Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eglantyne's Hat

This week, I made a hat for Eglantyne Jebb, circa 1918. She was the Founder of Save The Children. A fierce and passionate, intelligent woman who made a huge difference to the plight of children after the first world war and beyond.

I had never heard of her until yesterday, when a customer came into the shop to buy some trims for a hat.
 The customer is Anne Chamberlain, who has written and performs a one woman show about Eglantyne Jebb. The frail, 100 year old hat had belonged to Anne's Great Aunt, and I declared that it was not to be used as a prop any longer, we were going to remake the Hat. As the Hat has appeared in all of the publicity shots, we set out to create something very like it, only with a few concessions to stage and the demands of touring.
I dispatched Anne off to get a $5 black straw hat and half a metre of black silk satin and off we went.
Nach, I forgot to take progress shots and have no pic of the original $5 hat, but it was just the typical sort. I cut it into shape, reapplied the edge with a zigzag, steamed the shaping out of the crown, applied cotton sateen bias and millinery wire to the edge of the brim, cut the sash out and wired it. All this while sitting at the back of the shop with Anne, chatting about everything from Eglantyne's life to her life to my life to hats and, well, bonding! Anne whisked the hat off overnight to do some handsewing. 
This is the hat when it came back to me this morning:

 The lining and inner band are pinned in. Sewing it in will be the final job.
 A side back view - the sash tucks under the brim at the back.

 Today I stuck the trim on the underside of the brim with Aleene's tacky, held on with pegs as it dries. The brim shape is typical of the time - shortest at the back, longest at the sides.

 A front view - the rather exciting extra bow thing that extends across the front and is anchored by the flowers is wired inside - I've never seen the like but the original had it and it works. Actually the flowers are not this bright - the velvet leaves that look dark pink here are burgundy.
 A side front view
 Side and front views all at once.

 The original hat - it is more dashing in lots of ways and is a bit bigger - ours shrunk a bit during the making. The very shiny fabric I think is glazed cotton - we opted for silk satin as there was no time to find such a specific fabric.
The whole outfit - the suit is Anne's Grandmother's from the late 1920s. Although the show is set earlier, the style is pretty old fashioned and works just fine.
Those in the know will know that the "straw" of our hat is wrong - too coarse by far. but on stage noone will notice this I hope, and in every other way, inside and out, I think it will pass muster.
Now any readers in or near Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Hereford, Cambridge or Richmond in the UK could look out for Anne's show later in the year. (Link to her website). It had great reviews here.
The whole Hat experience has been quiet magical for us both - cathartic and timely. I loved being able to contribute to this show. AND, as we were sitting today adding finishing touches, in walked Jan Bolwell, another amazing performer who has done a one woman show about her Grandfather's experiences  in WW1. They know one another, of course, and it was such a privilege to share a table with two such talented women.


  1. What a lovely story. The show sounds really interesting. The hat looks fabulous.

    1. Thanks Helen! It was such fin to make too. And a friend has let me know she NEEDS one for herself so next tie I"ll try and capture hte process )