Colored Straw from Straw ------- another Straw Hat Project

I wanted to make a straw sunhat with bands of color after seeing two examples of such hats in the book "Women's Hats: IL Cappello da Donna" by Adele Campione. The hats had been made in Italy from the late 40's early 50's. It took me 10 years to get to it but this project is my attempt at making something similar.

As with my other “straw to straw” projects I started by deconstructing a new modern sunhat. After a test I guessed that I could get at least three different shades of color from the same Rit dye, I also planned to leave the crown natural and I had some black straw plait for the outside edge this means that I could have 5 bands. I marked with a pin the places where I wanted the color to change. I didn't make them even; they get narrower as they go to the outside. I started pulling the chain stitch that holds the straw together on the outside edge of the hat. When I got to the first pin I cut the straw but not the thread I keep pulling that until the next pin. Here I cut the plait and the thread. Then up by the next pin I cut the thread and pulled the chain stitch until it came full around and back to the pin. Now I cut the straw plait to separate the crown from the narrowed brim. This section of the brim stays as is without the chain stitch pulled. At this point I had four things; one crown, a small brim, two piles of straw plait one larger than the other.



Before I was brave enough to dye the straw for the hat I did a couple test. Above was the first test. I just used two short strips of straw plait in a small amount of liquid Rit dye (wine) one of the strips was left in the dye bath for a half hour and the other for an hour.

The second test was with the dye bath that I was going to use for the hat. It was made up of a full bottle of the liquid Rit dye and about four gallons of water at a slow simmer. I used a leftover band of straw about 15 rows from an 1830's bonnet. First I left it in the dye bath for 15 min. and cut about 1/3 off and thru the rest back for another 30 min. then cut that in half and left the last third in for another half hour. All the pieces where rinsed and left to dry. I was happy!!


Underside of hat

I then put the brim and the strips of straw in the dye vat. I took the brim out at 15 min., the smaller bundle of strips out at 30 min. and the rest at an hour. There was still some dye left in the vat so I used it for another project.
It is a little easier to see the bands of color from the underside. When all the straw was dry I sewed the 30 min. straw to the brim then the hour straw to that then a band of about 10 to 15 rows of black straw to the outside. The brim and crown where sewn back together at this point. The black straw curls in on itself a little. That almost happened without my help but I did have to steam block it over a thick cord to get it to be regular all around the edge. Black millinery wire was sewn after the blocking and helps maintain the shape as well as some gelatin sizing I brushed onto the under brim.


To make the lining for this hat I used a wide two color vintage petersham folded into points and tacked together on point. It made a very interesting design. The sweatband was made with all but 1/4 " of the lighter color pressed over. The full width of the ribbon was just too wide to use.



The decorations

The black starfish decoration is a vintage French piece I bought at Lacis in Berkeley. The straw shell decoration I made up from my test pieces. It seemed a shame to waste the straw so I just started fiddling with it until I came up with this. I wasn't thinking shells but it worked out very well because this hat was made for a charity auction for Friends of Moss Landing Marine Labs. The decorations where sewn onto the hat with clear nylon thread so that the stitches would not show on the underside of the brim.

It's a little difficult to tell in the photo but I continued the marine theme with the hatpin. I found a fantastic blown glass bead with a flower that looked like a purple anemone at my local Beverly's.


It takes a good hat model to get a good price at an auction and Amanda fit the bill. The hat was sold for a very good final price with brisk bidding. Thanks Amanda.

Just a note: the hat does look good worn this way but I should have rotated it just a little counterclockwise to bring the pink beads into the center front. I think I was thinking more about the lighting than the hat when taking these pictures. One trick that you might want to use when taking pictures of large brim hats in natural light, turn your camera upside down and use the flash. The flash can then fill in the face which would be in heavy shadow otherwise.


As I said it takes a good hat model, here is a picture of Amanda at the auction. The long hatpin worked very well to pin up the outside edge of the hat to turn it into something much more stylish. Photo by Thew Suskiewicz.





On to other Article
Last Revision: 16 Jan 2010

Copyright Lynn McMasters, © 2007
Individuals have my permission to print single copies of the pictures or texts on this site for non-commercial uses, for any other use please contact me.