You will need styrofoam, a glue suitable for styrofoam (be careful, many types of glue eat away at styrofoam), wall filler or some such type of plaster, air-drying clay and wood glue to make the hat block.
Measure the circumference of your head and if available also use a hat that fits to determine the size and shape of hat block you need. As you can see I used my cycling helmet since it’s roughly the right shape. Cut the styrofoam down to the right size using whatever tool you prefer. A jigsaw works well but is very messy. Keep fitting it into the hat/helmet to check you’re not taking too much off. Glue the pieces of styrofoam together to get the right height and when it’s dry continue to remove slices of styrofoam in small increments until the sides slope as much as you want them to and the shape isn’t too irregular.
When you’re satisfied, add clay to the top edge of the hat block and shape it until there’s a smooth, raised edge along the rim of the crown. Wait until this is dry (best to leave it for a day), then cover the entire thing in a layer of wall filler. When that is dry, sand it down and repeat until it’s all smooth. Cover the last dry layer with wood glue. Leave to dry and repeat a couple of times as well. The layers of glue are important as they keep the plaster and everything together as well as protect it from the steam used in shaping the hat.
As an extra precaution I wrapped the hat block in cling film when I was using it. It wasn’t damaged at all after use and I think it’ll be fine for several more hats!
To shape Athos’ (or any BBC Musketeer’s) hat you need a hat block, a wool felt capeline (a roughly shaped hood as seen in the sixth picture), felt stiffener, a brush, a steam iron and/or other method to steam the hat, a damp cloth, some pins and a piece of string or ribbon.
I bought the cheapest kind of wool felt capeline, which turned out to be quite good-looking and thick anyway. If you have the option to, it’s a good idea to buy one in a shop rather than online so you can see the colours properly. My felt stiffener was an environmentally friendly kind, which meant it could be mixed with water - different from the kind used in illustrate-her’s tutorial. It also came in a huge bottle so I now have enough for many, many hats! You only need a little.
The stiffener will come with instructions on how to mix it if it needs mixing, and perhaps how to apply it. Follow those instructions!
The kind I used had to be diluted with water. Now, if the instructions say to mix it 1:3, assume it means three parts water and one part stiffener and not the other way round. I didn’t and the crown of my hat turned out very sturdy. x)
Apply the stiffener to the inside of the capeline using a brush. Keep in mind cheap brushes will lose hairs and those hairs will stick to the hat until you pick them off individually. I’d suggest that you only apply stiffener to the inside of the crown of the hat at first because that way you can learn how much you need and what method of application works best for you without the results being visible in the end. Don’t worry about getting it exactly right at first, you can add more stiffener after steaming and shaping the hat if it turns out not to have been enough. I also found that it took about a day of drying and leaving the hat alone for it to reach its final level of stiffness. If you use too much stiffener it won’t all absorb into the hat and you’ll be able to see some residue on the surface when the hat’s been left to dry thoroughly. On the other hand, it may seem you’ve used too much but then the discolouration may disappear after a day. It’s a bit of trial and error. Just be careful and take your time! Space it all out over a couple of days if you can.
After you’ve applied stiffener to the inside of the crown, follow the stiffener’s instructions on steaming the hat. Mine had to be steamed for quite a while, so I set up the hat above an old pot (that is not to be used for food) with boiling water and kept a close eye on it. When it’s done quickly fit the hat onto the hat block and pull it down. You want to stretch the felt a bit, so pull the sides of the crown down from all sides until it looks like the bottom edge fits smoothly around the base of the hat block. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and may take lots of pulling and smoothing it down! This is where the steam iron comes in - put a damp cloth over the bit you want to steam again and use your steam iron. The top of the hat will need this to get the ridge of the crown in. I used pins to keep it in place while the hat was drying.
The same goes for where the crown bends into the brim. You probably want this corner to be sharper than it is now. Add some more stiffener in a circle around the base of the crown on the inside (the bottom, as it sits on the hat block) and use the steam iron to flatten the brim all around the crown and to flatten the crown against the side of the hat block. To keep this in place as it dries, tie a string or ribbon (which may work better because it’s wider) around the base tightly.
At this point I would leave it to dry for a day. If you’re not satisfied with the shape and stiffness of the crown afterwards you can add more stiffener, steam it again, fit it on the hat block and let it dry again. If it’s fine, then it’s time to cut and shape the brim! Cut the brim to size, then add an amount of stiffener to the underside that you’re confident won’t leave marks when everything is done, steam it and then shape it how you want it.
Wool felt is really forgiving, so you can repeat steps and fix mistakes quite a few times! As long as you start with too little stiffener rather than too much you’re unlikely to end up with a ruined hat. Just steam (parts of) it again and reshape.
The following is unfortunately only relevant for those who read Dutch because the site is in Dutch. This is where I bought my materials: Hoedendingen.nl. I’d suggest you visit the shop rather than order online/by phone because of colours, but the lady who runs it is very helpful and has lots of advice.
I’m one of those people who could tweak and tweak until the end of the world (and there are still some things I’m not too sure about) but I think this will do the job the way it is now. (If you want to take a proper look, click here!)
I think it looks quite good and represents me as a milliner. What do you think? (:
You can enlarge your hat block a little by taping strips of foam sheets to it. Foam is flexible enough to follow all the curves if you tape it tightly. When done, wrap it in clingfilm again.
When I bought the materials for Athos’ hat I also wanted to get a capeline to make Aramis’ hat to sell to mitigate the cost of the stiffener and postage, but they didn’t have any in grey. The seller told me you can also make a hat like this from two cloches (smaller roughly shaped felt pieces, see the third picture), which is true but not a good idea!
To change the felt’s shape as dramatically as this you need to steam it and stretch it repeatedly, and it’s less messy if you do that before you apply stiffener. But it takes many, many repetitions.
It helps if you can keep the felt stretched or curved in the shape you’re aiming for while it cools down. You’ll lose this shape somewhat when you steam it again if you haven’t applied stiffener.
I’ve found that applying stiffener with a sponge is much more effective than applying it with a brush, and the sponge won’t shed hairs. Dip a corner of the sponge in the (watered down, if the stiffener’s instructions call for it) stiffener and dab it onto the felt, then press it in. Don’t rub it, keep dabbing it to work the stiffener in.
And that’s it for now. But once again, for a Musketeer’s hat a capeline is a much better starting point than cloches! It’s much easier and much less work!
I was asked to share some photos from my workroom :3
The room itself is not so interesting at the moment (as I haven’t had the time to arrange and decorate it yet since moving back from London), so I thought I’d photograph some things in there that are beautiful and also the most important: my dear supplies. What would I do without them…
Meet the designers behind THE HAT EMPORIUM, a three-day pop-up at @themayfairhotel in London from May 22-24. Along with five other incredibly talented milliners, we will be selling select pieces for all special occasions during the event, taking orders for bespoke hats (so bring your outfits!) and also offering complimentary workshops from luxury lifestyle consultant Sara Ebbett @beauandstellar and Channel 4 Racing presenter @ginaharding1. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/thehatemporium. 🙌👒👰🐎 #thehatemporium #millinery #hats #racingfashion #racewear #royalascot #epsomderby #ladiesday #racing #weddings #specialoccasion #themayfair #London #bespoke #SaraEbbett #GinaHarding #awongoldingmillinery #fashion #photogrid @photogridorg (at The May Fair)