Busy Bee Sharon has been Making Regency Bonnets!

Busy Bee Sharon has been Making Regency Bonnets!

As is obvious by the time of this posting, your Austen Author administrator has dropped the ball big time by forgetting it was her blog date! It is the first time I’ve ever missed my date completely, as far as I can recall, (although I do admit that Regina has reminded me a time or two as the day approached!) Apparently my mind isn’t the steel trap of perfect recollection as it once was. I shall make no excuses for my bad behavior. What is somewhat humorous — from a certain point-of-view — is that I swear I peeked at the calendar last week and made a mental note that my blog was due for the Tuesday AFTER the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, which is this weekend. I tentatively planned to write about my adventures there, but I guess that will have to wait until next month.

However, as it happens, a big reason for my lapse in remembering my blog date is because I have been super busy preparing for the Festival. In brief, a little over a month ago I decided to take on the creative task of making a new hat for myself, my daughter Emily, and my daughter-in-law Serena, both of whom are joining me in the fun this year. The idea occurred to me accidentally, in a manner of speaking, as I was searching the web for bonnets to purchase and stumbled across several YouTube and blog tutorials on making Regency-style bonnets from modern straw hats. I’ve done enough sewing and craft work in my lifetime to figure I could manage at least that! Below are the first two completed bonnets, each one made with a basic straw sun hat.

I really love the yellow one, although I will admit that the 18″ brim is a bit bigger than I personally like. That said, when on a real, human head, the ties will be cinched tighter making it into a “poke” style bonnet.

By this time I was beginning to understand how fun it is to make Regency bonnets! Both of these two are a bit rough, construction-wise. My pathetic glue gun and lacking sewing materials added to the difficulty, not to mention that I was essentially figuring it out as I went along!

For my third endeavor, I found a costume hat on Amazon. While described as a “prairie bonnet,” the shape is close enough to a Regency tall hat to make it work. I chose the colors to match a gown and open-robe I plan to wear to the Friday evening events. While the end result has a few minor issues that prevent claiming it is “perfect,” I am thrilled and can’t wait to wear it!

About this time was when my husband and daughter both said I should keep on making hats and perhaps, eventually, try to sell them. I may have laughed at the idea for a short time. Then I recalled that it was a similarly-worded nudge from online fans way back in 2006 that prompted me to seek publishing my novels … after I laughed at the concept for many months! So, with the possibility of carrying on with what I was having so much fun doing, I dug a bit deeper into what I would need to make sellable bonnets. In between finding patterns, reading LOTS of articles and watching more YouTube tutorials, brushing up on sewing techniques, and buying a whole bunch of supplies (including a sewing machine since I had gotten rid of my very old one before moving to Kentucky), I continued to experiment.

Using a black straw hat found at a local peddler’s mall, hat #4 turned out great, I think, other than the brim being a bit too floppy. I have since purchased thick wire so I need to go back and sew that along the edge to give it a firmer shape.

For my fifth creation, I used a simple sun-visor found at Walmart. This idea was one I saw on a blog and while probably breaking some rule in purist costume creation, I really like how it looks. I wanted to keep this one clean and simple for an easy day-wear bonnet. Plus, I wanted to practice with making a fabric ruffle.

By this time I had amassed a quantity of fabrics, ribbons, flowers, etc. I had also acquired the proper utility fabrics (stabilizer, buckram, and cotton mulling) to make my own hat base. I’ll still play around with reusing old hats, just for the challenge, but to make quality hats I expect someone to buy, I need to do it right. To help, I found several patterns on Etsy, specifically the excellent ones by Lynn McMasters of Patterns of Time. The three bonnets I’ve finished using these patterns (and my improved skill and better equipment) are much better.

Who doesn’t love pink? Okay, some people might not, but I LOVED the hot-pink fabric so had to use that up. The pink striped satin used in the top bonnet is from pajama bottoms I bought at a consignment shop for $1.50! I love a good bargain! In both bonnets I played with various ribbon-bow making techniques. Nice, isn’t it?

I am totally in love with the green one above, for several reasons. One, it turned out awesome! Mainly I adore it because I made it specifically for my new daughter-in-law to match her dress. This will be Serena’s first ever Jane Austen event and having her join me, and my daughter Emily, makes this year’s Festival extra special.

So that is what has kept me occupied and focused elsewhere lately. I am almost done with my ninth hat, this one a truly spectacular capote. If all continues to go well, I may soon have enough done to open my own Etsy shop. Be on the look out for that!

For now, tell me what you think of my millinery hobby. Which one is your favorite? And, if you live anywhere remotely close to Louisville, Kentucky, you MUST come to the Jane Austen Festival this weekend! For more information, click the image to the right.

32 Responses to Busy Bee Sharon has been Making Regency Bonnets!

  1. These are beautiful, Sharon! I think I like the close cut of the hot pink on the best but I would wear any of them. I wish I had half your skills in millinery!

  2. For some reason I have only just seen this post. Could be because my daughter and family, including boys aged 5 & almost 3, we’re visiting from Australia and when they went bag last week I totally messed up my tablet to such an extent that my daughter-in-law had to reset it to factory condition and start again!
    Anyway I must congratulate you on your ability, this is certainly an accomplishment. I do like them all but my favourites are the purple and the green. I hope you all enjoy it and that your hats are much admired.

  3. I love your bonnets and hope you are wearing at least one of them this weekend in Louisville. Have fun!

  4. These are pretty selctions. I have always wonder when I read a book how Kitty and Lydia will alter their bonnets with ribons. Thank you for sharing. Now I saw a variety of styles. they looked great

  5. These bonnets are wonderful. I started a bonnet a couple of years ago and continue to stew over finishing it. Can you recommend any particular YouTube videos you found useful? I despair over the placement of the ribbon that ties it on. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  6. I haven’t sewn for years, and your new fun craft has my hands pining away for that experience again….alas. I also especially like your green one. My favorite is the purple one because for two similar reasons. The hat’s outside color is different than the inside, it’s like ‘surprise you thought I was this demure ivory hat!’ And the inside is also trimmed in lace. I’ve always had a thing for hats that are sort of plain on the outside and brilliant on the inside framing the face….flowers, lace, etc. Very cool. Best of luck. For me crafts have always been rather meditative, I can surely just get totally caught up in the creativity but many times it lets my mind think over other things, contemplate whatever…. Hopefully after the festival when you start your next hats you can let your mind start wandering too, like hint hint, your next book! 😀

    • Thanks so much, Michelle. It’s funny because I’ve never particularly considered myself as “crafty.” I get into spurts, however, whether it is making holiday decorations, gardening decor (I recently made a sign post of literary locations), scrapbooking, or graphic design. Sewing was something I did A LOT when I was young and all through college. But with raising a family and working, making garments and sewing went by the wayside. All the tricks are coming back and it is very cool.

  7. Shades of Lydia. Wow, she was always mentioned tearing a bonnet apart, remaking it, refashioning one or buying ribbons fin order to decorate something. What fun. The one thing I liked about the 1940’s version of P&P [although the costumes were incorrect] was how many different ways they could decorate the same style hat. They did the same with the dress pattern but everything was decorated a dozen different ways. I love your hats and think it is quite appropriate for a post on this site. We need to see what you guys have to go in order to get ready for your meetings. I think it is so cool. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • You are most welcome, J.W. I’m delving in hard and fast on this “hobby” but wasn’t sure if I should publicly share as yet. I need to build up my inventory before I can go ahead with opening a shop on Etsy, but at this rate it may not take me too long. I’ll keep everyone posted!

      • Oh, I just remembered… don’t forget the mob cap. Every married woman needed her head covered. Just a thought

        • Mob caps are pretty easy to make. EVEN I have made mob caps. I made and sold about 50 at the 2014 JASNA meeting in Montreal. They are not only cute but keep leaves out of your hair when gardening and dust out of your hair if you dust. Plus they give a little warmth on cold evenings, especially to my friends who shave their heads in a local cancer fundraiser each winter.

          • Pretty as well as functional… I looked at a few patterns on line and thought they might not be too hard to make. The lacy ones I thought were especially pretty.

  8. They are all beautiful but I think my favorite is the purple one with the lace. It is so pretty. I also like the pink one with the flowers. You are a good bonnet maker!lol

  9. I like the yellow one and the third, purple, one. I always envy people who find that craft or project, that “something”, that they are excited about and always have time for. The only thing I always find time and energy for is reading. Enjoy!

  10. I love crafting/sewing like this! My favorite would be the lace-covered pink or peachy one, number six with the pink ribbon; however if it were for me, I would have it in blue! When my nearly 40 year old daughter was in Kindergarten, she was chosen to b Little-Bo-Peep in her class play! She had lots of lines to have to memorize, so for the occasion I made her a Bo-Peep bonnet with elastic all around the chin-level. I can’t believe how well it turned out! Then, when she was 9, I free-handed a prairie bonnet for her to wear for her class’s recreation of the Oklahoma land run! I’m so glad I had a daughter! I love all your creations, litrary AND millinery!

    • Thanks so much, Denise. Indeed, the basic bonnets really aren’t too difficult to sew. It is the more complex shapes that get tough, but I am determined to get better at it. With each bonnet I learn new techniques and figure ways to streamline the process. It can be frustrating at times, but when all done the feeling of accomplishment is quite sweet. 🙂

  11. I will have to look at constructing bonnets though I will never be as good at it as you. Making garments gives one a feel for the period . Always helpful as well if one wants to have a character redo a bonnet. Of course the fashionistas will point out that some shapes were fashionable some years and not others or that certain shapes don’t go with certain patterns for gowns but I ignore them. Poor widows in the village can’t worry about all the vagaries of fashion. Your hats are beautiful.

    • Thanks Nancy! Luckily, the Regency Era (especially if going with the broader dating) saw a lot of style variations. In closely examining fashion plates and extant examples, the possibilities are practically endless! And, as you noted, just because a bonnet (or gown, for that matter) wasn’t the current fashion does not mean it was tossed out. Variety is the spice of life, as some wise person said. 🙂

  12. Well done. I made one like your green one (in black) for the Festival last year. I won’t be going this year. I had to choose between the Festival and the AGM in Kansas City. Perhaps, next year, I can do both! Are you going to the AGM, Sharon?

    • I wish you could make it to the Festival, Suzanne. Hopefully you can make it next year. Unfortunately, the AGM is not in my plans this year.

      Making hats and bonnets is so much fun! I wish I had done it ages ago. I’m looking for ways to cut cost while also making a quality product, in hopes of not charging the crazy high prices. Finding a bonnet under $50 or $60 for the most basic, (and $150 to well over $200 upwards for the high crown styles) is next to impossible. Perhaps I can fill a need for folks who either can’t afford the super expensive ones, or who simply don’t want to pay so much for a hat they will wear once or twice a year. Time will tell!

      • That is a terrific idea. I bought one bonnet at the Festival two years ago and it cost me $125.00 plus the exchange rate of 30% because of our low Canadian dollar. After that, I decided to try and make my own. One was a fail but the other I really like. A good quality but lower priced bonnet would be appreciated by many for sure. It can get pretty pricy to dress up and attend the festival, especially if you have to travel to get there.

  13. I’m so impressed with these bonnets, Sharon! And the green one is my favorite, too. Looking forward to reading about the opening of your Etsy shop and about your trip to the Jane Austen Festival. Have fun!

Comments are precious!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.