Straw Bonnet...weekend warrior...

Ah, vacation days. Those days when you were supposed to go to an event, but circumstances forced you to stay home and just putter around. I was going to go to the in-laws and clean my new (old) letterpress, but alas, that didn't happen either, so I was able to spend hours and hours working on the project of my choice. Alas, so many to choose from. :) I decided to dive into the straw bonnet.

I'd made a straw bonnet once before--it was all machine sewn (bad me), so this time I wanted to hand-stitch it so the stitches remained hidden, and I could have more control over the shape. So for all those interested in the how-to, here's what I did. Just keep in mind I don't have a block, so I'm basically winging it:

1) I have a bonnet blank from Pam Robles that will be a covered bonnet one day, so I traced out the brim (crown?). Basically I traced out everything but the "tip" -- the back part of the bonnet. This was the portion of Pam's bonnet that started out as a flat pattern. So, I traced this pattern onto cardstock for future use, then traced that onto a piece of muslin. I've pinned the muslin to my ironing board, which will act as my block for now, since it's the only place I can really pin and steam the straw.

Starting at the front edge, I begin to sew the straw plait together, pinning and ironing (with steam) after each one, which is most effective, as the straw stretches a little and the thing can get out of shape REALLY fast. I've left about 1/8" (or about 1/2 the width of straw plait) from the front edge, because I'm going to have a long length of plait that will go all around the front edge, around the chin tabs, and around the back. I want to do that last, so I've left space for that plait to go.

2) Then I stitched a few more plaits together...

3) Kept stitching, until I had 12 plaits, pinning it and steaming it after each is sewn down. 12 plaits are what I decided would be a good "brim" width. I figured I'd have to do this in parts, because on some original bonnets, I've seen a difference between the rows of the brim and the rows of the crown -- particularly, that the rows are at two different angles...probably due to the way the straw has to lay when the crown reaches the tip, compared to the way it has to lay at the front edge. I've seen some originals that had the same lay from front edge to tip, but I like the look when the lay shifts.

So, I drew out extra lines on my muslin pattern. I measured out 2-1/8" from the front edge and drew a line; and about 1-1/4" from the back edge, where the crown meets the tip. The angles start out evenly at the sides, but they are definitely different in the center front, where the crown meets the brim. In the photo below, you can see the 12 rows of plaiting stitched together, and the 3 parts of my pattern.

The first part is the brim, the 2nd part is the crown, and the 3rd part is the back edge of the crown where the straw finally starts being stitched together in a full circle, rather than just individual strips.

And here is the brim pinned down within the dotted lines of the brim pattern. It stretched in some places (like the front center), and shrunk in places (like the outer edges). Pinning it down to the pattern and steaming the dickens out of it, then letting it cool, still pinned, will help it keep its shape. When I'm done with the brim and the crown, and have them stitched together, I will probably starch it...but I will get more research on that first before I do it.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for more adventures in straw. Cheerio!

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