Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Final College Collection - Evaluation

I have to start out saying that the collection I ended up with wasn't the one I started out to design, nor was it the one I initially designed.

Due to the double whammy of having no money with which to buy materials, or new blocks, and no time to make hat blocks, or to play with / alter some of the materials I originally wanted to use (e.g. shaping a perspex rod to create a spear shape for one hat), I had no option but to think again.  I went back to my sketch books, and I started to see shapes that repeated, both in the fossils and minerals, and in the historical clothing and fabric manipulation - mainly, these were spirals and circles - also some cross-hatching, petal and leaf shapes, and shell shapes....

As a collection, I think it works, and I'm happy with it, overall.  I had a slight 'second best' feeling about it for a while, but I think I've got past that now.

Taking each hat in turn...

The White Hat (Number 1)

The white hat - this is an embroidered wool fabric crown, blocked over buckram, and a buckram and wool fabric interlaced brim (hand sewn together).  The trimming is of patent leather, hand cut - and the larger circles reveal a foiled leather layer.

This is one of the few designs from the original collection I designed, that has remained more or less intact - some tweaking, but it's more or less true to the original.  
I'd initially intended to make the brim out of felt, but using a wider brimmed capeline (white ones are available from a place in Europe), but I'd already started considering the idea of using fabric before I realised I couldn't buy the felt, on the grounds it may make the stitching a little easier.  I did some tests to see if the idea would work, and it did, so that was the choice made.

I'd originally intended to laser cut the leather, but I saw my classmates returning from the laser cutter week after week, despondent at the failure of the cutting, and just couldn't face it in the end.  I decided to use a leather punch and a scalpel to create the design, and I was happy with the results.  True, if you were making hundreds, you would realistically need to use a laser cut, but I suspect I'd get somebody else to do it for me!

On the subject of the leather, it was meant to be black patent leather initially, but when I cut the first strip for the band, it was just too harsh against the white, and the pink.  So I found a piece of navy patent instead.  This also went much better with the feathers in the next hat, which had not dyed quite right (see the notes on that).

There is one mark on the front of the crown.  I'm not sure where it came from, and obviously if I were making for a client, I'd replace the panel (not sure why it matters to me more for a client than a sample).  I'd thought that this would be covered by the circles of leather on the crown, but I had to reduce the size of them in the end, as the proportions just didn't work.  The crown also went a bit wobbly.  This was because I'd forgotten I'd need to block it and steam it again after working on it, and by the time I was at at that stage, I could no longer get to the block and the steamer at college.  Making it again, I'd make sure I could get at the block, and take in my own steamer if necessary, just to correct any distortion from pulling it around while stitching.

When it was on the model, though, at the photo shoot we did at Hyde Park, I really liked the way the brim moved - a solid brim wouldn't move in the way that this did (this hadn't occurred to me in the designing or making, and I really liked it).

Behind the scenes piccie from the Hyde Park shoot, showing the white hat

The foil and feather hat (Number 8)

Another from the original collection is above, although I changed the shape of the base, because of the recurring circles I'd noticed.  Originally I was going to make it using my little comma shaped block.  I also changed the colour of the foil from the original design, from holographiccy silver foil, to the mauvy colour.  The base is a padded leather, and the feathers are knotted and looped (not curled), onto a  minimal soft wire frame (just an upside-down 'v' shape).

The feathers were going to be black, but I didn't have any black acid dye, only Dylon (which is meant to be for vegetable fibres).  I soaked the ivory feathers in the dye for quite a long time, and they came out a sort of navy-ish shade, with the ivory still visible when you curved the feather.  Although that wasn't my original plan, I really liked the effect, and the shade worked really well with the mauve foil, so I decided to go with it.  I added the looped feathers in response to the circles theme that I'd discovered in my research.

I like this hat.  I think if making it again, I'd use a stiffer wire for the base of the feathers, although I do like the idea that you can alter the shape of the feather structure slightly, I think it might be a bit more sturdy with the stiffer wire.  I think I'd also put it on a headband, rather than using the elastic.  that goes for most of the headpieces, actually - I like elastic, and find it easy to wear, but I've noticed that headbands are far more common.  That may be for ease of construction, or (as I have a suspicion) that it (a headband) may be more popular.

I'd also make sure I had enough foil in one piece to completely cover the base.  I had to go and buy some more, and there was a slight variation in shade - not enough so you'd notice it from a distance, but enough that I noticed when I was touching it up.

The ruched silk and foiled and boiled leather brim (Number 6)

I really like this one.  In my original set of designs, I thought of it as being bigger, and similar to the white hat in construction.  Sharon suggested that from a timing point of view, it may be better to do it as a cut brim, and I had already considered that.  I had thought about using felt, but I wasn't sure I wanted to use felt for this hat, as I wanted the base to be metallic, and my foiling test on the felt was a bit too... bitty.  It didn't cover terribly well.  I did like the effect a lot, but it wasn't what I was after for this hat.

However, I'd had the idea in my head for quite a while to do something with boiled leather, which is an old armour technique (it was used to create hardened areas for knee protection, among other things, although never for full armour).
I thought that would be perfect for this, and that it would fit well with the collection - it would go with the other pieces where I was using leather, and it would form a good base for the metallic foil.

I did some experimenting to find the leather that worked best to mould, and i experimented with different ways of boiling the leather (from actually boiling it in a pan, to just placing the leather in boiling water for different lengths of time).  I worked out that the best leather was a veg tan one, and that it worked best when placed in boiling water until it had shrunk in size.

I'm happy with this hat, although it's smaller than I originally envisaged - that was because I used a pyrex bowl to block the brim piece, so I was limited by the size of that - I think I'd like to use the technique again using a wooden block - this would make the actual blocking a bit easier too, as I could pin into the block (unlike the bowl), and  I wouldn't be left with the feeling of needing an extra two or three hands.

A behind-the-scenes picture of this piece, taken by Jack  at Jack Tyson  Make-up Artistry and Design
One of the things I particularly like about the boiled leather is that you don't have to think about all the usual things, like how you're going to support the shape, and how you're going to add wire.  Although, of course, you do get a whole new set of things to worry over - I had to work out how to insert the lining (before I put the top ruched piece on), and then how to attach the crown piece (glue in the end, or the stitching would have shown one way or another).

The circles headband (Number 7)

This isn't one of the ones I originally designed.  This came out of all the spiral shapes I kept seeing.  My initial idea was to make giant shapes based on Dorset crosswheel buttons, but I couldn't work out a way to make the giant buttons without the back being a mess (they have a definite right and wrong side).  All I could think to do was to put two back to back in each position, and I was worried that might make the piece too heavy, as I knew I wanted to have multiple sizes of circle.

So I, (after beginning the brim below), decided to use bias strips to cover wire shapes.  I used icewool to pad out the wire, but I think in future I think in the future I may either use domet instead, or cover the icewool in something else first, muslin maybe.  The icewool fibres started to poke through the crepe satin after a while, and I don't like that.  I will also use a slightly larger button at the centre of each circle in future, as the ones I used were a smidge too small to do the job of covering the centre of the bias strip gathering.

I also had a hitch with the wire - I had to use some softer wire to create some of the circles, and one of the supports (the circles are attached to the headband with wire struts going up inside the fabric).  They both really need a stiffer wire to do the job properly.  This has to be made using a couture headband, because one set of 3 circles is attached to the front of the double wire, and one set of 3 to the back, but I need to work out a cost effective, and not too intrusive, way of covering the headband.  I didn't cover this one, because I just ran out of time, but it was my intention to do so by thread or cord wrapping it, but that obviously pushes the cost up, because it takes a long time to do.  It may be that a stretch ribbon is an option.

Other than that, this is one of my favourite pieces in the collection.

Long pile felt crown, and teardrop silk brim (Number 2)

This was one of the last pieces I designed.  Right at the beginning, when I first started thinking about final collections, I had the thought in my head to design a mens collection, or to make partly for men and partly for women, because I don't just want to make or design hats for women.
Obviously, that didn't happen, but I held onto the idea of a slightly more masculine shape.  I bought this felt with that intention, although no real idea with what I was going to actually do with it.  I first tried to block a crown and brim in one, but didn't really like the result over-much.  So I soaked the felt again, and blocked the crown.  By this time I knew I wanted to make a brim that had a bias silk covering, with pleating / gathering, and that was asymmetrical.  I found the teardrop brim block in the cupboard at college, and loved the shape, so decided it was perfect, and blocked it in buckram.

After i got them home, and trimmed off, I realised that the brim was not big enough - it looked really out of proportion against what is quite a big crown.  I decided to extend it, to make it a better 'fit', and I did that by stretching bias buckram, and slashing and inserting more buckram, and steaming it and shaping by hand.  I then covered it with icewool, and with silk.

Again, I wouldn't use the icewool again with this fabric, or at least not without covering it, because fibres have poked through a little.  When making it I also made a complete mistake - I cut the bias strip half the width that it should have been, and so I had to put a seam at the edge of the brim - I didn't want that to be there, I wanted it to be one piece, but I didn't realise until it was too late, so had no choice.  Needless to say, I wouldn't do that again!
I decided deliberately not to line the felt crown - I'm not sure why, other than that I hadn't lined the cloche I'd already made, and I neatened the silk behind the petersham to take that into account (purely because the crepe satin frays horribly if you don't neaten it).

This is probably my second favourite of the collection - it has a real vintagey, 40s vibe about it - I keep thinking of Brief Encounter, but modernised a bit.

Below is a behind-the-scenes picture I took of the photo shoot we did at Hyde Park Picture House.

                            The tweed beret (Number 3), and the leather beret (Number 4)

Photo by Jessie Leong, model Beckii May

Photo by Jessie Leong, model  Beckii May

I've grouped these two pieces together, because they're basically the same design, but in different materials.  Again, I went back to the circles theme that I'd stumbled across for the bases, and for the flowers, the spirals.  I was watching tutorials on youtube, on flower making - in this case, ribbon flowers, although I've used fabric instead of ribbon, and I was struck by the fact that these roses are basically spirals - the fabric is literally wrapped round and round on itself in a spiral.

I really like the idea of making the same design (in terms of shape at least), and using completely different materials to make them.  I also like the idea of mixing up different materials - some very traditional (tweed, and organza in the case of these two), and putting them together with slightly less traditional materials (again, in this case, holographic dance fabric, and heavyish black leather).

I don't think I'd do that much differently with these designs - although I think I may be making the overall design again in different materials quite a bit (you could conceivably make it over and over again in different fabrics, and with whatever fabrics and materials you happened to have to hand that worked together).    I may use headbands as standard, rather than the elastic that I've used (partially for the sake of time) in this collection.

The red felt cloche (Number 5)

I think I was always going to do a cloche, realistically, although there wasn't one in the first set of six I designed - although one of the first designs I sketched, and then discarded was a cloche shape with ruching and a sort of cage structure.  I may go back to that in the future.  Anyway, it's probably part of my art deco obsession.

Anyway, after I had to re-think the collection, I decided that I wanted to do a piece or two that were really complex (that would be the white hat), and make the rest quite simple.  The rest of the design (the cuts, and the clasp) was based on the leaf / petal shapes, and the shell shapes that I kept seeing, in the fossils, as well as the manipulated fabric.  

I'm really happy with how the folded brim turned out.  The only other time I've done that was with the first felt hat I made, way back in the first few weeks of college, and this one is much better done than that!  I'm also happy with the cutting.  I wanted to do something different than just completely cutting away the felt, so i cut some away, and left others attached, and just pinned them up and steamed them.

I'm not sure why I chose to leave the hat unlined.  I know that in theory, a lining makes it more expensive-seeming, but I think I just liked the inside of the felt, or perhaps the way it looked with the petersham sewn in place.  Or it may have been that I originally intended to cut into the crown of the hat as well as the brim, and that I didn't want a lining to be visible.

Photo by Jessie Leong, model Beckii May

And that's my collection.  It's a very different collection that I thought I'd end up with at the beginning of the year, but I think I'm overall happy with it.  And I may still use the ideas I initially had at some point in the future.

The credits on the photo shoot pictures above are: 
Photography by Jessie Leong 
Models Beckii May and Kirsty Buttle
Make-up Jack Tyson

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