Can’t buy a new hat block? Then make one!

I have been looking around for a classic Dior brim but haven’t had any luck finding just what I was looking for. I researched purchasing one, but it just isn’t in the budget right now. In fact, the budget is pretty much non-existent since so many of the art shows have been cancelled.

During the lock down, I visited Hat Academy, an outfit that provides online classes, and purchased a class on how to make a hat block. It is taught by UK milliner, Ian Bennett.

The wire frame brim in progress

It took some calculating (not my strong point!) and help from my intern, but we figured out the placement of the spokes on the wire frame. Next came covering it in paper and a boatload of masking tape.

Wire frame finished!
We first covered the block in long strips of paper and tape
Then more paper in small squares and more tape
Masking tape layer finished!

The next step was to cover it inside and out with packing tape, which helps to waterproof the paper and add another layer of strength.

Packing tape layer finished!

All that was left to do was take it for a test drive. Here’s the finished hat!

Hat blocked on handmade hat block.

All in all, a great project. I was happy to have another set of hands, however. It took the two of us a total of about 15 hours just to make the block. But the materials were a tiny fraction of the cost of a wooden block. I’m not sure how many hats I will be able to make on my handmade block; it won’t last forever like a wooden block. But in the meantime, I’m happy to have a new tool that didn’t cost an arm and a leg!

Vintage Hat Friday

Today’s vintage hat is an interesting one. It looks to be hand sculpted, cut and draped, which is not the easiest task when working with straw as it easily unravels. And speaking of straw, I would LOVE to get my hands on this quality of straw but have not seen anything like it from suppliers during my 15 years in the business. It is very finely woven and knotted. Such a wonderful texture! This one also has a swish of velvet banding from the front over the side and to the top. I’ve often seen velvet used on vintage summer pieces and guess it was just a trend, as I associate velvet with winter.

Vintage straw and velvet hat by Lorie – 57th Street New York

The designer label says LORIE 57th Street New York.

Edgar J. Lorie designed high fashion hats for more than 40 years. He died in 1976 at 92 years old and lived at 975 Park Avenue.

Hats designed by Mr. Lorie and produced by his concern, Edgar J. Lode inc. were sold in leading boutiques and department stores around the country.

A native of Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Lode quit high school and came to New York, where he learned his craft at various millinery establishments. His wife was a former fashion model who also designed hats for his company and died in 1975.

I looked up the address of his home on Park Avenue and a unit that looks straight out of a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel episode recently sold for $5.3 million! I guess I should have been born earlier, lol. Or maybe he saved lots of money walking to work! Guessing this hat to be 1950s/early 1960s. Not one that I will wear but I much admire the construction and design.

Lorie vintage hat side view.

Turban Tuesday

It’s Tuesday and I have just completed a new turban. Turbans are a classic style and I love to make them – draping all those pleats and twists just makes me happy. Making a turban is a process – first we block buckram over our hat block and let it dry. Next it’s trimmed to the desired shape. The crown (top) is covered with fabric, either matching or contrast, and a bias strip is sewn around the bottom edge. Lastly, the fabric is draped and pinned in place, then sewn with invisible stitches so that the folds and pleats stay in place.

Pinning the Pleats

Below is the finished product. Click Here to see it on my website.

What a Great Hat Turban – Front
What a Great Hat Turban – Back

Vintage Hat Friday

Do you love vintage hats as much as I do? This one was purchased at the A. Polsky Co., Akron, Ohio, which was one of two large department stores in Akron that were directly across the street from one another. The maker is G. Howard Hodge – Fifth Avenue, New York. It’s a cream fur felt beret hybrid with a little brim that was blocked into the design. In true couture millinery fashion, the beaded applique and coordinating pearls and sequins are all sewn on by hand.

G. Howard Hodge Design

Hodge was a well known American milliner who worked in the millinery trade in San Francisco before establishing the G. Howard Hodge brand in New York in 1928. He worked in the trade his entire life and catered to wealthy clients.

I am not a vintage hat expert but would guess this hat to be from the 1950s. If you know more about it please feel free to comment!

More fun in the What a Great Hat studio

Special thanks to Natalie and the crew from Fox8 Cleveland for featuring What a Great Hat in their New Day Cleveland Fairlawn/Copley Road trip show. I always enjoy time spent with these professionals and of course never get tired talking about hats! Click here to see my segment.

Fedora Made Feminine

While many of us think of a fedora as menswear, it’s fun to mix it up and create a feminine take on a classic menswear look.

I hand dyed this dark blue and camel straw early this year and purposely let the blue bleed into the camel color. When I was ready to block the hat into a shape, I decided on a fedora style because I liked the idea of the organic shape the dye created in contrast with the structured shape of a fedora.

Now this is not a classic fedora with a pinched crown; this one has an asymmetrical dip on the side. And I left the brim a bit longer on one side for additional asymmetry. It’s edged in navy silk with a silk band and bow.

I had fun mixing up masculine and feminine in this one of a kind hat.

Be sure to wear a hat this weekend for all of your outside activities! Hope you have a meaningful Memorial Day weekend.


The Great Hat Exhibition Part 2

What an honor it has been to have one of my hats included in the Great Hat Exhibition in London. A friend of mine went and was kind enough to send me some photos of my hat “in action.” Very grateful to have shown my hat in one of the leading fashion capitals of the world. Until next time!

Living My Dream

I was recently contacted about partnering with the Ohio Lottery and their InspiredOH campaign to share the story of What a Great Hat. I’m lucky to be an inspired Ohioan and to have the opportunity to talk about my business and creative process.

Please click here to watch my two-minute video and feel free to share your inspired stories on the InspiredOH website.


Check Out My New Website!

Alice and queen reduced

Hi Everyone,

I have been working diligently on a new website that gives me more flexibility and allows me to procrastinate without putting other people up against my last minute deadlines :o)

Here’s a link to the new site. The URL is the same –

I would sincerely like to hear any comments you may have, negative or positive. I will be adding items to the online store daily so rest assured that there’s much more to come on that front. But otherwise the site is more or less finished with the exception of some minor tweaks.

I value your input!



Photo Credit: Black Box Photography; Hats: What a Great Hat!; Makeup and Hair: Beauty Therapy; Flowers: The Budding Tree



Blocking a Wool Felt Hat Workshop

Creating a hat with two hands and your imagination is rewarding and fun. Three students recently completed the Basic Wool Felt Hat Blocking workshop at What a Great Hat! Each completed a hat from start to finish in the two-day class. The hats were completely hand blocked and hands sewn for a true couture experience. Well done everyone!

2016 kicks off a workshop a month at the What a Great Hat studio. Next up is how to make a Valentine’s Day fascinator on February 6 and then How to Embellish a Kentucky Derby Hat on April 2. Please email Paula at for details or to sign up. Happy hat-making!