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!