After making my suede 1942 dress, I was a bit stuck. I couldn’t figure out what colors or styles to accessorize with it. As is normal for me, if I don’t have what I need, I scrounge around the house, enjoying the challenge of crafting something from what is on hand. Thus, I was led to using another neat pattern, utilizing from my stash, and finding an exciting new way to make a belt.
This is another post that is part of my “Agent Carter” 1940’s sew along.
FABRIC: For the hat, I used 100% cotton velvet scraps leftover from a skirt I made for myself back in 2006. Some cranberry anti-static 100% polyester lining that was on hand went towards finishing the inside of my hat. The belt is a thick vinyl, veined and slightly weathered surface, with a mesh fabric backing to it.
NOTIONS: Only extra thread and a buckle was needed to buy, as well as tarlatan (I’ll explain this later) for the velvet hat. The ribbon for the inner band of my hat came from my stash and the button is (I believe) Bakelite that came from hubby’s Grandmother’s collection; see the left picture.
TIME TO COMPLETE: My dress’ belt was made in an hour or less, not counting time for glue to dry, in early January 2015. The hat was so easy, I shocked myself…it was made in only 3 or 4 hours, and finished on January 18, 2015.
THE INSIDES: Hat finishing details are very nice and clean, with no raw edges – they are all enclosed and covered.
TOTAL COST: The hat cost nothing because I used scraps from so long ago. The belt cost only a few dollars – we found the vinyl for it on clearance, and my belt was made from the leftover scraps of using towards another project. In total, I suppose we paid less than $5.00 to make these accessories.
My little one’s new toy chest had recently been covered inside with some vinyl hubby bought from the fabric store, and – what do you know – it was a very good matching color close to the satin side of my suede, with enough left over for a skinny belt. I cut out two strips of vinyl material the same length and width as another skinny belt which was on hand, and glued the two pieces together using “Shoe Goo” brand glue. For a while I considered sewing the belt strips together (too thick), but I ended using the shoe goo because it was easy, dries flexible, clear, and strong. The glued pieces were weighted down with boards for 24 hours before I hand sewed the one end under around my chosen belt buckle.
To make the holes for the belt buckle to close in around my waist I went for a very unusual but highly successful tool – a bead reamer. I have had this reamer on hand for some of my beading/jewelry creating, to help with making holes in gemstones, rocks, and fine (but hard) materials I work with sometimes. My reamer tool comes with 3 different sized, diamond covered, conical-shaped bits, and is not mechanical, merely twisted or pushed by hand. It was perfect for making good sized holes without tearing the surrounding vinyl, like an awl tool did. I suppose I could have used a drill bit to mechanically make my belt’s holes, but a drill seemed like overkill and the reamer cut through the belt like a hot knife into cold, hard butter. Only by experimenting do we learn, and WOW…I had a happy experiment making my belt. I recently found some more vinyl in a different color and I’ve got some cool ideas coming!
After my happy success with my latest vintage hat creation, I was stoked to jump into making another. This one is also amazing! It seemed like I took a long blink and the hat was done – no kidding! It was so easy and foolproof I want to make more versions in denim, in satin, in anything pretty, versatile, and leftover in my stash. Perhaps the best part about my hat is the fact the pattern pieces are so economical, there is no need to buy anything to make it – scraps are plenty sufficient, no matter how worthless they might seem! The fabric I had left available to work with was more or less four 12 to 20 inch triangles. I can’t say enough good things about this new vintage hat of mine, except that – like I’ve said before – vintage really does things right, in the smartest way possible. There’s more to old patterns than meets the eye, too. I don’t see nearly as much of this old-time ingenuity in many patterns nowadays, and I don’t know about you, but I’d like to bring more of it back.The amazing part of my hat’s styling and design is the way it becomes very necessary part of a wardrobe by being incredibly simple – an accessory that could seem like it would complicate things, becomes effortlessly convenient. I myself LOVE hats, and I will be the first to admit they are a sort of a bother. They take up plenty of space to store, don’t like being smashed, are something additional to remember when putting together an outfit, and (the final query) what really do you do with them when they are off your head? This one hat pattern answers all of those points just mentioned. This hat’s brim is soft enough to be rolled up, but the tarlatan in the brim still has enough body to keep its shape. The button-at-the-back headband style of fastening on one’s head and the open backed crown accommodates several different hairstyles. Most importantly it can be buttoned onto a purse strap or belt loop so that there is always somewhere to hang the hat so you don’t lose it when it’s not on the head. The crown is soft and the brim supple so it can’t really be smashed. Most of all, this hat can be stored flat when the crown headband is unbuttoned, making it take up as much room of a piece of paper. My new vintage 1940 velvet hat embodies the word “versatility”.
Originally, the choice of some newly bought suede leather casual/dress heels (Hush Puppies brand) inspired me to use the material chosen for my hat. Not only did this velvet fabric match my shoes color wise, it also is rather historically accurate, compliments the plush theme of my “winter mint” dress, adds a touch of glamor and richness, and thins out my extensive stash of scraps.
I was intrigued by the back of the pattern instructing the use of “tarlatan” for hat brim. At first I was considering just using some sew-in interfacing or something readily available and modern, but I actually just couldn’t do it. After using such a luxurious fabric and trying to be “historical” with my hat creation, I decided to use tarlatan and thus see what how the hat was truly meant to be both made and worn.
Not knowing where to even start finding or locating tarlatan, I began with an internet search. A rough technical definition for tarlatan would be that it is “a thin, plain weave, open mesh cotton textile finished with stiffening agents and sometimes glazed.” The plain stiffened tarlatan is the lightweight option, and the glazed version is more or less the heavier weight. As it turns out, tarlatan seems to be used more in the arts department nowadays, used for the etching process as a lint-free and scratch-free wipe. A slew of phone calls and tarlatan was located at a local “Dick Blick” art supply store, which was also the only one in town with tarlatan in stock. Even online, tarlatan seems to be sold in what they call ‘wipes’ (one yard by one yard squares). Lucky me…the “Dick Blick” store’s tarlatan had been in back store room forgotten and neglected, so it was still uncut, in one long roll. Hoping to use tarlatan for more projects to come, I took advantage of this find and I was able to get one long, un-cut, 2-something yard portion. Yay! However, even more exciting was the conversation I happened to strike up with the store manager who was checking me out at the register. She (the store manager) apparently had used tarlatan herself for several amazing projects. She said she made herself her own super-fancy “Kentucky Derby” hat, as well as sewing together an authentic “Dior’s New Look” suit, with the tarlatan used to create the hip fullness and shaping of the jacket. Her husband even worked for Simplicity Pattern Company! Apparently there are more people around me that sew than I realize.
One last word about the tarlatan. I did experiment with it before using it for the hat. I used it in the waistband for my 1941 wool pleated skirt, in lieu of modern iron-on interfacing, and it worked out great. I even cut a strip and soaked it in a bowl of water, wrung it out, reshaped it and let it dry, just to see what type of abuse the tarlatan can handle. Surprise…it held up remarkably well, and even kept a good percent of its original stiffness (in other words the starched/glazing didn’t wash out). Tarlatan is also no trouble when it comes to actually sewing with it, too. I was afraid my machine’s needle would get stuck on the mesh weave, much like a having pin in the way. Not at all! Tarlatan really is wonderful to sew with and use.
This hat is so simple it really could be self-drafted. It is basically a crescent shape, cut twice out of your chosen fabric and once from the tarlatan, with four triangles, which have outwardly curved edges, to make up the crown. Those triangles are also cut out from the chosen lining for the crown. The brim is faced with the tarlatan sandwiched inside and the outer edge is finished (inner edge left raw). Next, the four triangles are sewn together, from the outer fabric and the lining, for the head crown, so they can be faced with back of the head opening edge being finished. The corners of the brim are folded in, and the brim and the crown get sewn together – voila! You have a hat! All that is left is to sew in the inner ribbon band (which covers up the only raw edges) and make the headband strip, tacking it in place and making the buttonhole.
As much as I wanted to do things perfectly, I still don’t have any proper Petersham ribbon on hand, so I made things work and used a ribbon from my stash. However, this is no ordinary ribbon, for me at least. I’ve been meaning to use this ribbon, with its swirling ancient Celtic-style designs, towards making my own version of Arwen’s purple velvet dress, from the third “Lord of the Rings” movie. As my pattern for the dress is gone and I’ve had the ribbon since 2003, I finally went ahead and used it for my hat. I know this story probably makes no sense to you, but it makes me feel good to finally use this ribbon on something. Please notice the lines of stitching along the outer edge of the brim and along the buttoned headband. I was terribly worried about getting the lines perfectly straight, and not wavy or wonky, and I think I succeeded decently. Those stitching lines are no doubt decorative but they also help tremendously to keeping thing in place. As much as I love the look, I can’t help but think of quilts and their decorative stitching when it see those lines of top-stitching on my hat. Oh, just think if those lines of stitching were done in a contrast color on say a white poplin version of this hat? Ah, I have so many ideas.
I have seen hats similar to the one I made on other patterns, in fashion drawings, and also be worn in many movies, all in the mid to late 1930’s into the early to mid 1940’s. For one example, I will show you the actress Joan Blondell’s hat, from the Busby Berkeley movie “The Gold Diggers of 1937” (my favorite old film!). See the open back of the crown and where the brim ties together there is a hanging tassel? Sometimes you have to look closely to see that a hat is basically the same design, because often the brims were folded up and decorated with a brooch or pin, thus appearing completely different (see this pattern of mine from 1942 for a folded up brim, or Glenda Farrell‘s hat in “Gold Diggers of 1937”). Here’s the “versatility” factor again.
My hair-do is an easy vintage style, one I call a “half-toilet bowl” (which is not a very complimentary label, I know). My hair style is now ever easier to make due in part to a new amazing gadget I recently found in a drug store. It is labelled by Conair as “Classic Vintage Roll”, a sausage shaped nylon netting rat with a tiny, but long, clear elastic running through it like a headband. In under 60 seconds, I pull the headband down on my head with the rat at the back of my head. Then, I tuck the hair up and around the rat and tuck the ends under, securing the rat down with a few pins. It is extremely comfortable and my new go-to piece to wear – and I am not in any way getting a perk for saying this either. I just thought others might like to know about this.
A turban out of scarf apparently was also another option to add style to my head but still keep it warm. This 1942 picture advertises how to do it but I tried and couldn’t get it right. I think there probably is a knack to doing it that I haven’t found yet, but I’ll keep trying. I have some pretty scarfs that are dying to be worn as the picture shows.
Head wear and hairstyles are a whole other world of fashion and history. I don’t know if it’s “up my alley” to dive into this department, but it kind of does go along with wearing what I make and putting authentic outfits together. Whether or not hats and hairstyles rock your boat, please appreciate my work, my interests, and musings here. Perhaps I can inspire you to branch out and try something new and different and challenging…like I do! Believe me, when you’re done, you feel amazing.