creativity

How to Refashion a Hat

a woman wearing a white and black leopard printed sweater and a black wool fascinator hat with a flower

Today’s post is a revamped edition of one I wrote several years ago as a guest post for Jessica of Chronically Vintage about how to refashion a hat. I came across it again recently and decided that I wanted to revisit it with some new photos and give it a home here too. And, since Easter is this weekend, it’s the perfect time to share these techniques and inspiration in case you have a hat that you’d like to refashion! 

I don’t actually own very many true vintage garments, and many of my “vintage” garments are actually ones that I have sewn myself or altered from thrift store finds. I mostly rely on making or refashioning clothing to give it a vintage vibe (whether that means adding embellishments, changing buttons, hemming to a better length or altering the fit) and then adding in accessories for the final touch to get that vintage look.

The sad, but true, reality of vintage is that there is a finite amount of it left in the world, and as time goes on it just gets more and more scarce and, thus, unaffordable for the average person. This definitely doesn’t mean that those who can’t afford or find true vintage have to miss out on this fashion style, though! Just as with any other trend or style, as in centuries past, women have made for themselves what they couldn’t afford to buy or couldn’t find in the shops, and I live by this principle today too. Thrift stores are great places to rescue cast off pieces of clothing or accessories and then refashion and embellish them so they’ll fit your own style. 

Hats are great accessories for really pulling an outfit together, but sometimes it can be hard to find good hats that are not in disrepair (shattered veils, stains, moth holes…) and putting together a hat collection, when a hat that is in good shape costs a lot, is just not feasible for many of us hat lovers. This is why I have turned to making and refashioning hats: so I can get that unique vintage look, without spending a lot. If you pick up mildly damaged or ugly/boring hats that have potential, and are willing to use your creativity to alter them, you can easily build a hat collection for a fraction of the cost. This also gives you a chance to try out different styles of hats and see whether you like them before investing in the “holy grail of all hats” (whatever that might be for you). When I first started getting into wearing hats, I invested in some beautiful vintage ones that I didn’t end up liking on me. For example, over time I’ve discovered that I like my hats to have a higher crown like 1960’s style pillbox hats, rather than the flatter Juliet cap style of the 1950’s. I learned this the hard way, after I had already bought several beautiful vintage hats, and I ended up having to sell them because I just never wore them…at least they went to new loving homes! Now that I have an idea of what kinds of hats I like to wear, though, when I see one for sale at antique malls or second hand shops, I have a good idea of whether it will make a good candidate for refashioning.

My checklist for hats that I would be willing to take a chance on or pass by would be:

  • A hat that is not smashed out of shape, unless you think it can be steamed back into shape. If the hat is very crushed, it’s not going to turn out well. If you decide to try and reshape it, you’ll need some kind of hat form to do so, depending on the style of the hat.
  • One that doesn’t have large stains on it, unless there is some way to cover them up with new embellishments without it looking odd. While I don’t mind some “character”, I don’t want it to look dirty.
  • If the veil is torn, which is very common, see if it could be removed entirely. Most hats will look totally fine without a veil. Also, you can still buy Russian netting at many fabric stores, so you may be able to simply replace the damaged veil with a new one.
  • If the hat is lacking in embellishments, or the current ones are ruined, you can definitely make new ones (one example I am going to share today).

an ugly hat

I picked up this little black felt hat for a song, from an antique store, along with a couple other hats that really needed some help. I remember seeing this hat several years ago in West Edmonton Mall (I recognized the label) so I know that this hat is not actually vintage. When I saw it new, I thought the embellishment on it was so boring that I passed on it. It seemed like they had a good thing going with the veil and the leaves. . . and then ran out of ideas, so they just plunked a little brooch on top. However, when I saw it for sale second hand, in good condition and at a much better price point than it was new, I picked it up thinking, like Lydia from Pride and Prejudice, “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.”

philip treacy's 2015 collection mint green hat with a chiffon pompom on top

Soon after buying this hat, I came across this image from Philip Treacy’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection, and absolutely fell in love with it. In case you are wondering who Philip Treacy is, he is a UK milliner who counts the Royal Family among his clients. I absolutely love this hat: it is so outrageous and over the top, and really what’s not to love about mint? As soon as I saw it, I started thinking about how I could make something similar, and I decided that a large flower on this hat base would be just the thing.

Here is how I created the flower, and how I styled the finished hat for an updated 1940’s look.

I made my flower out of chiffon, since we had a bunch left over from a past project. You could use stiffer organza too- which would give you the rounder pompom shape that Treacy’s has, or tulle or netting, which would be softer. I cut out a ton of circles, 5 inches in diameter. You will need 30-50 circles depending on the material and stiffness, and how full you want the flower to be. Don’t worry about being too precise, as the edges will be melted and the pieces will be gathered for the final flower. And definitely do cut your circles through several layers at once, to save yourself time!

singeing the edges of chiffon circles to finish them

I didn’t want the fabric to fray to pieces, so I singed the edges to finish them. Singe the fabric by CAREFULLY holding the material over a candle until the edges start to melt and curl. Be very careful with this, since you are holding a meltable material over top a flame!

You will need to hold the fabric about 6 inches away from the flame and slowly dip in and out and across so the heat starts to curl it. You don’t need to bring the fabric very close, otherwise the heat will start melting the entire circle, rather than just the edge. (Voice of experience. . . ) You should probably do this in a well ventilated area too, by the way. 

folding chiffon circles to make a flower

Once you have singed the fabric, you will be left with curled lily pad shaped petals. Take a circle and fold it into quarters. Stitch through the corner of the folded piece, catching all 4 layers, and loop to tie a knot so it won’t pull through the fabric. 

Continue to string together the folded circles using the same method, until the flower is at your desired fullness.

stringing chiffon petals to make a flower

Once you get a fuller shape, you can gather some of the centre petals so they are fuller, as the soft fabric likes to “flop”. If your fabric is stiffer, you can continue stringing until you get a pompom shape. For mine, with the softer chiffon, I gathered the entire flower together in my hand and stitched through the entire bottom of the flower to give it some shape. Just play around with the fabric and arrange it into a nice shape- there isn’t a hard and fast method.

gathering the chiffon circles into a petal shape

If your flower is softer and going to lay open, you can sew a button, a bead or other embellishment in the centre of the flower to cover up the stitching. If your fabric is stiff, you can just keep adding to it and you will get a lovely round shape and won’t need a button at all.
Sew a little round felt disk to the bottom, to keep the flower in shape. If possible, do not glue the flower onto your hat, since the glue may seep through the light fabric. 
sewing the flower onto the hat

Sew the flower onto the hat with cotton, or other natural fibre, thread. If possible, don’t use a polyester blend thread, as over time polyester can cut natural fibres, and you will be left with holes. You could also add a brooch pin to the felt disk, instead of sewing it directly to the hat, so it is removable, in case you want to use the same hat base for multiple embellishments. And then you’re done!

woman wearing a black felt hat with a large flower on it

I don’t have a before picture of this hat on my head, because it was severely unflattering, but here is the after! A giant flower is really what this hat was missing. Mine turned out a lot smaller than I was originally planning for and less pouffy because of the fabric I chose, but I think it works well for the style of the hat. By simply adding some embellishment, this hat is now completely transformed! 

Here are some other ideas for how to refashion a hat with a different look, which might work for you if a giant pompom/flower isn’t really your thing. 

Vogue patterns

From Chapeaux Élégants, 1942

  • Bows. I’ve seen this kind of hat with a giant stiffened bow, upside down bows, bows made out of contrasting fabric or coordinating, ribbon bows, right side up bows or a myriad of smaller bows…the sky really is the limit when it comes to bows. I’d really like to make a giant sculptural bow one of these days! 

  • Loops and twists made out of wool, or sculptural ribbons. This is a really simple, yet architectural embellishment. I’ve also seen where the wool is looped back onto itself in all sorts of different shapes. This is a much simpler hat decoration, but one with a lot of impact. If you can find a similar colour of fabric, or a contrasting colour, this is a very easy embellishment to create.

Sears Catalogue 1947/48

  • Feathers. You can use smaller feathers, or even large curled ones. I have a pheasant feather that I want to steam into a curled shape and attach to a hat, but I haven’t got a hat yet to put it on!

  • A cluster of artificial flowers. You could either group purchased flowers, or make your own ribbon or fabric flowers. I’ve seen so many different types of flowers on hats, it all depends on what you plan to wear the hat with.

If you’re looking for some hat inspiration, here are my favourite places to look:

  • Online vintage shops. This is a great place to look for true vintage inspiration.
  • Pictures of the Royal Family, the Duchess of Cambridge in particular, who are often seen sporting beautiful hats.
  • Allport Millinery is an Australian milliner with such amazing hats- her website is just full of gorgeous pieces.
  • A new-to-me designer, Rachel Trevor-Morgan Millinery, who I stumbled across while browsing on Pinterest.
  • Of course, we can’t forget Philip Treacy, where I got my original inspiration from.
  • And if you’d like to see more “hatspiration”, I’ve created a Pinterest board of the lovely hats I come across while browsing!

woman wearing a black wool skirt, leopard print sweater and a black hat with a veil and flower on the top

I love how this hat turned out; I’ve styled it in many ways over the past few years. This outfit I paired it with is one that definitely has a Classic vibe to it, rather than overtly vintage, but I’ve worn the same hat here and here before. It’s quite a versatile accessory! 

I hope this has inspired you to look at the garments and accessories you have, with an eye towards how to make them work for you. Maybe it will inspire you to pick up that ugly hat or other item you would usually pass up in the thrift store, and refashion it to become your new favourite piece. Maybe all it needs, like this hat, is a new embellishment!

woman twirling outside

woman walking away outside wearing a skirt, sweater and hat

Setting Creative Goals for March and Onwards

Setting Creative Goals for March and Onwards

Where did the month of February go? I know that it is a shorter month than the rest, but I was still so surprised at just how fast it went by! And here we are, already on the 3rd day of March. There is something about turning the calendar page to March, that turns my mind towards Spring. I know that technically we are still in Winter, and the current view out my window is one full of snow, with nary a tree bud to be seen, but I can’t help but start hoping for Spring. And with thoughts of Spring, and a fresh new month before us, also comes thoughts of “goals”; and specifically my creative goals.

I set myself a rather hefty list of goals to accomplish this year. I might have gone a bit overboard with the number I set, but last year I didn’t set any overarching goals, and at the end of the year I realized that I didn’t accomplish much. So, this year I set a lot. Seriously- the ones listed below are only my “creative goals”. Many of these creative goals are things that I enjoy or have been “meaning to get around to”, but haven’t dedicated the time and effort into. The act of writing them down is really forcing me to work on them- and, sharing them here is going to help me be a whole lot more accountable too 🙂 Since we’re now in the third month of the year, here is what I have done so far, and what needs to yet be done, both this month and the rest of year as well.

Improve my Photography Skills

There is so much about photography that I don’t know. I have decided that this is the year that I finally invest some time (and money if needed) into improving my skill set. You can’t grow if you don’t learn, right? I have been putting it off, but I have finally carved out the time to do some online lessons and DVD courses in order to get better at photography. I absolutely love taking photos- it is one of my favourite creative mediums, so instead of being intimidated by all the things I don’t know- I am instead going to start absorbing some of that knowledge bit by bit. My goal is to finish one course this month, and making this a priority each week is a good start!

Improve my Photoshop Skills

I have a very rudimentary knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator. I use these two programs for my job all the time- but I was not trained very well in the programs, and I know just enough to limp my way through. My boss has agreed to let me dedicate a couple of hours each week to tutorials and training, and I have learned so much in just the few lessons I’ve taken. I found the Youtube channel Phlearn, and if you are wanting to learn Photoshop- this is the place to go. Not only am I learning things that will help me with my job, but also with my own personal photos and this blog too. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. (Well – not literally.)

Create a More Cohesive Instagram

Although my family and friends, who are not part of social media, laugh at this goal of mine- I know that my fellow Instagrammers will understand. 🙂 I get frustrated when I look at my feed and it’s all over the place. I am now, as of this week, focusing more on creating cohesive images for my Instagram account. The first step I have taken to implementing this plan is downloading VSCO; and already I am liking how my pictures are turning out. It is so nice to be able to edit outside of Instagram, and have complete control over the look of the picture before it is published.

Create More Artwork, and Practice, Practice, Practice!

I had really gotten out of the habit of putting my artwork as a priority. Don’t we always neglect the enjoyable things we love, that are not as “important” as the other things on our to-do lists? I have now set a goal for myself to create one painting each week. I am also going to sketch each day, and take one artistic photograph each day. I will probably fail at this goal, but at least by setting it, I will create more than I have been, and I will be intentional about it!

painting, setting creative goals for march and onwards

Exhibit at Art and Craft Shows

Going to those two Christmas sales has really given me the “sale” bug. I took part in one art show last weekend, and it was great! I didn’t sell as much as I was hoping for, but I did sell four photo prints, which was very nice. Also, because of the sale, I found out about a local library that has an area for artists to hang their work. I now have my pieces hanging up for the month of March and April- so who knows where that might lead? And, I have just found out about another art show in April and I am now planning for that one too. And of course, planning again for the next Christmas shows. It was a huge step for me to do that first show, and now I am so excited for all of these new ones coming up!

Create an Online Shop

You may have noticed that I have a “shop” tab in my blog header, but if you click on it, it only takes you to a page that says “coming soon”. 🙁 I was hoping to have set up a shop online by now, but I have run into some complications with that, and it hasn’t happened yet. My hope is to be able to start selling online this year, but it might be a while before that happens. This is one of those creative goals that I have not made much progress on so far, but I’ll keep chipping away at it. . .

Sew More

Considering that I love to wear clothes, you would think that I would be chomping at the bit to get more things sewn and into my wardrobe. However- I am a slow seamstress and I always seem to run into problems with my sewing which then takes up more time. . . Long story short- it takes a lot of time. But, I do have a lot of projects in the works, and I would like to finish them up. I think a goal of sewing a few hours a week is not too bad of a target. Maybe even one garment a month? Do you think I can do it? I guess we’ll find out. . .

Unplug More Often

I currently unplug on Sundays; as it is my Sabbath and day of rest. It is so nice to have one day a week where I don’t turn on my computer or browse through Instagram, and I think that doing this more often wouldn’t hurt either. I actually don’t need to post a new photo every day on Instagram. If I miss a blog post here and there, the world won’t fall apart. (I hope- haha!) I don’t need to see what every person I follow is doing every minute of the day. There actually is such a thing as too much inspiration. I want to do these things only because I want to, not because I feel the pressure to keep up. Last weekend I took a break over the weekend, since I was busy at the art show. I realized that I needed to be living in the moment; not wondering how many comments I needed to respond to! I am going to make a conscious effort to unplug this year, when necessary.

Well, those are my creative goals. Congratulations on making it to this point, because whew! I thought this was going to be a short post and it is a looooooong one.

So, do you set yearly goals for yourself? If so, what are your creative goals, or non creative goals for this year? How are you doing with them so far? And, are you excited about the coming Spring season?!

pincushion, setting creative goals for march and onwards, the artyologist