Finishing a Straw Bonnet

I am reposting favorite helpful posts each Monday throughout March, April, and May.


We are entering the time of year when people are thinking spring and about decorating their bonnets. Straw bonnets have a great appeal because they are cooler to wear in the heat as the straw allows the head to breathe, and the embellishments can be changed fairly easily without leaving as obvious thread holes.

Just as with most other garments and material culture pieces, millinery is an investment. You want to finish your straw bonnet as accurately as possible. This will include several factors:

  • A lining to protect the straw from your hair products and to protect your hair from snagging on the straw. While not every extant bonnet has a lining or evidence or a lining, a lining can extend the life of your bonnet
  • A frill or cap for the inside of the bonnet’s brim. This frill simultaneously frames the face and helps hold the bonnet in place. You may also want to add a facing to the front couple inches of the inside of the brim. This is found in many originals.
  • The bavolet will need a cotton net lining to give it the proper fullness. I believe this net also physically supports the materials of the bavolet. The silk, whether from fabric or ribbon, is most frequently seen on the bias in original bonnets. The net will help the bias cut hold its shape, especially if addition elements such as straw, lace, or bead-work is added. Consider reading “Understanding the Ribbon Bavolet” for additional information.
  • A bonnet will need 2 sets of ties – A functional set of narrow ties which will hold the bonnet on, and a decorative set of wider ribbons.
  • You may want to add a stay to assist in holding the bonnet to your head. The easiest to add is a simple strip of velvet. More information with images can be found in the post “Bonnet Stays
  • Then, of course, you need your decorations – flowers, feathers, ribbons, lace, etc.
  • I will add – A storage box and stand – While this is not an immediate need, a stand and box will help your bonnet last by protecting it from being mis-shappened, and from dust.

Recommended Shopping List:

  • I highly recommend Danielle’s book from Timely Tresses: Finishing a Straw Bonnet Form
  • Cotton net to line your bavolet
  • Fine cotton or silk net (bobbinette), or silk organza or lace for your frill/cap
  • Fine cotton voile or silk taffeta to line your brim
  • 3 yards minimum of wide (silk or quality rayon) ribbon (2 yards for ties, 1 yard for bavolet, additional for decoration/bows) (silk taffeta is also an option for the bavolet.)
  • 1 yard of 3/4″-1″ wide silk or cotton sateen ribbon for ties.
  • Ribbon and laces of choice for decoration
  • Flowers and feathers of choice for decoration
  • 1/2″-3/4″ wide velvet for optional stay


Recommended Reading List:


Godey’s, November 1856

Straw Bonnets.—Straw bonnets generally require some sort of lining, crape, muslin, or a thin silk. Very few are now worn with a plain lining. It requires just the same quantity to make a little fullness, which is more becoming. I will explain to you how to make a plain lining or a plain bonnet will take just the same quantity; or, if any difference, the plain requires more than the full. I think I hear my readers say this if very strange. You are aware that, in cutting out a plain bonnet or lining, there are several small pieces cut out to the shape. The piece make the fullness, for the material is used on the straight when put in the easy and on cross-way when plain, which compels you to cut pieces off , which on the straight and put in full, is not required. A head lining of silk or muslin should be put in after the lining to make all neat and clean when the bonnet is worn. Straw curtains are worn; but a great many ladies prefer a silk curtain made of the ribbon to match the trimming. The curtain is best cross-way with a narrow straw on the edge. The curtain will not quite take a yard of ribbon; three and a quarter or three and a half are sufficient to trim a bonnet. Plain colors on a straw are neater than mixed, such as primrose, light or dark blue. Sarcenet ribbon is better than satin. It is a good plan to sew narrow strings on the bonnet at the same time you sew the wide tie; the narrow first: it keep the bonnet more firm on the head. When I say narrow ribbon, I mean an inch and a half wide. An old fancy straw bonnet will make up again very weill by putting some silk between each row of straw. You must have a wire frame, and unpick the bonnet; cut some pieces of silk on the cross for puffings, and now lay your straw alternately with the silk. Unless the straw is a very good color, mix colored silk with it. This bonnet will require a lining.

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Published in: on May 16, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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