Monday, August 15, 2011

Ironing Out the Details

Heat waves, hail storms, flooding streets, driving rain — this summer, Brooklyn feels more like a pizza oven or a swamp. Either way, it’s good to keep a hat in your bag along with an umbrella... one of them will come in handy.

If you’re like me, you probably have a drawer of hats in different states of crumple. To keep your cotton hat crisp and clean all summer long you don’t need a wooden hat block, but you will need a decent iron and spray starch. My mustard yellow Kings County Pork Pie Hat is super soft, made with 100% Rowan Pima Cotton. It will be one the crochet projects in crafty lady, Brett Bara’s, new book from Interweave Books.

Wash and Dry
First remove any big decoration... braids, band, clasp, buckle, buttons... then hand-wash your hat with a gentle fabric wash or baby shampoo. Let it soak for a couple hours to allow the fibers expand. A teaspoon of white vinegar to early gallon of water breaks down hair oils. Rinse well and gently press out most of the water in a towel — don’t use the death grip. Air-dry your hat flat. To speed up drying time lay a box fan flat and place your hat on top.

Block and Press
To shape the crown, I use the bottom of a round cookie tin as a hat block — a coffee can works well too. The base should be a bit smaller than the width of the crown. Set your iron to the correct fiber setting (in this case, 100% cotton) and gently press into the fabric moving slowly with a small circular motion, adjusting the hat as you need. Don’t use the steam setting.

Place a small face towel over the block and set the hat on top, right side up. Lightly spray with starch and iron until the starch dries. Repeat until the crown is firm but pliable. Be sure to press into the creases with the tip of your iron.

Turn the hat inside out, then spray and iron the crown as before. Starch tends to build up on the iron and burn, so clean it often by spraying the ironing surface with water and wiping it clean with a towel.

Lay the hat on a towel, spray and iron the inside — from brim to the crown. Rotate the hat as you iron the interior of the hat. Now iron the outside of the hat the same way. Be sure to iron the welt at the edge of the crown.

Straighten the brim. Spray and iron the brim as before, rotating the hat as you press. Re-attach any decoration, and off you go to the beach. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Keeping your hat in good shape is much easier than keeping yourself in shape, but that’s a different issue.

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