Saturday, July 31, 2010

Well, I am happy to say that I have completed the hat for Sarah’s reproduction costume representing the Hana region of the Czech Republic. This was quite an undertaking! It was very difficult to reproduce something that I have never seen. I have only seen photos.

I will go through the steps in case anyone would like to try making something like this.

(1) The hat itself. The first thing I tried is to get a custom hat made to serve as the base. I went to a custom hat maker but, sadly, he could not do anything like this. SO, my next option (thanks Maggie Grmela for the suggestion) was to buy a “stovepipe hat” like Abe Lincoln wore. I found one online from a Halloween costume supplier. It was cheap so I thought it would be worth a try. I think it cost about $10. I began by cutting off the brim. I did not worry about the rough edge because I knew that I would cover that up with the red ribbon. I found some shimmery gold fabric that would serve as a base. That way even between the beads was pretty and golden. The fabric I found has very tiny flecks of metallic gold. I cut it to fit and sewed it on. I found some trim that I could use along the top. One mistake I made here was not to put the seam in the back but I knew most of it would be covered by bead so I was not too concerned. Later I realized that I should have sewn the red ribbon along the bottom at this point. If done before beading, you may be able to sew on the sewing machine. I used an additional piece of red ribbon, tightly gathered, to embellish the bottom and beads. One thing I noticed on a picture of an antique hat was that the back was laced up. This is a good idea so that the hat can be somewhat adjustable in size. So I made this hat lace up in the back. I took two pieces of grosgrain ribbon that matches the bottom, put button holes in it (on the sewing machine) and sewed it by hand on the back of the hat. I sewed around the button holes by hand and carefully slit the holes open. I bought red satin ribbon to match the streamers in the back and laced it up. I will not cut the hat open unless I need to. Right now it fits Sarah perfectly, so I will not open it until needed. Long, wide red ribbons were attached to be back after the beading was complete.

(2) The beadwork! This was very difficult for me because though I am very good copying a design, I have a hard time coming up with a design. So I got as many pictures of hats that I could find and picked out ideas from all of them. But I did not limit myself there, I looked everywhere for ideas…clip art swirls, beadwork books and just about anything I could use as inspiration. I decided that I wanted the hat to be very SHINY so everything I used was very sparkly, nothing that was matte finish. I had a hard time in Waco finding the beads that I needed. If I had more time I would have ordered everything online. One site that I found was The items I ordered were delivered within just a few days, were beautiful and shipping was free. I just wish I had found it sooner. I would suggest to anyone wanting to make a hat like this to design your pattern first and then order just the beads and crystals you need. You will get better quality and have a better finished product. I learned the hard way with this project that just because beads “look” nice when you buy them, they may not necessarily last very long. Some of the silver starting coming off of some of the beads just through my handling of the project. So, if I do this again I will definitely buy quality and not quantity beads and crystals. However, my goals for this hat were: create an item that can be passed on for generations but to make it personal and hopefully finish in time for Czech Days in Nebraska the first week of August. So overall, I am pleased with the finished product. To make something that can be passed down for generations it must be durable so everything I sewed on was done with great detail. I have also saved extra jewels and beads to do repair work as needed. To make something personal you have to put a little of yourself (and also your family) so I incorporated items from our family. A few of the stones on the hat belonged to Sarah’s grandmother. These are not precious gems but they are ‘precious’ to us because they are from grandma. Also in the design are stones that came from one of my brooches and some rhinestones that belonged to Sarah. This creates not only a pretty item to see but a conversation piece. In the hat box I will include a little about the hat and the items on it. And as far as finishing in time for Czech Days, I just barely made it. I will be sure to take lots of pictures!

(3) The flowers and ribbon. As you may have noticed the hat itself is quite short. As a matter of fact, it is too short but as I explained I had to use a Halloween costume hat as the base so I had to just “make do.” I tried to ‘fix’ this by using the flowers and ribbon on top to make it appear taller. I had our local flower shop (Flowers & Things in West, Texas) create a floral wreath much as they would for the local girls to wear with their Czech costumes. However, this one was smaller in diameter but very full. In the center of the flowers, I put red ribbon looped, well, to look a little like a lamp shade. I took 1 ½” wide red grosgrain ribbon. This ribbon has more substance and would stiffen easier. With needle and red thread I gathered, putting the needed in every 2” through the center of the ribbon alternating between pulling the needle from the back and going through the front. When I got it as full as I wanted, I cut the ribbon with about 12” to spare just in case I needed additional fullness. After I had the ribbon gathered, with needle and red thread I sewed the loops together on the inside at the top. I then cut the first ribbon that was laced through the center. I shaped the ribbon to look like a lamp shade, sprayed with full-strength liquid starch letting it dry. I sprayed the starch and let it dry a couple times to make sure it was stiff enough. In the center of the ribbon I added additional flowers. I basted the flowers and ribbon to the top of the hat so they could be removed and freshened up as needed.

(4) To add just a little more ‘bling’ I attached shimmery crystal beads as well. I noticed on a picture of this type of hat from the Czech Republic beautiful bead drops dangling in the front to outline the young lady’s face. I loved it so I incorporated that element in this hat as well.

Many thanks to Maggie Grmela of Czech Costume Creations in West, Texas; Jana Vaculik of Czech American TV; Barbara Talley of Flowers N Things in West, Texas and Alice Vida of San Antonio. These ladies were a big help in completing this project and I could not have done it without them.

In summary, there were a lot of things I would do differently but am overall pleased with the finished hat. What do you think?

Finally Finished the Apron/Skirt for Hanacky Kroj

Some of you who have been following for a while know that I am working on a reproduction costume representing the region of Hana in the Czech Republic. (For pictures, browse the older posts.) I finally finished the apron/skirt. This is the second one I made, the first one did not have enough embroidery. Well, what do you think? I know it is hard to tell from this picture. My daughter, Sarah, will wear this costume at Czech Days in Nebraska next weekend so I will post pictures after that.