1 hour ago
Monday, May 27, 2013
Found another lonely cowboy hat at the flea market a few weekends back for five bucks. So, I thought I'd put together a bit more info on how I reshape them into top hats for those who want to try it.
This hat was in pretty dingy dusty shape. But, it was a smaller sized hat that would fit me, which seems rare in the cowboy hats I find. We tend to only find them in larger sizes.
This project will require a felt hat (beaver felt is the best choice), scissors, a ruler, a contrasting color of pencil, a sink filled with water, and a towel. You may also want a sauce pan lid or drinking glass for shaping and a seam ripper for removing stitches.
Remove Decoration - In this case, the decoration was simply a ribbon hat band. Used a seam ripper to remove the few stitches holding it on.
Pull Out Lining - I removed the satin lining from the inside. The lining is usually just tacked in with a little glue. This one had an internal leather hatband that was surprisingly still in really good shape. So, I decided to just leave it in. If it was rotting or worn, I would remove it all. Might take a seam ripper to get the old band out. They can be replaced with a simply piece of bias tape.
Clean Off Loose Dust and Lint - I was intending to cut this hat for an experiment, but it was actually in a lot better condition than I imagined before cleaning it up. So, I decided to just reshape it. Being a used hat, I took it outside and dusted and brushed off loose dirt and lint. I push out the dents and straighten the brim to make this easier. Scrub off any stubborn spots. At this point it's easier to see any damage that needs to be taken care of, like moth holes or stains. If the damge isn't something that can be repaired, I may decide to try a different style that will eliminate the damage all together. But small holes can be plugged and felted with scraps from the brim.
Trim the Brim - Next, I measured how wide I wanted the brim. I went with 1 1/2" wide all around. I made small marks with a light colored pencil and a ruler about 1/4" apart. I trimmed to the marks with a sharp pair of scissors and sanded off any rough crooked areas or bumps with sandpaper.(You could also do the trimming step after shaping. Especially with a hat that may stretch or shrink while cleaning and shaping. But, since I was dying my hat, cutting off the excess would conserve dye.)
Dying (optional) - The hat wasn't a very flattering brown on me, so I decided to try some red fabric dye, but it didn't hold as well as hair dye did on one of my previous experiments. But, it gave it just enough color to make it more flattering to my complection. I prepared the dye according to the package and painted on the dye with a paintbrush, let it dry completely in the sun and then washed it off in our stainless steel sink. In the future, I think I may try henna on one of these hats just to see what happens. If I wasn't dying the hat, I would just dunk it in a sink full of room temperature water until it was completely soaked. If the hat is dirty, as with this one, scrub it gently with soap and perhaps a toothbrush. Don't agitate it too much or it could shrink and distort.
Shaping - After dying the hat will be wet. I use a towel to blot dry as much of the excess water as I can remove. Then, set the damp hat on a dry towel to reshape. I wanted a top hat, so I needed to stretch the top out more. I used a small sauce pan lid to enlarge the top the the size I wanted. I push the lid into the inside of the hat (handle out) until it is even all around. I keep pulling the hat down over the lid until I get the wrinkles out of the top the best I could. Once it is even, I carefully pull the lid out and fix any distortion with my hands. (Note that when stretching the top, you will lose some height and make the hat shorter.) Laying the hat upside down, I push the center of the top back out in a slight dome. You can used a drinking glass to smooth this out along the inside. I also curl up the sides using a round pencil and shape til I'm happy with it.
Drying - Lastly, I just wait for it to dry. Setting it on something will help to keep it from getting flat spots on the brim. If you decide you don't like the style or it is crooked, just redunk the hat in water and try again.
Final Touches - Once I had a style I liked and it was completely dry, I rummaged through my stash to decorate it. You can use ribbon, scarves, feathers, pins, goggles, patches...just about anything you want.
I tried a few different scarves. And, narrowed it down to a long black net scarf with the ends hanging down in back. Also, added a couple feathers and stole the goggles off one of my other hats.
As always, if you try one, I'd love to see your results! It's a really easy and rewarding project. Next, I hope to get a post up with some pics of the Bustle Bar.