Hello everyone, as I mentioned on Friday, I am guest posting today for Jessica of Chronically Vintage, while she is on holidays (in my own delightful province of Alberta!) I have been following Jessica’s wonderful blog for a few years now, so I was very excited when she asked to do write a guest post for her. Today, I am sharing a before and after, of how I made this ugly little felt hat I picked up back in April, into a Philip Treacy inspired flower topped hat. So, hop on over to Chronically Vintage to see more pictures, a tutorial for how I made this chiffon flower, and inspiration for embellishing your own thrift finds! (And take a look through her blog while you are at if, if you don’t follow her already!) 🙂
Do you ever have an idea of a project, and then when you do it, for one reason or another it doesn’t turn out anything like the original plan?
I got this dress a few years ago (yes. . . years) from the thrift store, with the thought that I would refashion it into something a little less “1980’s bag lady”. However, time went on, and I could never quite figure out what to do with it, as there never seemed to be enough material to do anything with. I loved the gingham print, though, and the fabric was rayon, which I would much rather prefer to the poly/cotton blends that all gingham seem to come in. So, I didn’t give up on it, and finally, a few weeks ago, when the canola was in full bloom and I needed something to wear in the field, this gingham came to mind: it was the push to finally do something with it!
My first plan was a simple dress, like this sketch below. Simply remove the sleeves, dart the bodice in, hem it to knee length using the excess fabric from the hem to create a tie belt, and add some eyelet lace. It would be easy and simple and wouldn’t take too long.
(Something like this, minus the ruffles. I love the ruffles, but didn’t have enough fabric)
Yes. Well. Nothing in life is easy, and most definitely not refashioning garments. So, here I outline how I ended up, not with a sleeveless dress, but a pinafore instead. (And in the process, reveal all the wonky bits that didn’t turn out quite as nicely as I would’ve liked them to!) 🙂
The first step, was removing the sleeves and fitting the bodice. This was easily done, however there was a malfunction when I fit and cut the armscye. (Which, by the way, is the curve of the armhole, and is pronounced arms-eye. In case you didn’t know that already. I didn’t know that for the longest time and was going around tongue twisting “arm-sky”, or “arm-sis”, which are not correct in the least. So, now I have saved you embarrassment, or maybe I have just embarrassed myself, I’m not sure which.) I cut the new armscye shape, and the cloth shifted when I cut it, and it ended up too low on one side. . . and so basically the bodice was ruined. Ooops.
So, now that the armhole on one side was too low, I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought about it for a while, and then decided that gingham would be perfect for a pinafore, as a pinafore doesn’t have armholes anyways. So, on to plan B!
I was looking through some of my sewing books, and through some vintage blogs. I came across the picture above of a yellow gingham pinafore style dress which I liked, from one of my sewing books, and I also remembered this dress from that Solanah of Vixen Vintage wore a few years back that I had on my list of ‘dresses to make”, and I thought that I could make this dress work.
I ended up picking apart the bodice on the sides, and detaching it from the skirt, so I had two flat pieces to work from, rather than a partially constructed bodice (as that had already been proven to lead to disaster). Once I had the two pieces flat, I cut the neckline straight down at an angle, basically just cutting out the rounded corners, measuring each side to make sure they were even. (The straps were 2″ wide.)
Then, I cut out the new sides, leaving 4 inches up from the waist, which would form a fake “waistband’ on the side. I cut it at 4″, which allowed for 1/2 seam allowances on top and bottom for a finished 3” side panel. Remember to leave seam allowances for all of your seams. With this project I used 1/2 inch as I didn’t have much fabric to work with. For reference, the finished bib width is 13 1/2″ at the outer top edge of the straps, and is 9″ wide at the bottom (where to the two yellow lines form a right angle in the diagram above).
I left the side pieces as a waistband, even though most pinafores don’t have a side panel. A few years ago I sewed a pinafore and it ended up looking so much like an apron that I actually ended up turning it into an apron. For the longest time I couldn’t quite place my finger on why it looked like an apron instead of a dress, and I have come to the conclusion that it is because the sides were completely removed. By leaving a couple of inches, it gave some structure for the skirt, and it looked more like a dress. Because even though a pinafore is an apron, I don’t really want people to think that I am actually wearing an apron.
After I had finished cutting the bodice pieces, I traced the shape and cut out two pieces of lining fabric, lining the entire bodice so that all the seams would be encased.
(This refashioned dress I made a few years ago, used the same technique as I did for this one, only instead of cutting the sides and neckline square, I curved them, so you can see how you could use this technique for a different style of dress)
Once the bodice was finished, it was time to attach the skirt. At this point, I discovered that the fabric had, over time, stretched out of shape, and the front button placket no longer hung straight. I also discovered that when the fabric had initially been cut, it was cut off grain. This was noticeable as the gingham pattern revealed the fact, but there wasn’t much I could do to square it up, without sacrificing too much material. So, I left it: I wasn’t concerned that it would shrink, as it was a pre-owned and washed garment. I made the decision to remove the button placket on the skirt and just leave the four decorative buttons on the bodice. Once the skirt was gathered and sewn to the bodice, I inserted a side invisible zipper. I would have liked to have used a white zipper, but I did not have one and the local store doesn’t sell invisible zips. So, I used a navy zipper, which worked out ok- it’s on the side anyways, so is not super visible. I was really in a “it’s now or never” state of mind at that point (two days in). If I had to place the dress to the side, I don’t think I would have finished it, with the amount of frustrations I had already had with it. That, and the canola was in full bloom, and I needed the dress now, not next week when it would be too late!
Now the dress was almost done, and needed only to be hemmed and lace attached at the bottom. This was the part where I was tempted to cry tears of frustration. Remember how I said that the cloth had stretched and warped over time? Well, it was completely out of whack, and I couldn’t straighten it along the pattern. I tried measuring down, I tried measuring from the edge, and every time I pinned it, it was crooked and hung down in the back or the side. And nothing makes a garment look worse than a crooked hem. (Unless I suppose it is a train, and is done on purpose, which in that case is great!) Finally, after pulling out all my hair (oh and did I mention that I was doing this at 12:00 at night?) I decided to measure up from the floor, like those hem markers do. I placed the dress on my mannequin and measured up with a yardstick, pinning and pressing it into place to see if it worked- and it did! So, as you can see the hem does not follow the pattern of the gingham, but it is straight from the floor! And as long as I stand on level ground it will be so 😉 I decided that I would rather have a straight hem, than worry about the pattern of the fabric, and as it is at the hem, no one is going to notice it anyways. Well, I guess now you will. Oops.
The last step was attaching the lace to the hem, adding the pocket, and then changing the buttons to white, as the other ones looked a bit dingy with age. I made the pocket out of one of the sleeves, and edged with the same eyelet. There were originally supposed to be two pockets, but the measurement was off, and it would have run over the zipper. So, I decided the dress was good with just one pocket, and called it done! I placed the pocket at an angle, as the fabric squares wouldn’t line up, and also so you could see it on such a busy background.
Whew. Somehow this project rapidly went from a quick and easy alteration, to three days of tears and frustration! But, it worked, and I am satisfied with it, as it turned out looking a lot like the 1940’s style pinafores. And, for all of the headache it caused, I love that my “new” dress is also keeping one more garment out of the textile waste cycle.
(Oh, and we got the pictures in the canola field too, which is why I started this whole escapade in the first place!)
Do you ever start projects and have to change to plan B, C or D partway through?
Do you like refashioning garments, or would you rather start from scratch?
Millinery is the ancient and detailed profession of designing, making and trimming hats. Despite the fact that hats have largely fallen out of fashion, millinery is still alive and well. It is an art form that requires a high level of skill, and the knowledge and use of materials and techniques such as steaming felt, straw and buckram. There are tutorials and classes out there that teach the proper methods to forming hats.
This is not that kind of tutorial.
This is the quick and easy, but perhaps not “proper” way to make a hat. Someday I would like to be able to improve my proficiency in hatmaking, but in the meantime, using the resources available to me, and the limited knowledge I do have, I was still able to come up with a way to achieve the effect I was looking for. So if you’d like to know how I made the coral hat I wore in this post, keep reading!
(Little hat, you are so cute, but such a failure)
I made this little flowered hat a few years ago. However, it was a first attempt and it wasn’t very good. When I took a good look at it, I decided that (like the coral hat) it was just too small and never worked with my hair styles. Me Made May was a perfect time to try and fix it so I could wear it! My first thought was to add flowers to the sides, like I did to the coral hat, however that didn’t work out as there was the netting to deal with, and I couldn’t just widen it like I did with the coral one. However I liked the idea of an explosion of flowers atop my head, so the only way was to take it apart and start over.
(The brand is Api’s Crafters Pick Fabric Stiffener)
The base of this hat was made with an old curtain. The weave of this lace reminded me of the hats from the 50’s. For the coral hat I used an old piece of goat hair interfacing I had. You could use any piece of stiff material, as it will be starched into shape. First, cut the fabric into the size needed (and make sure not to cut it too small like I did!) if you have a hat similar to this already, you could just measure it and cut the fabric to the same size.
Now, saturate the fabric with fabric starch. I used this brand that I picked up at Michael’s craft store. It kind of looks like white glue, but it dries stiff and clear. The easiest method I found was to put the lace into a small bowl and just pour some of the starch over it and work it in with my hands. It’s messy, but don’t worry: it washes off easily! You could also use a brush if you wanted.
Once the fabric is completely saturated, you are ready to form it. You can use a hat form if you happen to have one lying around, but as I mentioned this is the unconventional way to make a hat, and I do not have a hat form. But, never fear, lot’s of things can be used instead! I have heard that bowls make great forms, and I would like to try that for the next hat I make, however for this hat, as I wanted a “cap” style, I used a foam head.
(Dear foam head: you are creepy, but you work!)
Wrap your form in a layer of plastic wrap, if it is porous, so the starch won’t wreck it. Then place the lace over the form and wrap it in another layer of plastic wrap to secure it in shape. Let it dry overnight, and then carefully remove the outer layer of plastic. The cloth will probably still be wet as the plastic doesn’t let in enough air to dry completely, but it will most likely be dry enough to hold shape. Once you have removed the plastic outer layer, let the fabric dry completely, until it is hard and in shape. You are now ready to make a hat!
(The wire grid on the inside of the coral hat; the wire won’t show so I didn’t cover it)
Measure the circumference of the edge of the fabric and cut a length of wire, adding an inch to overlap and secure together. For this lace hat, I only wired the edge, but for the coral hat, where the wires would be covered, I made a framework of wires. A great place to get wire is in the hardware section rather than in the craft section, as the supplies are usually cheaper there. I use a roll of wire I got from the dollar store (I don’t remember what gauge it is). Note that this is not memory wire, as it doesn’t spring back into shape, but can be bent out of and into shape. I used two pieces for added strength, and taped them together by wrapping them with washi paper tape. You could also use masking tape or florists tape- I’ve used them before- I just used washi as that is what I had handy.
(Taping the wire together first, and then wrapping with ribbon)
Now you are left with a nice solid ring, or gridwork, but an ugly one, so it is time to cover it if you are making a mesh hat where the wire might show. If the hat is solid fabric, you don’t need to cover the wire, as it won’t show. Covering the wire can be done in two ways: either sew a narrow channel and slide the wire into it, or wrap it with a ribbon. To wrap with ribbon, secure the end with some hot glue and then wrap, adding a dot of glue every once in a while to keep it nice and tight.
Now bend the wire into the shape that you need it to be. I simply placed it on my head and pressed it into shape.
Now it is time to secure the wire to the base! Using a needle and thread, sew the base onto the wire around the circumference. Make sure to keep it even the entire way around. Then trim off any excess material. If some of the starch has dried across the lace (see picture below) then just poke through it with a pin to remove it.
Now you are left with the perfect base to embellish!
Play around with options before you commit, by pinning flowers, bows, ribbons (anything is game!) onto the hat before sewing them. I pinned the flowers I took off the old hat onto the new base. I also decided to try a veil to see how that would look. I pinned it all together as a mock up and tried it on!
Unfortunately, it looked like the entire 1980’s had exploded into a hat. This was not quite the look I was going for. 🙁 So, perhaps this tutorial should actually be entitled, “How to Start Fixing One Hat and End Up With A Completely Different One”!
I decided that I did like the pink peony though, so I started thinking about how I could incorporate that into my design. Then I had an idea: edge the hat in ribbon leaves!
Here’s how to make ribbon leaves. They are very easy and quick to make. (I made them all in the time it took me to watch a movie. Actually, I trimmed the entire hat in that time, so you can see it is actually very quick to whip up a hat). Cut a length of ribbon long enough to fold both sides in at a 45 degree angle. Press into shape. Sew a running stitch along the bottom of the triangle and then gather. Trim off any excess, but make sure not to cut the gathering stitch.
I also decided to make a new centre for the peony so that it would coordinate with the ribbon leaves. Once you have figured out your design, sew the pieces onto the base. You can also use hot glue (but make sure to test first to make sure that the glue won’t soak through and show to the proper side, or you’ll end up with a spotty look). As you are sewing, make sure to catch only the under layers, or make very tiny stitches, so they won’t show to the front.
When I made the coral hat, I covered the goat hair lining with a piece of satin, but stitching it around the edge of the base (in case any showed through) and then I just sewed a thousand peach coloured silk flowers to the top of it. This took a while, but I used long stitches, making sure to only catch tiny bits of the flower, (like the ribbon leaves above) so you wouldn’t see the stitches.
(I also added a little pouf of veiling, just for some fluffiness)
I decided to add a veil to the lace hat, so I gathered a piece of Russian netting to create a short veil. I got the netting at Fabricland, but if you don’t have access to this kind of netting, and you want to add a veil, you can use any kind of netting or tulle. I made the veil narrow, as I didn’t want it to come over my face, but rather just over my forehead. If you need to cut the netting to size, make sure to cut through the middle of the squares. This way you will have a nice edge and the netting won’t fray. (If you are using regular tulle, also try to cut along the edges of the pieces where the threads join, otherwise you end up with thread “legs” sticking out, rather than a neat edge) If you gather the veil in a semi circle shape, it will pull into a rounded shape and the edges will meet up with the sides of the hat. To gather, put your needle through the little squares in the Russian netting and gently gather into shape. Trim off any excess netting, but make sure not to cut your gathering stitch. Then, stitch the veil onto the hat, but make sure not to stitch through the good side of your hat.
(cut through the squares, and gather by stitching into the squares)
(I used only 1/2 the width, but you could use the entire width for a veil that would cover your face)
Now you have a hat, but how will you secure it to your head? I used a length of elastic, as I have found this works best with my short hair, but you could also use a comb, attach the hat to a headband or add loops and secure with hatpins or bobby pins. I use a black elastic, as it blends better with my hair than white would.
(the messy inside of the hat- but it works!)
Now you have another hat to add to your collection!
Oh and a couple of notes:
-The fabric stiffener is water soluble, so do not wear your hat in the rain!
-I have not been able to come up with a good way to line the hat, as of yet, so for now the coral hat is not nice and neat on the inside. I’m OK with that, as when I am wearing it, nobody can see the messy inside, but if I figure out a way to line it, I will someday. Do you know of a good way to line it?
So there you go, the unconventional way to make a hat! Would you try making a hat, or have you ever made a hat before? How did it go? What kind of hats do you like the most?
Also, stay tuned for a post later this week, where the hat will make it’s debut! (Or rather, I guess since I have already shown you the hat, it will not be a debut, but . . . )
Hats are by far the easiest way to introduce a vintage look to an outfit, for as much as people wear dresses these days, hats are few and far between. Millinery is always something I have been interested in, but not very good at as I am attempting to self teach myself the art. There is a lot of information online for sure, but it is always tricky to start something when you have no idea what you are doing- just a vague idea of what you want the finished product to look like!
Here are the three hats I mentioned a while back, that I picked up at an antique mall for a good price. The two black ones are modern, and the feathered hat is a vintage one from the 1960’s. I love the feathered hat just as it is, but the black caps, especially the one with the brooch and netting, are actually rather boring once put on. My thought when I got these, was that I could make them over and embellish them with a bit of vintage flair, without having to make the hat itself from scratch. As Lydia in Pride and Prejudice says, “Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.”
So what are my plans for the hats?
The pheasant hat was easy since I liked it as is, minus the broken feathers. I pulled them out and added a few turquoise feathers, once of which I twisted into a loop, and the tiny spotted feather. Much improved. Although now I still have to wait several months to wear it. At least I have something to look forward to!
As for the other two, about a month ago I came across this beautiful mint coloured felt hat by master milliner Philip Treacy. (Phillip Treacy has made many of the hats we see the Royal’s wearing). I absolutely fell in love with the giant pompom flower, and immediately started wondering how I could make something like this. When I came across the black hat, I had my answer. I haven’t started construction on it yet, but will attempt something of the kind. I also really love the red hat, so if the flower doesn’t work out, I could always make a ginormous bow. If something in life needs embellishing, a bow should do the trick!
I am thinking that I will also make a large bow to fit on the other black hat. It needs some oomph too, as the velvet bow is a little understated. There is a hole under the velvet bow, where I think someone ripped some kind of embellishment off, so I need to keep that in mind whatever I decide to do. If all else fails and I can’t figure out how to attach a bow, I could always go with this.