Monday, 12 September 2011

The Blocking Bug

Finally getting around to a making post! I mean to do more of these but it's hard to get into the habit of taking in progress pictures. Usually when I'm in the flow of making something I won't stop until it's done or I've messed it up!

I bought two rolls of craft sinamay months ago when they were reduced in Paperchase with the vague ambition on learning to block properly and they've been sulking untouched in the corner of my sewing room ever since. But with a posh wedding coming up this weekend and having followed the string of amazing fascinators at the royal weddings and the races this year I thought I'd give it a go myself.

I can't afford real wooden blocks at the moment so I started looking around the house for a substitute. My eyes landed upon a stainless steel fruit bowl with a nice curve to it. Then I flipped it over and found a cute pedestal base perfect for a mini crown

I started by using three layers of the open weave sinamay, wet them thoroughly with hot water and started to smooth and ease them over the shape of the bowl. The sinamay not already having stiffeners in it as proper millinery sinamay would I improvised with watered down PVA (a tip I had read in a few craft blogs) to hold the shape and bond the layers together. I obviously couldn't pin the layers down into the metal as you would with a wooden block so I improvised with some elastic straps and a piece of stiff wire.

Whilst the whole shebang was still pretty wet I covered it with a piece of scrap fabric and pressed it hard with the steam iron to start to cook the shape in to the sinamay. Luckily by this time it was late enough to go to bed as I'm a horror for fiddling with things whilst they're still wet and messing them up completely when I should just leave well enough alone.

The next afternoon I was chomping at the bit to get back from work and see how it turned out. I eased it carefully off the bowl (a couple of hairy moments there) and voila:

The bust is another recent make but I'll save that for another time. At the point of this photo I'd also trimmed and wired the edge.

At this point the two dresses I bought from Awear turned up. Both fit, if a little tight, but both had much paler tones than this creamy yellowish sinamay, so I decided to make a second base from the paler, even weave sinamay. It was easier the second time around and I also decided to accentuate the off centre crown that had been an accident the first time. I love fortuitous accidents.

Finally I added a band of navy grosgrain around the edge and a spray of vintage ostrich and stripped coque feathers that I'd picked up at the Manchester Vintage Textiles Fair. A clear comb on the inside and it was complete!

It's wonderfully light to wear and the tilt should be great for hiding from the family papparazzi. The only problem is now I've been utterly bitten by the blocking bug and keep looking at random objects with possible hat shapes in mind. I've already stolen the lid from the coffee jar, much to fiancé's bemusement!


  1. Carmine, you are an inspiration!! I've been self-teaching blocking for a fairly short time, and did find two balsa blocks on eBay for $98.00 and love them. I am looking for a cloche block, and have been improvising with buckram. It's time to block felt for fall, and will try some oddities in sinamay first. Victor Osborne in NYC has a great video on a DIY foam. Google him!! I haven't made one yet but plan to soon.
    Thanks for this post!!

  2. I'm so glad you like it, and thanks for the tip, I shall have a google tomorrow. I'm looking forward to trying felt myself soon and have had goof tips about expending foam, polystyrene and cork for making blocks. Plenty of fun experimentation in the future!