I decided to make myself a Regency bonnet to match my gown for the Emerald Parlor's Regency picnic in September. I discovered that there were many good tutorials on-line, but many of them were either missing valuable instructional points, or the bonnets weren't quite what I was wanting (as far as style or shape), so I decided to create my own tutorial. This is a wonderfully creative and relatively simple project that can be put together in half a day - just follow the my basic instructions and add your own fabulous touches of decoration. Before you know it, you will have created a masterpiece worthy of even Jane Austen's approval!
1) No need for a buckram frame - go to your local thrift or Big Box store and purchase a cheapo sun visor from the hat department (make sure that the bill of the visor is flexible straw - you will be sewing it with your machine, so you want something friendly).
2) Gently remove the cloth cap from the straw bill, being careful not to pull or tug too much on the stitching - you do not want the bill to fray.
3) It's best to employ the help of a Molly-head (a styrofoam wig or hat stand) to gage where on the head the bill of the bonnet will rest so that you will know where to place the ties later. Further, it is essential to any creative endeavor that one should own a cheeky ginger cat who displays an uncanny ability to know precisely where he shouldn't lay!
4) No pattern needed! Simply measure around your head to get your hat size (my measurement is 22-1/2 inches). For the body of the hat, cut one rectangular piece of fabric 8" long and twice as wide as your hat measurement (my rectangle was 8" x 45"); for the crown cap, trace and cut out 3" diameter circle; and for the hat bands, cut out two strips of fabric 2" wide and 1/2" longer than your hat measurement (my hat bands measured 2" x 23" each).
5) Fold together the rectangle body of your hat (right sides facing) and sew the shorter ends together; then, pleat your hat body to the 3" crown cap.
6) Once the hat body is pleated to the crown cap, carefully stitch it all in place (you may have to walk your machine needle to avoid breaking it or causing injury to yourself).
7) If you desire to line your bonnet (I lined mine with a stiff muslin behind a black voile to give the bonnet decoration as well as structural support), this is the time to do it. You may repeat steps 1-6 to create the hat lining, or you may do what I did and cut out an 18" diameter circle in the lining and structural fabric and baste it to the inside base of the hat body.
8) Next, fold each hat band in half (right sides facing) and sew the shorter ends together; then, sew one of the bands to the outside of straw bill. After the two pieces are sewn together (the band and the bill), throw them up on your Molly-head to check for fit and position.
9) Take the second hat band and pleat the hat body around its circumference from the inside.
10) Sew the hat band to the body; throw them up on the Molly-head to check for fit and position.
11) With right sides facing (the straw bill will be inverted and slipped over the the base of the hat body) , secure the two hat bands and sew together.
12) This is the time to have your bonnet ties ready to be sewn in - I created mine by folding, sewing, and turning out two 18" voile tubes. You may certainly use ribbon or any other desired material for ties.
13) Insert the ties between the underside band and overside band right at the point where either side of the straw bill tapers to a point; neatly turn in the the underside and overside hat bands, pin, and sew together.
14) Once the hat bands are sewn together, throw the finished basic bonnet up on the Molly-head to check for fit and to check the position of the ties.
15) If the basic bonnet structure looks good, then it's time for decoration!
For more construction and finishing details of my Regency bonnet, please visit my Flicker page - in the meantime, happy sewing! :)