The straw bonnet may have started out as a utilitarian sun shade, but by the middle of the 19th century, this handmade women's hat developed into a confection of flowers, feathers, lace, ribbons and gauze. The embellishments used on straw bonnets were so lush, they gave the relatively small pieces the illusion of great size. Braiding straw is still done by hand, particularly in China, the Philippines and Panama. Recreating a classic straw bonnet can be done by starting with a plain straw hat and letting your imagination go where it will, much like milliners did during the 1800s.
Items you will need
- Wide-brimmed straw hat
- Fabric marking pen
- Sewing machine
- Sharp sewing scissors
- Steam iron
- Semi-sheer or lace fabric, 1 yard
- Fine sewing pins
- 1 yard double-sided satin ribbon, 1 or 2 inches wide
- 1 yard single-sided satin ribbon, 4 inches wide
- Fabric glue
- Needle and thread
- Matches or a cigarette lighter
- Silk flowers
Draw a line across the width of a wide-brimmed straw hat with a marking pen, beginning at one side of the brim and ending at the other. Leave at least 5 inches intact from the crown down the back lid of the hat.
Stitch along the line to prevent fraying and backstitch at the start and finish to lock the stitches. Cut the hat next to the stitched line using sharp scissors. Try it on for fit. If further trimming is necessary, draw and stitch another line before cutting.
Steam the brim of the hat with an iron to make the straw pliable. Lay the hat on an even surface, then put even pressure on the brim with your hands to take any curves out of the straw.
Measure the edge of the brim from end to end and add 1 inch to the total. Measure the inside of the hat from the brim edge to the center of the crown, double the measurement and add 2 inches to the total. Cut a piece of lace or semi-sheer fabric to the length and width of the measurements.
Gather stitch along one long edge of the fabric using a sewing machine or by hand, then sew a 1/2-inch hem on both short ends. Stitch the ungathered edge of the fabric to the hat brim, right sides facing and centers matching.
Turn the fabric into the crown, pulling the gathered thread ends until the fabric is evenly distributed around the inside of the crown. Fold under and pin the raw edge; stitch the lining to the hat where the crown and brim meet, locking the stitches.
Cut a length of 1- or 2-inch-wide, single-sided satin ribbon according to the measurement of the brim perimeter. Finger press or iron the ribbon in half lengthwise, satin side up, with the iron set on low. Glue the ribbon around the rim, beginning at the center rear of the bonnet.
Stitch the ribbon to the brim from the inside, taking care to make sure both sides of the folded ribbon are stitched. Trim the ribbon end just to cover the beginning end, then glue it in place.
Measure the brim of the bonnet where it connects to the top and add 1 inch to the total. Match the center of the ribbon to the center front of the bonnet and glue the ribbon around the bonnet, folding under the cut ends. Tack the ribbon to the bonnet by hand, beginning in the center, every 6 inches or so, hiding the knots under the ribbon.
Cut the remaining ribbon into 2 equal pieces. Sew the ribbon to the ends of the brim using a sewing machine in a square or triangular pattern. Cut the ribbons to the desired length, trimming the ends in an inverted "V" or at an angle. Touch the cut ends quickly with the flame from a lit match or cigarette lighter to seal the cut edges.
Hand stitch or glue clusters, nosegays or single silk flowers, feathers and/or satin bows around the ribbon hat band, along the inside brim border, at one side near a ribbon tie or on or around the top of the crown.
Tips & Warnings
- Remove hat bands or decorations if working with a second-hand straw hat.
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