Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Crafting: Making your own Duck Tape Hat Block

As a followup to my post on Making Your Own Dress Form, I've decided to share how I made my own duck tape hat block. Now, I'd like to make it perfectly clear that this isn't nearly as durable as a regular hat block, and because of the duck tape it isn't appropriate for hot applications or steaming (though now I'm starting to think up ways to make it work!) but it will work as a sort of dress-form-for-your-head if you intend to make stitched hats like I do!

I made my hat block using pretty much the same basics as my dress form. The hard thing for me was getting the actual oval shape of my head right. I have a very large head (size 7 5/8) and so using one of those foam heads from the craft store just isn't a viable option for me. My head is also very oval-shaped, so those people who start with round objects like bowls and tupperware - I commend you, but your methods just won't work for me.

You will need:

  • A roll of duck tape
  • plastic wrap or a plastic bag of some sort
  • sturdy wire
  • cardboard
  • strong glue
  • sturdy filling of some sort (taxidermy pine, pine shavings, firmly crumpled bits of paper... use your best MacGyver skills, here!)

First: The way I got the shape was by using armature wire and shaping it snugly and comfortably around my head. Armature wire is a lightweight wire used in sculpture and you can get it in all sizes. You could probably also use a simple piece of craft wire if you're careful, but I had this lying around and really wanted to make sure the shape was appropriate. This is for use as a template.

Second: Trace the oval/circle of your wire onto at least four sheets of cardboard and cut them out. Take all of these pieces of cardboard except one, align them and glue them together to make one ├╝ber-sturdy oval. Mark the front of the oval with a bold marker of some sort so you can align it correctly later. Keep the one cardboard oval separate, as it will help you fill your duck tape shell later.
(If you want to make a longer hat form like I did, trace this oval as many times as you are willing to and make yourself a tall stack of glued cardboard. This will add sturdiness to your hat block later on, and give you some vertical space to work.)

Third: Carefully fit your head with plastic wrap. You don't want it to be bulky at all.

Fourth: Take a piece of duck tape and wrap it firmly around your forehead to the back of your head. Try to keep it level with the ground (not sloped) and from shifting around. I actually used a bit of tape to tape it to my forehead so it wouldn't move.

Fifth: Using carefully placed strips of duck tape, it's time to cover the rest of your head. I can't stress enough how important it is not to get folds or crinkles, since we are adding to the actual circumference of your head. Try to follow the natural curve of your skull.

Sixth: Once your head is covered in two smooth layers of duck tape, you can remove the shell from your head. It is fragile and will dent/warp if you fiddle with it too much at this point, so be careful!

Seventh: Place your duck tape shell in a large bowl (larger than the shell, so it doesn't have to be warped to be placed inside) and carefully begin to fill it with your filling. You want to pack your filling into the curve without damaging it, so be very careful as you're doing this to pay attention to how the duck tape shell is pressing into the bottom of the bowl. When it is pretty much full, you can manipulate the shape a bit if it has warped.

Eighth: Once your shell is as full as you can get it without warping it, tape your cardboard oval over the bottom of the shell, leaving at least one area untaped. Use this little untaped area to wedge additional filling in, making the shell more and more firm. Again, try not to warp your shell. You can use a pencil or dowel to reach in and shape any areas where the filling is uneven.

Ninth: Once you are happy with the firmness of your shell, tape your additional oval stack to the bottom of the shell and, again being sure to avoid wrinkles or folds, carefully cover the entire thing with one more layer of duct tape.

Et, Voila! 

Now, this hat block isn't particularly durable. In fact, I really should be calling it a "hat form" instead of hat block, to harken back to its similarities to my dress form... Still, if you intend to make stitched or pieced hats of any kind, this is a great inexpensive alternative to a wooden hat form! 

This is a draped mockup of a hat that I simply pinned to the block. It allows me to see how the fabric will act on the curves of a head without using my more expensive fabric. This duck tape block is really coming in handy! It's much easier than sewing the mockup using trial-and-error, and much less painful than if I were to pin the mockup directly to my head!  (Just kidding folks!)

Have you made your own hat block? Share your results in the comments section! 

xoxo Emily