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Dreaming of Hats

purple striped staple dress maternity

I’ve never been a huge hat person. With my very narrow face, I have to be careful about what style I pick, and I’ve always had a lot of hair that isn’t necessarily easy to fit under a hat. On the flip side, with my pale skin I need to be careful to keep out of the sun, and I’d usually rather wear a hat than sunscreen (or both, since I am that pale). I tend to steal borrow a hat from my mom when the occasion warrants it (like our trip to Hawaii). However, with Spring sun in full force here and visions of pushing baby in her stroller all around our neighborhood in the Summer, I’ve been daydreaming of owning a selection of giant brimmed straw hats.

the making of a milliner - jenny pfanenstiel

Once I start daydreaming of something, the first first question in my mind is “Can I make it myself?”. Enter The Making of a Milliner: Hat-Making Projects by Jenny Pfanenstiel. It’s a great DIY book that I’m excited to have added to my library. Speaking as an absolute noob at hat-making, it really does seem to have all the information I would need to dive in and start making a variety of hats. It talks through sizing, materials (both durable goods, like hat blocks, and consumables, like wool and sinamay), and has step-by-step construction instructions (with clearly written instructions and illustrative photos) for a variety of hats from a wool cowboy hat, to the giant straw brim hat I’m dreaming of, to a variety of interesting fascinators.

the making of a milliner - straw brim hat

So why am I not diving in and making the dream hat I want? It turns out that millinery is an expensive hobby to get into! Hat blocks are NOT cheap! Every different size and shape of hat requires its own hat block, and at this moment in life, I can’t justify spending many hundreds of dollars on a one-off project. If I’m being honest with myself, I’d rather use that (hypothetical) money to buy a coverstitch machine because I know I would use it a lot and I’m not likely to make lots of the same hat (even if the straw hat in the book is exactly what I’m dreaming of at the moment. Only in bright pink.)

the making of a milliner - sample instructions

I am still excited to have the book in my library since I’ve already learned a lot by reading it, and I love knowing how things are made, even if I’m not going to make them myself (or not any time soon at least). If you’re like me, I’d recommend giving the book a read-through for what you’ll learn from it, even if you have no intention of making a hat. And it has inspired me to look into taking a class from a local milliner (again, not in time to wear this summer because I’m going to have a baby soon, but in the not-too-distant future). I’ve been doing all sorts of googling to support my daydreaming and I even found a milliner in London that will rent out hat blocks, which is an awesome solution, but not terribly practical for me. I’ve found several tutorials for making a crown block out of an existing hat and expanding construction foam, but that still leaves me needing to figure out how to make a brim block, and the instructions in the book use all wood blocks which you can hammer nails into (and you can’t do so with a foam block).

Have you ever hand-made a hat?
Have you had your heart set on a new craft and then had to reality check yourself?

[Disclosure: Dover sent me The Making of a Milliner for free. I agreed to review it if I liked the book (which I do!) and if I thought that you, my dear readers, would like it too.]

Comments 6

  1. As a fellow pale face I know what you mean. Mt dermatologist is a total hat supporter. You can sew some really nice hats, no need for fancy equipment or supplies!

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      I’m sure I could sew some awesome hats. Thanks for the suggestion! I had my heart set on a straw hat, but maybe I just need to get over that idea (at least for a while) and sewing would be a great solution.

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      Interesting. Thanks for sharing! Of course I just let my vogue knitting subscription lapse, so I didn’t see that. I had in mind a brim that would hold its shape, but this certainly would be easier and require a lot less overhead! Maybe I could add a wire to this brim to get the shape I want…

  2. I love to know how everything is made, too. Did you consider buying an inexpensive straw hat and then experimenting with paint, dye, or trims to make it your own style? What a fun afternoon that would be….

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