Recently I posted a blog on how to make a custom hat pattern from scratch, based off of skills I learned at my Stratford Off The Wall millinery course. Here is part 2 of my very simple how-to series on constructing a buckram hat.
How To Make a Buckram Hat Frame:
Step 1. Trace Your Pattern
In the last blog, you created a master pattern for the crown of your hat. If you haven’t already, make sure you remove all the tabs from the head opening (inner circle); this is to ensure you are always coming back to the same, original size. They will be added again shortly.
To make sure you trace it perfectly, try pinning your pattern into the buckram and through a piece of foam. Be sure to hold your pencil perpendicular to the floor so you don’t skew the measurements by adding or subtracting space when angling your pencil.
Step 2. Darts and Seam Allowances
Now that you’ve traced your pattern, it’s time to add in a seam allowance and mark your darts. Add a 1 ¼” seam allowance to the head opening of your hat. Mark all of your darts and seam allowances. If you have large, cut-out darts like I do, don’t cut them out; simply trace the edges as these will later be folded over. When you’ve completed your tracing, cut out the buckram and add tabs again by slicing from the edge of your seam allowance up to the edge of your head opening. They should be approximately 1/8″ wide.
Step 3. Hand Stitch Your Darts
Since it can be difficult to properly pin your darts (buckram is very stiff), it is best to hand stitch the tops so that they stay in place when you move to the machine. Make sure that you are following your original guidelines and are using the proper measurements. Extra strong thread, like upholstery thread, may be good for this step.
Step 4. Machine Stitch Your Darts
To make sure that your back seam and darts are strong, you will now want to machine stitch them. Use the zig stitch on your machine, keeping the stitches close together. This can be a little awkward if you’ve never sewn a 3D object like this before, but it gets easier as you go along. Make sure you have a strong thread and needle.
Step 5. Add Millinery Wire
Adding the millinery wire can be a difficult step if you have an unusual shaped crown like I did. First, bend the wire to fit the top of the crown, holding it in place with masking tape. This can be a tedious process, but it will add strength and shape to your hat and so is well worth it. Next, machine stitch the wire to the buckram using the zig stitch; on the one side, the needle should be going into the buckram, on the other, into air. It is very easy to break your needle if you hit the wire rather than the buckram or the air, so go slowly. I hand-cranked the majority of mine.
Step 6. Molding The Crown
In order to mold your crown, you first need to prep your form. Mark clearly your FC, BC, SR, and SL marks, as well as the edge of where you want your crown to be. Again, mine was a topper and so was a bit unusual; it was high-up on the head and wasn’t parallel to the floor. If you are using a good hat block, this should be done on masking tape, never the block itself. Afterwards, wrap your form in plastic to make removal of the buckram easier. We used plastic produce bags; any thin plastic will work, including cling wrap. Be sure it is as smooth as possible.
Cut out a piece of buckram larger than your crown (give yourself a fair bit of room to make tugging easier) and lay it on your head. The bias should be facing FC and BC. Spray your buckram with water. It should be damp enough that it begins to soften, but not dripping to the point where the glue (in the buckram) washes away.
You will notice the buckram start to soften; now is the time to stretch it. Pull and smooth your buckram over your form, pinning it in place. Since I used a wrapped styrofoam head, I was able to use straight sewing pins. If you use a wooden hat form, you will need tacks or nails that may need to be inserted with the help of a hammer. Remember, you need just enough to hold it in place, all of these will have to come out again so don’t go nail-crazy.
The buckram will get sticky so be careful of your clothes and jewellery. You can achieve the majority of the smoothing by pulling rather than rubbing your hand over the surface, and this will help you be a bit less dirty. Once you’re satisfied with the result, set it aside to dry, leaving about 24 hours.
Step 7. Finishing The Brim
While your crown is drying you can complete your brim. Take a piece of bias tape longer than the circumference of your brim, and coat it lightly with a strong, tacky glue.
You can use a plastic knife to spread the glue evenly, and try to leave just the amount in between the ridges. Be sure there are no globs.
Once the bias tape is covered in glue, your can attach it to the wired edge of your brim. Go slowly and make sure you are attaching it evenly, and applying it firmly. You will be left with a smooth, covered edge.
Step 8. Removing Your Crown
Once the crown is completely dry, you can remove it from the form. Sometimes a vacuum is created and so you may want to enlist the help of a buddy.
After you’ve removed your crown, trim it with some sturdy scissors to get it to your desired shape. You are now ready to start covering your hat!
If you are putting light-weight or sheer fabric on the hat, you may want to try mulling it first. This is a technique that involves covering the entire form in some lightweight, white, flannelette. If you don’t think this is a necessary step, you can begin to cover your hat with your final fabric. But that will be covered in another blog!
All for now,