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Any advice on reshaping felt hats?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by Tabbyannabel, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

    I just acquired three adorable black felt hats from circa 1940. However, two of them are quite squashed! Any advice on the best way to reshape them? On both hats it's both the area where the head goes (not sure if there is a technical term) and the brim which have become distorted. I'll wear them no matter what, but the brim not maintaining its shape is slightly annoying. :)

    Is there help for my hats or are they beyond fixing?

  2. Tina, for basic reshaping, you can try steaming them - steamers work best of course, but a decent kettle can pump out the steam too. Position your hat nearby and gently reshape with your fingers, the steam will moisten the felt and make it easier to shape. Be careful because the steam is hot and can burn your fingers!

    Of course, this method only works if the damage is minor: for major work you need the right shaped hat block and proper gear - best to seek the advice of a milliner.
  3. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

    Thanks! I'll try the kettle method first and see if I have any luck.
  4. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member


    Before attempting anything, you really must determine if the hat is made of wool felt , or fur felt. If it is wool, it may have been "sized" or treated with any stiffeners when it was originally made and then inappropriate steaming can often make it worse, not better. If there is a wire in the brim, care must be taken as well. I can offer more advice if you post a photo, or if you can determine the fiber content of the hat.

  5. cmpollack

    cmpollack VFG Member

    I don't always feel confident of my steaming abilities, so I sometimes opt for a "passive" method of reshaping hats: I simply put a misshapen hat on one of those glass display heads for a week or so, and afterwards, it seems to magically retain the shape it had on the glass head!
  6. Pinkcoke

    Pinkcoke Alumni

    I do a similar thing to Carrie, except I will put a slightly larger hat on a bowler hat or a very stiff straw hat and keep stacking, I store all 'everyday' hats like this and they keep shape very well. (I don't do it with anything delicate)
  7. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

    I'll take some photos today so you can see the hats! My mom has "borrowed" the one that wasn't smushed! That one I had to have as it was sponsored by Miss America 1939-40!!
  8. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

  9. Thank you Barbara - you're quite right.

    I jumped in assuming it was a simple wool felt hat but photos are really needed to advise. We use head shapes when applying steam too.
  10. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member

    Those hats look pretty neat, and very 40s. Snappy! I see some stamping on the inside of the one hat's crown, does it say anything about the fiber content or maker? Also, I am now curious what the labels say, the black label is calling to me!

    I think they need a lot of work, simple stuff but time consuming, but are worth the effort and should clean up nicely.
  11. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

    They need a good cleaning too! :oops: The first one with black velvet and buckle is a Jean Nedra hat of fashion. The second hat just says on the inside Made in the USA and the label says size 22 and has the manufactured under fair labor standards label (no makers label). No fiber content.

    I have a thing for hats, so I couldn't resist them.
  12. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member


    Thank you for the label info. I suspect that they might be wool felt, as were most of the hats made in the USA while WWII raged on in Europe. If the milliner had a stash of imported (fur) felts, she cold have used that of course or had a domestic source for them. Brush them to remove surface dirt, and you can try a vacuum with a screen over the hose to remove anything more than that surface dust...if there are stains, you have to determine what those are, but most can be removed or covered with a trimming or ribbon. Wool is usually harder to re-shape than fur felting. Try the tea kettle steam method, with care as Nicole has said, using little water in the kettle as that will make more steam, and just keep at it until the shape is where you want it. If the brims are very wavy....try doing it in sections and letting the hat cool between steamings and lay a flexible weighted item on top (like a sock with rice in it which you can also heat in the microwave and place on top of the brim) if you need to keep it down. If there are wires, that can be hard to get back to shape but try, or if it is bad, you can remove the wire, trim the brim's edge if needed, and then shape as you want it.

    Let us know how it goes....
  13. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

    Thank you! No wires in either hat, thankfully. I will give it a try once this heatwave moves on. No way am I standing over a steaming kettle just now!! :)
  14. avamac

    avamac Alumni

    It's well worth the investment to get a steamer if you work with clothing. If you don't want to go whole hog on a floor model, buy a handheld one. Go for one that holds a fair amount of water.
  15. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

    Is there any material you can't use a steamer on? I've actually thought of getting one for my shop.
  16. avamac

    avamac Alumni

    We use them on just about everything in our shop. Be leery with sequins, old gelatin ones melt in steam. I prefer ironing for 100% cottons, but steaming ALMOST works.

    BUY one; you won't know how you ever did without it! You don't have to buy the most expensive commercial model...a fairly cheap one will work much the same.
  17. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

    Thanks, I am already looking online! :USETHUMBUP: I've had clothes I haven't photographed as they've been too wrinkly and then just never get around to doing anything with them. Thanks for the reminder!!
  18. I find that steamers are particularly good for silk and satins: but watch for drips, as silk can become water-marked. We use a sock over the nozzle to catch the drips.
  19. Tabbyannabel

    Tabbyannabel Registered Guest

    Hi, just wanted to say that I got my steamer today so I tried it out on my hats. Wanted to show you the results! Not perfect, but much better. :clapping: I also wanted to show you the third hat (my Mum finally returned it!). So adorable, all of them. Thanks for your advice!! 0001pt.jpeg 0001im_2.jpeg 0001IM.jpeg

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