The Art of Hat Making

The kind of hat I make is low tech and old school. It begins with finding antique or vintage wooden hat blocks frequently from outside the United States or having a new one custom made. Even if I find a hat block in the U.S . it often comes from a different country.  Some block makers create custom blocks today, but a down side is the expense involved and the long wait for their creations. Hat block acquisition is an investment that requires research to find the right shape and then ultimately time to await it’s arrival. Once the block arrives the joy of discovery begins with creating wonderful, wearable art.

Once the hat block arrives the choice of material, either straw or felt, dictates the next step. When working with straw the next step may include dying the material then applying a liquid gelatin to the unformed product. When using felt, heat and moisture is used to soften the material making it malleable. The steamed Straw or Felt is then stretched over the wood hat block and hand blocked to form the hat. Hand blocking is the process by which a hat is given its shape.  After the material dries it’s gently removed from the block.  A sized or adjustable head band is sewn in and the brim is bound typically using a brim wire.  At this point the client’s style is worked into the final trims making a unique, custom hat.