The Continuing Saga of the 1870’s Bustle Hat, Victorian pocket watch detail

Victorian pocket watch detail from

Once I had 5 minutes of time to breathe, I realized the Bustle Hat class was coming to an end on the 30th. Everything was coming down at 6pm: the course videos, access to the course handouts, and the fabulous Facebook class group. With typical “whoa – I bet I can finish this up today” over-enthusiasm I watched the rest of the videos, made sure I had downloaded all of the course handouts, gathered up my mountain of trim and started working on the hat.

Finishing up the underside of the brim only took 30 minutes or so, even with all the hand sewing.

Next it was finally time to attach the brim to the crown (or is that vice versa?).

This hat has a wickedly curved brim. I found out this detail makes stabilizing the little bugger a bit tricky – especially for an aspiring millinery student, such as myself.  One day I may choose an easy first project, but it will probably be by accident. *rolls eyes*

In any case, the instructions were to make life easier for myself by tacking the center front and back in place, then by tacking the sides, and then start the real hand sewing to permanently attach the crown. All I can say is…what a PIA it’s become. I know this is the hardest part, but really now.

It quickly became obvious that I was not going to finish the hat by 6pm, no matter how much time (or blood) was spent. So I posted the “this is as far as I got” photos, thanked everyone for a wonderful class, and bowed out with as much grace as I could manage. Here are the last official photos of the hat, still in progress:

Hat perched atop water bottle - crown pinned to brim

Hat perched atop water bottle – crown pinned to brim

Bias trim draped loosely around base of crown to show future placement

Bias trim draped loosely around base of crown to show future placement

I now have the center front and back tacked into place, but am wrestling with the sides. Even with the pins in place, as soon as I touch the thing it wants to pop loose from the curve. *grumble/whine/complain*

Side view of brim, correctly shaped with pronounced bend

Side view of brim, correctly shaped with pronounced bend

The brim is now curved into its final shape and its is a real nightmare to handle. I find myself spending my spare moments wishing I had a cobblers sewing machine, or a power stapler with ginormously long arms. It’s going to be slow going for a couple of days – I’m afraid I can’t rush this step without incurring a near-fatal injury.

But, silly me – I’m still in love with the stupid thing and can’t wait to start playing with the trim: lots of netting, flowers, leaves and that odd, oval ornament thingy in the center front that needs a bit of inspired imagination. Still a good bit of play time left, though, and I’m rather pleased about that.

The goal - from an 1871 fashion illustration.

The goal – from an 1871 fashion illustration.


Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #7 – The 1870’s Bustle Hat

Miss Johannesen, dance instructor, 1872.

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 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.

Dale Lynn by DeniseNadineDesigns

(copyright denisenadinedesigns)

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

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…