I'd always wanted to try my hand at making a regency bonnet, and I thought it would be good research for those times when my fictional characters discuss millinery matters. Making a bonnet from scratch is a time-consuming process, and I'd already learned that workshop attendees frequently don't finish their bonnets during the workshop. Lydia also warned me that the class was an advanced workshop, while I'd never tried a millinery project before. But as long as Lydia was willing to allow me to attend, I was eager to learn.
Lydia isn't just a skilled craftswoman, she's a real artist. Her bonnets are gorgeous, and each has an average of 30 hours of work invested in it. (That's 30 of Lydia's hours--for a novice like me, you can pretty much double the time required to finish a bonnet.) Here are a few of her creations:
Aren't the fabrics and trims Lydia uses gorgeous? Sorry the photo doesn't show the bonnet linings, because they're equally lovely. (Edited to add: Lydia tells me the brown bonnet at upper left was actually made at last year's workshop by Tonya, one of the other attendees. I think I knew this at one point, but neglected to make a note of it. My apologies, Tonya, and your work is equally beautiful!)
Here's Lydia herself, modeling a bonnet she made during the workshop:
After tracing a paper pattern for later use when cutting our fashion covering fabric, we sandwiched the buckram pieces between layers of pellon, wired them, encased the wires with crinoline tape, then assembled and sewed the pieces together. I ended up with a form that looked like this:
You can see I've covered the top and outer brim of the bonnet in red velvet before stitching in the brim lining. My bonnet looks slightly squashed on one side, because I was a bit too forceful with it. Fortunately, I was able to reshape the buckram later with a steam iron.
Action shot! Lydia gives the newcomers instruction in sewing a bonnet covering with invisible "magic fairy stitches."
So how did my regency poke bonnet turn out? In the end, I was pretty happy with the actual construction, though not quite so happy with the job I did trimming it.
I went with a primary color scheme, including blue piping along the crown and brim, but I don't think the ribbon is wide enough to suit the regency proportions.
Because millinery work is so time consuming, it's not for everyone. But I found it relaxing to sit and sew, and the best part about making a bonnet is that it's a small-scale project with boundless opportunities for creative expression. I'm already planning to tackle another bonnet once the holiday rush is over. Maybe something in blue...
Alyssa Everett's newest regency romance is A Tryst With Trouble, the story of an arrogant man's man and an outspoken spinster who must join forces to solve a deadly mystery. It joins her first two regencies, Lord of Secrets and Ruined by Rumor. Alyssa hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, where she promises not to spam you.