Monday, April 25, 2011

Wedding Veils - Royal!

I have been happily anticipating the British Royal Wedding of Prince William and Brilliant Katie! After watching hours of Royal Wedding Specials on PBS, BBC America and Lifetime, I learned that the length of the veil - or train - record currently belongs to Princess Diana at 25 feet.

So, she had to have a pretty awesome veil to compliment the the train and, of course, the crown!

All of this got me thinking about veils and how they can really enhance a hat design...
John French. London, UK, 1950
Or sometimes, it becomes the hat.

Philip Treacy for Valentino Couture
There are lots of creative ways to create veils out of a variety of materials including lace as you can see above. Ribbon is another material that can be used to structure a veil.

Camille Roman, Tour de Force

Do you like wearing veils?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to Carve a Hat Block - Part Three | Shaping the Styrofoam

Okay, so far I have shown just a few basic tips on how to carve the foam but I promise you they make a HUGE difference. Styrofoam is not too easy to deal with and it's easy to make mistakes and break off piece or carve too deeply by mistake.

My next project required a little finesse. I had seen a small hat block form the 40s which sold on eBay for over $80. I really like the shape but couldn't afford the price so I took my idea to my teacher Jill and here's how she walked me through the process.

40s Style

Step 1: I took the bottom piece of my cone shape that I cut into three pieces and measure to where I wanted to stop carving the base. I also drew a shape on the top of the block in the shape I wanted it to be.

The lines help you remember where to carve and where to stop.
Step 2: I made a small groove cut along the line around the crown to make sure I wouldn't carve into that area as I worked on shaping the top area.

Step 3: Next I began to carve from the circle on top of the crown down to the line where I just cut the groove.

Slicing the foam off in one stroke down.
Make sure you carve slice off with your knife in one direction. Don't saw back and forth or you will be more like to have uneven areas.

Step 4: When I was satisfied with the basic shape, I took a callus pedicure tool and added a more delicate shape while I smoothed the top of the crown.

The Final Product ~ turned out even nicer than the block I saw on eBay which had a heart shaped top. Too cutesy for me.

Front of Block

Side of Block

One Final Note - if you're looking to buy blocks I recommend checking out the Guy Morse Brown multi-purpose blocks. I bought this basic set and love them so much. You get a lot of basic shapes by mixing the brims, crowns and extenders. Here's one of the hats I made with them.

Guy Morse Brown Customer Creations

Let me know if you know any other cool ways to make hat blocks yourself!

Friday, April 8, 2011

How to Carve a Hat Block - Part Two | Top Hats and Bowlers

Sometimes you don't have to carve. Sometimes you can put pieces of Styrofoam together to make the block you want. My awesome teacher, Jill, was commissioned to make a large number of small top hats and bowlers that would be worn by Steam punk fans. Here's some photos of what she made.

Mini Bowlers and Top Hats

Black Buckram Top Hats


  • Semi-circle piece of foam (size of a tennis ball cut in half)
  • Round disc of foam same width as the semi-circle
  • 2 Wooden shish-kabob stakes
  • Clippers

Making a bowler shape (or top hat) is very easy. I went to a store with floral supplies (like JoAnns or Michael's) and purchased a half ball shape and a round, flat shape that fit the bottom of the half ball.

Step 1: Take your semi-circle of foam and place it on top of the round disc so it looks like this.

Step 2: Take your first wooden shish-kebab stick and insert it straight through the top of the semi-circle until you reach the bottom of the round disc.

Step 3: Take the second wooden shish-kebab stick and insert it sideways through the bottom round disc of foam.

Step 3: Once you can feel the tip of the shish-kebabs barely break the other side of the foam stop. Use your clippers (or heavy scissors) to cut off the ends that still protrude.

And, voila! You have a mini-bowler hat block. Lots of people like to block these using a layers of felt (or any material), buckram and then lining all at the same time. Just wet with hot water, stretch and pin until it dries.

Another tip is that you use an empty can to mount the block on. This will make it sturdy and give you room to pull your material and pin under the edge, if you wish.

Coming Soon Part Three - More Carving Tools & Tips

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to Carve a Hat Block - Part One | Styrofoam

Have you ever seen a hat, especially a vintage hat, and thought "I wish I could make that..." but you don't have the block? Buying blocks can be very expensive and finding someone to build you one from scratch is almost impossible. If your a hobbyist, like me, you may also not really want a block that would last forever. So, one of the solutions I have learned is how to carve a block shape from styrofoam and here's where I started.

I saw this hat in Hats! by Sarah Cant
An excellent book.
I took my book and piece of foam to my awesome teacher Jill Pfieffer and here's what she instructed us to do. ("Us" is my partner-in-crime Colleen who graciously posed in several of the photos to come.)

Foam Shapes


Step 1: Measure the foam to make sure you're getting the right height. You can make your shape higher and then block different lengths down the side, if you prefer. I measured my stryofoam cone into three pieces.

My cone after I cut it into three pieces.
Step 2: Draw a line around the foam where you want to cut it.

Measured and line drawn. Ready to carve!
Step 3: Place the knife on the line and roll around make a small cut along the line.

Don't pull the knife back and forth - just roll and let the cut deepen each time you pass back over your line.


Step 4: Eventually you will crack through the stryofoam. Next you carve! This shape was easy because the cone shape all ready gave me a wider base so I just used my knife to carve a slant.

Final Product
 1. Don't use a serrated knife. Use a chef's knife with a flat edge.

2. When you block always cover the foam with plastic to protect your felt or straw and preserve the block.

3. I chose white foam because it was already in a cone shape. Some green floral foams are very soft so you can chose to cover your block with buckram or another product called Rigid Wrap, which you can find at craft stores like Michael's.
Block with Rigid Wrap
Rigid Wrap

Part 2 Coming Soon - More Foam Block Ideas and Carving Tools