Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ease of Straw Hat Making

My dear friend Teresa Wenzel is a master doll milliner and an excellent maker of all things fine and delicate. This article she wrote for Doll Costuming years back in '03 but it is worth re-printing. Michelle

You can create the most beautiful and well fit hat designs for your dolls by simply easing the straw braid in and out as needed for your design. In designing doll hats, especially those of straw braid, I have found a wonderful use for my small treasures of fabrics, trims, laces and findings. Not large enough for most projects but too beautiful to waste I use these to embellish both cloth and straw hats. We have unlimited choices for our designs with so many colors and varieties of straw hat braid available to us today.
The straw braid is so versatile in designing not only for the antique reproductions but also for our modern dolls as well. And as it takes so little braid to make a small hat, it also takes not as much time as you would think. In measuring the doll’s head I use a circle template. I simply place the template over the doll’s head to the depth my design requires. I now use this size from the template to measure my progress as I sew the straw braid. Please remember to take into account the doll’s hairstyle when measuring.
Let us begin with a “Mary Stuart” style straw braid hat for a Petite Milette.

Materials needed:
3 yds of 3/16” straw braid
Matching thread - use single thread to sew straw (wax thread for strength or use a Quilter’s 100% cotton glazed thread

Milliners needle - these are long and sharp
10” of size 23 hat wire

Trims and embellishments of your choice

First, ready the straw by running firmly through your fingers to release any sizing and to make the straw pliable and easier to work with. You will need to do this throughout the construction of your hat. Find the pull thread at edge of braid and pull this carefully. This will cause the braid to curl and make it easier to sew in a circular pattern. Trim end and dot with glue and turn under to secure.
With matching thread sew braid in a circular pattern with a small even running stitch, keeping rows flat, easing in fullness of the straw braid. Always sew the straw braid under the preceding row. Do not pull braid snugly, just ease it in or out as needed. This is what causes crown to become pointy and/or too small. Sew 4 or 5 rows, each new row under preceding row. This should look like a flat braid disc approximately 1-1/8 inch diameter as pictured.Continue adding 6 to 7 rows tapering ever so slightly at this point to go from a flat disc shape to a curved dome shape. Once the curve is made do not ease straw in but sew to form the sides of the crown. Ease out in the last few rows to reach the head size of 1-5/8” diameter. A hat form may help you in this process. Begin brim by folding braid back on itself and stitching under the preceding row, easing in straw braid to form the wide brim. Stop this row at opposite side of hat just below center of braid disc as shown in the following diagram:
Repeat this row until you have 6 rows (3 fold backs on one side and 2 on the other). Each fold back edge will be a bit lower than the preceding one to prevent bulk. You can see in the following photo below. From the crown edge where it meets brim, you will be easing in the braid enough to make the brim flat. Please Note: If the brim becomes wavy, rather than flat you are easing too much.

After completing 3 fold backs on one side, rather than folding back when you come to the opposite side again, continue this row down and around back of hat and then again, all around hat, making an additional 2 rows as shown in this photo.

End the last row easing the end of straw under the preceding row, keeping a nice continuous curve along edge as in Diagram G. Cut straw braid and dot end with glue to secure it under preceding row. Knot and cut thread.Attach wire to the underside of brim edge with an overcast stitch. Shape wired edge brim to your design shape. Glue or sew lace to underside of brim to cover wire. Decorate to your hearts content!
By Teresa Wenzel
Terry sells some of her fabulous Antique laces and trim on her Etsy site:
She also has doll millinery patterns for sale on

Thank you for visiting our blog and hopefully you enjoyed the article.

Just as a gentle reminder, that tutorial was written to help to stimulate your creativity.

This Tutorial, Pictures, & Instructions are copy-righted & are not to be used as a tutorial of your own.

This means you may not copy and post this tutorial to your own website, or print it out and sell or distribute it as your own.


Susie said...

I always make my straw hats this way. Thankyou for sharing, really glad to have found this site.

Heather Cutting-Rayl said...

This post was sent to me after I sent out a request on the Mini Doll list for a straw Hat Tutorial! It was exactly what I was looking for! Thank you!

Kathi said...

I should have read this tutorial first! Thank for sharing how to do this! I'm going to give it a try!

Jennifer Rydell of Plushpussycat said...

Hi Michelle, What a lovely tutorial! Thank you for sharing this with us! Do you know any good sources for straw braid? I can't seem to find any when I look locally and online. I must be looking in the wrong places. :-)

Michelle Mahler said...

Hi Jennifer
You can find hat straw on my website:
thnx! Michelle

Contrastes-Rosa MÂȘ said...

Una maravilla, gracias por este tutorial, feliz semana:-)