Covering and Embellishing a Hat

Oh my gosh, I'm soooo sorry it's been so long since I've posted! I hope you haven't all given up on me. I've just recently come back from performing in Germany and now I'm in a mad scramble to get a couple acts up to speed for the Vancouver International Burlesque festival. This weekend is dedicated to costuming and not much else, so I will potograph all my projects (some of them will be odd, which is always fun!) including the sharing of my messes as well as successes. Hey, if I share my blunders, hopefully you can avoid doing the same, right?

Ok. So I've posted bits and pieces of assembling the outfit I'm wearing in this test shot, and today I'm going to show you how I made the hat. But! Even if you aren't interested in this particular hat, this blog will cover; how to cover a hat in fabric, and then an assortment of tricks for embellishing that could apply to almost any form of costume.

Burlesque Performer and Costume Blogger




First, the actual hat. I find millinery (hat making) super fun and easy. I made this one in a single evening. I'll take you through it step by step.

Firstly, I started with a buckram hat form. I can do another tutorial on how to make a hat without a premade form, but honestly, these are so affordable and it saves sooo much time. Another great option is to recycle any wide variety of hats acquired from thrift stores. They can always be cut and amended to create all sorts of shapes. I will definitey do a post on that entire topic another time.

Anyhow, in this particular instance I used a hat form that I already had at home.They come in all sort of shapes, but I happened to have this one already (it's a flapper cloche form), so I just sketched the shape I wanted and cut it into more of a large teardrop shape cuz that's what I figured I wanted.


So once you have your hat base sorted out, pick the base fabric that you want to cover your hat with. Use whatever you like BUT!!! Make sure it's a STRETCH fabric. I cannot stress this enough. Unless you are a pro at this sort of thing, which obviously we aren't, or this blog wouldn't exist, you really really need to use stretch fabric for a nice smoothe, seamless finish. Two-way stretch is the best. By that I mean, you can stretch the fabric both side to side, as well as along the length. This matters because trying to take a non-stretch fabric and make it mold smoothely to a rounded shape will require loads of pleats and darts, which will automatically tell everyone that this is a home-made craft rather than an expensive-looking couture costume piece. And the BEST thing is that nobody in the audience has to know how simple it is.


So. Take your fabric and drape it over the top of your form. Cut the fabric so that you have at least and inch or two of excess on all sides. Basically, you need enough fabric to fully cover the base and then some.


Pin the fabric at the centre top of the hat. One or two pins should do it. These pins are just to keep the fabric centred on the form because you are about to start stretching the fabric over the form and wrapping it around the edges to the underside. If you don't first pin it in place at the top (or middle) of the hat, you are very likely to pull it too far in one direction or other, finding that you don't have enough fabric to equally cover all sides.

Now drape the fabric from the centre anchor pins to what will become the front edge of your hat. Gently pull the fabric until it lies flat and smoothe to the form as in this picture.


Then wrap it around to the under side of the hat form (again, on the side that will become the front of your finished hat), and pin into place through both layers of fabric and the hat form between them. Like this


Now you are going to repeat these same steps from the middle anchor pins towards what will become the BACK of your finished hat. It's important that you pin opposite sides in sequence in order to keep equal tension across the fabric.

Repeat this process two more times on each of the two SIDES of your hat. This will give you a fabric covering that is pulled snugly on all four sides of your hat. Now you can work your way around the hat between the pins in the same fashion. Pin the fabric over the edge to the underside with just enough of a stretch to keep the surface smoothe and molded to the form without creases.

The sequence of pinning I described is the easiest method for an even, crease-free finish. So that order was:

1) pin centre top with a couple pins to anchor the fabric to the middle of the hat.

2) pin front of hat

3) pin back of hat

4) pin each of the two sides

5) pin the remaining gaps.

Here is the hat fully pinned.

stretch and pin the fabric_edited.jpg

As soon as you have the fabric evenly and smoothely stretched and pinned over the hat base, hand stitch the fabric into place. Do not remove the pins until fabric has been stitched. Stitch around the edge of the hat from the underside through to the front while moving around the hat. Do not worry about the visible stitches, they will be fully hidden when complete.

stitching the fabric_edited.jpg

Once stitched into place, take scissors and trim away the excess fabric on the underside. Ok, that was the hard part. Covering the thing in fabric.

Now comes the fun part! Decorating!



Here I have a remnant of the lace overlay that covers the bodice of the gown that this hat is meant to coordinate with. All I did is take a sharp pair of scissors and cut out some of the elements from the lace to use as appliques. Super fast and easy. Also, you need so little of the lace to embellish a hat, that it's very inexpensive to purchase a tiny bit of fancy embellished lace in order to achieve this.

Burlesque performer and costume blogger

There's no particular rhyme or reason as to placing your trim and appliques. I just played around with it until I found a configuration that I liked. I also allowed the lace to extend out past the edge of the hat to give it a more interesting shape. The more you play with texture and layering of different materials, the more expensive your hat will look. Pin it into place once you are happy with placement, and stitch into place. The image below shows how I let some of the appliques stick over the edge of the hat so as to give it a more custom-looking shape.

lace stitched in place_edited.jpg

dismantled costume jewelry.jpg

Now, one of my absolute favourite forms of embellishment is to dismantle cheap costume jewelry. I am always on the hunt for bargains at places like Ardene's, Le Chateau, and thrift stores. The gems I glued on to this hat was from two prom bracelets that cost $3 each. I just disconnected the links and used a blob of e6000 on each one and hold in place with my usual clamps until set.

To avoid seeing the links that originally connected these pieces together, I also glued a single rhinestone on each 'joint' to make them disappear. Here's a close-up to illustrate.

base embellishments in place_edited.jpg

So that's one side of the hat, and since I didn't have enough of these gems to go all the way around, I had to figure out something else for the other side. In this case I glued some cheap dollar store fringe to the underside of the back of the hat, and finished the edges with a row of crystal AB Swarovsky crystals. This then completes the base of the hat so that it's ready to add some elements of volume.

beads on back side_edited.jpg

The additional elements that I add at this point were scraps of things I had left over from other projects that I had custom dyed to match the lavender fabric that covers the hat form. The link to the page with those instructions is right here.

In short, I dyed feathers, a long tassel and a bridal spray, and played with bunching them together into a shape I liked.

dye tacky bridal sprays.jpg
play with positioning.jpg

Then I just used a pipe cleaner to bind all the pieces together, trimmed off the excess stems and stitched the whole spray into position on the hat. I glued a bit of the lace around the base of the feather spray to cover the pipe cleaner. I stitched on the long tassel et voila! That's it!

Here's a few more pics of the finished piece.





I also devised a tricky way to attach this hat to my head, but I will post about that another time, this post is waaay too long as it is!

Thanks for stopping by!


#trim #millinery #easycostumetricks #fascinators

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