Some things never go out of style. Take, for example the mother of the bucket hat, the classic garden hat, known also as the “picture hat” and the “cartwheel,” among several other names: this hat was already chiq even in the late eighteenth century. At that time, this large-brimmed hat was worn coquettishly perched sideways on the head, as depicted in the artworks of Gainsborough, or with the brim turned up and pinned with a satin cockade, as shown by the French portraitist Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun.
The garden hat continues to be a versatile accessory that makes a statement and keeps the sun and wind at bay. No day hike is complete without one! From bucket hats to straw marvels, this type of hat has nearly endless varieties, and can work in any color or pattern. But how are they made?
There are several ways to make hats: blocking, shaping by hand, and patterning are the most common methods. Hat blocking requires a variety of hat blocks, which are (usually wooden) blocks designed to shape hat crowns and brims. To make hats in a variety of different shapes and sizes, many hat blocks are required. Hats can also be shaped by hand, designed with folds and curves and various hand-molded details, though sometimes the materials required for this method (typically wool felt or straw) can be prohibitive.
Flat Patterning...this is where we get to the Bucket Hat
For the hat-making hopeful that doesn’t have endless storage space or disposable income to start collecting hat blocks or amassing the particular materials for hat shaping, flat patterning may be the most accessible method of designing one’s own hat. Patterning shares some similarities with dressmaking, and allows creators a greater freedom of choice when it comes to material, as well as less restriction in fit.
Unlike dressmaking, hats are not created solely based on measurements. The inner hat band of that hat should fit the circumference of the head, but the crown of the hat might be taller or slightly wider than the crown of the head. The hat crown might follow the contours of the head, or it might be a different shape altogether. Similarly, brim sizes and shapes can be chosen to be as small or broad as desired, without requiring additional measurements.
Flat patterned hats can be made in two ways: by making a pattern based on an existing hat, or by drafting and draping. The former method involves placing tracing paper or sheer fabric over the different parts of the hat and tracing them; the latter is accomplished with a variety of shapes being drafted and overlaid until they create the desired shape to be assembled. The tracing method relies on crafters already having a hat in the shape they desire, whereas the assembly method allows for extra creativity and does not require an already made hat to be the prototype.
Flat patterning has a variety of advantages, particularly for beginners. For one thing, a paper mock-up of your hat can be tweaked as needed to accommodate changes in head size or hat scale, so that the hat can be fitted or altered before the actual construction process begins. This allows for plenty of experimentation before designs are finalized, without wasting materials. Flat patterning as a process can also help with the conservation of materials, especially valuable ones, by allowing creators to position the patterned hat pieces over the material in a flexible way, optimizing the amount of space pieces take up. Patterns can also be laid out on a table or large surface so that material usage can be carefully planned before any cutting is done. Additionally, flat patterning is a great introduction to hatmaking for those with sewing experience. Traditional sewing skills translate better to patterning than some other types of hat making.
Bucket hats are a great way to be introduced to the world of millinery because of its versatility, as well as the way it references other types of sewing. The highly creative process is extremely customizable, and creators can experiment with their patterns in numerous ways before committing to their ultimate design. This process works particularly well with the versatile garden hat! Wide floppy brims, shorter but changeable bucket hat style brims, and even asymmetrical brims can all be achieved with different styles of patterning. Crowns and trim, and all those fun little details, can be designed in a plethora of different styles and combinations. The sky is the limit with the fun and always stylish patterned garden hat!