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Millinery, the art of making hats, goes back hundreds of years. In the next few blog entries I’m going to show you the basics and introduce you to the wonderful world of millinery. In this first article I’ll talk about a few basic millinery construction methods. Over the next three weeks we’ll dive into some of the tools used in millinery and I’ll show you how to construct a fabric-covered buckram top hat.

Here are a few of the different construction methods for making hats:

Sewn. A sewn hat. Usually sewn hats have a soft shape, but stiffening materials like interfacing can be added for some styles to give the hat more body or a more pronounced shape. Think of a sewn beret or a fleece snow hat. This is one of the easiest hats for beginners to make since so few specialized tools and materials are needed.

Blocked. Stretching fabric over a form is called blocking. Wood hat blocks come in an infinite variety of brim and crown shapes. To block a hat, the fabric is moistened either by water or steam and stretched over the block until it’s the desired shape. Once dry, the hat is pulled from the block, the edges trimmed and embellishment added. A wool cloche is an example of a blocked hat.

Fabric-covered flat pattern. Using a pattern, the hat pieces are put together to make a three dimensional shape with millinery wire sewn in for stability (and sometimes shaping) along different construction points. Most often the base is created using a material called buckram. Once the base is created, the hat is covered with the fashion fabric and embellished. I’ll show you how to do this in parts three and four of this series as we make a fabric-covered top hat!

Next week: Tools of the Milliner

Katie Vardijan is a milliner, historical costumer, instructor, maker of pretty things, sewing fanatic, and collector and seller of vintage patterns. She also works as a freelance Educator for Elna, Inc. She currently is practicing Extreme Sewing by sewing an entire 18th century gown by hand. You can find her on BurdaStyle as Vintagerouge. For costume diaries and crafty adventures check out her blog

12 Comments

  • Missing

    May 26, 2011, 12.03 PMby Brian Jeffrey

    And FYI….should anyone be interested…there is a new millinery material out there called FOSSHAPE….that’s heat activated with a fabric steamer and or steam iron……a quick buckram alternative.

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    Jul 5, 2010, 04.04 PMby blackjewel

    thank God u guys are finally going in to hats. i cant wait

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    Jul 1, 2010, 03.09 AMby rachelily

    I just started a co-op at a costume store and they started me off with millinery. It was so neat to figure out how hats were made! I’ll be excited to read this series so I can get better at the technique.

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    Jun 30, 2010, 05.28 AMby smoothemeraldoasis

    Wow! Now I can learn to make hats for all my family members that like hats, :-)

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    Jun 30, 2010, 04.41 AMby luxihere

    I would love to make hats for my darling daughter. Looking forward to this serious anxiously.

  • Missing

    Jun 30, 2010, 01.25 AMby cliogilly

    I can’t wait for this as I’ve just purchased a wooden hat block!

  • Missing

    Jun 29, 2010, 10.33 PMby jisa

    Je suis impatiente j’adore les chapeaux.

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    Jun 29, 2010, 10.07 PMby kerriann

    i wish to learn this skill. its my heart’s desire, sadly there is no one here in the Caribbean, offering the skill

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    Jun 29, 2010, 09.48 PMby wonov

    I will follow closely – i love making hats and welcome the chance to improve my skills. Thanks.

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    Jun 29, 2010, 07.08 PMby laugh434

    Very excited for this series! Thanks, Burdastyle!

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    Jun 29, 2010, 01.39 PMby wzrdreams

    I am really looking forward to this series of posts. I have a hat pattern that I’m working on now so I’d love to learn more about millinery.

  • 86cd3cd5b16c6d4c2d0572b41f52ddb0c62bd2bf_large

    Jun 29, 2010, 07.49 AMby minnietheminks

    Millinery was by far my favorite class during my costume construction course. It is so wonderful to create hats.

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