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It’s Not About the Destination but the Journey

August 13, 2010

Happy Friday, all!

I’ve been steeped in process more than usual lately, between acquiring new (old) hat blocks, planning on making some of my own hat blocks, ordering supplies, and generally planning for the big Fall rush on hats.  Naturally, that means I dream about hats and hat making (and even feathers) more than usual because my brain usually decides to torture me like that when I’m in “create” mode.

With that in mind, I thought I would share a couple of videos I stumbled on this summer.  For those of you who’ve no idea how a blocked hat is made (or even what a blocked hat is), well… I guess I’d better explain what a blocked hat is.

Blocked hats are the stiff hats you find in felt, straw, and also structured cloth-covered hats.  The other kind of hats are called sewn, soft, or flat-pattern hats.  Blocked hats are called such because they are made on a hat block, which is normally made of wood but can be crafted in styrofoam, insulating foam, cork, papier mache, or even plaster.  As long as you can stick push pins in the material, you can use it as a block.  Anyway, to block a hat you start with a “hat body” made of the material of your choice (straw, felt, or buckram which would be covered with material), then you either get the body wet or steam it depending on the body (straw and buckram generally get wet, felt is steamed).  After that you stretch the hat body on the wood block and tie it in strategic locations, adding pins to keep everything in place.  As the hat body dries, it shrinks to the block and retains the form.

All this requires more skill than it sounds and, naturally, there are tricks of the trade and a lot of equipment necessary to do it right.

Oh!  One more thing.  If you’re in the Dallas, Texas area, you can learn millinery at El Centro College in Dallas starting September 18th.  The course runs for 8 weeks on Saturdays from 9am-1pm and the cost is a SUPER AWESOME BARGAIN at $125 for all 8 weeks, not including the cost of materials.  You can make as many hats as you can squeeze out in those 8 weeks and you get the benefit of using blocks owned by El Centro as well as by our teacher, Dalph Johnson.  Considering how expensive hat blocks can be to buy, that’s like getting a season pass for using hat blocks!  Woohoo!

Anyway, now that you’ve had that little primer, watch these videos for 1) a demonstration of how Stephen Jones Millinery makes one of his famous hats:

and 2) how a hat block maker makes his hat blocks:

Both are fascinating to watch and will probably surprise you on more than one account.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!!

As always, please feel free to comment on this post below.  If you like what you see here, subscribe to this blog for more great millinery stuff!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. David permalink
    August 21, 2010 2:18 am

    I’ve never made a hat before and was never interested in seriously pursuing it until a few hours ago. I googled Dallas millinery and found your site and now I’m enrolled in the class! Thanks for suggesting it.

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