Straw, and other odd support materials, in the service of Silly Hats

by Cynthia du Pré Argent

© 2000 Cynthia Virtue

Readers and past students of these pages will know that I discuss many different possible materials for the construction of the silly hats of the 15th Century.  I've recently experimented with two of them; one is plaited straw, like that used in inexpensive modern straw hats (in this case, $1.99 from JoAnn's) and dryer tubing -- the latter being nothing at all like what was available in period, but it was such an odd idea (not original to me) that I had to try it.

First: The last straw.  (Or, perhaps, the first straw....)

My oldest, silliest hat was made in 1993 or 1994 (time flies when you're having hats.)  It was an attempt at a hat from the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries, and wasn't too bad, all things considered.  The major problem was that the underlying "bumps" were only stuffed with fiberfill, and once I put the stuffed, dagged roll on top, along with the liripipe, the bumps were smushed into near-nothingness.  It was time to fix that problem.

First, I unraveled two straw hats.

Getting the right fitting overlap on the hats -- me in the mirror.

A better attempt would make the whole hat as one shape, but this was quicker.

The overlapped hats.  You can just see one of the many pins at the top of the picture, which I stuck through both hats while they were on my head to preserve the correct  angles.
The hat shape showing the additional cone sewn from the "extra" straw plait, to get the right shape.  
Both cones sewn to the hatform.
I then put it back on, and marked the edge for the forehead cutout.  Remember that a high, broad forehead is the desired effect.  Fortunately, Dame Nature has provided me with one.
The hatform covered and lined.
The finished product.

The dagged roll was my original one -- it took 21 yards of dagged fabric to wrap it.  The tail is also original.  This time, I didn't need the pound of buckshot that originally counterbalanced the tail.

The tail of the "iguana" is conical, and is sewn to the hatform inside the stuffed roll, so that it looks as if the roll is the natural "cuff" or edge of the tail.

Adventures in Dryer Venting

An Easterner showed me his chaperon a few years back, and asked me to guess what it was supported with.  I finally figured it out: Dryer Venting!  Considering that there is one sketch at least of a rigid support for such a hat, it's not an entirely insane idea.  I suspect that his was the vinyl-with-metal-spring variety; what I had was the all-aluminum version, so I forged onwards.  Or, perhaps, duct-taped onwards.
Two 4' lengths of venting, compressed, bent into an oval, trimmed, and duct-taped together.

Note the tin snips.  If you do this, wear protective gloves -- this stuff is SHARP.

Later note: I think it would be much better to use the sort of venting which is white vinyl (?) with a metal coil that keeps it to the right shape, not this all-aluminum version.

The metal was then covered with a layer of white muslin, which was tightly sewn down, and to that I pinned the long rectangle of "fashion fabric."  This is that layer before sewing it together.

I use rectangles because it is easier than tailoring multiple orange-sections of fabric, and it produces no seams that can be seen.

The fashion fabric is now sewn down.  You can just barely see the seam line on the top towards the inside.

The skirts and liripipe are one long cone shape, as diagrammed at the bottom of the men's stuffed hats page.

Here you see the spread-out cone of the liripipe and skirt, in relation to the roll.  Note that it looks VERY large in comparison, but once draped, simply looks luxurious.

The lining for the dags stops about 6" above the top of the dags and is tacked down to the fabric at that point.  The seam of the cone is open where it is sewn to the roll.

Here is a picture of the hat as worn by a wooden headform.  Note that the roll's orientation should be more horizontal.

The men's hats page and the houppelande page have medieval pictures of this very full and round type of hat.

All material  © 2001 Cynthia Virtue Email Author with comments
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