Monday, May 23, 2011

Blocking Felt on a Round Styrofoam Block

Behida Dohlic on Etsy

Last post I showed you how to carve a round hat block. I carved this block out of Stryofoam so that I could easily fold and pin shapes into the felt. Above and below are some professional milliner's inspirational photos where this technique could have been used.

Since this would be my first attempt at folding and pinning the felt, I chose a $5 hat I bought from Goodwill. After I removed the headband, feather and glue that was stuck to it, I had a lovely brown felt hood to block. (TIP: Rubbing alcohol on a QTip will remove glue)

Here's a complete list of the materials you will need to block:
  • Felt hood
  • Round Hat Block (styrofoam)
  • Straight Pins
  • Plastic bag
    (I use the ones from vegetable aisle or a leftover dry cleaner bag
  • Rubber band
  • Felt Stiffener spray

Get some hot water - enough to immerse your hood in. I used a steamer without the lid this time but often I just use hot water from the sink. I placed the hood into a bowl, added water and made sure all the felt was soaked.

Soaking the Hood
Step 2
Once the felt is wet you can let the extra water drip off and place it on your block. My hood already had the shape of a tight crown and brim. But after soaking it just slipped right onto my 23 inch round block.

Where's the Stryofoam block?
Step 3
Get creative! The felt is loose and you can finger press any shapes you like into the crown or brim. I decided I would create a pair of creases from the tip to the brim. Once I decided on the placement I placed pins deep into the crease so they would dry that way.

Creating the Shape
TIP: the closer the pin is to the crease, the less likely you are to see pin holes. But if that occurs, brush your felt with a wire or felt brush to smooth out.

Step 4
Let your hood dry for approximately 24 hours. You can see I finger pressed the brim into some shape,as well. And one of the benefits of using a recycled hat is that the brim was already finished with three rings of stitching so nothing else was needed.

Drying on the Block
Step 6
When your hat is dry you can either spray it with felt stiffener (see millinery supply) to set the shape or wet  and block again. I have sometimes used an acrylic art spray in the inside of the creases to add extra strength. 

Once you're happy with the shape you can trim however you like. My trimming isn't complete but here's a preview.

Left Side
Right Side


Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Carve a Hat Block - Part Four | Bowlers or Round Blocks

Lena Olin in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The bowler was created in 1849 by London milliners Thomas and William Bowler for the hat shop Lock & Co. In those days most men would wore a top hats. But this proved to be a problem when riding horses...etc because they could be easily blown or knocked off. (I actually like my teacher's story about how they called them bowlers because they are shaped like a bowl.) So, the Bowler was born and has remained popular on the heads of performers (Charlie Chaplin, Marlena Dietrich), business men, art (Magritte's paintings) and some very sexy ladies, like Lena Olin.

Lock and Company
You can carve a round block from styrofoam easily. And this block can be used to shape a variety of styles including a bowler. All you need is the following:

  • 8" inch round styrofoam ball
    (measure around to be sure you have at least 24 inches)
  • Knife  - with a straight edge
  • Empty can - like a coffee can
  • Callus tool - for smoothing 
    Step 1
    Measure you ball to see how wide it is. You want to choose either a 21, 22, 23 inch width for your block. I usually use 23 because that's the size of my head. And if I need to reduce the size I make the headband smaller to fit the wearer.

    Carve off a flat bottom for your block
    Step 2
    Decide on where you want the bottom of your block to be and carve the end to create a flat surface. No more than 3/4 an inch is needed to be removed.

    Try to press with even pressure
    Step 3
    Place the bottom of the ball on top of your can and apply pressure as evenly as possible.

    Crooked! Press again!
     You can flip the ball over to look at the can and see where you need to press in order to even it out.

    Step 4
    Begin to shave the sides of your ball straight down all on every side. Use your hands to feel out any areas that may be bumpy but don't worry too much about that. You have to apply your "Artist" and focus on creating a perfectly round side at the inch size you need. DO NOT ALTER THE TOP OF YOUR BALL! It is already round and therefore providing your shape. Shave until you reach the size you want.

    23 inches with rough edges

    Step 5
    Once you've reached the width you want stop carving and switch to the callus tool. This will allow you the ablity to smooth out any bumps.


    Next, I will show you how you can use a round block to make several shapes - and finally, I'll block something.