European>Basic Eastern European and Central Asian Hats
An Essential Accessory -
have been an essential accessory for thousands of years. Worn
in the winter to keep the head warm and used in the summer
as portable shade, the hat is one piece of costuming that
is somewhat overlooked. Not too many people bother with head
gear. One of the reasons may be that, in our mundane society,
the wearing of hats has fallen out of favor. In period, however,
many cultures not only favored hats as a sign of wealth but
some required the wearing of hats - basically to cover the
head in 'humility' before which ever deity was worshipped.
Women especially were often culturally required to wear some
sort of head covering.
In Central Asia, the climate is fairly varied. It can get
both blisteringly hot in the summer and frigid cold in the
winter. A hat is an almost mandatory article of clothing.
In The Arts and Crafts of Turkestan, by Johannes Kalter,
there are several photographs of people taken in the mid 1800's.
One photograph in particular shows the type of hat that we
are going to make today. There are also color photos of Turkmen
caps, dating from the 19th century. Given that these photos
are out of period, one should also turn to illuminations that
are in period to get a sense of whether or not caps such as
these were worn then. Several illuminations from Persia detail
caps of a similar style.
This type of hat can also be seen in Eastern Europe and up
into the Russian areas. Many, many period illuminations show
this hat, mostly on men. Embellishment in the eastern european
areas usually involved metal bits, precious and semi-precious
stones, pearls, and a whole host of other things. As with
Central Asia, the climate varied seasonally in a considerable
Lastly, as another argument in favor of making hats, it is
a great way to use up scraps. The hat that I make in this
demo was made entirely from scraps. The appliquéd motifs
are the leftover 'between' cuttings from appliqués
done several years ago... I tend to keep almost anything that
looks useable! If you're like me and searching for a means
to get rid of those killer textile scraps, read on! Let's
make a hat!
The Pattern -
people shy away from this particular hat because it seems
complicated to draft up a pattern for it. In reality, this
is one of the easiest patterns you will ever do! Start by
measuring around your (or the recipient's) head. Round up
to the nearest inch. If this is an even number - bonus! For
me, my measurement around my head was 23.75 inches. I rounded
up to 24 inches. Divide this number by 6 (six pieces to make
this hat). As an example, my measurement around, being 24
inches, was then divided by 6 which equaled 4. This is the
width, in inches, of each piece of the base of the hat. On
a piece of pattern paper, draw a 4 inch horizontal line. Find
the middle of that line and mark it. Now take your measuring
tape and measure from the top of your head - center top or
crown - to where you measured your head around. For me this
came out to 6 inches. Draw a 6 inch vertical line, starting
from the middle of your horizontal line. When you are done,
you should have what looks like an inverted 'T'.
Now here's the hard part... ready? Draw a curve from the
top of the vertical line to one end of the horizontal line.
Add your seam allowance to these three lines. Now fold the
piece of paper in half using the vertical line as your half
marker. Cut both sides out using the side that you drew. This
serves to 'true' up the pattern so that both sides are identical
to one another. Add your date information and who the pattern
is for, and you are ready to use the pattern!
One final word on the curve... don't get too excited about
curving it. The most common mistake that people make is to
make the curve too rounded. If this is done, the hat will
not lay flat to the head and curve around the head. Stick
with the example above and, by all means, make a mock up out
of muslin if you are at all nervous! If you start experimenting
with the number of pieces (anything from four to eight is
common), the rule of thumb is this: the more pieces, the more
shallow the curve. This means that, if you only have four
pieces, your curve will need to be much more pronounced. Now
that I've probably confused you, let's move on!
Construction Tech -
Now is the time to decide what materials you are going to
use to make your hat. I like wool, sometimes lined with silk,
linen, cotton or even more wool. Wool is nice and stiff and
holds the shape of the hat nicely. But I've made several hats
out of these other textiles and, if I really wanted them stiff,
I added an interlayer of canvas. This technique is quite prevalent
in extant caps. It also forms a nice foundation for any embroidery
you may want to do. For this particular hat, I had scraps
of a thick wool coating and a thinner wool. There are problems
associated with using materials that are thick.
will be parts of the hat that you will need to do by hand
simply because those layers will not fit under the foot of
the machine. There aren't many - mostly around the point at
the end when you will be sewing eight layers together.
You should also decide whether or not you are going to use
modern or period techniques to line the hat. I wholeheartedly
advise period techniques as they are easier and... well...
period. The following sequence is lined in period fashion.
Had I used a thinner material, I would've also used strips
to bind the edges but as it was wool, all I had to do was
tack the raw edges down.
However you decide, you will need to cut out six pieces of
your shell material and six pieces of your lining material.
If you are using the period technique to line the hat, put
the pieces (shell and lining) together as in the picture to
the left. If you've decided to line the modern method, which
means constructing the shell and the lining separately and
attaching them at the end, please be sure to make your lining
pieces slightly smaller (no more than 1/8th of an inch). This
will allow for the lining to be inserted up into the shell
without a great deal of fuss and leftover edges at the bottom.
In order to get a nicely finished top - one that doesn't
pucker or have bits sticking out, there is a trick to the
construction sequence of events. First, sew together two pieces,
starting at the point. Always start at the point when putting
the pieces together. The photo to the right shows me sewing
the shell and lining at the same time, lining to the outside.
This basically means that I will have major raw edges on the
inside of the hat but that's ok. I'll deal with them!
Once you've sewn these first two pieces together, grade them
and then steam iron them open. Now here's the first part of
the trick. Take another set of pieces and sew it to these
first two... starting the seam at the seam of the first two.
The center photo below shows how to line up the points. Do
not sew the third piece's point down. Start your seam at the
seam of the first two. This will leave a bit of the point
of the third piece free. This is ok and somewhat important.
Now grade your second seam and press open. Clip any unnecessary
bulk out of the seam on top to allow it to lay flatter if
necessary. Take a look at the outside and you should see a
fairly nice finish on the points. Put this set of three pieces
aside and do the exact same thing to the second set of three
pieces. At the end of this you should have two sets of three
pieces or the two halves of your hat. All that is left to
do now is one long seam. Line your points up and pin them
or hand baste them. At this point, if the fabric is thick,
you will want to hand sew the section of the points.
|Grading the seam.
||Matching points on the third piece.
|The two halves ready to be sewn together.
You've probably noticed, in the third photo above, that it
looks like I have already treated the seams of the two halves.
When the fabric is especially thick, I usually do treat the
interior seams before sewing the entire thing together. That
way I don't have to fight with the thing on all the seams.
Additionally, treating the seams before the last seam allows
the last seam to finish off everything nicely.
|The interior, seams finished and center seam sewn and
||The exterior, with the nicely finished points.
Now the Fun Part!
this point, you are now ready to embellish your hat to your
heart's content. Since it's a fairly small accessory, you
can get wild with it! It's also highly portable. For this
hat, I decided, as I said above, to use up some scraps I had
laying around. These scraps already had WonderUnder on them
so it was pretty easy to iron them into place and stitch them
Embroidery is far more common on these hats, especially in
Central Asia but appliqué is also used. You can either
finish off the edge with a band or you can add fur; both were
Just for fun, I added some bone bits (those little circles)
and a tassel. The appliqués are embroidered with anthropomorphic
patterns which are meant to scare off 'evil spirits'
Above all, experiment! Happy costuming!
|Another example of embroidery possibilities.
||Yet another embroidery example.
||Closer... don't be afraid.