Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Homemade saucer block update and making my own blocking springs

Further to my last post, I am really pleased with how the block turned out.
Having blocked some red sinamay on it, I stitched brim reed and bias sinamay to the edge, added a red ribbon covered head band...and then went festive!

I recently posted on facebook that I make my own blocking springs (saves all that pinning and string!), this is how they are used

and this is what I use to make them, red hollow polythene belting, sometimes called red quick go, or hollow poly tubing. I use 8mm diameter, and use these tiny metal connectors that push into either end. Bear in mind once in, they can't be removed. If you intend trying it out, cut your tubing slightly smaller than you need as it will stretch, and you do want a good tight fit.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Necessity is the mother of invention - making a hat block

The last year or so has held a lot of tears and heartache for myself and my family, hence no posts on my blog....but hat making keeps me going, and I am just sharing my experiments on making a hat block.

My latest idea for a fascinator required a small saucer block, which of course I didn't have! So after a bit of head scratching and rummaging through the cupboards - here's what I came up with.

I used a small fascinator crown block as the basis of my block. But I could have used a small bowl, it didn't need to be wood, it could have been anything of the correct shape.

Next I marked out a thin plastic chopping mat with the shape required. The inner circle is slightly smaller than the diameter of my basic block and the outer circle is the overall diameter that I wished the fascinator to be. I then cut this out, cutting through from the outer to inner circle so that I could overlap it and create a concave shape.

I then taped it to my block and covered the whole shape in clingfilm.

After the event, I realised I should have just covered just the block in clingfilm and not the plastic collar, it would have been easier for removing, but hey ho...we live and learn!

Then I applied 3 layers of damp buckram, carefully pulled to shape and pinned the center. I use wig pins as these do not rust , and around the edge I used plastic paper clips (again no rust marks).

Once totally dry I removed it from the block (leaving the plastic collar as extra stiffening) and trimmed. I can always put it back on the block to pin the center but obviously I cannot pin the edges, so it will have to be paper clips or similar. As the edge will be trimmed I am not too worried about marks, and I will press with an iron to minimise these.

I have to say, that if I intended to use this a lot I would probably stiffen more, either with layers of varnish or something similar.

And now it has a test hat on...3 layers of stiffened sinamay!

I hope you find this interesting and helpful. Yes I could have bought a block that would last me many years, but this was fun to make and gave me a great sense of satisfaction :)

I will let you know how it all turns out!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Handpainting a straw hat and using Shellac

A lot of interest was generated on Facebook as to how I stiffened and painted this parasisal straw hat.

So I thought I would do a few posts on how it came about. I do love painting on hats, and although I have painted fabric and felt, fine straw gives a much better 'canvas' being much smoother, and as I stiffen the hat first, the paint doesn't seep so much.
So here goes how I do it;
I decided to do a cloche, reasons being
  1. that you can see the painted design easily.
  2. who doesn't like a cloche!
  3. It gives me a large area to be creative.

The block is an all in one, size 22.5 inches crown, which I have covered in cling film. Then I steam and stretch the straw capeline. My pifco steamer gets good use here :) This block has no string grooves, so slip knot string is used for the crown and it has to be pinned underneath.

Whilst waiting for this to dry, I have been working on some design ideas. The 2 that appeal most are a Clarice Cliff style tree and house design, or alternatively some deco style leaves. I have worked on the design being roughly 4 inches high and 11 inches long, so that I can replicate on both sides.
It is too difficult to do straight lines on a curved hat, so it needs to be a flowing design that will be easy enough freehand. I am not sure which to go with yet!

I like to use Shellac for stiffening, its great for straw or felt. Shellac is also called French Polish and is extensively used for varnishing furniture. It comes in lots of colours, but as I want this to stay the original colour, I am using White or clear polish (it still has a slight brown tint but not enough to affect the colour of the hat). You will need a mask and a window open as the smell is quite strong, especially as it is diluted with Methylated spirits. Gloves are a good idea, otherwise your hands can get very sticky.
I would like to use clear Meths, but this is not available to the public, it is all dyed purple to stop people drinking it. But again, I haven't found the colour affects things too much. Follow safety rules and keep away from flame etc. Shellac dries very fast and very hard and needs practising with.

I dilute the shellac approximately 50/40 with meths, but it depends a lot on the straw and how hard I want the finish. I use a wide brush for speed and an even finish. On straw it will leave a lovely sheen, so if you want a matt finish it is better to stick to traditional straw stiffener.

I'm off to see if the straw is dry and I will start stiffening, then onto the fun part...painting!! I hope to update tomorrow with the next installment.

Best wishes, Sara x

Day2...well not really, more like 6 hours later.
but progress..
Hat has had light coat of shellac
and paints are out...

I have lightly pencilled in the design, although I doubt you can see it in the picture, and painting has started, I am using acrylics, and trying to stay fairly true to the Clarice cliff style colours, which means lots of mixing...

Once the main colours and design are painted in I then added an outline with a waterproof black artists pen,
don't use sharpies I discovered at my cost they will run when adding the last coat of shellac!!!
I then put my string back to keep the shape and heat sealed with a hairdryer.

Hat design finished, but the hat is not! I have added another light coat of shellac and you can probably see where I used a sharpie pen for the black line between the orange and blue, it ran, but all will be made good. Tomorrow I will add a brim wire, brim edge and sweatband. I look forward to the finished hat

Hat now fiished, although I cut off the bottom which had run, and added a petersham edge

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A rainy autumn day has led me to stay in my workroom and sew, which has been such a treat!
I spent a happy hour yesterday at 'Rose Tinted Rags' a recycled textiles and arts project in Hereford. They have an amazing amount of vintage fabrics, haberdashery, sewing machines plus lots more and  I came home with a bag full of interesting finds.
Among them was some very cheap new cotton shirting with a pale grey stripe. I thought this would be ideal to try out my vintage Butterick maternity smock.
As with most vintage patterns from that era, the instructions were brief and the pattern unprinted! The pattern is for sale in my Etsy shop, so to avoid making pin holes I used weights to hold the pattern down and a fabric pen to make the dots etc. I decided to make the sleeveless version and the instructions called for me to make a bias armhole facing (no pattern piece supplied) which I did, again using my pen to mark out...but in all honesty I would probably use bias tape if I made the top again.

The shawl collar was the type I hate sewing with a facing that I struggled to make neat, and I wasn't happy with the construction method for the yoke. But perseverance paid off  and this was the finished top....

Excuse the black bin liner over the mannequin, but it is one of my vintage mannequins and in the smaller size that I needed....even though most of its covering has disintegrated!! Recovering will be another job for another day.
Happily my daughter loved the top, and has just taken it home with her.
Just a reminder, this was the pattern used..

Next on my list 'to do' is making some hats....as my millinery has fallen by the wayside lately, and withdrawal pangs are setting in. Ideas abound in the old grey cells including a clothe with soutache decoration...so maybe soon........ x x

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Apologies for not keeping up to date with my blog. There has been so much happening what with family weddings, house remodelling, and helping my daughter with her first house move, and now a new baby on the way for her and her family...phew.. Not many hats made...but lots of ideas in the pipeline! I have been sorting through all my vintage patterns for nice baby and maternity ones, and have just done an interview all about them for the Monthly Stitch. Take a look if you like patterns and love sewing


Friday, 8 February 2013

Half hat progress

Well, further to my last post, the half hat has changed tack entirely. I was never happy with the size of the pattern or the sewn hat. Having to add darts gave the hat very full sides and almost a winged look.

I decided to cut the pattern much smaller and make the hat from some blocked felt. It was much easier to make and achieved a more pleasing shape. I also cut a strap for the back and stitched this in place. The edges of the hat have had gold and black trim, and a few black beads added. The hat has been stiffened with traditional shellac. I am still dithering about a small veil, what do you think?

I am busy gearing up for my stall at a Vintage clothing fair in Hereford on March 16th. So it has been a lot of fun make fascimiles of 1940s and 50s hats. I saw the one below in a knitting pattern ( you can see the original picture), and decided to have a go. Again it is blocked wool, but I must admit the edges aren't rolled as well as I would of liked...still, its been a learning curve!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Making a half hat pattern

For me the last few weeks have been somewhat of a disaster. My eldest spent the entire Christmas week in hospital, and myself and the rest of the family stayed sober to travel back and forth twice a day. But all is well with him now, and back to full health.

Aside from ill health, the weather has meant a slow down to most things. Freezing cold days (-3c at the moment) and high humidity mean my day job is at a stand still. The builders who are constructing my new kitchen extension are also at a stand still.......so getting back to hats seemed my best option. Particularly as I have a stand at a Vintage fair in just a few weeks!

I found this picture via the web, and although no pattern was available I thought I would try and make the half hat pictured on the right hand side

I then measured out a pattern on grid paper, I guessed from the picture that the hat had to reach at least 7 inches across the crown.

I cut the pattern out in stiff iron on buckram and stretch velour. These were ironed together and then the darts sewn in each side. I then wired the entire edge. This is it so far, and although it sits on a small mannequin, I think I may have to make it slightly smaller next time.

I will continue with this one, and I am planning to decorate the edge with beads and sequins. I will post again when it is finished.