The Christmas present I'm most proud of making this year was the hat I made for my dad. As I mentioned before, part of my new self-employed situation involves a part-time job making hats. In the past I've sewn a fair few things for my mum, but in terms of sewing for my dad the most I've done is replaced the zip in a pair of his jeans (which he paid me for, bless him!). So it was really nice to finally be able to make him something complete that he can wear.
When I saw him a month or so ago I showed him the website of the hatter I work for with the hope that something would catch his eye. Thankfully, he decided he'd like a brown moleskin pork pie hat. Christmas present sorted! I measured his head (porkpie hats are close fitting so need to be made to within the nearest centimetre) and told him to try and forget we'd even had this conversation!
When I made his hat (in my own time, BTW!) I took pictures in case anyone is interested in seeing how they are made. Personally, I really enjoy things like Tilly's Day in the Life series that offer peaks into sewing-related occupations, so if you'd like to see the hat-making process, read on...
I started off cutting out the pieces in the moleskin (pictured above), from left to right, one top piece, four brim pieces, one drop piece and one stand piece.
I then cut interfacing pieces that are slightly smaller than the moleskin pieces. The stiffening is applied using the fusing press (pictured above). The different materials that the pork pies are made in (moleskin, canvas or leather) require different amounts of interfacing layers to create the right amount of stiffening.
With all the pieces fused, they are ready for construction.
The stand and drop are stitched to create a centre back seam (1 cm seam allowance, FYI) using an industrial flat lock sewing machine. Where possible, all stitching is done in one continuous line to save time and thread, then snipped apart when necessary. Because these hats are hand made from flat pieces of fabric or leather, rather than moulded by a machine, there are a lot of seams to make the 2D pieces into a 3D object.
All the seam allowances need to be top-stitched to prevent lots of bulk instead the hat that would prevent a clean finish. The seam allowances of the stand and drop seams are stitched open to either side of the seam.
Then using this bizarre looking base-less walking-foot machine, the stand and drop are attached to each other. This machine is amazing, it can stitch through so many layers of really tough leather. These seam allowances are then top stitched open also, and then trimmed.
Now it is time to attached the top of the hat (basically and oval) to the drop. I find it easier to go back to the first machine to do this task as a bit of easing in is often required and I find the base of the machine helps me do this. This seam allowance is then trimmed, layered and stitched onto the drop. The hat is then turned the right way out and latex glue is applied to the inside of the drop so it can be stuck down in position. The latex glue works best when it's a bit tacky, so I leave it for a while and get on with the brim pieces.
The two pairs of brim pieces are stitched together and the seams allowances are top stitched open, either side of the seams.
With the latex glue at the right level of tackiness, the drop is pinched and manipulated in to place so the top of the hat sits at its correct lower position. The seam between the stand and the drop has to sit directly on the top.
Next it's time to take one of the completed brim sections and stitch it to the bottom of the stand. The seam then requires trimming and topstitching on to the stand. It's starting to look like an actual hat now!
The linings are usually prepared by a lady called Jackie who works on Fridays! They get attached with thin layers of the same latex glue. A small amount is brushed on around the bottom of the stand and a blob in the middle of the top. More glue is applied to the corresponding sections of the lining and left to dry a bit before the lining is inserted into the hat. Whilst the glue is being left to dry, a bias strip is attached around the inside edge of the remaining brim section (see above). This will sit on the inside of the hat around the hair line.
When the glue is tacky enough, the satin lining is inserted inside the hat with the Union Jack label towards the back indicating the correct way to out the hat on at a glance. Sometimes excess lining fabric may need trimming away to prevent it falling below the stand onto the brim area.
Time to attach the final brim section to the rest of the hat to make it one entity! The brim sections are stitched together, right sides together. The seam allowance is then trimmed, layered and stitched on to what will become the under side of the brim.
With the under brim section then flipped over to its correct position, a few layers of topstitching around the brim traps it in place.
A final session with the latex glue seals the inside brim with the bias band in to position over the raw edge of the lining. And then the hat is complete!
And here is Papa E rocking his moleskin pork pie hat on boxing day. A wearable item lives. Hurrah!!!