This project was a great deal of fun because although I had the design firmly set in my mind when I started, I still allowed it to grow organically in front of my eyes. I make hats on a regular basis for myself but this hat was part of a set of costumes I made for the independent film company 'Climb the Ivy', so I got the chance to see it on screen!
DESIGN AND INSPIRATION
All the costumes were inspired by a living creature, in this case a popular witch's familiar, the Raven. Thus the idea of the hat, was to me, an extension of the witch herself.
The Raven was an ideal starting point for my design and so everything grew from the Black Bird!
The other inspiration for my witch was a picture of a veiled Fortune Teller. Hat veils have such an interesting social history and folklore attached to them, in particular the full mourning veil. I felt that this particular piece of hat furniture, with its connotations as a protection against the Evil Eye, was a 'must have' for my witch. So much so, that I gave her two; with a simple eye veil, as well as the full mourning version. I also needed to consider the film script, i.e. the witch was required to run through the forest, thus I planned the veil so that it could be either worn pinned up or flowing loosely.
To continue the idea of the Fortune Teller, I was very pleased to have picked up, in a lucky bag from my local Haberdashery, a bikini scarf made of lucky Feng Shui Emperor coins. I decided these would make excellent embellishments and also add to my Raven/Witch's love of finery and shiny things. even putting one in the Raven's beak. I also decided that the coins would be attached in the traditional way with red silk or glass beads, this also gave my witch a hint of blood red, also to be referenced in my dotted veil. It would also give the hat movement and a life of its own! Furthermore, to continue with my Witch/Fortune Teller theme, I also created a version of the traditional chenille dotted veil but instead of dots, transposed symbols of suits of playing cards.
Finally I love the old early horror movies and their use of Expressionism's skewed vision to suggest that something is not quite right, so I made my hat totally asymmetrical, starting with the basic shape and going forward with the embellishments.
Step 1: SOURCING MATERIALS AND GETTING STARTED
Due in part to budget restraint - i.e. nothing, I used materials I had at hand but also because I wanted a grunge bohemian style. The bikini scarf of Feng Shui coins is not something that turns up everyday but you can find packs of coins easily on line. However, my main suggestion would be; the more outré your found objects, the better - items and momentoes the witch would have picked up on her journeys and stuck in her hair to form the hat. Above all I chose well-worn fabric, so this is a great refashioning project and a chance to upcycle that old garment from the bottom of the wardrobe. My materials were as follows:-
Found objects: various feathers from our garden from moulting poultry
Refashioned fabrics: old skirt ruffle, remnants from a wool cape, old skirt lining, the upper from a modern Turkish slipper, coined bikini scarf, black angel wing Christmas decoration, beads and sequins from an old cardigan, red and black felt from another project
Purchased: 1m black tulle, half a metre of simple black lace trim (eye veil)
FABRICATION - The Central Bird Motif
Beginning with the main theme to a hat puts it firmly into the centre of the project and I find, that everything else falls into place once that has been created. I started by working on my central motif of the Raven. I took the quill of a flight feather and opened it up to make the beak.
I then cut out a simple head and neck in black felt and started to attach my feathers. This can be done by hand stitching, using a glue gun, or both. If the feathers are sewn on to the base, then the individual barbs can actually be sculpted, as here to create the bird's character, with an unkempt look to the top of the head.
The bird was built up feather by feather, making sure there was enough space and overlapping feathers at the bottom of the neck to attach it invisibly to my 'angel wings' Christmas decoration with glue. This decoration cost me 25 centimes in a closing-down sale but it is a really easy shape to make from scratch.
Step 2: THE HAT PROPER
FABRICATION - The hat base
The basic hat is really easy. I started by cutting out a width of fabric to fit the circumference of the head with an allowance for seams included. I needed a hat that would sit firmly on the actress's head and if you are going to be partying in this headdress then it is a good idea to make it an exact fit. As I mentioned I like anything that suggests, trickery to be asymmetrical, so I cut my hat shape with a peak to the side, which I then planned to fold over and sew down to make the crown. I then mocked up the design, to check how the whole thing would look.
I neatened the top edges of my hat with a simple running thread of red silk and trimmed the seam back with pinking shears. I then cut a second band in a softer lining fabric. Then I started to add some of the coins, this is what I meant by the hat growing organically. I find hat making is like cookery, you need to be constantly checking to see that you have the right ingredients.
The lining was purely pinned and tacked in at this stage so I could keep opening it up to add embellishments as I went along. I always line hats because then I can go to town on the decoration and cover all the 'workings' within the lining. This not only gives the hat a much more professional look but also makes it comfortable to wear. This is really important with a close fitting hat.
I then tested the look on Andy, who fortunately had the same head size as the actress. At this point, you will notice that I have not joined the hat seams together and that I have removed the lining, it is much easier to work on a design in the flat and unhampered by lining fabric. I ripped rather than cut the outer hat band, this gave it a good grunge feel and I added some sequins cut from my Turkish slipper. As I had planned in my mock-up, I placed the toe part of the Turkish slipper onto the hat band, where it would lie behind the bird's head, to give it a Byzantine halo touch and sewed it down. I then added my bird and with Andy's help positioned the eye veil.
I used a piece of black chiffon to work out the positioning of the mourning veil and to see what the final look would be.
Step 3: FINISHING AND FULL VEIL
FABRICATION - Adding the Details and Finishing the Lining
I then started to add the details to my hat, sewing a coin into my bird's beak and another run of coins to make a fringe. I added a double ruffle to one side of the hat to balance the folded section.
With all the hat decorations and details finished, I was now ready to refit and sew in the lining material, fold over the section of the hat band to make the crown and hold it in place with a coin.
FABRICATION - The Full Mourning Veil
I was now ready to make the full mourning veil. This was probably the most arduous part of the whole project, cutting numerous tiny spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs from red and black felt. Half way through I really wondered if this was a good idea and as for sewing black on black... but the end result really made me so happy that I had persevered! I gathered one end of the tulle together and tied it up with a bow and pinned it to the hat. I then pinned on and hand sewed each motif, whilst on the dress form, that way I got a better idea of where to place each one.
If you want to see a little snippet of the hat in action go to my blog version of this project and scroll down to the bottom: Upcycled Wardrobe, Costume and Clothes My hat was seen for some minutes on screen and I had such fun designing and making it and most unexpectedly, these projects earned me a costume credit on IMDB! Have fun making your own version of a Gothic witch's hat. All the very best from Normandie, Sue