Stretching a hat - advice please....

Discussion in 'Hats' started by jdbenson, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. Chindit

    Chindit New in Town

    Messages:
    15
    Location:
    New Jersey
    These hat stretching discussions are great.
    I've stretched numerous hats using both a Hat Jack and a vintage hat stretcher (my actual hat size is just under a 7 1/2).

    However, I have encountered a problem, particularly in using the hat jack, where after the stretch the bottom of the crown sticks out further than the rest of the crown. Has anyone else encountered this problem.

    The answer is obviously to stretch the entire felt of the crown, but is there a danger in tearing it?

    Also, does anyone have any particular thoughts on stretching a stiff WOOL felt hat?

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.
     
  2. J.T.Marcus

    J.T.Marcus Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,354
    Location:
    Mineola, Texas
    In the museum, at Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN), there is one of Dolly Parton's old hats, from her really big hair days. It had to be stretched, several sizes, with a "hat jack." Even all these years later, the portion of the crown under the ribbon sticks out about an INCH farther than the rest of the crown. It's the wierdest thing you ever saw, but evidently it worked, at the time. :)
     
  3. Spellflower

    Spellflower Practically Family

    Messages:
    511
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Wow, I would have thought Dolly could afford to buy custom hats in whatever size she needed!
     
  4. jdbenson

    jdbenson One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    194
    Location:
    Cincinnnati, OH
    Success

    Much thanks to all for your advice.

    Saturday was such a nice day in Cincy that I decided to go out and checkout a few antique malls and vintage clothing stores. I was at a place called Talk of the Town drooling over a few vintage Cavanaughs, Borsalinos, and Stetsons, ALL of which were too small for my big noggin, when I spied out of the corner of my eye an adjustable hat block. It had the previous owner's name written on the side of the base, and I managed to find one of his hats as well, which was a size 7 1/4. So, I figured the block must be a similar size. I haggled the price down a bit and bought that baby! Took it home and since then have successfully tweaked two fedoras to match my 7 3/8 long oval head. I pushed the bash out of the crowns, placed the hat on the block and opened it up until it was just snug. Then I misted the entire crown and top part of the brim until it was wet to the touch. Then I began the stretch. It takes time. I stretched one hat from a 7 1/4 to a 7 3/8 and that took about 12 hrs. I resprayed and restretched about every 2 to 4 hrs.

    The best part of it was because I used a block stretcher, there's no noticable taper! Life is good!
     
  5. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,958
    Location:
    Saskatoon, SK CANADA

    worthlesswithoutpics
     
  6. carldelo

    carldelo One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,568
    Location:
    Astoria, NYC
    Yes, pics please

    Hey jdbenson, I'd love to see some pics of the block you bought. I found these new old-style stretchers available in NYC:

    http://www.wardrobesupplies.com/store/m2_mjsupp.html

    I plan to check out the 4-way deluxe stretcher on Friday, but it sounds like the old gizmo you bought is what I'd rather use. I've been stretching my old Trilby out with a hat-jack, but it has significant taper as a result, and a step in the crown above where the jack was and I'm not digging the look.
     
  7. tm3

    tm3 Familiar Face

    Messages:
    76
    Location:
    NC
    carldelo please report on how these stretchers check out, as i'm still unsuccessful in getting a vintage on ebay and am considering other options.

    if you prefer you can email me tm3 at mindspring.com

    thanks a lot!
     
  8. carldelo

    carldelo One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,568
    Location:
    Astoria, NYC
    Will do

    I also plan to stop by Manny's Millinery Supply which is not far away and is going out of business - I'll post what I find &/or buy in both places. Cheers
     
  9. tm3

    tm3 Familiar Face

    Messages:
    76
    Location:
    NC
    excellent! i appreciate the help!
     
  10. jdbenson

    jdbenson One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    194
    Location:
    Cincinnnati, OH
    No camera

    Unfortunately my digi camera is on the fritz, so no pix. I did find a picture of a similar hat block online, but it's on a live ebay auction, so I didn't want to link to it...I'm sure if you look in OFAS for a hat block stretcher you can find it.

    I was trying to get one of the larger drop in vintage stretchers on ebay, but the prices kept soaring up and up. The last one I bid on topped out over $50!
     
  11. carldelo

    carldelo One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,568
    Location:
    Astoria, NYC
    OK, I'll bite, what is OFAS?
     
  12. Hat, Jack!

    The vintage ones are really well made and seem to do the job the best, but the current day cheapies can be affective if you don't ask a lot of them.

    I use the modern one to losen the Akubra Squatter and Bushman a tad. Both are pretty stiff still and they are a tad tight across the forehead and back, so maybe my head is a little more oval than their shape. I dampen the hat, put in the jack, line it up so it is square and flat, then cinch turnbuckle in the jack so it is about 3/4-1 turn more than two finger tight. I get a more oval shape a little more fitting to my head. When these finally soften up the hat will shape easier to my head and I doubt i'll need to do it.

    One problem i see it if you want to go up in size is the wood piece that is the body is only so wide along the curve and will make a noticable ledge in the hat body if you try to stretch too much with a hat jack. Also sweat bands may break instead of stretching as well as the ribbon or you can pop some stitching also.
     
  13. Mike in Seattle

    Mike in Seattle My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,027
    Location:
    Renton (Seattle), WA
    "Our favorite auction site" AKA Ebay
     
  14. tm3

    tm3 Familiar Face

    Messages:
    76
    Location:
    NC
    i understand what you mean. i'm not an ebay fan, and certainly not a skilled bidder. the stretchers that i have found that are the correct size (7 1/4) and that i have bid on have all sold for $50 and up. curiously, ones that i have not bid on and have just watched have sold for as low as $20. seems odd to me.
     
  15. Wolfmanjack

    Wolfmanjack Practically Family

    Messages:
    547
    OFAS stands for Our Favorite Auction Site, i.e., eBay.
     
  16. carldelo

    carldelo One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,568
    Location:
    Astoria, NYC
    New old-style stretcher

    OK, I went by Manhattan Wardrobe on Friday and picked up some hat stuff. It's a great place that caters to the theater world - lots of backstage stuff, clothing steamers, sewing stuff, stage blood, etc. - pretty much fun to look around. My haul for the day is shown here:

    http://s97.photobucket.com/albums/l234/carldelo/Hat stretching/

    I wound up buying a size 7-1/4 hat stretcher for $69 which felt like a little bit much. As you can see in a bunch of the photos, it is 2-1/4" thick vs. 1-1/2" thick for the hat jack. More importantly, I measured a 1.5 degree taper to the sides, vs. 8 degree taper for the hat jack - certainly important for straight crowns. It also has a better curve profile on the ends, and in general is much nicer than the hat jack.

    It is very heavy, with a 1" diameter knurled sleeve on 5/8" diameter threaded rod. It is made from 3 layers of some kind of hardwood - it looks like it was glued up as a single piece, then sawed in half and the hardware added, as the grain is continuous across the cuts. From the pictures, you can see that there are some gaps in the joints, and everything isn't 100% flush (I used raking light to accentuate this). It looks like things warped after it was cut. In any event, it is very solid and sturdy and isn't moving now, and it weighs a couple of pounds at least. When fully closed, it has a circumference of 23" exactly, or size 7-3/8.

    In one photo, I show it inside my size 7-3/4 Stetson Chatham - it slides in easily and takes several full turns to stretch up to my size. It looks like it will work OK to stretch my Chrystie's Trilby. It's a 7-5/8, but it has shrunk and my head is bigger now, so it needs some serious work. It just barely slides on the stretcher when closed, so I guess it's shrunk two full sizes over the years. In the pictures you can see the annoying flat sides left after doing some intial stretching with the hat jack.

    While there I also bought a brim brush, some Lexol Neatsfoot dressing, spot remover and a hat sponge - all were pretty inexpensive. Now if someone can tell me whether I have to worry about staining the felt with the Lexol, I'll start the stretching.

    Oh, I also bought one of those crappy plastic hat rests, which is just barely big enough for my lid. I'm going to design something of my own - I don't want my hat sitting on tupperware - those things just suck.

    Almost forgot, I tried the 4-way stretcher that they sell (for $89). But it's too small - by the time I had it almost big enough to fit in my Stetson, the pins had come out of their slots and the thing fell apart on me. It was also not as chunky feeling as the single action stretchers.

    The webpage that started me on this expedition is here:
    http://www.wardrobesupplies.com/store/m2_mjsupp.html

    Cheers, Carl
     
  17. Justdog

    Justdog Practically Family

    Messages:
    814
    Location:
    North of 48
    Hat Stretching

    Great advice and an excellent link.

    As I am new and only aquired a few vintage hats recently this thread helped me a lot.

    I thought I was 7 1/4 until I received a few vintage 7 1/4.

    Think they shrank a bit smile.

    A bit tight.

    Three are pretty much new and must have shrank one size 1/8 in the fifty or so years in storage.

    One Adams is slowly being stretched by wearing, I force it down over the widest part of my brow and then tilt my head back and contract my scalp.

    This stretches the hat slowly and after 2 weeks the 7 1/4 Adams so far is feeling very conformed to my natural shape.

    I must admit the tightest point is the forehead.

    I think the long of the oval will definately benefit by a bit of a stretch.

    Like a tight pair of shoes I would be interested in hearing about how long it takes to break a hat in.

    Thanks
     
  18. tm3

    tm3 Familiar Face

    Messages:
    76
    Location:
    NC
    GREAT info, carldelo. your new stretcher looks like the vintage ones on ebay, but in new condition. while $69 is pricey i like not having to mess with fleabay so i'll probably pick one up along with some lexol.

    thanks for posting this and the pics!
     
  19. carldelo

    carldelo One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,568
    Location:
    Astoria, NYC
    My pleasure

    Glad to help - I didn't say so before, but the hat brush was $7.75, sponge $3 and spot remover $4 - seems less than most places - don't know what shipping costs would be, though. Hey, I was saving money by buying all those supplies, right? The hat jones has apparently taken hold.... happy stretching.
     
  20. Shel

    Shel New in Town

    Messages:
    44
    Location:
    New York
    I'm sure this has been covered many times before, but I'm fairly new here, so please bear with me. I have a few hats that need to be resized or offered on eBay. Can anyone recommend a good hat stretcher and any other advice relating to it?
     

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