The Art of Millinery -
How to make a straw braid hat
using bundled Straw
Straw Braid or Bundle Straw
There are many different types of Straw hats in millinery, and this page is dedicated to millinery techniques to create Straw Braid hats. By that I mean that the hat is made from a long length of woven or plaited straw, which is sewn together as it is wound around the crown and brim. This braid is often called Bundle straw and comes in various widths and thicknesses.
Any style of hat can be made from bundle straws, although this technique is not as popular for haute couture millinery as they were in the past, however the more casual sun hat is often found made in this manner.
They are surprisingly easy and quick to make, but that too, will depend on the width of the braid.
As each hat is entirely made to measure, no shrinking or cutting is required to shape either the base of the crown or the brim line, because the braid is placed and sewn into the desired shape.
Basic millinery instructions are for the crown and base only. These include instructions for wiring, but this is not always necessary. The nature of the straw and the way it works will guide you to this point.
In most cases, crowns need only hand pressing, brims can afford a light press with a warm iron (unless the straw is delicate).
• One bundle of straw braid should make two small hats or one large one.
• Begin with a simple pliable close weave braid, but practice will soon enable you to tackle the many varieties of fancy weaves that are available.
• Bind the end of the braid with thread and fasten off securely.
• Turn this end under and curve the straw braid round it from right to left in a circle, allowing each new circle to slip under the lower edge of the previous round. Slightly ease the inner edge of the straw braid in towards the centre and pull the outer edge in the opposite direction ensuring the circle remains flat and even. If the straw braid is very stiff, it may require some dampening, this can be done by just working with damp fingers or in extreme cases the braid may need to be dipped in water prior to working it.
• After two or three rounds of straw braid are sewn together, you have created what you could describe as a straw button. Pin the circle to the centre of the tip of the hat block with sewing pins.
• Shape the tip of the crown to the block and measure the required depth and mark with chalk, include any shaping if applicable.
• When the circle has covered the entire tip, turn the block upside down and work on your lap. Continue to pin and sew, pulling the straw into shape as you go until the chalk marking have been reached.
• Replace the block back on the stand and cut the end of the braid so that it finishes at the centre back. The end should be cut diagonally upwards to the left and tucked under the edge of the crown and secured with a few stitches.
• Steam thoroughly on the block and press with the palm of the hands.
• Allow to dry naturally and when cold and dry, apply stiffener.
It is optional to create a separate crown and brim, but it is also possible to continue with the brim without any joins in the straw braid.
The brim can be worked on a wooden brim block, or alternatively, a brim shape cut out of sparterie or something similar, can be used as the base.
• The brim block method is similar to the crown, starting from the centre back and at the head line and pinning and sewing in circles until the required width is reached.
• Secure a wire around the outer edge of the brim, and continue another round of the straw braid to run parallel with the last row, allowing it to cover the wire, sandwiching it between the last two rounds of braid.
• Cut the straw braid and turn it under and upwards and secure with a few stitches.
The method using a brim shape cut from sparterie or blocking canvas as a guide is as follows:
• Tack the straw to the sparterie, starting at the centre back of the outer edge and allow each of the rows to overlap the next.
• For half brims, turn in the edge of the braid at the beginning and end of each row and sew down neatly, making sure the turnings match exactly.
• When the sparterie is fully covered, stitch the strips of straw together without catching the sparterie, press with your hands in a circular movement to make the straw braid fit the brim shape pattern.
• Without detaching the brim from the sparterie, lay it, straw braid side down, on to a thichly padded ironing board and lightly press with a warm (not Hot) iron, using a slightly damp cloth. Do Not press or steam heavily.
• Remove tacking thread and reverse, then allow to dry on a flat surface.
• Cut a piece of bias sparterie or blocking canvas 1" wide by the head measurement plus 2" ( to create a 1" overlap at the centre back.
• When the brim has dried, attach the band to the inner edge to form the headband.
• If necessary, the brim may be wired, or proceed to join the crown to the brim.
The need for wiring depends on the size of the brim and the nature of the straw braid. Large brims are best wired. It is easy to judge if the brim required support.
Joining the crown to the brim:
• If the crown and the brim are created separately, gently slip the brim over the crown, while it is still on the block.
• Slip the headline under the edge of the crown by using a spatula, and secure with sewing pins.
• Sew the brim to the crown while it is still on the block.
• Stiffen the brim and allow to dry on the block.
• Add any decoration.
• Remove the hat from the block and attach petersham ribbon at the headline.
• Place the assembled hat on a hot domed block, the same size as required, this will enable you to press the inner petersham ribbon and complete it with a professional millinery finish.
Straw Braid - Millinery