As a Milliner on a tight start-up budget, I’ve recently made some buckram brim blocks. They are basically moulds of more expensive wooden forms which you ‘block the fabric’ on to give the hat its shape.
Are you ready to see how they are made?
Step 1 – Make sure the blocks you want to ‘copy’ are wrapped in plastic to protect them from moisture. Now, measure the widest part of the block and cut some slightly larger pieces of buckram (extra stiff /double stiffened). If you are copying a down-turn brim block (left photo) squares of fabric are fine, if you want to block an up-turn brim like the one in the right photo (which I used to make my blue Sinamay hat) you need to use bias strips.
Step 2 – Dip the cut buckram into warm water and roll it up like a bandage. Take the buckram straight out of the water – do not leave it in the water as the stiffener will leach out.
Step 3 – Stretch the buckram across the blocks so that the brim shape is covered. Continue covering the wooden block with buckram until you have 3 layers.
Step 4 – Stretch the buckram out until its smooth. Use a similar technique to normal blocking – i.e. first pin roughly in place (think North, South, East, West) before pulling on-the-bias to stretch out creases.
Step 6 – Mark the brim edge with pencil. Remove the blocking pins. Now its time to cut the buckram off the block – be really careful, you don’t want to damage the wooden block or yourself!
Step 7 – Stitch thick millinery wire (gauge 22) under the edge of the buckram with a blanket stitch. If you are making a down-turn block you only need to one wire, upturn blocks need two – one on the inner and one on the outer edge.
Step 9 – Cover the buckram block, wire and rope with another layer of buckram.
Step 10 – When dry, sew a running stitch under the rope edge to keep the buckram in place. Trim off excess buckram.
Here are some photos of my finished buckram blocks looking down on them from the top (left photo) and underneath (right photo).
As with wooden blocks, remember to cover the buckram forms in plastic before use. If you get the buckram wet it will turn to mush!!!!