Making a New Hat

Discussion in 'Hats' started by mark alan, Oct 21, 2006.

  1. Mr. Lucky

    Mr. Lucky One Too Many

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    The whole process is fascinating! Thank goodness that craftsmen still exist and continue to work their magic.

    Thanks for the trip.
     
  2. Micawber

    Micawber A-List Customer

    Messages:
    388
    Location:
    Great Britain.
    Excellent thread, thank you:eusa_clap
     
  3. If any thread ever deserved to be a sticky, it's this one.

    Many, many thanks to mark alan for a beautiful account. And kudos to the bartenders for making it stick(y)! :)


    .
     
  4. maintcoder

    maintcoder A-List Customer

    Messages:
    320
    Location:
    WA
    Indeed!

    Thanks for the incredible pictorial on how a hat is made. I am looking forward to the rest of the process.
     
  5. The Duke

    The Duke One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    214
    exactly!
     
  6. Orgetorix

    Orgetorix Call Me a Cab

    Here, here. Wonderful documentary!
     
  7. duggap

    duggap Banned

    Messages:
    938
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    Wow

    Thanks for the great post. Please don't forget to show us the finished product.

    Duggap
     
  8. K.D. Lightner

    K.D. Lightner Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,354
    Location:
    Des Moines, IA
    Neat!!

    Thanks for the tour.

    karol
     
  9. mark alan

    mark alan New in Town

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Making A New Hat, Part 2

    Last Friday Jim finished ironing and smoothing the crown and brim and then cut the brim to size. I knew this week most of the work would be in the sewing room. I had no idea how much. I was really surprised at what happened next.

    The next step is to sew the sweat band to the inside of the hat. So, where do the sweat bands come from and what’s involved? You can buy sweat bands or you can make them. Jim along with Joyce, who is in charge of the sewing room, make their bands from scratch. This involves a number of steps beginning with a large piece of soft and supple goat skin that comes in various colors and finishes. I picked the natural color and finish. Here’s Jim with the leather and the machine he calls “The Clicker” getting ready to cut the beginning of five hat bands.


    [​IMG][/IMG]

    He places the leather over the cutting jig. Then he puts a ¼ inch piece of plastic on top of the leather and moves the top press into place. Turns it on…click, click, click and…

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    …hat bands. Notice they are curved, not straight pieces.

    Next Joyce runs each piece through this machine to put a decorative gold foil stripe on the leather.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    Then she stamps the JW Hat logo onto the band using gold foil.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    Next a facing tape with a “reed,” a plastic like monofilament is attached to the leather band. The tape will be stitched to the inside of the hat crown and the reed will prevent stretching.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    You can see the tape above Joyce’s right hand and the reed coming out of the upper corner of the tape. This machine attaches the tape and seals the reed in a sleeve on the edge of the tape.

    Jim and Joyce provide hat bands for other companies making hats. The process is the same and only the logo changes.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    From here the process is customized for each hat. First, the hat band has to be cut to size. During this process Joyce also writes the hat number, the size and the type of the hat body on the band.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    The band is clamped in the cutting jig and the length is set on each end. In this photograph you can see each end is cut with a separate blade. This photograph also clearly shows the darker tape with its reed that is now stitched to the leather band.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    I can only post 10 photographs in each reply. I'll post the rest below.

    Mark
     
  10. mark alan

    mark alan New in Town

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Making A New Hat, Part 2 continued

    Joyce then butts the two ends together and sews them together with a zig zag stitch using a regular sewing machine. The she stitches the bow indicating the back of the hat over the seam.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    The last steps are done by hand. Joyce couples the ends of the reed together and then hand stitches the edge of the zig zag seam to reinforce it, since this will be the greatest stress point on the band, and locks the reed so the edge of the band can’t stretch.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    Finally, the sweat band is attached to the inside of the hat crown using this 90 year old machine.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    While sewing, the crown will be on the left side of the needle with the tape and reed. The brim and leather portion of the band will be on the right.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    This process is exacting. The edge of the band when it is folding into the hat has to fit flush with the inside edge of the crown. It can’t wonder up into the crown or extend down to below.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    Now, Joyce gives the hat to Jim and he shapes it by hand. First he covers the inside of the crown with what he calls “gookompucky.” This is a secret recipe. “The real name of the stuff is longer than your arm,” he told me. “When I bought all my equipment (and how that happened is a story in itself) I found a jar of it. I didn’t know what it was but I knew what it was for. I sent it to lab in Chicago and they told me what it was.” It is plant based and comes to Jim from Asia as a powder. Mixed with water it becomes “gookompucky.”

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    The crown is now softer and more malleable. Jim gives it any shape you want.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    Next the hat dries and next week he and Joyce will finish it for me.

    Jim does have forms for shaping but uses them only for stiff hat bodies such as straw. Here is a form and holders he’s added. The holder keeps the stiff material in place while it dries. This is not necessary when using softer bodies like the one he is using for my hat.

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    I’ll be back with Jim next week and will photograph the last steps, the final fitting and the completed hat.


    Mark
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know.

    G. Marx
     
  11. mark alan

    mark alan New in Town

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    The Making of a New Hat

    Thanks for all the great feedback! Jim told me yesterday he has received lots of phone calls. He was both surprised and very, very pleased. Keep those calls coming. While we were talking yesterday, he told me we need to go see his friend Rolly in North Salt Lake. "He's been making caps for forty years," he said. "You should take photos of that if they're interested. He's a real interesting guy."

    Stay tuned.

    Mark
     
  12. The Duke

    The Duke One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    214
    more great photos, this is a great education in the making of hats, Thanks again!
     
  13. Great Article

    This has just been wonderful to follow, great pictures and explanations.

    Thanks Mark and please extend out thanks to Jim for sharing with us!:eusa_clap
     
  14. GOK

    GOK One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,308
    Location:
    Raxacoricofallapatorius
    Well, well, well - I thought my first post here would be in the Powder Room....just goes to show how wrong one can be eh?

    Fantastic thread, Mark - I can't wait to see the finished article. Isn't it fab to find real craftsmen/women around, still doing things the old fashioned way, with old machinery and equipment?

    I was interested to read that the machine Jim uses to cut the leather is called a clicker; I live in a converted Victorian shoe factory (the oldest remaining one in Northampton, apparently) and have been researching shoe making in the town (it is world-famous for shoes - some of your swanky ones may well have been made here!). One of the things I discovered is that people that cut the leather uppers (and were therefore regarded as the ?©lite) were called.....clickers. Seemingly, the name came from the sound the blade made as it was drawn around the leather. I just thought it was interesting that Jim refers to his machine as the clicker - I wonder if he is aware of the connection?
     
  15. mark alan

    mark alan New in Town

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Clickers

    Hi Gok,

    I told Jim about your note. He had not heard of the connection between his machine and the cutters in the shoe industry. Jim will attach any name that suits his mood when he doesn't have an "official" name for the item substance or process. In cutting the leather, the machine clicks as the top of the press rachets down on the nonmoving base and presses the leather over the cutting blades.

    Mark
     
  16. mark alan

    mark alan New in Town

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Making A New Hat, Part 3

    We hoped my hat would be finished today. But, I had a change in schedule and didn't have as much time as usual and Jim and Joyce had a very busy Friday morning with a steady stream of customers coming into the shop. All the work done today was by Joyce and her assistant Joan. All the work involved more sewing. Jim may do the “showy” work that is most obvious, such as shaping the hat, but Joyce and Joan have each hat in their hands longer than Jim and do all the work that makes a hat fit correctly. Plus they attach the ribbon and, if desired, the edge ribbon.

    Speaking of edges, this might be a good place to mention the famous Cavanagh Edge. I think they look great. Why can’t we get hats with this edge? The reason is that this brim treatment did not take place in the hat making process. That is, as I understand it, Cavanagh had it done while the hat body was being made. It was part of the very beginning of the hat making process, the felting. It involved making each hat body with a pre determined crown height and brim width. During the felting the edge was folded over and stitched down. Then more of the felting process took place with multiple pressings. Next, the stitching was removed and the edge was pressed to eliminate the stitching holes. The end result of all this was the Cavanagh Edge.

    Why can’t this be done now? The answer is basic, cost. The process is too expensive and the market too small. Jim said one company has been offered $500 for just a body with that brim treatment. The offer was, sadly, turned down. So, if you want a Cavanagh Edge, buy vintage.

    The first task of the afternoon was to select a ribbon for the edge and the band ribbon. The hat body is a gray brown but I plan to wear it with grays and charcoals and less with brown. After consulting with Jim and Joyce we decided to use charcoal ribbons. I decided to use a ribbon on the brim simply because I don’t have any fedoras finished that way. Here are a few of the ribbons at JW Hats.

    [​IMG]

    This is the sewing machine that will be used to attach the ribbon to the brim.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see it folds the ribbon is half as it stitches it to the brim. Joyce has to keep the stitching even by rotating the hat at a constant rate while the machine in running. She begins at the back and stops short of finishing. The final finish will be done by hand.

    [​IMG]

    Here’s Joyce sewing the ribbon to the brim edge.

    [​IMG]

    Here’s Joan finishing the brim ribbon.

    [​IMG]

    While Joan is working on the brim, Joyce is preparing the band. She uses her iron to press it into a curve so it will fit against the taper of the crown without undo stretching of the ribbon. Then she makes the bow.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Next she pins the ribbon to the hat body so it is ready to be sewn to the hat body.

    [​IMG]

    And that is where we left off for the day as the customers kept arriving.

    [​IMG]

    The last satisfied customer before I left. See you all next week with the finish.
     
  17. TM

    TM A-List Customer

    Messages:
    309
    Location:
    California Central Coast
    Mark,

    Thank you for your fantastic posts! This is one of the most informative threads here. I never knew the process was so complex.

    Tony
     
  18. Shade

    Shade New in Town

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Casablanca
    Great stuff! Very interesting to see the process. I would have never guessed it would be so long and complex! I look forward to more pics...good job!
     
  19. Mr. Lucky

    Mr. Lucky One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
    SHUFFLED off to...
    What an AMAZING hat!














    (Oh, and yours is nice too!)
     
  20. majormoore

    majormoore Vendor

    Messages:
    802
    I have to say that the last customer of the day sure was a good looking customer, wish all may days ended with customers looking like that.

    Mike
     

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