Anatomy of a Hat Makeover

What follows is a work in progress, but I thought it might be interesting to show a little of what goes on in the Steam Cat Labs.

It all started when a friend gave me this hat:

hat redo 001.JPG

Gwladys Pendlebury (my model) does not do this justice. It was fairly ratty looking, and the fabric was rotting in places. Of course, I needed to decide what to do with it. How about this? ( Update: But of course. The link is now gone. Let's just say I had the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey in mind.)

Here's a look at the inside:

hat redo 005.JPG

Kinda nasty. Still, it seemed to have good bones. I had to take it apart to find out:

hat redo 008.JPG

The buckram was stained, but it was solid. Even though I'd disinfected this hat previously, I zapped it in the microwave for a couple more minutes, just to be safe. It may have been overkill, but I wasn't about to take any chances. (Note: if you want to disinfect a hat in the microwave oven, be sure the wiring and ALL metal parts have been removed. Ask me how I know this!)

Next stop, the ironing board:

hat redo 009.JPG

That's my handy-dandy steam generator iron in the background. You can see that the hat frame looks pretty ugly. Those discoloration spots are mostly glue. But I needed to reshape it just a bit, so I used the iron, the tailor's ham, and a pressing cloth.

When that job was finished, I let the frame dry for a few minutes and then cut more wire and glued it in:

hat redo 011.JPG

That picture came out a little fuzzy, didn't it?

The next job was to cover the crown. I used some synthetic velvet and a remnant of upholstery fabric.


I've just tucked the fabric underneath for this picture, which is why it's not terribly even. Yes, the seam is in the front, because the decoration will cover it.

I decided to cover the decoration in buckram, meaning I had to draw out a design:


Looks a bit rude, doesn't it? ;-)

After that I made the lining, which you don't see here. It's a satin-ish fabric of a similar color.

The next trick was the feather. Sadly, I don't have any pictures. And I couldn't find a feather in the color I wanted. So I used a white feather, which I placed between two felt pads, and attached the pads to the back of the decoration. I can pull the pads off later and replace them and the feather when I find something I like better. Hey, I said this was a work in progress.

Here's the hat as it looks now:


Yes, the feather is definitely going to be replaced. I wanted it to be in decent enough shape to take to ConDFW to show at the hatter's panel.

It doesn't look exactly like the reference picture, but I think it came out (mostly) okay. What do you think?

Filed under: Techniques   Hats         
3/2/2014 11:03:00 AM