How to make a Top Hat
I developed this form to be able to create top hat crowns quickly and easily. The form will work for felts but is especially conducive to fosshape top hats.
The form allows you to make hats in 6-9-12 inch height increments and circumference plates can be cut for any size head.
Create a simple pattern for the top and the side of the crown. Using a fairly tight stitch, machine the pieces together. The top is being reinforced with a circle of foam core cut to the desired finish and pinned in place.
Set this onto the form which can be as simple as a tin can atop a wooden head block that you have covered with plastic and taped in place. A piece of elastic is being secured around the bottom.
Begin the steaming process, starting with the vertical seam. The look will be most successful if the circular seam joining the top to the side of the crown is rolled slightly to the top of the hat as it is pinned in place.
Here you can see one side steamed and one side not. The purpose of this photograph is to illustrate what happens in the steaming process. I don't find it advisable to approach the process this way but rather to apply the steam evenly around the shape as you work, minimizing the distance of the steam source from the fosshape as you proceed.
The fully steamed, fosshape top hat crown.
I use brim forms sometimes called ''flanges'' that can be found at flea markets, antique shops and on e-bay.
It is great to have a large variety of these forms to pick from, however one form can be used for a multitude or purposes.
A lack of equipment should not inhibit your enthusiasm. A large salad bowl is often acceptable or it is easy enough to carve a form from styrofoam.
Fosshape being stretched over a brim block:
To create the lip that will attach the brim to the crown, a hat block or wooden disc the size of the desired circumference plus, is pushed into the fosshape as you steam.
Further stiffening from the under side will guarantee the brim a stiff lip to be sewn to the crown.
Trim the outside of the brim first.
Mark the height of the crown carefully, double checking to make sure you maintain the desired circumference as well.
Fit and mark the placement of the brim.
Finish trimming the brim. Cut an oval from the inside of the brim leaving a 3/4'' inch lip to be clipped and sewn to the crown.
If the hat is to be wired, and I suggest that you do as the fosshape will stretch and soften slightly over time, It should be done prior to joining the crown to the brim. Here the brim is positioned and pinned to the crown before sewing by hand. In theory the product will adhere to itself when this join is re-steamed, however stitching adds security.
Here we have a top hat ready to be dyed, covered or painted.
Fosshape dyes beautifully however the saturation level and intensity of the desired color will effect the method and timing of the dyeing. If you seek a dark or intense hue, it is best to use a hot dye bath.
If you use hot dye you should dye the pieces while they are still attached to their forms as the heat of the water can cause the fosshape to become warped. Light and pastel colors are easily achievable in a cool dye bath.
Fosshape responds beautifully to paint. Here we have used a combination of Design Master sprays to color the fosshape,and tube acrylic to highlight specific areas.
In this example the fosshape form has been covered with fabric. This process is the same as you would use to cover a buckram frame except, because of the thickness and finish of the fosshape, there is no need to cover the form with a layer of batting or ice cloth.Depending on the shape of the form, stretch fabrics can be very advantageous.
Look for hat shapes in unusual objects. Creating custom forms can be very rewarding. Be creative and resourceful, just remember that the objects must be able to be removed once the fosshape has been steamed.