Monday, April 1, 2013

Orange & Black Tommy (Top Hat & Bow-Tie)

Ah, first a description of what a Rapper Tommy is. Also called a character, they are a sharply dressed person who is meant to engage the crowd with the dancing. They sing a calling on song meant to grab the audience's attention and generally make jokes all throughout the dance. Our Tommy is also a musician so he got a sash but Tommys do need to look sharper than everyone else. We combed the charity shops of Sheffield and found a dinner jacket that fits him (well, sort of, it's just slightly too big in the shoulders but I seem to be the only one who notices). So with that main base, it was up to me to make the bright orange accessories. He got a pocket triangle (actually a failed sash end!), a bow tie, and a top hat.

I've sewn up a variety of fabric hats mainly of the Scrooge night cap variety. I have been meaning however to take my hat making repertoire up a notch and begin with a flat cap so I had buckram in my stash. Now I had expected it to become a Renaissancey flat cap for M's Balkan Bandit stage costumes and I figured that'd also be a step up in difficulty so I was looking forward to it. However, it came to be a few days before our competition and we still hadn't been able to buy a top hat for under £absurd. So...I made a top hat. Why not?

Well, 3 curved hand needles (one of them was a book binding needle!), a burn, and 3 shattered machine needles later I really questioned my sanity/ability-to-evaluate-my-own-skills. It was certainly a learning experience! I didn't have millinery gauge wire for the brim rim so I doubled up jewelery wire and shattered my machine needles. I didn't have any mull so I used dressmaker's felt creating a thick and stiff body that was so thick my needles bent rather than make it through though thankfully it stays very upright! Ironing the buckram together really didn't work despite the internet telling me it should have and when the steam made my buckram soft I panicked and burned myself off the buckram. And let me tell you I am thrilled I needed to trim it with bright orange ribbon because the glue stains from my failed top to brim technique are hideous. I hated the crown to side attachment so much I sewed a strip of bias binding to hide the top. Oh, and despite my trying to follow the standard ratio of top hat to face height it's like 3 inches taller than any other hat! This is a special hat.

Which looks spectacular from afar!

the trailing ribbon breaks up the expanse of black from the back

I have to keep reminding myself that this was my very first hat, that I drafted the pattern myself, pretty much guessed at the construction after a half hour on the internet, and that while I look at it and see construction/technique failures, everyone else is just like "What a tall top hat on that dashing fellow!" It really just demonstrates that we are our worst critics. Though I cringed every time M handed it to an admirer.

That bow tie is embarrassingly easy in non-fraying fabric. Ready? Sew a rectangle, turn it seams in, and whipstitch closed. Pinch it in the middle  more or less evenly and sew it ruched. Wrap a thin strip around the middle and sew tight on the back. Sew to an elastic that is slightly looser than the neck. Boom-bow tie. (yeah, this Kitmistress was not going to tie a bow tie before every round)

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