There are days when I tell people I'm a hat-maker just to be silly. There are even months even I pretend I'm a milliner with hats so beautiful that they are snatched out of the window display within minutes of their debut. There are even years when I contemplate filling out the occupation section on my income tax forms with that word: hat designer. Some decades (I've been living a while, it just doesn't readily show) I even dream of pitching it all (the residence, the family and the clothes) and just moving somewhere like Australia or England where hats are a Way of Life, not just something amusing like they are here.
Which is a sort of a long way of saying that I think that I've arrived, at least in the town of my birth (Evanston, Ill.). My first hat-making class on February 1 is nearly full. To date, no one is interested in learning how to make a poodle skirt, a tie or even an apron. But a hat? Bring it on, shut down the business office and get me signed up! I've got seven milliners-in-the-making on the list for the first workshop, another two signed up for the one on the 22nd.
Now the hat I really wanted to work on was Vogue 8175, but wouldn't you know not only is now out-of-print, it's unavailable on the Vogue Patterns web site. Views E and F - which have that 1930s tyrolean theme going - are extraordinarily easy to make. However, if it's not available to the masses, I can't use it to instruct my students. To my great (about the size of the Grand Canyon) disappointment I cannot use Vogue 8175 - although if any of my students finds it, he/she is more than welcome to use it.
So...I have to use another pattern. I'm reluctantly selecting the Flirty Fedora. My biggest reservation is that it doesn't call for wool felt, the fabric of choice for Vogue 8175. But I'm going to use the high-quality wool fiber (which differs significantly from craft felt, friends) for the fedora. It will be an experiment of the Tim Gunn "Make It Work" school of thought, but I'm really confident wool felt will be more than up to the task.
Since the wool felt is so firm, I don't think I need to do all that stitching on the brim. I don't consider the top stitching on the crown essential either. Now the profile of the fedora vs. Vogue's rendition looks a little more 1960s Twiggy or Babe Paley ready to hit the social circuits and less Katharine Hepburn or Ginger Rogers headed to the local dance club for a little jitterbug, but that's ok. But I'm cool with that alternative silhouette if my students are.
Now I might purchase the Flirty Fedora to try it on for size (where did that expression come from anyhow?), and so I can converse knowledgeably with my workshop participants. I can also have a completed project for show-and-tell, which helps all those who are visual learners. Ideally, I should have both the Vogue 8175 (it sounds like I'm talking about a product, and not some unique work of art) and the Flirty Fedora, so the two will be on hand on the first of the month. What would be nifty is if I made both hats in the same fabric, and embellished each differently. But who needs two hats in the same color, fabric? Not me. Boring!
Anyhow, part of me is hankering to make a hat in bright raincoat-yellow, something that would be a huge jolt of color in our bleak Chicago landscape. I could see that with a small brown feather, worn with a smart black and white houndstooth jacket. Shoulder pads mandatory! (That's me, although you might disagree fervently.) Vogue Fabrics only has the wool felt in black and white in the Evanston store. Rogie Sussman tells me there will be some hat-worthy felt online. For something really unique, I'd try felting - buy an ounce or two of the roving that's near the sewing machine department. Cut the hat parts, felt, sew to make a conversation piece that will start on the street and end with you getting a free drink somewhere! What do you think?