design an accessory
Select a design idea to develop
As I foreshadowed in Chapter 9, I thought it might be fun to revisit the corrugated cardboard sample from Chapter 2 (shown in image 1)
This is simply a 3 dimensional, curled-up version of the basic spiral in image 2, which divides a circle into six equal-sized spiralling sectors using the smallest (and most curvaceous) French curve.
Possible accessories which immediately spring to mind are a cocktail hat and a brooch. There is a huge number of photographs of cocktail hats bearing spirals on the web and only a slightly smaller proliferation of brooches – some examples appear in images 3 and 4, respectively.
Clockwise from top left: hats by Claire Hedley, Balenciaga (in the V&A collection), Lilly Lewis, Kirsten Fletcher, Vivien Sheriff and Susie Kenna.
Brooches by Alex Hall, Barbara Spence, Elise Winters and Shelly Shen.
I think there may well be more scope with the hat idea so will work on it for a while and see where it takes me. I’m wondering whether I might be able to combine the 2-D spiral in image 2 with the 3-D shapes in image 1 to create an interesting design.
We had a trip to Sydney during which I went shopping (!) just at the beginning of the spring racing season. David Jones, our premium department store, has a wonderful collection of hats so I dropped in to the accessories department to inspect some of their cocktail hats and fascinators to borrow some ideas about construction methods. Many of the hats were constructed from sinamay, generally from two or three layers with the grain aligned at varying angles (not parallel). I learned that pretty much all the DJ’s cocktail hats are constructed with an Alice band to secure them to the wearer’s head. Some of these were covered with fabric; others were plain black plastic. There were a number of different ways of attaching these to the hats: the neatest, I thought, was to pass the band through a short sleeve sewn onto the underside of the hat in the same material as the hat itself. I also went to a millinery supplies shop, Hatters Millinery, at Rozelle, to see whether I, as a complete millinery novice, might co-opt some traditional millinery materials for my design. I came away with a bag of interesting goodies to experiment with – some Fosshape, a metre of purple sinamay, grosgrain ribbon, covered millinery wire which I am told I can colour with a Sharpie pen, some veiling and a couple of plain, inexpensive cocktail hat bases, one of which is a very small, round, flat one with a comb attached.
The questions I am asking myself after my shopping expedition are:
- Can I stitch into the sinamay to decorate the material with spirals?
- If I do so, would I still be able to shape it using steam/water/heat in any combination to reproduce one of the spiral shapes I have in mind?
- Will I make a base out of sinamay to build my hat on or will I use the smaller, purchased base and perhaps cover it with some of my dyed silk jersey? Or make a base out of the Fosshape and cover that? I might be able to use my tailor’s ham in place of a hat block.
- If I decide to do cover the purchased base can I make a spiralling shape using the purple and green together? Can I arrange the hat so that it shows? Does it really matter if it shows or not if I know it is there (a hat with a secret feature)?
- Alice band or comb? (Hint: Go with the majority opinion in DJ’s hat department)
- How can I make my 2D shapes (image 2) into 3D shapes which will be different from the original 3D shapes (image 1) so that I can use them as the structure of the hat and use the original 3D shapes as decoration? Am I confused yet?
- Would the 3D shape in image 1 work better as a hat decoration if the spirals are rolled in different directions (i.e. break the 6 curled shapes apart and rearrange them)?
- Do I want to make these shapes from the same material as the hat structure or shall I do something completely different – such as free-motion embroidery on soluble fabric, possibly wired and rolled?
- Can I add some thin, self-supporting spirals, perhaps in beaded wire or wired cords?
- To veil or not to veil?
- What other ways might I add some beading or further embellishment to the hat, and really push the boat out?
Development of design idea
Since I wrote the first section of this post design development has proceeded on a number of fronts: essentially, experimentation and decision-making about the base of the hat, the form of the main part of the hat which will sit on the base, and decoration of the hat. Contrary to what the form of this blog post might suggest, this has not been a linear process – I’ve been working on all three at once and there has been a lot of cross-fertilisation of design thinking as experimentation for each of the three elements has fed into the other two.
Base of the hat
Having looked at the purchased bases I bought from Hatter’s, I decided that although either would do the job, it might be more interesting (and more fun) to try working with the Fosshape 600. This is a thermo-plastic, heat-activated moulding material which is used extensively by milliners, costumiers and makers of theatrical props. In its raw state it looks like thick, slightly loose white felt or thin, slightly dense quilt wadding. The ready-made hat bases I bought from Hatter’s were both round but I decided to make an oval base from the Fosshape (since human heads are generally oval in plan, I figured). I took a pattern from the top of a hat (image 5) which I know fits me (I have a large, rather chaotic-looking head) then cut two ovals of Fosshape (one for the top of the hat form and one for the lining) which I then shaped, one end at a time, by pinning over the smaller end of my tailor’s ham and then using an iron on a Cotton setting with a Teflon cloth to prevent the iron soleplate from becoming yucky. Images 5 to 8 show the process.
I was told that Fosshape is able to be coloured with paint or dye but decided for the purposes of experimentation during the design phase to cover mine with some of the silk jersey I dyed for Chapter 9. The lining of the hat form was easy – I just cut an oval of jersey slightly larger than the Fosshape form, ran a gathering thread around the edge and pulled it up on the hat form so that the concave side of the form was covered. I then machine-stitched the jersey to the form making a spiral pattern, leaving space to attach a loop for an Alice-band. Images 9 to 12 show the process.
For the top section of the hat form I decided to go with one of the arrangements shown in image 13.
Half and half would have been easier to sew, perhaps, but since I was thinking, by this stage, about using either two or four segments of the circle for the form of the main part of the hat (see below) I decided to go for a 4:2 ratio for the base. Also, I was trying not to make any part of the hat too symmetrical, so I offset the oval which I cut out rather than centring it on the circle (in reality, this didn’t make much difference). I then pinned, tacked and machined the purple and lime sections of the cover together, clipped and pressed the seams flat and gathered the resulting oval over the top of the hat base, then edge-stitched through the cover and the Fosshape. Images 14 to 16 show the process.
15. Tacked, ready to machine
16. Machined; curves clipped and seams pressed
I then gathered the edge over the second Fosshape form and edge-stitched through the form (image 17).
The plan is, should I decided to use this as the base for the final hat (and at this stage I think I will), to bind the top and lining of the base together with grosgrain ribbon to neaten the edge. I wouldn’t be able to do that, though, until the main part of the hat is attached to the top of the base as I would need to stitch it through the base without it showing on the hat base lining.
Main part of the hat
The plan is to make the main part of the hat from sinamay, and to develop the form from part of the circle shown in image 2. I began playing with shapes (from one to five of the spiralling segments cut from the circle – see image 13)) to see how I could express these in three dimensional forms by folding, rolling and cutting. I quickly realised that if I wished to compare the possibilities of each of these shapes as a hat I would need to have all of them the same size – not in terms of overall dimensions but by making what would be the curved base of the folded, rolled or cut form roughly the same length in each case, so I drew a line on the 4-segment shape, measured it, calculated some ratios and resorted to the photocopier. The five shapes which resulted after some experimentation are shown, stacked, in image 18 – the photograph shows I’ve already been playing with some of these.
Each of these had a notional linear base measurement of 22 cm to be arranged and glued onto a base circle with an 8 cm diameter, as shown in images 19 to 25.
19. One curving segment
20. Two segments
21. Three segments
22. Four segments
23. Five segments – the flying saucer version …
24. … and with a chunk cut out …
25. … and rearranged.
What do I think about these? The one-segment shape is rather squat and looks a bit like a US Navy sailor’s hat. Perhaps not. The two-segment shape is one I like – the upswept pointy end is quite elegant, although it may be too tall when constructed to size. I would like to continue the pointy end of my final hat with some beaded spirals (see below) so this could be an issue. I think that if I wore the three-segment hat I would feel the constant urge to be shooting apples off people’s heads with an arrow, so perhaps not. The four-segment hat has its pointy end inserted through a slit near the wide end of the shape. I like its more complex shape, and the fact that the bottom of it naturally forms an oval rather than a circle could be useful too. There are also some obvious locations for ornamentation. The five-segment hat is really too close to a full circle to be useful. I played with this one for a while and ended up cutting a slot along the length of the shape, and slicing through the wide end, so I could roll it. The fact that this one turned into a horrid, gluey mess tends to suggest it’s not really an option. It was a pain to arrange and looks to convoluted and fussy for my liking. It could also be quite difficult to construct from sinamay, so I’m going to abandon it. My favourites, then are the two- and four-segment hats, and I’m tending to favour the four-segment one. Having got this far, I was also thinking further about how to decorate the hat.
I have made a few samples to test out some of the ideas in the ‘questions to self’ list above. First, I wanted to see what embroidered sinamay would look like. Image 26 shows stitch samples on the sinamay I’m planning to use for the main part of the hat.
I think hand stitching works better than the machined spirals and, of the two, I’m tending to favour the radial stitches over the running stitch – the spirals are more emphatic and it will be easier to conceal thread beginnings and endings. I could do both but am conscious that I don’t want to have so much going on that the hat begins to look chaotic. Most of the sinamay hats I have seen have two or three layers of the fabric with the grain not matched, with the edge bound with grosgrain ribbon, and so if I were to make my hat this way then I could have the stitching expressed on one side only – this is worth considering when I come to planning the embroidery.
Going back to the corrugated cardboard sample in image 1, I also gave some thought to how to use elements of this form as decoration. Image 27 shows a few experiments with paper, intended to explore whether I should use all six segments together, break the form up a but, perhaps arrange the spiralling elements in different directions.
The decision at the moment is to keep the axis of the spiralling shapes parallel but that breaking up the shape may be worth pursuing. I then tried a couple of different approaches to recreating these in free-motion machine embroidery on soluble fabric. Images 28 to 32 show the process, and images 33 and 34 show the resulting samples.
28. First sample – note hoop and embroidery foot
29. First sample stitched
30. Holding the samples up to the light – no unattached threads
31. Working on second sample – wiring the edge
32. Pinned to foam before washing out the Vilene 541
33. The finished samples – top side …
34. … and bottom side
The difference is that the top sample has contrasting spirals and a wired edge. I love millinery wire!! It’s fantastic for wiring the edges of stitched shapes and can be coloured with a pen to match (or contrast with) the stitching. I’ll consider these further when I come to making a full-scale model of the hat design – how many? the full rosette or break it apart or both? where to put them? My inclination at the moment is to go with the two-toned spiral (perhaps knock the purple back a bit) so that the rosette/rosette elements don’t look plonked on, since every other element of the hat will contain both colours in my colour scheme.
The third set of samples is a couple of ideas for free-standing spirals to extend the narrow end of the hat form. The upper sample in image 35 is simply some millinery wire coloured, passed through a paper crimping gadget to texture it a bit then with beads which just pass over the wire threaded on, then the beaded wire wound around a paintbrush handle. The lower sample is a machine made cord made from silk threads in my colour scheme, metallic thread and more milliner’s wire, this time coloured purple. After I had made the wired cord I threaded beads on Nymo thread a couple of inches at a time, then stitched into the cord, then more beads and more stitching. When I coiled the cord I found that the beaded sections of thread formed their own, separate spirals which I rather like. I may use both of these ideas and add a few spirals (three or five in all – it’s the gardener coming out) which would extend from the pointy end of the shape (stitched into the grosgrain ribbon edging).
Model of the hat, to natural scale
Having painted a sheet of cardboard purple with Brusho, I now need to work out how to scale up the four-segment shape. Image 36 shows the pattern, with the fold line marked on.
I then made cardboard models of the base and the main part of the hat. Unfortunately, I became so carried away with making the model that I completely forgot to take a photograph of it prior to adding decoration. The decorations are much as shown above – three-dimensional spirals cut from painted, corrugated cardboard, spiralling wired cords simulated with coloured cake decorating wire, and embroidered spirals suggested using oil pastels. It took a while to find an arrangement of the corrugated spirals I was happy with – it does work out best if the axis of all the spirals runs in the same direction, and also if the 3-D forms are clustered in one area of the hat. The main rosette is on the highest section of the hat form, with single elements fluttering away from it and a half-rosette on the back. The ‘embroidery’ is located in three places on the outside of the hat form. Images 37 to 47 show a voyage around the hat, which is sitting on the tailor’s ham, beginning at the front and working around clockwise (i.e. right hand side next).
I did ask Cliff to take some photographs of the hat model on my head – it didn’t look great (because of the head, not the hat). I wasn’t going to publish any of these but here’s a rear view (image 48). Cliff said it looks like a pirate hat.
Seriously, the one piece of useful information I got from the hat-on-head experiment was that the main part of the hat is not angled forward as far as I thought it would be. I won’t know until I make the ‘real’ hat whether this is going to be a problem or not but feel pretty sure that if it is, I will be able to rectify it by adjusting the hat base with a wedge of covered Fosshape at the back.
Have I answered the questions I posed above? Yes, all except for the ‘veil’ question. I think at this point that a veil may be superfluous but will try it out on the final hat, just to be sure.