Monday, May 20, 2013

1860's Bonnet Construction

I have searched in vain to find a "how to" on putting together an 1860's bonnet, so here is a very brief "how I did this" picture tutorial. 

WARNING: I may not have done this correctly and I am not a professional milliner in any way.  I also highly recommend spending the money to buy this item from a professional.  Very much worth it.  Every penny.

Note: this is not my pattern.  Anna Bauersmith traced it off for me & sent me directions for a drawn bonnet (which I did not do due to a lack of fabric - not kidding, I had exactly enough silk to do what you see here).  You can see her blog here:
And her Etsy store here:  go buy something from her, she's fabulous.

1860 is not exactly a decade I visit very often, but there are many Civil War events that I want to walk into & visit this summer, so it required a new CW era day dress & some kind of head covering.  I'll get dressed up and have my dear mother take photos of my nifty Plain Jane Day Dress at some point.

I'm going to assume that you are starting off with a finished buckram or straw base, which you can buy from several companies, or make with a pattern, (though if you bought the pattern it probably came with directions for covering the hat & you won't need this).

All silk is flat-lined with cotton muslin to give it more body & make it easier to handle.  Flat-lining also provides a stay stitching line so the silk doesn't fray all over the place while you are working.

I highly recommend obtaining a curved sewing needle.  It will make your life soooo much easier.  Barring that, a very long milliner's needle will work well.  No teeny-tiny short things, OK?

 Start with the back/crown/tip of the bonnet & cut a circle slightly larger than the finished shape.  I used a 6" circle.  Whip stitch it in place.  You may have to ease things in to keep the silk flat.

Next, I pinned in the tip/crown/back lining.  (I think I did this backwards & it should be done last, but I wanted the stitching line for the crown to show me where to put the brim covering).  Make it look like a coffee filter.   Leave a lot of excess (this will be cut off shortly).
 Stitch to the tip/back/crown (optional) for a tip lining that stays in place.  Anna says that the lining is optional, but I wanted to make sure everything was covered and that I had something to stitch to when I put the brim lining in.
Stitch above the mid-wire line to secure the tip lining.
Leave the back neckline open for now with room to turn under.
Trim the excess off of, leaving a bit of a seam allowance so it doesn't pull out.

 Stitch the brim cover just over the back/tip/crown stitching line, turning under as far as necessary to make it a smooth fit.  I had some puckering at the top, which made me make a face.
(This is a movable line depending on how you want the hat to look.  Some are well onto the brim, others are actually gathered in on the tip itself.  Just depends on the style you want).
Pull the silk smooth & pin to the inside front brim, pin in place & stitch around all edges.  You may have to tuck/cut around the curves to get it to stay flat on the outside.  Fray-check optional at certain points.

Pin the back curtain or bavolet in place, arranging carefully so it doesn't go all wonky.  Make sure the tip lining is out of the way.
(Right now I'll tell you that this bonnet is too long for me on the tabs & bavolet, I have a short neck & it scrunches up... so you may want to make sure yours actually fits before you get to this point).
Stitch the bavolet on.
I left the tabs loose for now, you may want to stitch them on here.

 Pin the tip lining over the raw edge of the bavolet & stitch that.

 Here it is at this point.  Outside...
 OK, Everything look good?
Fix anything that isn't.

Stitch the brim lining onto the outer brim (it doesn't take much seam allowance & you may have to trim a bit here & there anyway).  There are 2 different ways to do this.  You can cut a lining to shape, or you can cut a rectangle the same length as the outer edge & then pleat/fold it into shape towards the smaller inside.  I've found examples of both techniques in the MET.
The brim lining can be raw if you are going to bind the edge with a finishing strip, or fold it over for a finished edge (that's what I did & it may change because it's uneven in places - see the right side of the pic?)

Stitch the brim lining to the tip lining wherever you can catch something without going through to the outside.

Feel free to decorate it however.  Most of the ribbons come right off the cheek tabs, but I've seen a few that angle to the back neckline/cheek tab curve.  Both inner brims & outsides were decorated in various ways: ribbons, silk flowers, netting, etc.  If you want to stick with historic accuracy, find a fashion plate or museum piece to inspire you.  If not, have at it.

Anna suggests adding a velvet ribbon to the inside brim where it sits on your head to help it "stick" in place.


A said...

Good job! I don't know if I would be able to make one nearly that nice.

Zarya's Creations said...

Highly recommend Timely Tresses patterns for a more correct approach. Drawn bonnets are constructed differently than the average buckram frame bonnet.

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

I highly recommend buying a finished bonnet.
A milliner I am not.

Em said...

I think it looks just as good as any other bonnet in buckram. Really good job!! <3

Of course some people always recommend buying buying buying, maybe then can earn some money from destroying people's creativity.

I think you made a really good job, keep up making bonnets :)

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

I have only the barest start of decoration on this now. TY for your kind words. I'm not unhappy with it, but I think purchasing certain items is worth the money. Shoes & hats go to the top of that list for me.
Of course, now that I'm out of mourning I have to make a new CW outfit in happy colors (pink & green check), which will require a new bonnet. LOL!