The making of a silk top hat may be classed as:
A PURE HANDICRAFT
No machine has yet been discovered for turning out silk hats and, until it is, this trade must still remain an occupation demanding in all its branches a special measure of manual skill, only to be acquired by a long apprenticeship and great experience.
On the wooden block the hatter draws the foundation of the hat, consisting of several layers of muslin, each being brushed over with a solution of shellac. They must fit the block tightly, smoothly, and truly, being well ironed to the shape with a heavy hot iron. These processes completed, the result, block and all, is placed in a stove to dry. In the meantime the brim, in a variety of processes, is being made. The foundation consists of calico, also in several folds, according to the strength required. Presently the brim and crown are fitted to each other by the use of the hot iron. The heat of the iron melts the shellac, with which both crown and brim have been saturated, and the two become
SO STRONGLY UNITED
that they will remain so for the rest of their useful and ornamental lives, unbroken and unparted. The united crown and brim are again brushed over with the shellac solution and carefully ironed to give the last smoothness of surface, and make it ready for the next important process, which is putting on the silk plush cover – the hat’s lustrous uniform. The plush is cut into three separate pieces, one for the top – or tip, as hatters call it – one for the side of the crown, and one for the brim. The tip and side crown are sewn together to fit exactly to the shape, the side being left open. The operation of fixing this cover is a very delicate one, and once more the hot iron is called into use, passed skillfully over every part, the ends of the open side being brought together and
FITTED SO EXACTLY
as not to show the joining.
In shaping the brim, the greatest taste, skill, delicacy of touch, and quickness of eye are required in order to produce those lines of beauty which give a character to the hat. It now only remains for woman’s dextrous, dainty fingers to give the final touch by lining and trimming.