19th Century

Beyond hats: making a bonnet

A looooooong time ago, when I first made Aline’s By the Seashore ensemble, I really fretted about the hat.

Aline and her bonnet

I tried to figure out what kind of hat it was, and how I was going to make it.  And then I put it in the too-hard basket.

And then I saw this adorable little bonnet thingee at the Met:

Straw bonnet, ca 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And I said to myself “Hey, that’s really cute!”

And then I checked out the other views of the bonnet, and I said “Hey, that looks a lot like Aline’s hat”


Straw bonnet, 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And since it’s three years later, and I’ve acquired a lot more experience, or at least a lot more hubris, I thought, “Hey, I’ll give it a try.”

I had this brilliant idea (which, for once, did turn out to be brilliant) to make a mock-up in brown paper.  Simpler than sewing one, and paper is already stiff.

Brown paper crown mock-up

It worked surprisingly well, and while my first mock-up wasn’t great, it really showed what I needed to tweak:

Tee hee! It's so funny looking!

I cut down the crown a lot, and spread out the brim into a wider, deeper curve.

The curved and spread out brim of my alterations to my first mock-up

My next version was a little less Tyrolean peasant:

Wider, curved, deeper brim. Smaller crown

It didn’t look too bad on me either:

Much better! Still not great though...

It looked good, or a least it looked good as far as I could tell with imperfect sideways glances late at night, so I cut it apart for pattern pieces.

The pattern pieces laid out on the buckram

After the buckram was cut out, I used it as the pattern to cut out pieces from the leftover scraps of linen-cotton that I used to make Aline’s jacket out of.  I know, kinda matchy-matchy, but matchy-matchy is better than totally-looks-wrong-with-this.  And besides, it finally got the last of that linen out of my massive scrap pile!

The buckram pieces on my two biggest scraps of linen

For the lining, I found a bit of darkest indigo-purple china silk ripped from some kimono lining.  Mmmm…delicious!

The lining silk, and the outer linen-cotton

The silk was so light and slippery that I actually pinned the buckram and linen to it, cut it out, and then sewed it, all without ever taking out the pins:

Cutting out the brim

I used zig-zag stitches around all the edges instead of basting.  They were easier and more forgiving than straight stitches.

With all my pieces cut and based, I sewed the top of the crown to the crown, finished the inside of the crown seam, and pinned the brim on:

Hehe. I don't know why, but the way the brim looks when it is pinned cracks me up

More sculptural brim shots:

Mmmm...I'm so in love with that raisin colour

Once the brim was sewn on, I realised it was way too big and ‘Little House on the Prairie’ bonnet-y.  So I cut off a huge piece of it:

Marks to cut down the brim

And that’s that for now.

Tomorrow’s ‘Rate the Dress’, but I’ll be back to hatmaking on Wed with a post on finishing the hat, and trimming it.


  1. Neat! I love the thought of you making paper hats late at night. It’s certainly a step up from the old newspaper-pirate hats.

    I was feeling low last night and your comment on my sewing bloggers post really lightened me up considerably. Thank you for that. 🙂 I’m working on a short solo trip to NZ, that is, stashing away funds.

    • Aww…I’m glad it made you happier! And I’m super excited about the idea of you coming to NZ. Please say you will come to Wellington!

      • I was planning on it. Hoping for a little tourist-guidance. I won’t have saved up enough for a while (especially since I plan to do some fabric buying…) but it’s in the works.

  2. oooh, neat! i love the idea of using the paper as a pattern 🙂

  3. Frankie says

    I wish I could sew. I would make these same types of clothes if I could! I would invite all my friends over for tea and I would even have a dress and hat for them all to wear for the occasion! I really am serious! 😉

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