I tried my hand at blocking with straw for the first time this weekend. Blocking is where you use a material, such as felt or straw and steam it over a wooden block, forcing it to conform it to that shape. It is the traditional method of hat making, and most “proper” hats you see are made in this way. Sadly, hat blocks are pretty expensive and only available from a few places new, or by scouring Ebay for vintage blocks. I was lucky to receive a set of multi-blocks (a set of crown blocks that can be used interchangeably with different brims) for Christmas and have been trying to add to my collection ever since. I think my family has my future birthday and christmas gifts all figured out!
The pink hat is a Jute/Sisal straw that I dyed Pink and blocked into a traditional Cloche shape. I trimmed the wired edged with pink bias, and decorated the hat with a hot pink silk shot with orange threads. I went with a kind of rustic feel for this hat, since the sisal has a very natural texture.
The blue military-style percher was also dyed by me; I went for an Evening Blue shade. The straw this time is closer to a paper, Toyo. The dye took to the paper straw in an interesting way, giving a great effect on the hat. A contrasting light blue bias trim and an array of badges (one of my Granddad’s old army ones) later and a military style hat was born.
I really enjoyed making these hats, I almost felt like a proper Milliner. Dyeing my own materials is definitely something I’m going to continue to do. It’s so much easier than trying to source materials in very specific colours and means I can offer fully custom designed pieces to match specific outfits.
I must remember, however, not to answer the door to the postman wearing my apron, with latex gloves covered in dye on…