HSM #7: The Edwardian Summer Hat is Nearing Completion

OK, I admit that I’ve not been very…um…active this month. My attention has pulled in a dozen different ways and both the blog and the hat suffered a bit of “back-burner” time. I’m glad I’m not an octopus, but sometimes those eight arms look like a pretty nifty management tool. For me the problem is time management – I’m just not that good at it unless I really push myself and now that I’m not a slave to the alarm clock I’m loathe to push myself unless I really have to. Yes, that sounds a lot like “lazy” but I figure I’ve earned a bit of slowing down after decades of shift work and running like a maniac.

During this time I decided to replace my still missing camera. For far less money that I’d spent on my point-and-shoot pocket-sized Olympus – thank you, eBay – I was able to get a much better camera with more features AND leap from 7.1 megapixels to 16 megapixels. Hopefully the photos will reflect the improved equipment – subject to operator error since, at this point, I’ve only had it three days.

Suddenly the end of July is here and my project for HSM #7 was looking pretty…pathetic. I still had a blank base hat with two staples sitting on my mannequin head looking pretty pathetic, which it isn’t, and ignored, which it was. Happily, in times like these, “push” looks a lot like “play.” So play I did. (Please excuse the poor light – the weather has turned again and now we’re in the midst of cool, grey and rainy. The light is about as flat at it can get and the indoor lighting skews the colors. Oh, well.)

Even though I planned on pretty much drowning the hat in flowers, I decided that a hat band would be a nice touch for any areas that showed through. Trying to find something locally, for once, I ended up going with satin blanket binding. The Mercantile had it in the right shade of pink so I figured it was worth a try – especially if it saved an hour or so round-trip on the road.

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The first thing to change was the idea of a shaped brim. I recently cut my hair super-short, à la Dame Judy Dench, and having a raised side would fully expose the haircut. So I removed the staples, which I had to do to put the band on anyway, and decided to just let the brim fall as it was designed to.

Knowing the band would be mostly hidden with flowers and leaves, I wasn’t particularly worried about having a tidy seam in the band or using stealthy stitches to sew it to the hat. I used a couple of spots of fabric glue to hold it in place and used a pin to secure it while the glue dried. I’m not worried about the discoloration – it will be hidden beneath the flowers.

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Then I started dismembering flowers and leaves. I only had a few stem’s worth: one peony, two bunches of mums, one bunch of daffodils, one bunch of lavender (I think it’s lavender), a sprig of cherry blossoms and some loose bits left over from my 1908 hat. I worried about running short – until I freed the individual stems from their bunches. Suddenly I had a floral Disneyland on my hands… way more than enough.

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On the stems they don’t look like a lot…

..but once pulled apart, there was actually quite a lot to work with.

..but once pulled apart, there was actually quite a lot to work with.

Now it was just a matter of playing around with the flowers and leaves until I had layers that I liked. They are fabric, not paper, so they withstood the shifting and piling up without wear and tear.

I knew the insanely enormous peony was going to be the centerpiece, so I started there.

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It’s heavy and I was worried about the weight causing the hat to continually want to shift to the right. A couple of straight pins in the mannequin’s head work wonders during the construction, and I was (and am) pretty sure I’ll need a hat pin or two to keep it level when I wear it. Everything else that went on had to balance the weight distribution and hopefully make the wearing a bit easier.

However, as much as I loved the peony, and no matter what I tried, it was just too heavy and kept pulling the brim down. Hiding a contemporary haircut is one thing – hiding my face entirely is another. So I set it aside to await a creation with a bit more heft to it.

Uh...where'd everybody go?

Uh…where’d everybody go?

Once the peony was gone, the hat lightened up considerably. The rest of the flowers were more in balance with both size and shape. And, since they weren’t being overshadowed, their colors really popped. Once the peony was gone I could clearly see just how disproportionate it was in the first place. I mean, I knew it was big. But I didn’t anticipate how much so. I never ceased to be amazed at how willing to let go of a design idea can make such a difference.

On the other hand, though, I really wanted to use the peony. What to do, what to do. Turns out it was the massive wire in the stem that the source of the weight. I cut it off and most of the weight disappeared. But the flower itself was still enormous. So I started playing with it and remembered something I’d heard or read a long time ago – these large flowers are often made in modules. I started poking through it and, sure enough, it could be taken apart and broken down into smaller units.

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I pulled two layers of the large back sections to make a bed for the smaller core body and used glue to set them in place. (It looks kinds hibiscus-y, but that goes away when the rest of the body is in place.)

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Then I added a sprig of peony leaves on the right. On the left I nestled the spray of baby cherries, wired and placed a spray of 3 daffodil leaves and did the same with three sprigs of lavender. Finally, I set a daffodil in place to see how it looked. At the end of the day here’s what I had:

Right side.

Right side.

Left side.

Left side.

This morning I glued a plastic thingy that separates the sections onto the back of the core peony body and let that dry.

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Then I lost my internet connection. I couldn’t add to the blog or upload any photos of yesterday’s work. I figured I’d play around with making a short floral garland for the back base of the crown – except that I was out of all my thin wire, let alone thin green wire.

So I made lunch, took the dog for a walk, went to City Hall to pay my water bill, and read a book for a few hours.

Now the internet connection is back – finally! I’ve glued the (much smaller) body of the peony in place and have some pins to hold it while it sets. Now about three-fourths its original size, the proportions work with everything else and there’s very little weight so the brim isn’t sagging over my eyes.

As of this afternoon, the hot (for up here) sunny weather is back so hopefully tomorrow’s photos will be better lit. Assuming the internet is still up, that is.