This is a tutorial to show you the basics on how to care for and restore vintage hats. I will show you how to steam, re-shape, and generally 'freshen-up' your new vintage hat.
It's a quick and easy process and no special equipment is required, everyone can easily do this at home!
To demonstrate, I'll be using this vintage fine straw hat. As you can see, it's quite squashed, the brim is out of shape, and overall it looks pretty tired.
The veiling is all scrunched up, the ribbon is fraying and the bow at the back is sagging.
Step one- STEAMING.
You'll need a kettle that does NOT turn itself off. Boil it until you have a good amount of steam coming out. Best not to open windows or have fans or air-con on, as you need to have lots of steam.
Regular readers have seen my old enamel kettle already, well I can tell you it is one the best 2 dollars I have ever spent! I bought it especially for hat steaming and this sort of thing is ideal.
Once you've got the steam happening, simply hold the hat above it and slowly move the hat around and around. Best to keep the hat moving as of course steam is very hot, not only is it easy to burn your hands but you want to treat the hat evenly.
You'll soon notice that the hat is reshaping itself-it's rather like watching one of those fast-motion nature programs where the blooming of an entire flower happens in thirty seconds. You only need to steam the hat for about 90 seconds.
Step 2- RESHAPING
The hat will now be a bit moist and very soft so it's time for reshaping.
If you have a hat block which is the exact size for the hat then of course that is best, but any kind of object with a rounded top will suffice. For this hat I used the (above) hat display stand.
Press the lumps out of the crown and even it out. This really only takes a few seconds! You'll find the hat is very pliable at this stage, so just poke and prod it and pull it (gently!) back into shape...it's quite like smoothing sheets after making a bed. See how much better the brim is looking already? yay steam!
This hat has a wired brim which was out of shape (actually worse than it looks here), so I carefully bent it back into shape and smoothed the brim a bit more.
Step 3- WAIT.
I leave the hat for a good 2-3 hours now, and it let it dry out naturally.
Step 4- TRIMMING
Next, I trim. This may or may not necessary (or even desirable), for me I always do it because I am a reseller and want my hats in the best possible condition.
Hat ribbons and flowers are often fraying and shabby so I simply cut the minimum possible off the ends. I also trimmed some long bits of straw from underneath the brim so it's all tidy.
Step 5- REGLUE
The whole ribbon was coming away from the crown but it's easily fixed.
I use clear multi-grip, as I find it sets quickly and works well with all hat materials, including feathers, flowers, felt and ribbon.
Step 6- STEAM AGAIN
You may not need or want to do a second steaming, but I always steam a hat at least 2 or 3 times as I find it will keep its shape better. If you do a second steam, don't forget to let it dry out again.
Now you're finished...stand back and admire your handiwork!
Yes folks, that's all there is to it.