The "Design Deep Dive" miniseries explores some of the ideas and inspirations behind my different hat designs. This week I will be looking into one of my newest designs, the Witch Hat Fascinator. It has all the same wrinkles and curls you would come to expect from one of my hats, but on a smaller scale.
I'm definitely not a fashion expert, but the way I understand the whole idea of fascinators is that they are supposed to be a decorative alternative to a full-sized hat. People wear them when a hat would also make sense, but they are more like a fashion accessory than something functional, like something between a smaller hat and an oversized hair clip. I first started seeing all kinds of fascinators a few years ago when I was dabbling with steampunk inspired top hats. Lots of steampunk models were wearing these tiny little steamer top hats fastened on with hair pins or bands. They really caught my eye back then because they were a whole new kind of hat design that I could play with, and because they were so cute! Since my hats are decorative anyway, and not really functional, it also made sense to experiment with fascinators. At that time especially I was really looking to try all kinds of hats and not settle on just witch and wizard hats. But that was years ago and I still had a lot to learn. The few times I tried to make my own steampunk hat fascinators back then they came out looking more like fuzzy cups than mini-hats. There was no real interest for steampunk hats anyway, and I eventually I moved on.
But every year or so the idea of making a fascinator hat design would come back up, usually after spending awhile on Pinterest and seeing fascinator hats come up a bunch of times. Last year I took one of my first solid steps towards creating a fascinator witch hat since I first attempted fascinator hats years ago. Right after Halloween I was out at all the stores picking up discounted Halloween decorations, and I happened to come across this mini-felted witch hat. It was obviously machine-felted and mass produced, and I think it was meant for dolls and not necessarily to be put on someone's head like a fascinator, but it was just the right size. I also had an idea to turn it into a miniature hat block that I could use to shape witch hat fascinators. I bought it and took it home and then dunked the whole thing in Plasti-Dip, which is supposed to make it water proof and rubbery, perfect for shaping wet wool. But then the Holiday Season started up and I lost all track of my personal projects. My fascinator hat design would have to wait, and I put the rubber coated hat in my closet with the hope of getting back to it one day.
Finally things started to slow down for me and I was able to catch up with my 2017 orders. As the Summer of 2018 started up I found that I had some time to experiment again and make hats that I wanted to make, just for fun and just to see what I could do. The results of that work are several one-of-a-kind and experimental hats that you can check out here. But I also pulled that rubberized hat block out of the closet and decided to finally give it a real solid try. Another reason my attention turned back to witch fascinator hats was that I have been getting lots of requests for smaller hats this season, sometimes for children or dolls or other reasons. My fascinator hats are not necessarily designed for children or dolls, but those requests kept the whole concept of mini-hats fresh in my mind. I sat down and began putting together prototypes, trying to figure out just how to create a miniature hat that still looked unique (and similar to the full-sized hats I already make). It took a couple of weeks of attempts before I finally got the design down.
If you are curious about what the final product is like check out the listing page, which has more details about the hat, the decoration options, and lots of extra photos. Instead of going with built-in hair clips to hold the hat in place I decided to go with a milliner-grade band. But you can hardly see the band as the pictures show, so I think the whole thing turned out well.
What do you think? Are fascinator hats interesting to you? What other uses are there for hats of this size?
One of the things I like the most about wet felting (which is how I make my hats) is how sculptural it can be. I used to do a lot of painting, but that was all flat on the canvas. When I make hats I'm making three-dimensional things that look different depending on the angle you look at it from. As I started making hats though I began to realize that even though the hats had shape they could also look a little flat if they are all just a single solid color. I tried to fix this problem early on by using different colors to make colorways, adding decorative details like leaves and hat bands, making textured openings to resemble birch bark, and using special blends of wool to get different color effects (like marbling). For the most part this is still how I do things.
Then one day I received a custom order request. Someone wanted me to make a white hat and add some blue color, not in shades or lines, but in a particular shape. The process itself was simple enough. Wet felting is all about adding layers of different wool, so all I needed to do was add layers of blue onto the white hat in the proper shape. Up until that point though I never even considered adding specific shapes to my hats.
My favorite custom silhouette so far was a custom order I received three years ago. The customer wanted a hat that had big orange eyes that almost resembled the eyes you would cut into a Jack-o-Lantern. The finished product was spooky and fun, a hat that watched you as you watched it.
What kind of shapes and patterns would you want on your own custom silhouette hat? Chances are I can make it for you. I'm currently accepting custom orders so if you have an idea that you would like me to breathe into life just visit this page to read more about custom orders and to get in touch.
Welcome back to my miniseries of posts called "Design Deep Dive," where I explain some of the inspirations and ideas behind my favorite hat designs. Last week I began this series by writing about one of my favorite hats of all, the tattered brim side-curl hat. This week I will be tackling something a little less complicated but still very important to me because it was my very first witch / wizard hat design. It is called the "short-tail" witch / wizard hat. There's lots of history with this design, but I will try and keep it brief.
It wasn't long after I learned how to wet felt that I started thinking about making hats. Things really got going when I found affordable plastic hat shapers (which had the added bonus of being water proof, which is really important when it comes to wet felting). But my earliest hats were all pretty normal as far as hats go. I tried to make them subtle, focusing on color choice and just a few embellishments. With time I started to add more structural elements, like folds and curls, but overall the designs remained simple.
In general though I just wasn't satisfied. I liked my hats. I enjoyed making them and I thought the designs worked well. They just weren't memorable. They weren't hats I would want to build an outfit around, or necessarily take out to a special event. They weren't eye catching enough.
Fantasy has always been a big part of my life (as I've already written about), but at this time in my life I was really relying on fantasy audiobooks and games to help me cope. Based on all that fantasy that I was ingesting I finally decided to try a more fantasy-inspired hat design rather than something plain. This was riskier for me than it sounds because at the time I was also living in a community that generally frowns on "witches" and fantasy stuff. You can even see some of my reservation in my original design. The tail is small and easily explained away if I encountered anyone who I knew would give me some trouble for a witchy hat design.
That original design was based on the classic conical witch and wizard hat. You probably know the kind I mean. It has a very triangular shape, with a point at the top, like the Wicked Witch of the West. I added the ridges though to make it look more like a wizard's hat which is usually more slumped over and worn out. I wanted it to look more organic, like it was collapsing a bit, but still structured and pretty.
If you have been to my shop anytime in the last couple of years you may have noticed that my witch and wizard hats have changed quite a bit since that first hat I made six years ago. What really fueled that change was the positive feedback I received early on. People online, and even in the conservative community I was living in, told me how interesting the hat looked. They started selling right away. Because of that I felt more confident with each hat I made, increasing the tail a little bit and a little bit more, slowly inching towards the big colorful fantasy witch and wizard hat design I had always wanted to make.
Recently though I have been receiving lots of requests for me to bring back some hats in my older styles, especially hats with shorter tails and less rounded ridges. I completely understand some people's desires for smaller hats. They are more manageable, easier to care for, and not too overwhelming if you have a certain costume in mind. Some have said they are a more realistic fantasy hat design, while still being artistic too. As a result I've decided to start bringing back some of my older styles. They will be featured all through the month of August, and it is my hope to have some brand new photos of my short-tail hats soon.
So that's it! That's my brief journey through the design work of my original "short-tail" hat. Is there a particular hat design you would like me to write about for a future Design Deep Dive post? Just leave a comment here or on my Facebook #FridayReads post letting me know which hat you're interested in and why. Chances are I will take your advice and write about it soon!
This is the first post in what I hope will be a mini-series focusing on how I came up with some of my favorite hat designs. If there is a particular hat that you would like me to cover just leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page. Let me know why you're interested in that hat in particular and I will likely do a design deep dive of it in the coming weeks!
The first hat I want to look at is one of my favorite designs of all time. It brings together two design elements in such a way that makes the hat completely unique and yet still "witchy" and wicked in a recognizable way. This hat features a side curl and a tattered brim, and these are the two design elements I will be focusing on for this post.
Ever since I made my very first witch hat I have been obsessed with hat tails. That's probably pretty obvious since the tails of my hats are what really sets them apart. But even back in the beginning when I first started making witch and wizard hats with tails I was trying to figure out how to make my hats even more unique. Sometimes that lead to strange side projects where I stuck hat tails all over everything (as I posted about on Facebook last week). Sometimes though those early experiments were simpler and more subtle. Years ago when I had just started taking pictures of my hats I noticed that when I took a picture of the hat straight on the tail looked almost like a fin. You couldn't see the tail's details. I decided I wanted to make my hats look more three-dimensional and interesting, even when looking at the hat straight on. I tried changing the orientation of the tail just a little bit to see what would happen, hoping you would be able to see more of the folds and details no matter what angle you were looking at the hat from. This led to my very first side curl hat.
After making that first side curl hat though it would be years before I tried the design again. One of the reasons it took me years was that I became fixated on simply making the hat tails larger and more detailed in general. Then things just became so busy that, for a time, I didn't really have the time to try anything experimental. But one day a customer contacted me and actually asked for a hat with tail that was a little bit more on the side. I instantly remembered that old experiment from years previous and I was able to incorporate that older design into a brand new hat!
Compared to the side curl the tattered brim design element is much newer. I came up with it only two or three years ago. As I've mentioned in other posts, sometimes I've been a little too focused on the hat tails while the rest of the hat looks pretty ordinary. The tattered brim idea was one of my first attempts to make the rest of my hats as interesting as the tails. It all began with a customer contacting me and asking me how I might make the hat look a little more "lived in" and less pristine without necessary dirtying the hat or making it less structurally sound. I thought about it for a little while and looked at lots of pictures of worn out hats. I then realized that one of the common elements between all those pictures were holes and rips in the brim. From that realization I came up with the tattered brim design.
I was happy with the way it came out, as it really made the hat look ghostly. But I also thought that maybe I needed to tone down the tattering some to make it look a little more naturally distressed and less like it was unraveling. I made a few hats with just a few chunks carefully cut out and a few slits and cuts along the brim. This had the desired effect in that the hat looked more natural. But then I worried that the hat was not engaging enough. I enjoy fantasy designs that are a little over-the-top, so I tried out a few more design variations of the tattered brim, coming up with two alternate designs that are still available in my shop. There is the icicle brim for my frost mage hat and the cobweb brim, which is the newest tattered brim variation.
Finally I go the chance to put these two design elements together. The hat also featured a leather hat band made out of a belt that I had been saving for months waiting for the perfect hat to wrap it around. I think the end result was spectacular. Even the photo shoot seemed to be blessed, as you can read about here.
And that's how the tattered brim + side curl hat came to be!