Truths about Fabric Covered Buckram Hats
Buckram is a fabric that is made stiff with water-soluble glue, I recommend
double layer (theatrical buckram). It has been in use for hundreds of years.
In most cases millenary wire is sewn to the edges of buckram pieces to add extra
stiffness and to be able to shape the final hat. The substructure of buckram
and wire once completed is rigid. Covering rigid hat forms with fabric in many
ways is more like upholstery than sewing. You will have a solid structure that
you will have to cover smoothly with fabric that can stretch usually in one
direction (along the bias) and not in another (along the straight of grain).
You will use your sewing skills for sure but it's not quite the same. It starts
with the pattern.
Millinery patterns do not always have seam allowances there are three reasons for this. First, often the pattern has multiple size options in one pattern piece, if you added the lines for cutting and sewing for all the sizes after a while it would be difficult to know just where to cut. The second is that you may need to alter the head opening on your pattern and this would change the seam allowance. Third because I can not always know just how thick your wire might be or just how thick your flannel interfacing (mull) might be or just how much stretch your fabric might have, a seam line can only be approximate. The very best way to achieve a great looking final product is to use your wired and mulled brim to determine your sewing line. Lay your mulled, wired buckram brim over the wrong side of one of the fabric brim pieces, trace the outside with chalk very close to the edge. This chalk line will be your sewing line no matter much seam allowance there is.
The more complicated the hat the more often you will find yourself in situations that are awkward. Sometime a curved sewing needle will come in handy. This is the reason that I have written the instructions so that, if you are making a hat with a brim, the brim is worked separately from the crown until the very end. If you look in some books on making hats they will tell you to put the buckram brim and crown together and then add the mull and then the fabric. This construction technique solves many of the awkward and difficult construction steps.
Sometimes you will be sewing through many layers of fabric and buckram if you don’t have normal hand strength you will either have to use pliers and or do most of the construction on the sewing machine. You need to have a machine that can handle heavy weight fabrics and has a zig-zag stitch. I don’t want to scare you off making a hat; it can be one of the
most rewarding endeavors in costuming. A good hat is the crowning glory to any
period costume. I do suggest that you do two things, one give yourself the time,
don’t leave the hat until the end and think that you will be able
to knock it off in just a few hours. Second start with one of the simpler hats
if you have never made a buckram hat before. They are listed below in order of
complexity; Attifet, brimless, flat cap, gothic, Italian bonnet, French hood,
high crowned, arched brim.
And Oh, do contact me if you have any questions, Lynn McMasters