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Vintage Hat Repair & Restoration

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I recently completed repairs and restoration on two charming vintage hats. While the hats are indeed precious, the repairs were needed to restore the hats to functional and wearable condition not museum conservation condition. These hats are used for fashion shows by the Seattle Children’s Hospital Charitable Organization and are part of their historic and vintage collection.

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Straw Braid Cloche – #1920 E – Pale blue/grey straw braid cloche with pink silk underbrim, ribbon work details and hand painted cork millinery flower.

The original pink silk underbrim was badly deteriorated. I cut a five inch wide bias of dupioni silk and sewed a narrow casing at edge of the bias. A nylon brim wire was inserted into the casing and hand stitched to the existing straw braid brim to float the new underbrim and which would additionally support the existing straw braid brim for the future. Then the bias was gathered and pleated down into the headsize of the cloche crown. An adjustable headsize ribbon sewn in to provide for variable headsizes.

 

The lining with its lovely details of the original Seattle milliner was in serviceable condition and reused for historic interest. The delicate hand painted cork millinery flower was repaired with a millinery glue to secure cracked and broken petals. I used permanent dye to stain and mask the white cotton backing on a few petals where the thin cork was broken and had flaked away.

Written by Wayne Wichern

April 18, 2020 at 10:03 pm

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Shallow Crown Skimmer – Ebay 3-2014

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Five piece break apart hat block on Ebay 3-2014. Shallow crown skimmer with self faced brim. This block is badly damaged but repairable with some TLC. The sections corners will need to be replaced/rebuilt and the brim edge rebuilt with wood putty and sanded back to original shape.

Written by Wayne Wichern

March 29, 2014 at 3:23 am

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Ebay Block

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A very nice shape with deep circular recess crevasse in the top. Soft folds from the front to the sides. This is a “European style hat block”.

Written by Wayne Wichern

March 29, 2014 at 3:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Revising and Altering Hat Blocks

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This summer I purchased a large collection of hat blocks from a factory in Pennsylvania. In the collection was a number of hat blocks that I determined would more useful if  redesigned or revised, so in early December 2009 I traveled to Seattle to work with Brian and Sam, two expert woodworkers, to alter 22 hat blocks.

Early in my career I would never have considered altering a hat block. I considered it sacrilegious, but over the years I’ve become more pragmatic. If a block isn’t useful it is either changed or passed on to someone who does consider it useful.

Brian and Sam are boatwrights and, while expert woodworkers were unfamiliar with hat blocks and their uses. I blocked several felt hats to show the functions of  hat blocks. Then we set to discussion of the new design lines and shape changes I wanted. Brian and Sam were very enthusiastic and quick on the concepts and we rapidly developed a collaborative working relationship. I taped or drew the new brim profiles and string line placements directly on the blocks, and as Brian and Sam carved, gouged, sawed and sanded I was available to make on the spot decisions to refine changes to the blocks.

Nine of the blocks I intended to change were deep bowl-shaped bretons and not useful for my needs in designing for a contemporary millinery market.

Below are 3 photos of Block 265 in its original form.

Block 265 was a symmetrical bowl-shaped breton which I decided to change by keeping the full height at the front of the hat block and carving a new design line with an angled shorter profile and a narrow brim at the back of the hat.

The 4th photo is upside down to give better understanding to the new asymmetrical changes to the block.

The same changes on Block 2205

and the changes to Block 2205

Block 2658

The changes to Block 2658 are more dramatic and make it much more versatile. I decided have Sam cut away the bowl curve of the brim, changing the profile to an angled straight plane, and tapering down and narrowing the back of the brim. This brim will now create both an upturned brim as it was originally designed for as well as a down turned brim.

Written by Wayne Wichern

January 17, 2010 at 8:08 pm