There are a list of tools of the [historical costuming] trade that I want to have, but don’t yet have.
Some I don’t have because I haven’t had a project where I desperately needed them yet, some I don’t have because at the moment they simply can’t be bought (18th century ruffle punches, replica or real), some because I can’t afford them, and many, many because they are so hard to get in New Zealand, and so ridiculously expensive to have shipped in (and I don’t enjoy shopping over the internet, won’t use pay-pal, and like to see and handle things before I buy them).
This week I got extremely lucky, and was able to tick one of my biggest wishes off my list (and for an extremely reasonable price). I’m now the proud owner of not one but two hat blocks!
Aren’t they gorgeous? Aren’t they things of beauty and joy forever?
Felicity thinks so (actually, she’s kind of indifferent to them, but since I put them on her favourite windowsill in the morning sun she was willing to pose with them).
I found them at the incomparable Three Buckets Full, where the wonderful proprietor had them marked as NZ$60 each, but sold me both for NZ$100 (I buy a lot from her, and bring lots of other people who also buy a lot from her, so she likes me). Seeing as they regularly go for NZ$150 online, and are over NZ$200 new, plus shipping, from the UK, it was a spectacular deal. The hat blocks were both made by Williamson of Dunedin, who (as best as I can determine) made hat blocks up until the mid-20th century.
In addition to the two blocks, there is a small square block stand for the blocks to sit on, which gives another clue to their provenance. The hat-blocks were used by the Hollywood School of Dressmaking – how glamourous!
I can’t find any information about the school itself, but every once in a while sewing items marked ‘Hollywood School of Dressmaking’ turn up on Trademe (NZ’s answer to e-bay). They mostly belonged to the seller’s mother, aunt or grandmother who was a seamstress, and would have learned in the period between 1930-60.
Disappointingly, both of my hatblocks are the size 22″. Luckily that is my size, but I would have preferred to have two different sizes, to give me more scope in shaping hats for other people.
One of the hatblocks has had a bit of damage from borer in the past, but I’ve had a good look at it, and am sure it’s very old damage, and won’t affect my shaping hats.
The blocks are marked with front and back – you can see how the back of the block curves in, like the curve of a head. Perfect for low-sitting hats like cloches!
Now I just need to find the perfect place to store them, since the windowsill probably isn’t ideal. And I need some felt and straw hat bases, so I can begin making hats!
And when that happens, I’ll need to find a way to keep them away from Fiss, because she may not find the blocks interesting, but I bet she would find closely shaped wool and straw felt on them most enticing and scratchable!