinery Wire, a cutting pliers, your Basic Brim Patterns (both with and without seam allowance), enough fabric to lay the brim with seam allowances out twice, thread, sewing machine, hand sewing needles (preferably a small curved one), scissors, pins, and some patience.
First, we will prepare the stiffened interlining. Lay your Basic Brim Without Seam Allowance pattern on your interfacing (again, I’m using PelTex).
Trace off the pattern, makings sure to transfer the Side and Front/Back markings. Cut the piece around the outside, then carefully remove the inside oval as well. Do not cut through the brim.
The next step involves securing the Millinery Wire to the edge of the brim interlining. You will need the wire and the cutting pliers. If you are using plastic canvas, you are probably best off attaching your wire by hand, using an overcast stitch. (It will be slow and annoying, because the little pokey bits on the canvas will catch the thread all the gosh darned time.
Incidentally, I’m saying Millinery Wire specifically because it does not form permanant kinks when bent the way a normal wire does. It’s, um, like, tempered and junk. (That’s also why I say it’s totally not period for most periods….)
If you’re using a brim interlining that can go through a sewing machine safely, you can put the wire on by machine. You’ll want to set your machine for the widest zig-zag stitch it has, at a stitch length of 2-3. Line the edge of the brim and the Millinery wire up with the center of the foot. Start stitching at the center back of the brim, and go slowly. You want to make very, very sure that you don’t hit the wire with the needle, as it will break the needle. Now, I’ve had a piece of broken needle hit my face literally 3/4″ from my eye, so I’d really recommend safety goggles when sewing over wire (or around metal bonings). Go slowly, allow the machine to feed naturally, and keep everything lined up and you should be fine. If you’re nervous at all, go ahead and do it by hand with a hand overcast stitch.
I like to cut the piece of wire off from the main roll after the brim is mostly wired. (This prevents annoying measuring errors.) About 2″ before you complete the brim, cut your wire so that you will have about an inch of overlap. Where the wires overlap, you’ll simply continue to zig-zag with them right next to eachother, again being very careful not to hit wire with needle. I don’t backtack this, because the inch overlap is more than sufficient to keep things from pulling out. Besides, this will be totally encased in the brim and protected from wear and tear.
Here’s a closeup of the center back join in the wire, in case the description didn’t work.
The finished brim interlining, sitting on the head. At this point, it holds it’s shape completely and can be gently shaped. (Resist the urge to bend it, though, as it’s much easier to put the brim fabric on when the interlining is flat.)
To cut the fabric to cover the brim, you’ll want to use your Basic Brim Pattern With Seam Allowances on a double thickness of fabric. It is helpful to have the right sides together.
Trace out the pattern, being sure to transfer Side and Front/Back marks. Pin the layers together inside the brim.
Cut the piece around the outside edge only. We will be working the center oval seam before we cut out the middle bit.
With right sides together, sew around the inside oval once, about 1/4″ inside the oval line. (This puts your stitch line half way inside of your seam allowance.) These stitches stabilize the actual seam, so no stretching occurs, and help to control the seam allowance fabric so it’s easier to turn the brim around the interlining. You really don’t want to skip this step.
Cut the center oval out along the line marked from the pattern, then sew around at the normal seam allowance.
Snip the seam allowance straight in, and almost to, the innermost line of stitches. Do not snip through these stitches!
Lay the finished brim interlining on the brim fabric, lining up the Side and Front/Back marks. You want to pin the topmost layer of the brim to the interlining, leaving the bottom layer free. You want to match the inner line of stitches on the brim fabric with the inside edge of the brim interlining. This might take some gentle persuasion, but they are made from the same basic pattern so they should go together if they’re lined up correctly.
Sew the brim interlining to the wrong (top) side of the top layer of the brim by machine. (Unless you are using plastic canvas — you guys do this by hand.) You want to sew less than 1/8″ inside the brim from your wire with a straight stitch. It’s very important that this stitch stay very close to the wire, or you will be unable to hide it when you finish the brim.
At this point, if you turn the whole assembly over, this is what you should have: One free floating layer that is only attached at the center, one oval that is attached at the center and sewn around the outside edge to the brim interlining, and one brim interlining (likewise sewn around the outer edge). If this looks like what you’ve got, you’re clear to go ahead.
Trim the seam allowance of the brim layer that is sewn to the interlining. Trim ONLY that one seam allowance.
Once that seam allowance is trimmed, you can turn the brim around the interlining. You’re literally going to turn the free floating piece of labric through the central oval of the brim. That should leave you with a flat brim. The center oval’s seam allowance will be covered by the fabric that you just turned through. The seam allowance of the fabric that was turned through will be visible past the edge of the layer that’s sewn to the interlining.
And now for the “fun” part. You will need a heavy supply of both patience and pins here, because we’re going to roll that seam allowance over the edge of the brim and cover the seam that attaches the interlining with it. And we’re going to do it by hand. Starting at one side, pinch the seam allowance of the free piece of brim inward so that it butts square up against the edge of the hat.
(Why *are* we doing this by hand? Can’t it be done on machine? Don’t I see this done on machine all the time, with the little ribbon bit around the edge? We’re doing it by hand because it looks better, it’s far more period, and it’s The Right Way(tm). Sure, you *can* do it on a machine with petersham ribbon. And you can cook your hamburgers in the microwave instead of fussing with a grill, too. But do you really wanna be that guy?)
Roll the pinched seam allowance down over the edge of the brim and secure with a pin. I find it easiest to do this twice, about an inch apart, and then work the little teepee that forms between the pins into a smooth roll with my thumbnail. Do anything that works for you, but take care to get a nice, smoothly rolled seam allowance that covers the stitch line. You should be pinning about every half inch. Really, it’s a beastly annoying task and my least favorite part of the hat. But it looks so nice when you’ve got it all finished…..
Here are the only tools you need to finish the brim: a small curved needle and thread. If you don’t have a curved needle, this can be done with a straight one, but it’s more difficult because you want to hide the stitches as much as possible and it’s very hard to get into that curved seam with a straight needle.
If you’ve not used a curved needle before, you basically hold it perpendicular to your work. Use the tip to pick up a small amount (a few threads on a woven) of the flat brim fabric, the push the curve through to pick up a small amount of the rolled edge of the seam allowance. You should end up with a small straight stitch that’s barely visible. You’ll want to make your stitches small and quite close together, but not right on top of eachother. 1/8″ to just shy of 1/4″ apart will do. I usually have 3-4 stitches per half inch. I also put in a knot every 2″ or so, just a small one, because I’d hate to have the thread snap and have to start all over. I’m paranoid like that.
Once the stitches are finished, this brim is done and ready to become part of a hat! (Show with crown, because I don’t seem to have a good shot of it alone. Oops!)
Attaching Crown to Brim by Hand
When you’re joining up a Brim and a Crown by hand, you’re doing it because the seam is quite bulky or will not pass flat through the machine. That in mind, I find that it’s often helpful to pin the brim to the crown (top of Brim to outside of Crown) at the Side and Front/Back marks.
To sew the Crown and Brim together, you want to take small stitches that pass through the very bottom of the Crown and the very edge of the Brim. The easiest way to accomplish this is to press the Brim down against the side of the crown while you pass the needle through both. Keep your stitches small and tight, and knot every 1-2″. Remember, the join between the Crown and Brim is the part of the hat that takes the most strain.
When you’ve finished sewing, hide the tail of the thread
by pulling it through the seam allowance inside the crown.
I mean, not that I’m trying to sell you on the absolute beautitude of this hat from all angles, but really, that is just a fine looking hat. (I have absolutely no opinions…)