Tuesday, August 12, 2014

17 hours of My Life - Regency Bonnet

I recently attended a Regency Event and was so enthralled with all the ladies lovely Poke Bonnets that I thought to give it a try myself.  I wanted something that was Neutral in color, but that utilized texture and some muted color contrast to give it visual interest.  With these thoughts and supporting materials in hand, I endeavored to begin my first ever Poke Bonnet.

A good friend, Ms Cat Frasier, and most excellent maker of Lady’s Hats, offered to give some informal instruction to our efforts  A day was set, and another good friend, Ms Gina L, picked me, my machine, and materials up, and drove us both over to Ms Frasier’s for our day of sewing.  I was very excited, as this was my very first group sewing event!  Most of my sewing is done in the quite of my home, so it was such fun to enjoy the company of my fellow seamstresses in our journey to create the perfect bonnet.
Still two seperate pieces and flower was just for show.

In my naïveté, I thought that I should be able to complete my bonnet, start to finish, in one day.  While things did progress as quickly as possible, the cutting of the pattern into buckram, batting, fashion fabrics, and linings, the sewing of wire to the required edgings to form the frame, the sewing of the fashion fabric pieces, the tacking down, and the myriad amounts of hand-sewing, for a beginner, a Poke Bonnet does provide some levels of difficulty.  Whilst in my heart, I dreamed of finishing my bonnet on that same day, after five hours of effort, I was only approximately one-third of the way thru to completion.  So, our day of sewing instruction ended, with tips how to finish out my bonnet.

At home I worked on the interior gathering for the underside of the brim.  Such a simple looking thing, and yet, looks can be so deceiving.  The cutting, seams, gathering, and attaching to the underside of the brim, probably took another five hours and many countless finger pokes – I began to think that was why they called it a “Poke Bonnet”!

Followed by more hand-sewing of all fabric edges to the buckram frame, which was another three hours, as hand sewing is not my forte by any means.

Next, my dearest friend, Ms Gina L took pity on my soul and came early before an event we were to attend to help me with the final assembly.  I was thirteen hours into this creative effort and was very unsure how to next proceed.  I did not want to accidently ruin my efforts at this point due to my negligence of how next to proceed.  Prevailing upon my friends’ good nature, she did show me what needed to be done next, and we were able to reach a true stopping point after only an hour of effort that left me confident of what I needed to do to finish my bonnet!

The next day found me finishing the last bit of structural hand-sewing after only an hour!  Now, I was onto the fun part – the decorating!  Heaven help me, but I succumbed to the easy way – I cheated and used a glue gun!  Forgive me, I know, after all that hand-sewing, but I simply did not think that I could take anymore torturous hand sewing.  I ran another hour to glue in the interior lining.  
Side view of the finished Poke Bonnet!

In regards to the decorating, I used an embroidered piece of white muslin for the side wall of the crown, you will notice the lovely circular pattern throughout, and this was my “texture” for visual interest.  Next, I used a cream colored cotton sateen for all other areas, this was my “muted” color contrast, the white against the cream – simple and elegant.  I then used some vintage Ivory lace for the crown decoration and bonnet ties.  In this I layered on a white circular patterned lace, to reflect the circular texture of the white muslin, with a bit of a shine to reflect the cream sateen.  Lastly, I used a gathered row of the Ivory lace on the top side of the brim to help cover up my tack sewing for the gathering on the underside of the brim.   And then, it was done!

Under-brim shirring was challenging.

It is not perfect, but I will not tell you it’s flaws.  With a few well place feathers, I think I can get away with the illusion.   My goal for this bonnet is that with future Regency gowns, I can simply make some ribbon of the left over fabric and craft a hat band to bring the gown colors into the hat, plus add in some contrasting colored feathers, so each gown will go well with the bonnet!

I would also like to thank Ms Cat Frasier, Ms Gina L, and Ms Val L, for their encouragement and support, for which I would not have been able to finish this project.  Secondly, my respect for all ladies, and gentlemen, that create hats for a living has increased exponentially after having attempted making one of my own.  The experts make it look so easy, but it is not.  Their effortless creations are only that much more appreciated for having attempted it myself, so I "tip my hat", or bonnet if you will, to all of those that inspire us.   
Now, I will say that my hat sewing abilities were sorely tested in this endeavor, and I am not a fast hand-sewer, so I am sure many of you will succeed at a much faster pace than I, and I think that the next time around even I will be able to improve on my seventeen hours of effort with hopefully better results. I used the Lynn McMasters Regency Bonnet Pattern.  However, for a first time beginners effort, I am very much pleased with the overall effect! 


  1. Beautiful bonnet! You are braver than I am. Yours can out so lovely! I can see you adding a color feather for this outfit, or a rosette for that outfit, a pop of color to match your gown! Love the neutral colors.

    1. Cindy, yes, it was a labor of love with many finger pokes!

  2. Amazing work Trudy. Congratulations! It is beautiful. XO

  3. I liked the idea also of having a generic bonnet that you could change out the colors at will. And I love the textures you used.
    Next time I have a few friends over to sew, you are on my list.

    1. Thank you Val! Please let me know when the next sewing adventure is to begin!