How To Make a Bonnet and Cap

Godey’s, November 1856

How To Make a Bonnet and Cap.

Drawn Bonnets.—Have a plain willow shape ready, the size and pattern you wish your bonnet to be; measure round the edge, and put a pencil mark to denote half of the bonnet; measure your silk, or whatever material you are going to make your bonnet out of, on the edge of the shape, and let it be five inches longer to allow for fullness. This quantity is quite sufficient. Measure your material selvage way, regulate the edge of the bonnet very nicely; the fullness must be even, the same as putting on a shirt collar, and neat stitches are required. In drawn bonnet-making, do not cut your sewing silk; wind it, and have your needlefuls the length of the silk or material you are going to run; do not fasten off your silk at the end of the runner, as it requires drawing up before the bonnet is finished; halve the material of your bonnet, before you begin to run with white cotton, all the way down; when you have done the tucks in your bonnet material, place the silk, or anything else you may be making in a bonnet of, on the willow shape, and cut a small piece out at the ears to shape it like the willow shapes; never mind fastening off your ends of silk—they will be all right before you finish your bonnet. The tucks in the silk are to be run just as you would a petticoat or a child’s frock. Four or five are enough. When your bonnet is run, and ready to put on the shape, it ought to measure seven or eight inches deep, according to the wearer. Old persons generally require a larger bonnet than young people. Try you hand in making a bonnet in a piece of book muslin or something common at first. The size of the tucks varies according to the taste of fashion a little. They are now worn all sizes. Some bonnets have only three tucks with wires in them, others five. Before you get forward in your running, try the wire you are going to use, “and do not do what is too often done” – run the tucks, and then find the wire will not do. The wire had always better be too small than too large; in fact, the runners must be loose on your wire. The cane or whalebone for drawn bonnets I have never seen used. A wire, covered with cotton, is to be bought any size you wish. The wire must be very hard and firm for the edge, and soft and pliable for all the rest of your bonnet. Attend to this, or you will make people’s heads ache. I would not give two pence for the prettiest bonnet ever turned out if the wires were not light and soft. All these things only require attention; for little things I have no doubt some of my young readers think them in comparison to the look of a bonnet. Many persons can tell you what part of town a bonnet has been made in simply by the foundation—I mean the wires and supports of the bonnet. If you wish to make a drawn bonnet of two colors or two pieces join them together before you begin; and now be careful, joining the work strong; and let the tuck you put in hid where it is joined, not because you wish anyone to think it not joined, but for neatness. When you have run the tucks in your bonnet, before you begin to put in your wires, cut the piece of silk that at the ends the exact shape of your pattern-frame; this after the wires are to be put in; and now place the silk on half of the willow shape;tack the silk, not the wire is in, on the shape, all around the edge of the bonnet; now pull your wires to the right size, that is, exactly like the shape; having done this, now fasten the short wires that come down at the ears to the pieces of chip and wire that you have run through the edge of the bonnet.

When the wire that goes in the edge of your bonnet must go quite round the back, and cross a little. It is almost the whole support of your bonnet. When the wires are all firmly fastened, you may now draw up your sewing-silk that is in the tucks. Be careful not to break them. You will find our bonnet looking better for being run well, and then drawn tight. All this must be done before you take your drawn bonnet off the willow frame. You will require five supports got ready to put in. They must be silk wire, rather firm, and the color of your bonnet. They should be cut one inch longer than the bonnet, so as to allow a small piece to be turned down, top and bottom. Put one piece in the middle of your bonnet, and the remaining four at equal distances. These wires are called support’s, as they help to keep the bonnet in shape. Having reached so far with your bonnet, bind all round the back from ear to ear, and bow put on our curtain. In putting on your curtain, draw the thread at the top to the size of ten inches, and make this firm; place half your curtain to the half of the back of your bonnet; now sew it on; mid the fullness is equal.

If you wish to make a drawn bonnet with puffs, begin the bonnet just in the same way. When you have made a runner or tuck, push up a little of your silk; a very little will do. You require a piece of net underneath your silk. This net must be the size of the piece of the silk. When you turn down the first hem, put the net inside, and run it with the silk. The use of this piece of net is that you may full your silk on it, keeping the net plain. These kind of bonnets require a lining; it should be a little full. Always bear in mind that two or three inches are a good deal of fullness in millinery, in silk, net , or anything else. When you put linings in any bonnet, puff net on the lining before you put it on the bonnet. If you put more than one inch inside your bonnet, put it on the lining before you put the lining in. The bonnet is lined after the outside is done so as to keep it as fresh as possible.


Published in: on March 14, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Finishing a Straw Bonnet

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.

Published in: on March 7, 2016 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

Spring Millinery Reading

As spring arrives, a great many of us are thinking…. Spring Millinery!  Here are a few past articles of interest….

Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Straw Plaiting


Published in: on February 22, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Italian Straw Plaiting

Published in: on February 21, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Alas, no home

These poor bonnets never did find a home last year. Each is waiting for the right time and person.

The first is one of my favorites from last year. I just love the combination of the velvet calla lilies and pink & green silk.

This is a smaller straw hat. (It fits my head perching forward.) It would be good for an adult with a smaller to average head or a child. Find it on Etsy.

This little hat is ideal for a late war to post war impression. Light weight, made of fine hemp-straw and silk, it sits back over the hair as it begins to rise. The inspiration for this bonnet comes from this 1865 wedding bonnet at the National Trust Collections (below) Find it on Etsy.


**Note: I am going to make a point to share my millinery work here first as the listings are complete. This means, to get the first look and chance at pieces, subscribe to my blog. You can opt to have the new posts go to a feed or your email.**




Shattering Silk – Why Not to Use Antique Silk Ribbon

Since our 21st century selection of silk ribbon is a teeny, tiny fraction of what it was in the 19th century, all to often we look to antique and vintage ribbon for embellishing our millinery. The silk florals, stripes, plaids, damasks, moires, pretty colors…. are all too tempting. They are just so pretty.

Well…. there can be a huge drawback to using antique or vintage ribbon for reproduction millinery.

wpid-2015-10-03-14.32.40.jpg.jpegAntique and vintage silk ribbons can be fragile. Even if they appear to be in strong shape, they can still be easily damaged. This black ribbon to the right is an example of this. This is 1″ ribbon on one of my personal winter bonnets. This is after the first wearing. The ribbon was tied in the morning when I left the house. It was not untied/retied at all through the day. This is how it looked when I took it off in the afternoon. This ribbon was part of an order of several black ribbons when I was out of my regular silk ribbon and my ribbon supplier was also out of ribbon. The ribbon appeared strong, being soft and supple. Obviously, this was not the case.

Bad for me. Good for you because this is a good chance to show what can happen.

The fractures or splits on this ribbon run the length of the ribbon. This means the weft threads are what broke. The weft threads, those running across the ribbon, are usually less strong than the weft threads that run the length of the ribbon. These fractures are along the lines where the ribbon folded/wrinkled in the bow. So, these fractures make sense. (This is also good to see because it can be compared to future observations of silk fractures. These would occur from the wearing. Other fractures can occur during the storing.)

Now, imagine this happening with a wider ribbon. This narrow ribbon only cost a few dollars a yard. A wider ribbon can cost $10, $20, even $50 a yard. Multiplied out by 2 to 5 yards going on a bonnet…. there would be lots of tears. I had a client who loved this wide green silk ribbon. It looked quite lovely. When it arrived, it was obviously quite dry and brittle. Using the ribbon would have been a disaster.

imageHere is another example I picked up at an estate sale for the ribbon collection. It is a brilliant green silk in a five inch width. This ribbon appears to be in nice shape on the roll. But, just the pressure of a finger nail can break the fibers like a razor blade. Notice how this break is across the ribbon. This means I am breaking the warp threads, which should be the stronger fibers. imageThis ribbon, assuming it survived being attached to the bonnet (which I doubt it would) would shatter in the wearer’s hands.


This pale blue silk is another example. this two inch wide ribbon appears to have a nice sheen. It is soft to the touch. It does not feel dry or have that weird crisped feel some aged ribbons can have.


Yet, it is still quite fragile. This break cuts across both the warp and weft threads.The break formed just from pressure in that area.


Of course, not using antique and vintage silk ribbons leaves us with vintage blends, narrower modern silk ribbons and wider ribbons in modern fibers. I highly recommend feeling some orginal ribbons when you can. Also, feel the different qualities of modern an newer vintage ribbons so you can have a tactile knowledge of what is available and how it compares to originals.

Published in: on October 6, 2015 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Closer Look at My Winter Bonnets

IMG_7764I have been meaning to write about how I make my winter bonnets for a while now, a while being over a year. I really want to share with you what goes into each of the bonnets I make.

Why do I love working on winter bonnets?

As you know, with my straw bonnets it is all about the art, the lines and curves that make up each style. For the winter bonnets, it is equally as much about the why and how of the construction, they layers and the materials. I love figuring out why a bonnet was constructed in a specific way, what the material choices were for, why this little area was done this way, etc. There is also something about the visual texture the quilting or wadding creates. I find it pleasant.

I also get very, very cold in the winter. The soft, snuggly warmth of a wadded or quilted bonnet is comforting. I often want one of my 19th century bonnets for everyday wear during my frigid, pre-dawn morning commute.

Where do the patterns come from?
Each of the bonnets I am now making come directly from original bonnets in my collection. I have slowly been collecting winter bonnets with a variety of shapes and construction techniques. Each piece goes through my version of a conservation process (how I wish I had the resources to do everything I would like), ensuring there are no buggy nasties, helping the all too often crushed, scrunched, flattened fibers back into shape and stabilizing. Once I think a piece is ready and I am ready to focus on a piece, I have a note taking process that I am sure would make some people’s heads turn sideways in puzzlement. Hey, it works for me. From my notes, I draft a pattern. These patterns are what I use for creating my winter bonnets.

What materials do I use?

I try to use the same types of materials I find in original winter bonnets. Sadly, as with many things, we simply do not have the same silks they did in the 19th century. Of the fabrics we do have, I use silk taffeta, tight weave silk twill, silk faille, some special weave silks and tight weave smooth wool. For linings, again, I use what originals bonnets show – polished cotton, cotton prints, cotton weaves, silk and tropical wools.

For the batting and wadding, I use 100% wool batting. Occasionally, I will layer 100% wool batting with 100% cotton batting to get the right loft and firmness. Depending on the bonnet, I use a variety of lofts and layering. I refuse to use polyester batting. I do not think it is warm enough or gives the look of original bonnets. Due to allergy issues, I will consider using just 100% cotton or alpaca/cotton batting.

How do you know which bonnet will be right for you?

When choosing the right winter bonnet for you, I suggest thinking about the type of weather you have in your area and/or where you will attend events. Picture when you were out in the snow last winter, did the snow stick to your coat and hat? Was the snow wet? If you are in an area with sticky snow, I suggest a very smooth fabric like a silk taffeta. If you have wet snow, the tighter weaver the better. For wet snow, you really want a wool batting, I’d even consider silk interlined with a light wool fabric.

How do you trim your bonnets?

I look to originals to determine what kinds of trim I will use. While period fashion columns do suggest some additional trims, I have yet to determine to what extent these trims were actually used. So far, I have stuck to ribbon and silk trim. I may venture into tassels and beading. Maybe.

For the functional ties, I have found I love cotton sateen. This is entirely Eileen Hook’s fault since she showed me the cotton sateen she picked up at Needle and Thread. Cotton sateen is durable and ties nicely. I anticipate it doing very well in the wet of winter. For decoration, I do prefer silk ribbon, but will also use high quality modern ribbons such as Hyman Hendler’s. 

How do you quilt your bonnets?

Far prefer doing quilting by hand. I like the look of hand quilting more than that of machine quilting. That said, hand quilting can take a long time, a very long time in some cases. Yes, this has to be reflected in the price.  I understand machine can be faster, making a bonnet more affordable. In addition to the time/cost factor of machine quilting, there are occasions when a piece wants a tighter quilting than I can currently get with my hand quilting. I often end up arguing with myself over which approach to take, that of the tighter machine quilting and that of hand quilting.

What is the deal with wired and unwired?

From an interpretive perspective, this often comes down to two factors: Do you need to pack your bonnet flat? and How do you want it to frame your face? But, in terms of historical construction techniques, wiring is just one of several structural materials found in originals. (I’m going to hold on to the list of those materials for a certain something special.)

Why do I show photos of the insides?

I want to show you how I finished the insides because I know some people like pretty finished seams. As with originals, sometimes I make the seams pretty and sometimes I leave them.


Do I have an Etsy shop?

Yes! A Milliner’s Whimsy by Anna Worden Bauersmith

Published in: on September 23, 2015 at 6:00 am  Comments (3)  

This Summer’s Millinery: Shades of Blue

I found it a little funny that when it finally got truly hot here and my head was screaming at me for it, that I was working on a bonnet whose trims reminded me of blue ice. I don’t know if anyone else sees the icy in the shades of blue or not.

The bonnet has a ribbon with satin, moire and grosgrain weaves – A nice find of the client. It made for a very, very cool bavolet with the diagonal stripes. It was so very full of body, I was tempted not to line it. But, couldn’t let myself do that. Take a look at those awesome deep blue velvet flowers. These are really stunning in person. I love the wild roses.

IMG_7020 IMG_7028 IMG_7029 IMG_7036 IMG_7042

Published in: on July 11, 2015 at 11:26 pm  Comments (2)  

Why are Bonnets so Much?

[I wrote this around this time last year. It was just requested on a FB group. You may also be interested this chart “The Cost of Authenticity” from 2010.]

This is a question that comes up fairly regularly. Bonnets are expensive.wpid-2014-05-24-20.18.40.jpg This is because they require multiple materials and require time to make them. ???????????????????????????????

To give you an idea, here are the materials that go into finished drawn bonnets and straw bonnets along with the price ranges for each item:

Straw Bonnets

  • Straw plait ($20-$55 a skein depending on origin, plait and color)
  • Millinery wire ($20/coil)
  • Lining ($10-$15/yard)
  • Facing ($10-$20/yard)
  • Organza, net or lace for frill ($10-$30/yard)
  • Bavolet net ($32/yard)
  • Silk or Ribbon for Bavolet ($5/length to $30/length)
  • Ribbon for functional ties ($2.80)
  • Fashionable Ribbon ($4-$30/yard)
  • Flowers ($10-$40)
  • thread, sizing, etc

Drawn Bonnets

  • Buckram ($4-$12/yard)
  • Millinery Wire ($20/coil)
  • Cane ($15 coil)
  • Silk exterior fabric ($10-$30 yard)
  • Lining ($10-$15/yard)
  • Facing ($10-$20/yard)
  • Organza, net or lace for frill ($10-$30/yard)
  • Bavolet net ($32/yard)
  • Ribbon for functional ties ($2.80)
  • Fashionable Ribbon ($4-$30/yard)
  • Flowers ($10-$40)
  • thread, sizing, etc

To hand sew a straw form from straw plait, it takes between 6 and 10 hours depending on the type of plait and the shape of the bonnet or hat. Finishing and decorating varies.

Published in: on May 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Comments (2)