Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Victorian Sunbonnet Tutorial ~ Part Two

Once all your sunbonnet pieces are cut out, it is time to stiffen the brim!

As I mentioned in my last post, you can stiffen your brim with cording, slats or quilting.

Cording is very visually attractive and makes a nicely stiffened brim, once starched. The corded bonnets I have made in the past do, however, have a tendency to collapse in the rain.
One of my early attempts at a fancy corded bonnet. This worked well until the first humid day, then it wilted. The brim could have benefited from double or even triple the amount of cording. (the more cord you use, the more starch it can absorb!)

Slat bonnets hold up well in all weather but they cannot be folded back so you are left feeling like you are wearing a mailbox on your head (which is nice when you are doing, say, garden work and only have to look at what is directly in front of you).
Slat bonnets do not work well when one has only two eyes and three small boys upon which to keep those eyes.  Wearing a slat bonnet while being a mother of little ones requires extreme neck exercises during which one must jerk the head back and forth with increasing rapidity in order to know in which (usually three different) directions said small boys are currently running. I will wear a slat bonnet again when I am old and feeble and must walk with a cane. Until then, the slat bonnet has gone to the land of banishment. 
Right now quilting is my personal favorite method of stiffening since it can look as attractive as cording, leaves you with a very stiff brim that does not require starch and can be folded back when you don't need the super-powerful sun protection a large shady brim can give.

I am quilting my brim, so here is the next step once the pieces are cut out.

Unfold your brim piece and insert the rectangle of cotton batting in between the layers of fabric, placing one long edge of the batting along the fold line. Fold the other half of the brim over the batting to cover it, like so:

Now it is time to quilt! There is no right or wrong way to do this. You can quilt by hand or by machine. You can quilt in simple straight lines or do a fancy pattern with zig zags and such. For mine, I chose to quilt in diagonal lines using my presser foot as a spacing guide.

Once the brim was quilted diagonally one way, I went back and quilted it diagonally in the other direction, creating a diamond pattern. For quilted brims, it seems the closer the quilting the stiffer the brim will be.

The finished quilting:

If desired, you can pipe the long raw edge of the brim, which will be sewn to the crown in the next step. This is optional, but I personally like the finished look a piped seam gives. For mid-19th century, go with self fabric piping for the best look.



  1. I was surprised how stiff a quilted bonnet brim can be. What does it look like folded back?

  2. Folded back it has more the appearance of a winter hood - I will take some pics of it folded back for the last step of the tutorial when we see the finished product. Yes, it's really amazing how thread adds so much to the stability and stiffness of the fabric! Neither the fabric or batting or thread is very stiff on its own, but together they work great.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!