Miss Johannesen, dance instructor, 1872.
While all the excitement of getting ready for the Victorian Heritage Festival was burbling along, I was taking two online classes with Jennifer Rosbrugh: the Victorian Undergarments class and the 1880’s (or 1870’s) Bustle Hat class.
I finished the undergarments and love my new “under-semble” of things.
The hat has proven to be more of a challenge. I’ve ripped apart and re-decorated hats for eons, but have never made one from scratch. This is true beginning millinery; something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. So when the opportunity arose to take a class, I jumped at it.
My 1870’s bustle dress-in-the-making is in need of a hat. In addition, the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #7 is Tops and Toes: create an accessory that goes on your head, or on your feet. It’s due on April 15th – 17 days from now.
The 1870’s were a time of Big Hair, lifted upwards and to the back of the head then, usually with hair pieces, left to fall in enormous braids and/or curls. The photograph of Miss Johannesen above is a perfect example.
The hats were worn forward on the head, tilting from the forehead in the front to the height of the hairdo at the back, and decorated with just about anything. Again, Miss Johannesen got it right.
The illustration I want to re-create is a perfect summer hat: a jaunty base with ribbon, flowers and netting. Then I found a photo on Pinterest that put the hat:hair ratio into startling context and set it as the “do not exceed these parameters” limit for size. (Although I must confess I’d love to do my hair with a ginormous braid like that, then be able to whip out the photo when the “perfectionists” start commenting – aka criticizing.)
The goal – from an 1871 fashion illustration.
The class is using a hat pattern from Truly Victorian, however we were given permission to use a different hat pattern if we wanted to do so. And, of course, I wanted. Jennifer supplied a list of millinery pattern makers and suppliers. To my astonishment, DeniseNadineDesigns offers a hat pattern that was inspired by the very illustration I has chosen as my inspiration. The universe aligned, I happened to be paying attention, and hey-presto! This all occurred the Friday before the class was to start, so I ordered the pattern kit that has the pre-marked buckram, wire, thread, bias tape, patterns and instructions. I had no time to waste hunting down all the pieces individually and as it turned out, I probably broke even, cost wise considering the distance I’d have traveled to put it all together.
By the time the kit arrived I was in the throes of the Victorian Fest costuming crunch and the class was well ahead of me. I was eternally grateful I had ordered the kit and saved myself some time. The class Facebook group was posting some amazing and inspiring creations. I just made one itty, bitty booboo. I focused on the instructions that came with the kit and not the instructions that came with the class.
The kit instructions are for a more advanced/skilled millinery student than myself. I ran into problems fairly early on because I didn’t know what I was doing and the techniques were too advanced for me. While I was struggling, the class kept pouring out these amazing photos of their finished hats and works in progress. I was starting to feel a bit dense and discouraged. Jennifer advised me to just follow the class instructions, written and video, and not worry so much about what I’d received with the kit. I set everything aside until the Victorian Festival was over – I wanted to concentrate on the hat alone and do it correctly from there on out.
I picked it up a couple of days ago, grabbed the class instructions, watched the videos to catch up to where I was and right off the bat discovered I had another problem: the crown was too big for the tip. Jennifer cautions about this in her video, but the kit’s instructions did not and I was blindly following them. Oh, nuts. Happily, I am hand-sewing the hat and not power-gluing my way through it, so all I had to do was pick out the stitching from the buckram, adjust and re-sew the crown to fit the tip.
Tip pinned to crown and ready to sew
I am now at the step of sewing the tip to the crown, which is today’s big project. Yeah, I think I sewed the crown inside out (I believe the center front marking should be on the inside) but so it goes. I am also putting the bias tape over the now-wired outer edge of the brim. Once the tip is sewn to the crown I’ll also be putting bias tape around the edge where the crown and tip are sewn. Then it’s apply the flannel mull to the crown. And if I get all of that done today I’ll be a happy camper.
My next class, a Victorian Corset, starts on April 1st so I have a few more days to work on the hat body. I’m not concerned with the trim…that’s just a matter of playing with the elements to get the right look and balance, and I have a good illustration to follow.
So for now it’s off to play with needle, thread and buckram once again. Let’s see just how far I get today…