Saturday, March 6, 2010

Instant Gratification Cloches

If you ever need an instant gratification historical costuming project, I don't think you could do better than Vintage Pattern Lending Library's H001, 1920's felt cloche hats. All I had to do for the model I made was to cut out three pieces of felt, sew 4 seams, and voila! - instant hat! If I hadn't chosen to hand sew the seams, I could have had the entire thing done in less than an hour. Since it did not require much material, it was also quite inexpensive.

As with all of VPLL's offerings, this is a reproduction of an authentic pattern. In this particular case, it is actually a set of 5 hat patterns that were put out by the Western Felt Works company in order to get people to buy more of their products. The styles range from sporty to sophisticated, and all of them have a certain panache. It's a nice change from the basic cloche that seems to be the standard with other companies. The one I chose actually has a very modern feel to it, so it will look fine with either my period clothes or contemporary ones. I like that they mention what colors were in fashion in the instructions. Better yet, the hats are simple to make. In the instructions for the one I made, there was a step left out of the instructions, but it was easy enough to figure out.

The only real challenge I had was to find the right material for it. I wanted to make mine out of historically correct 100% wool felt and found the pickings on that to be mighty slim. When I did find a source, the dimensions of the piece turned out to be a squared 18" by 18", unlike the 9" x 32" elongated rectangle assumed in the instructions. I was barely able to fit the pattern on to the piece I bought. If I had wanted to make the larger size or one of the other hat patterns I would have had to buy 2 pieces of the felt. One of the pieces for view 2 is so large that it would not fit at all on the felt square I had. Be prepared to piece together your felt cloth in order to have a large enough section if you can't find the right width of felt. It looks like there are bigger pieces being sold now than were available when I ordered mine, though.

The end result is a nice, unlined felt cloche. I have made cloches before from other pattern companies and found the fit to be too tight. I mean, cloches are supposed to be close fitting and designed for short bobbed hair, but these were a bit too snug even with those considerations. In the case of this pattern, however, the 22" size fit my 22" head just perfectly. Please note that if you are buying it for the 23" head size, the pattern pieves themselves are for the 22" size with instructions to add a certain amount to the seam edges to make it for a 23" size.

Not that I really need more than one cloche, but I will no doubt be making a couple of the other views, too. When it's this easy and inexpensive, heck, why not?


  1. Just found your blog via a facebook post. You can make your own wool felt it's very easy. Simply purchase 100% wool fabric and felt it in your washing machine. Stay away from wool coating (too heavy) and most wool crepe (too thin, dosn't felt well). A simple wool twill or flannel works best. Be sure it is 100% wool and not a wool and nylon or poly blend. A good source is

    To felt: Fill machine with hot water add detergent and wash on short cycle. I dry mine in the dryer on medium. Now you have lovely felted fabric wide enough for your pattern.



  2. What a great suggestion! I am definitely going to give that a try. Heaven knows with the Civil War era dresses I've made, I've already got some large leftover pieces of 100% wool to play with. Thanks!