The Clandestine Regency Bonnet: A Quick Making-Of

Without me noticing, the next exam season has crept up on me. So, the blogging and corset-making have fallen a bit short of late. But I am still here and was very happy to receive all the positive feedback on the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. You guys are all amazing sewers and bloggers so it was really, really hard for me to stick to just ten nominations. :)

In other news, looming exams seem to make me creative in quite strange ways. So, the other Saturday I was looking at this 1803 engraving of London headdresses from the Repository:

London headdresses (Ackermann’s Repository, c. 1803).

That moment I remembered that I had no entry for the HSM’s “Accesorize” challenge yet. And I also remembered this really cheap, Frankensteined sombrero hat still lurking in my stash:

A cut-up sombrero from the one-Euro store.

Since the hat is of woven straw and the top was way too high to work for a bonnet crown, I cut it down into the strange shape below. Eventually I then ended up opening the crown at the back and only keeping the brim and a narrow edge of straw above it. And, in fact, it made a surprisingly effective (and cheap) substitute for a buckram base. ;)

The partially cut-down hat-base.

Now, it was time to decide on the style of bonnet I wanted to make. And that was a tough one. Because, every single bonnet and hat in that plate is just really, really beautiful. So, eventually, I settled for making something basic that resembles the general period look and takes up a few elements from varied bonnets in the fashion plate.

As I had to cut off the hat’s crown, I patterned a fabric crown. It is really nothing more than a 60 cm wide circle. I cut it out twice, once from my outer fabric, for the shell, and once from some leftover cotton net, for the lining.

Cutting out the bonnet’s crown.

I then hemmed the circles by folding the edges over once and gathered them on the outside edge. As the two crowns were later sewn together, I matched them up to the desired size as I gathered.

Gathering up the crown fabric.

With my biggest embroidery needle and some matched baby-blue purl yarn, I then attached the outer crown to the brim, by hand-sewing through the straw. If you are brave enough to try this at home, please make sure to wear a thimble of your choosing, since the whole affair can get a bit “poky” otherwise… ;) But, after some tugging and stabbing, the crown and brim actually came together quite nicely.

The brim base and the crown after sewing them together.

At some point, before or after this step (but better before, really…), you should trace around your brim, to get a pattern for its fabric cover which you then cut out twice, with some added seam allowance all around. If your brim is nicer than mine, the bonnet would also look pretty “au nature”, with bias-bound side edges. :)

Before I started covering the bonnet, I sewed the crown lining to the shell, but only around the fabric edge at the back. Then the covering fun started. I began by clipping the inner edges of my cover pieces. Next, I pinned one cover piece to the underside of the brim, basted it in place around the outer edge and attached the unsewn bit of the crown lining to the inner one. The result looked like this:

The inside cover, before basting to the outer edge.

When the inside was all covered, I threw the other cover over the outside and matched it with the inside piece. By the way it looks in the photo, I just had to call this act “throwing” it onto the bonnet. ;)

Draping over the fabric to cover the outside.

At the top edge, I then wriggled the unfinished edge of the cover under the crown’s gathered hem and sewed the two together by hand.

Attaching the top cover underneath the crown.

Finally, I finished the raw side and outer edges with some leftover satin bias tape. Thus is the progress of my secret little bonnet project so far. It all looks a bit big and wriggly on Jane, calling for a nice ribbon tie and some trimmings.

The finished front side, after binding.

The 1800s bonnet so far.

Now, I only have to see how to get them done by the end of this month with two more exams waving at me. But I am sure I can work something out… Hoping to see you all again soon. You are not forgotten!

Love, Nessa

P.S.: The corset is also well underway: The test corset is fitted and all the supplies are here now. This means I can soon start cutting it out. Yay!


4 thoughts on “The Clandestine Regency Bonnet: A Quick Making-Of

    • Nessa says:

      Truth. :D I think there is a reason why they are called “poke bonnets”. There is a period cartoon somewhere where they made fun of them. But yes, I will steer clear of the, ahem, tunnel, too. ;)

  1. Mimi Matthews says:

    Amazing work, Nessa! Reading your post & seeing the progress of your bonnet reminds me of a line from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice: “Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.” Anyway, can’t wait to see the end result of your project :)

    • Nessa says:

      Thank you so much, Mimi! I think I remember the line. :) Today, I have made my first attempt at a fabric flower to decorate it. It turned out alright and I might as well attach it. ;)


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