For some beginners affording and sourcing the needed hat blocks can prove challenging. What are some creative ways of getting around this issue? How came upcoming milliners with a tight budget source used hat blocks.

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You can use styrofoam heads or buy on Ebay.  I bought a balsa for 20$.  Sometimes it can take a while until you get lucky.

Also, s/t when people go out of biz they post sales in forums on FB etc. U have to keep your eyes open.

I have a vintage Fedora for sale that I have not posted yet if you are interested contact me.(100$ + shipping, 22").  Good luck.

You want a soft wood like Lime, Obeche or tulip :)

Poplar is the wood of choice for wood-turners that make hat blocks. Some people call it Tulip wood, You need a softer wood. You should also know that wood turners can make hat blocks that are round. If you want them more oval shaped some sanding need to occur. UNLESS you know someone with a oval turning chuck which fits onto the piece of wood this will produce and oval shaped crown block. Brim blocks are made on bigger lathes which can accommodate the circumference of the the brim. I know this because my husband was a wood turner for a period of time until his arthritis got too bad.

back when i was 17 and was starting millinery, my dad went hat block making crazy! he would buy thick mdf cover sheets from bunnings and glue squares of it together then take to it with a special bit that he bought for his grinder, he made brims and pull apart crowns in all shapes and sizes! but when i ask him to make one now, being the stubborn grump that he is (lol) he won't do it any more :( so I'm going to give it a try myself one of these days, tho not on the scale that he used to do it on. 

Sometimes you can get lucky with vintage blocks on ebay. You could take a hat block making course and learn to make them from buckram or modelling clay. Re-think ways to use the blocks you have, you'd be amazed how many different styles you can make just from your utility block. You can increase size by blocking a cheap wool felt on your hat block and then blocking over it.

I've used old wooden salad bowls and nibbly dishes. There are some cute shapes in those.

Although I have three utility blocks, three crowns, two of which are odd- shaped, a plunger, and three brims, I am currently making my own hat blocks from wood and paper.   Perhaps I could make the new hat block shapes with buckram and wire on the utility blocks, but I’m quite slow at that task.

Since I’m pretty good at carpentry, I take scrap lumber, stack, glue, rasp, sand and smooth it into a crown, lifter or brim. Hurricane Sandy toppled a lot of trees in my neighborhood and odd pieces were left in the street.  As you might guess, I picked them up and gave them the same treatment.  All were sealed with several coats of polyurethane.

Using cardboard as an armature that is shaped into a crown or brim style, I cover it with buckram, stiffen the insides with a paper mache’ that was prepared with a paste mixture instead of water.  I stiffen the outside with the paper mache, allow it to dry, and then sand until smooth.  Finally, I coat it with tinted gesso and seal with several coats of polyurethane.  It becomes hard and shiny but keeps its shape and accepts pins.

It was fun and took three weeks.  Now I’m ready to work with these blocks to see if they really work.  To be continued…

I found a perfect microwave food cover that  is now my best block: cut out its middle circle and it creates the perfect dip for a saucer shape. A bit of thin polystyrene can expand the brim width and a suede covered sand weight/flower making pad sits on top to   hold it down whilst drying does the trick. Saving up takings to purchase real blocks but so confused about what to buy I still havent got round to ordering any !

When I started I used bowls, flower pots, glass platters, toys, whatever I could practice shaping on.  All of the actual blocks I have, I purchased on e-bay.  I pad my smaller blocks to make them bigger.  I also may use a couple different blocks to make the shape in a hat. Blocking first on one block and then on another.  I am also learning to find ways to modify what I do have.  Also think "Bottoms Up," when looking at your blocks.  When I am tired of the same block, I turn it upside down to see if I can come up with a new style.  I keep saying that I am going to start carving my own blocks, and now that winter is coming to a close, I have been eyeing the remainder of the wood pile.  So many ideas, and so little time.

Bridget, what do you pad your blocks with to make them bigger? My largest crown block at the moment is 23 1/4", and I have an order for a woman who has a 25" head!!! I have heard blocking an inexpensive wool hood over a block, and maybe even two of them will noticeably expand a size.  I hate to use wool hoods that way, as I don't think they are exactly inexpensive. But in this case, needing a 25" block in a hurry may be the only solution, unless soemone has another trick??

I bought an old block that had three half layers and two full layers of wool felt covering it presumably to make it bigger. They had tacked the edges down with pins.

Sandra, I bought a "lot" of old blocks done this way.  They came out of an old factory and had up to 3 layers of felt on them attached with heavy tacks.  I couldn't keep them, because they were very, very dirty and torn.


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