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.