Millinery from the Bottom Up: A Hatmaking Tutorial

I have never been a big fan of the premade natural straw hats available from CR’s Crafts and other doll supply stockists. Joni Lynn does a beautiful job of embellishing these with ribbon and bias binding, but the straw splinters easily and it’s just not that pleasant to work with! Collectors of French Fashion Dolls, on the other hand, construct exceptional doll millinery using raffia hat straw braid shaped over a ceramic hat form.  With the right size and style of hat form, this technique makes splendid hats and bonnets for American Girls.

Materials:

  • Hat Form to fit a 10-11″ head circumference. The PNB Doll Company has a whole line of Hats for Daisy which fit American Girl, and there are other good choices in their regular catalog. The hat forms run about $20 and are re-usable. They’re also made-to-order, so allow plenty of time for your order to ship to you!
  • Glue. PNB carries a special hat-making glue, which holds on contact, dries quickly and clear, and has permanent flexibility. That flexibility is nice if you’re planning to sew trim on your hat; otherwise, Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue is a perfectly reasonable substitute and readily available at your local craft store.
  • Double Sided Tape to position the first row of hat braid on your mold. If you have never used Washaway Wonder Tape, it will be a religious experience. Best. Notion. Ever.
  • Optional:  A Glue Syringe with a crafting tip is a great help, but you can also dispense your glue using a sandwich baggie with a hole poked in the corner.

Instructions:

  • Position a row of Wonder Tape around the bottom edge of the hat mold, beginning and ending at the start point which is marked on the mold.  Smoosh the tape around the curves with your fingers and then remove the paper backing.
  • Place the first row of hat braid on top of the Wonder Tape, leaving about a 1/2 inch tail which will be covered up by subsequent rows of braid:

  • Using a glue syringe, place dots of glue along the top edge of the braid, every scant 1/4″ or so, all the way around:

  • Position the next row of braid on top of the glue dots, overlapping the previous row by at least half the width of the braid. (I leave about a 1/8″ underlap visible from the preceding row.)

  • Continue gluing the hat straw braid around the hat mold, each new row on top of the preceding one, making sure to maintain a consistent overlap, and easing in the fullness of the braid around curves:

Getting Closer!

  • There is a pull thread woven into the edges of the hat straw braid. When you get near the crown of the hat, you can pull this thread–gently–to ease the braid into tighter and tighter curves:

  • Continue gluing the braid down until there is just a 1/4″ gap in the very top of the hat. Cut the braid with sharp scissors, leaving a 1/2″ tail:

  • Gently ease the hat off the mold and remove the remains of the Wonder Tape. Poke the cut end of the hat braid through to the inside of the hat and use a bit of glue to position the tail so that it closes the gap that you left at the crown. (The photo below is taken with the hat turned inside out!)

  • Place the hat back on the mold and leave it to dry over night!

  • Once the glue dries, you’re free to embellish to your heart’s desire. This is a great way to use all your bibs and bobs of leftover ribbon and lace.

If you decide to make your own American Girl sized hat in the French Fashion tradition, send us photos and we’ll share them on our blog.

Think I’m mad as a hatter? You’re probably right! We offer made-to-order French Quarter Bonnets trimmed with your choice of grosgrain ribbon.  Custom millinery requests are also welcome.

Recent Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have been trying to find hat forms for 18 inch AG type dolls.

  2. I have been trying to find a hat form to fit the American girl doll that you can make a fedora hat. The fedora hat is so popular now and I would love to find a form to make some with. Do you happen to make a fedora hat form or could you custom make one and a price. Thanks so much.
    Bobbie

    • Bobbie ~ Sorry, but we don’t make any hat forms at all. Our hat forms are purchased from PNB Doll Company, and I don’t recall seeing a fedora mold. Good luck in your search!

  3. CAN THESE HAT FORMS BE USED FOR FELT AS WELL.

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