A cloche, or bell-shaped, hat is a staple of the black and white art-deco-tinged movies of the 1920s. Defined by its deep, rounded, close-fitting crown with a narrow brim or none at all, the cloche was the epitome of style. Created by milliner Caroline Reboux, the cloche was popularised by the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Josephine Baker and every self-respecting flapper of the 1920s. Cloche hats can be made of many different fabrics with felted wool a popular choice. A cloche made of wool will be sturdy enough it to hold its shape yet the fabric is malleable enough to be sewn easily.
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Things you need
- Felted wool
- Lining fabric
- Paper pattern with instructions
- Fabric glue for add-ons
- Sewing machine
Measure your head size using a tape measure. Start at the centre of your forehead near the hair line and continue around the back via the nape of your neck and on around to the front. A medium head size is generally 21 to 23 inches.
Select a cloche pattern. There are patterns available for purchase online and some are posted for free at crafting and sewing websites. Simpler patterns will involve cutting and sewing four fabric pieces to form an umbrella-like shape fit to the head. You may want to reverse-engineer a ready-made vintage cloche to create your own.
Choose a suitable fabric, taking into account weight, colour and pattern. Wool felt is a good choice because it may not need to be hemmed around the edge of the brim.
Lay out the pattern on the fabric and cut the pieces as instructed. Baste sections together and try them on before committing to the final machine stitch. It should fit snugly.
Iron the seams inside the hat and the interfacing to the lining material before sewing the lining into the hat.
Place onto the hat the embellishments of your choice. Pin the item to the hat if possible for the most versatility. You can change the look of the hat at any time by switching the add-ons. Use fabric glue or sew on if preferred.
Tips and warnings
- Consider the weather in which you intend to wear the hat when choosing the fabric and weight. You may want to choose a contrasting lining colour or pattern that will add an accent to the hat design when the hat is worn brim up. Average fabric needs are about a yard for the hat and a half yard for the lining. Pick out ribbon, buttons, flowers, a jewel, a brooch or other add-on of your choice to jazz up the final product.
- Brims are optional on cloche style hats. They look nice and add detail, but a brim makes it harder to see what's around you without awkward (or charming, if you like) head movements. Consider brimless patterns as well.
- Ribbon can be used as "binding" around the edge of the wool hat brim to create a sophisticated finish to the hat.
- Keep such hair accessories as clips or barrettes to a minimum when you plan to wear a cloche. They can cause bumps that ruin the line of your hat and may catch and pull on your hair when the hat is removed. Do a trial run at home to make sure the combo will be comfortable.
- Felted wool may shrink. Ask when purchasing if it has been pre-shrunk and/or get washing instructions for the material before cutting to your pattern.
- If you are claustrophobic, please note that a cloche fits tightly to the head and often covers the ears and eyebrows. It may take a little practice to see clearly all around you, especially if your hat has a brimmed style.
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