How do you use a milliner’s ribbon board?

how to use a ribbon board

How do you use a milliner’s ribbon board?

A ribbon board is a must-have piece of equipment for the millinery workroom. It is primarily used for shaping Petersham ribbon or bias fabric so that it will fit round the edge of a brim without wrinkling. This allows you to make perfect bindings for your hats every time! In this blog post you will learn how to use a milliner’s ribbon board.

In the video below, you will see milliner Cristina de Prada demonstrate this technique for you. Check our Cristina de Prada on Instagram and Facebook.

Instructions on how to use the milliner’s ribbon board.

how do you use a milliner's ribbon boardFirstly make a small cut along the centre of the ribbon  (about a centimetre long). Secondly, spray the ribbon with water to dampen it. Once wet, secure the ribbon over the edge of the ribbon board and pin it into place with two pins angled towards the centre of the board.

Next, wrap the ribbon around the edge of the board continuously. Make the ribbon taut as you go around until your required length is formed. Then secure the end with pins as before. You should allow a little extra length so that you can cut off the two ends marked by the pins.

Lastly, when the ribbons are dry unpin and the binding from the board. Now you’re ready to sew your binding on your hat brim. The easiest way to hold the board is on your lap while seated.

We’ll be answering more of your questions soon, in the meantime if you’re looking for inspiration and millinery projects why not head over to HATalk? With this code GMB20 claim 20% off a new HATalk Subscription.

If you’re hoping to delve deeper and improve your skills then check out Hatcourses.com – which houses a list of millinery and hat making courses around the world and available teachers.

 

How to take care of wooden hat blocks.

care of your hat block

How to take care of your wooden hat blocks.

Show your hat blocks some love!

Wooden hat blocks are not cheap and so you have probably wondered what is the best way to take care of your hat blocks? It is wise to look after your blocks as then they will serve you well for many years! Your hat blocks have been carefully made from kiln-dried timber. However, timber is a natural material, which is affected by changes in temperature and humidity.

In use, blocks go from being dry to be being wet and from being cold to being heated by steam. They are tools! Over time, it is very normal to have cracks here and there because of these conditions but unless the block falls apart it will remain totally useable. We regularly see many old blocks like this.

Firstly, we suggest that you always protect your block from moisture and possible colour transfer from wet fabrics. The best way you can care for your hat block is by covering it with cling film or a thin polythene sheet before use. Some milliners use tin foil. Use masking tape to hold the film in place. Don’t use coverings more than once. If blocks do get stained by dye, don’t try and remove this – just make a better job of covering them next time, and your fabrics will not be affected.

Cover the brim hat block with film
Cover the brim hat block with film
Cover the crown block with film
Cover with film and fix with masking tape

Do I need to oil my hat blocks?

We often get asked this from our customers in the USA. The answer is no, you don’t need to oil them. The best way to protect them during use is to cover them well with cling film or similar as mentioned above.  As far as possible, keep your blocks where they will not experience big changes in temperature or humidity as these may cause some warping. However, because of the way blocks are made, it is not usually enough to really affect the shape.

When pinning fabric into hat blocks.

Next, we want to make a note about using pins – a vital part of the hat-making process! Try to use pins that are the same fine gauge as dressmaker’s pins. They are kinder to your hat blocks and far superior to both chart pins and drawing pins.

Dressmakers Pins
Blocking Pins

When pinning fabric inside a hollowed base pill-box block, it is advisable to place the pin as deep as possible in order to prevent damage to the rim of the block.

When pinning fabric inside a hollowed base pill-box block, it is advisable to place the pin as deep as possible in order to prevent damage to the rim of the block.

Pin into the hollow

Pin into the hollow. While blocking pins are excellent for almost all blocking situations,  straight pins are sometimes needed for thicker fabric or when blocking dimples in blocks. Pin Pushers are ingenious tools. They have a place among the astute milliner’s tool kit and are in fact indispensable in some blocking situations. The pin pusher’s wooden handle fits comfortably into the hand and the metal tube into which the dressmaker’s pin is dropped, head first, has a magnet at the bottom. This holds the pin inside so that it does not fall out, whatever the angle of the tool. Dressmaker’s pins are hard to press into wooden blocks by hand and a thimble can be awkward to use, as it easily slips off the pinhead. A pin pusher gives you extra mechanical power!

Loading the Pinpusher
Load the Pin Pusher
Pinning the brim block
Pinning the brim block
Pinning into crown block dimples
Pinning into crown block valleys

 

Pin Pusher

What’s the best way to store hat blocks?

When not in use, your block should be kept in a cool and dry environment. More importantly, store your hat blocks away from any direct heat source and sunlight.

Our workshop is around 18 degrees and the humidity would be usually around 60%. These would be ideal conditions however, humidity is more crucial than temperature. If it’s very dry then the wood will crack regardless of temperature. We would not advise placing blocks above or anywhere near a radiator because the air around it will be very dry. Try to keep them away from extremes of temperature and humidity. Modern houses do tend to be very dry so bear this in mind.

You can find the pins and Pin Pushers in our webshop:

DM Pins – Prym Dressmaker Pins

£3.33

Prym Narrow Gauage Dressmakers Pins: Hardened and Polished Steel – Size 30 x 0.60 mm – 25 g

Ex VAT £3.33

If you are not ordering blocks as well, this product can be purchased by clicking “add to cart”. Otherwise, please click “add to quote” to add it to your block quote.

BP1 – Blocking Pins

£4.38

Pinning the fabric to the block can be hard on the fingers. But not anymore! Our blocking pins have large plastic heads, making it easy to push them in and take them out again. The pins are the same gauge as dressmaker’s pins and will bend rather than break. Kinder to your fingers and to your block. Far superior to both chart pins and drawing pins.

Ex VAT £4.38

If you are not ordering blocks as well, this product can be purchased by clicking “add to cart”. Otherwise, please click “add to quote” to add it to your block quote.

PP1 – Pin Pusher

£15.00

Pin Pushers are ingenious tools. They have a place among the astute milliner’s tool kit and are in fact indispensable in some blocking situations. The pin pusher’s wooden handle fits comfortably into the hand and the metal tube into which the dressmaker’s pin is dropped, head first, has a magnet at the bottom. This holds the pin inside so that it does not fall out, whatever the angle of the tool. Dressmaker’s pins are hard to press into wooden blocks by hand and a thimble can be awkward to use, as it easily slips off the pinhead. A pin pusher gives you extra mechanical power!
Ex VAT £15

If you are not ordering blocks as well, this product can be purchased by clicking “add to cart”. Otherwise, please click “add to quote” to add it to your block quote.

We’ll be answering more of your questions soon, in the meantime if you’re looking for inspiration and millinery projects why not head over to HATalk? With this code GMB20 claim 20% off a new HATalk Subscription.

If you’re hoping to delve deeper and improve your skills then check out Hatcourses.com – which houses a list of millinery and hat making courses around the world and available teachers.

Can I make a hat bigger than the head size of my hat blocks?

Can I make a hat bigger than the head size of my hat blocks?

Sometimes you get asked to make a hat for a head that is bigger than the blocks you own. To make hats in a larger size is possible. You can do this by ‘double blocking’.

Double Blocking a Crown Block

Firstly, you need either an old felt capeline or an old felt hat with a wide brim. If using an old felt hat, strip off any trimming, inner headbands, and wiring. TIP: If it’s marked with glue patches then turn it inside out before proceeding.

Next, get the crown block you’re going to use and cover with clingfilm/saran wrap just as you would if blocking a hat.

Take the old hat or felt capeline and block it over the prepared block. Leave it to dry and trim off the excess felt. Before removing it from the block mark the felt Centre Front (CF) and Back CB) with a Chinagraph pencil and a block reference.

If you want to make the block larger still mark the first felt #1 and cover with clingfilm/saran wrap as before. Now block another old felt capeline or hat over the top and allow it to dry. Trim any excess off as before and mark CF and CB as above and #2 to remind you.

You can do this up to three times, but the definition of the shape gets lost, depending on how much shape and what features are already in the block. Also, the padding becomes too thick to hold pins in the wooden block beneath, during blocking. We wouldn’t recommend using this technique on trilby or fedora crowns with dimples for this reason.

Finally, block your new capeline over the clingfilm/saran wrap covered padded block in the usual way.

**The felts you have may vary in thickness but as a useful guide for every 1mm thickness of felt padding, you will add ¼” to the head size.**

Double Blocking a Down-turned Brim Block

To increase the size of a down-turned brim block you can use a larger collar size than your brim. Fix the larger collar to the brim, cover in clingfilm/saran wrap and block as usual.

Brim Collar CO1
Brim Collar CO1

How do I increase the size of an Up-turned Brim Block?

You cannot make an up-turned brim block bigger in head size. You can overcome this by stretching the brim after you have taken it off the block. Dampen the fabric at the headband and stretch it gently over a collar of the required size, or you can use a graded Stretcher Block if you have one.

Stretcher Block SB1
Stretcher Block SB1

We’ll be answering more of your questions soon, in the meantime if you’re looking for inspiration and millinery projects why not head over to HATalk? With this code GMB20 claim 20% off a new HATalk Subscription.

If you’re hoping to delve deeper and improve your skills then check out Hatcourses.com – which houses a list of millinery and hat making courses around the world and available teachers.

Corset stays in hat making?

Corset Stay in hat making

When are corset stays used in hat making?

It could be hard to make the connection if you have never tried to take a blocked crown or brim off a hat block after stiffening and drying!

A corset stay (the type which looks like a flattened wire spring) is ideal for removing blocked hats off their blocks. They have smooth ends hammered onto them which will not damage the hat fabric. Such stays bend in all directions yet remain stiff. Firstly insert the corset stay between the cling film covering the block and the hat fabric. Then, move it up and down to loosen the material and enable you to take your blocked shape off without damaging it. Very helpful indeed!

Here is a corset stay in use with a felt cloche hat. Notice the corset stay pushing up beyond the ‘waist’ of the felt cloche. Work your way around the block, pushing the corset stay up as high as it can go.

Corset Stays used in hat making

Here is a corset stay in use with a sinamay crown. You can see the corset stay through the sinamay. Push it up and down around the sides of the crown, preparatory to pulling the crown off the block.

Corset Stay used in millinery.

Blocking your fabric onto the block makes it as close to the block as possible. The cling film between the fabric and your wooden block prevents it from being stuck permanently to the block! When you insert the end of the corset stay between the hat fabric and the cling film, you will loosen the hold created by the blocking and stiffening.

We’ll be answering more of your questions soon, in the meantime if you’re looking for inspiration and millinery projects why not head over to HATalk? With this code GMB20 claim 20% off a new HATalk Subscription.

If you’re hoping to delve deeper and improve your skills then check out Hatcourses.com – which houses a list of millinery and hat making courses around the world and available teachers.

CS1 – Millinery Knife/Corset Stay

£5.83

A corset stay – the type which looks like a flattened wire spring – is ideal for taking a blocked crown or brim off a hat block after stiffening and drying! They have smooth ends, which will not damage the hat fabric. Corset stays bend in all directions yet remain stiff. This means that they can be inserted between the cling film covering the block and the hat fabric and moved up and down to loosen it and enable you to take your blocked shape off without damaging it. (Approximate length 30cm). Very helpful indeed!

Ex VAT £5.83

If you are not ordering blocks as well, this product can be purchased by clicking “add to cart”. Otherwise, please click “add to quote” to add it to your block quote.

 

What are Dolly Heads for? Are they like Poupees?

I am often asked what are Dolly Heads for? A dolly head is a wooden version of the stylized canvas-covered papier-mache poupee. Typically you can use a dolly head to create draped forms. This is because it imitates the human head shape. It is a great tool for the milliner. Used in almost every process of hat and headpiece making, it is essential for the positioning of headpiece construction as well as for trimming and fitting veils.

Essentially a milliner designs, drapes and blocks on the dolly head with felt, straw, and foundation materials. Sometimes known as utility blocks they are great for blocking cloches, turbans, fascinator bases in all materials, lacework, supporting a hat or fascinator during trimming, adjusting size, and even for display purposes.

As mentioned a Dolly Head is great for hand draping felt cloche hats and you can see a full tutorial from HATalk on this here.

You can also find a step-by-step HATalk project showing you how to create a retro bridal veil as pictured below:

In our workshop, we make them from lime and balsa wood. Lime will last longer but Balsa is sometimes the preferred alternative because of its self-healing properties. However, heavy use over time will mean its shelf life is shorter than that of its lime version.

Simple Dolly Head

Our simplest Dolly Head is the DH2 this block gives you the basic human head shape and the eyes are marked for placement purposes.

Dolly Head DH2
Dolly Head DH2

Featureless Dolly Head

DH4 (Lime) and DH5 (Balsa) have a featureless face but a sloping forehead and a rounded back and good nape of the neck, great for close-fitting cloche hats.

Dolly Head DH4
Dolly Head DH4 (Lime)
Dolly Head DH5 (Balsa)
Dolly Head DH5 (Balsa)

Fully Featured Dolly Head

The DH3 is a fully-featured version with eyebrows, nose and chin.

DH3 - Dolly Head
Dolly Head DH3

 

Which size Dolly Head should I buy?

We make Dolly heads to fit specific head sizes. If you’re looking for an average female head size then we would recommend 22.5″ / 57cm. With all the different options available, choose which features are important to you. Then decide which material you would prefer to work with (lime or balsa).

We’ll be answering more of your questions soon, in the meantime if you’re looking for inspiration and millinery projects why not head over to HATalk? With this code GMB20 claim 20% off a new HATalk Subscription.

If you’re hoping to delve deeper and improve your skills then check out Hatcourses.com – which houses a list of millinery and hat-making courses around the world and available teachers.

 

Blocking in One Technique – Down Turned Brim

Blocking in one down turned brim

Making hats with a down-turned brim. Can I use the blocking in one technique?

Yes, blocking in one is a common technique for down-turned brim hats. Before the advent of sinamay, felt and straw were the hatters and milliners’ materials. These come partly shaped as cones (hoods) and capelines.  For very small-brimmed hats such as cloches, you can use a cone. For larger brimmed hats you can use a capeline. When you block your hat in one, it is made from either a single cone or a capeline to form a one-piece hat. If you want a large brim you must source large capelines. Alternatively, you can consider blocking the crown and brim separately (the crown from a cone, and the brim from a capeline).

Select your blocks

First, you must fix your crown and brim blocks together. As a side note, be careful about which crown block you choose because full height crown blocks are generally taller than you need. This is to allow you to vary the height of your finished crown when blocking separately. We offer a number of options to get the height you need for blocking in one, from exact height crown blocks to Multiblock Tips and varying height Multiblock Extensions.

Cover your chosen brim block with cling film

Covering your down turned brim block

Tape the cling film securely to the underneath of the block.

Covering the down turned brim block

Next, cover your chosen crown and either screw or attach to brim with sticky fixers

Attaching crown block to brim block for blocking in one

Stretch your steamed cone / capeline over the crown and brim

Stretch capeline over hat blocks for blocking in one

Tie blocked cone / capeline at the base of crown block with string

Tie blocked crown of hat with string

At this point, you may wish you had extra hands! A runner down is a very handy tool used to push your string down the blocked crown into the corner between crown and brim. This could be on a cloche block or any crown/brim combination where you need a well-defined line between crown and brim. Watch the demo below:

Pin brim edge or tie into string groove

Pinning brim edge using a pin pusher for blocking in one

Pictured above is the ingenious Pin Pusher tool. The pin pusher’s wooden handle fits comfortably into the hand and the metal tube into which the dressmaker’s pin is dropped, head first, has a magnet at the bottom. Subsequently, this holds the pin inside so that it does not fall out, whatever the angle of the tool. Dressmaker’s pins can be hard to press into wooden blocks. Using a thimble can be awkward as it easily slips off the pinhead. A pin pusher gives you extra mechanical power! After pinning into place, allow the hat to dry.

Remove the dry finished hat from blocks and stiffen.

Your hat is now ready to put in a sweatband, or a ribbon, and trim as you wish!

We’ll be answering more of your questions soon, in the meantime if you’re looking for inspiration and millinery projects why not head over to HATalk? With this code GMB20 claim 20% off a new HATalk Subscription.

If you’re hoping to delve deeper and improve your skills then check out Hatcourses.com – which houses a list of millinery and hat-making courses around the world and available teachers.

Making men’s hats – blocking in one with upturn brim

Making men’s hats with an upturned brim. Can I block the crown and brim together in one piece?

You can block a hat in one piece by using either a single cone or a capeline. This technique is called ‘blocking in one’ and is often used when making men’s hats. So, yes this is possible!

Certainly, if you want to make men’s hats with an upturn from straw and felt in one piece, you need a brim block with a central hole in it. We recommend the hole is 3/4 inch (2 cm) larger in head size than the crown block. This allows for 3mm thickness of felt on the crown block that you will push through the hole in the brim block.

This technique is great for making men’s style hats. Select your crown block and the upturn brim block you will pair it with. You might also want to consider a tipper if you are not hand-shaping the pinch. You’ll also benefit from either a set of brim legs or if you have a number of brims to work with, the universal brim stand.

The blocks used to create the hat below are CB141 crown block with a tipper and paired with the BB55 brim block.

Making men's hat - an example of a fedora using the blocking in one technique

Dealing with the crown

Firstly, steam and stretch the felt capeline over the crown block. If you have a tipper, use it to shape the top, placing a weight on it while the felt dries.

Making hats, steaming the felt. Making men's hats, stretching the felt over the crown block.

Shaping the dimples

Secondly, if you have an open crown block you will hand shape the pinch. If you have a shaped crown block you can either pin fabric into the dimples when on the block, or use an egg iron. The video below shows a short demo of the egg iron in use.

Dealing with the brim

Thirdly, press the felt for the brim flat onto the table with the corner between the crown and brim. Secure it tightly with string at the base of the crown. You can iron the brim gently to get it nice and flat. At this stage, you can make the felt look a little nicer by gently sanding it all over with 320 grit sandpaper. Make sure you sand it all in the same direction.

Now the crown is complete and you can cut the brim to your preferred width size, using a set of brim cutting wheels. The hat at the top of this post was cut to 1 1/2″ but you can go up to 3″ with the BB55.  The brim cutting wheels allow you to cut a very smooth and clean edge. They also allow different brim widths to be achieved from the same brim block as the shaping is done after cutting. The little video below shows the brim edge being cut.

Alternatively, instead of using the cutting wheel, shape the brim on the block and tie the felt into the string groove. After it is dry you can cut the excess felt off with scissors.

Sweatbands and Ribbons

At this stage, you can sew in the sweatband and prepare the ribbon if you like. That leaves only the brim shaping to be done.

Finishing the brim

Now, place the hat upside down inside the brim. (as pictured below). Importantly, the brim must be on a stand or have its own brim legs, to elevate your work off the surface. Now tie a cotton sheet over it using the string groove. Pull it nice and tight, spray lightly with water and iron (not too hot). Leave it to dry and remove.

Making men's hats pushing the blocked crown through the brim block. Leaving the felt on the hat block to dry.

Finishing the hat

If you want to flip the front down use a little steam across the front. This allows you to bend the front of the brim down to complete the shape.

Finally, attach the hat ribbon, maybe choose a feather trim to add to the hat and you’re done!

We’ll be answering more of your questions soon, in the meantime if you’re looking for inspiration and millinery projects why not head over to HATalk? With this code GMB20 claim 20% off a new HATalk Subscription.

If you’re hoping to delve deeper and improve your skills then check out Hatcourses.com – which houses a list of millinery and hat making courses around the world and available teachers.

 

 

 

If you live outside the UK please check what import charges / customs duties you can expect to pay on the value of your order before buying.