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Author Topic: WHEEL HATS  (Read 3404 times)
D.Oakes
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« on: January 10, 2014, 12:12:46 am »

I typically think of them as the most important cap of the 19th century.  Nearly every pattern that came after from visor caps to scally caps owes a huge amount of credit to the wheel hat.  And the sad part is, I still don't see enough of them around.  (and I should know....I make them professionally.... Grin)  They always seem to take a back seat to top hats and bowlers, with the one exception being Gangs of New York.

Here are a few examples of ones I have done:  (and yes, I am considering a how to video)





A more modern variation, this is a style that came in during the later part of the 19th century.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Anybody else enjoy this style of cap? 
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Will Howard
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2014, 12:41:12 am »

Eagerly awaiting the delivery of the top two!  Keep up the good work!
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D.Oakes
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2014, 12:48:14 am »

Thank you!  

Hopefully there is no gas leak or ice storm or any other freak incident tomorrow....... Angry  If not, then you should be getting them on Tuesday at the latest.  

Unless I steal the blue one......I wear a 61....I can MAKE it fit!   Grin
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Will Howard
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2014, 01:06:52 am »

I now have the top two hats pictured- the blue & the reddish brown.  They look EVEN BETTER in person!
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Otto Von Pifka
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2014, 07:46:12 am »

a friend dumped a rather poorly made hat onto me, supposed to be a militia issued cap but the top is too small a diameter for the sides so when you put it on, the hat looks like the chimney from an old locomotive. the bill is also sewn in so vertical, it covers the eyes and half of your nose, tightly. the bill itself is of rubberized canvas but has an odd permanent wrinkle in it and a poorly trimmed edge. the chin strap over the bill is a standard quality mass produced replica you see on most replica kepi and forage caps but it refuses to stay tight against the cap.

I plan to cut out a large disk of plastic from the flat of a detergent jug to insert and "train" the top of the hat, then remove the bill and either recut and replace it or add a leather bill in its place. the chin strap I think I can sew into place so it stays put.

the wool its made from seems good, if a little lightweight, I'm tempted to just wet the thing to make sure it will survive getting rained on, I would hate to do all that and have it shrivel up like a prune after I wear it out in the elements.
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MWBailey
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"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2014, 01:00:04 pm »

I wonder if there's a way to "mold"the bill, the way they mold saddles and moccasins and such.
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D.Oakes
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2014, 02:13:47 pm »

a friend dumped a rather poorly made hat onto me, supposed to be a militia issued cap but the top is too small a diameter for the sides so when you put it on, the hat looks like the chimney from an old locomotive. the bill is also sewn in so vertical, it covers the eyes and half of your nose, tightly. the bill itself is of rubberized canvas but has an odd permanent wrinkle in it and a poorly trimmed edge. the chin strap over the bill is a standard quality mass produced replica you see on most replica kepi and forage caps but it refuses to stay tight against the cap.

I plan to cut out a large disk of plastic from the flat of a detergent jug to insert and "train" the top of the hat, then remove the bill and either recut and replace it or add a leather bill in its place. the chin strap I think I can sew into place so it stays put.

the wool its made from seems good, if a little lightweight, I'm tempted to just wet the thing to make sure it will survive getting rained on, I would hate to do all that and have it shrivel up like a prune after I wear it out in the elements.

I hate that cut!  Although the vertical visor is actually correct, believe it or not.  Although from the way you describe it was poorly made. As for the chin strap, just resew the leather loops.  You want to have the ability to readjust them.   

Most leather or "board" visors, I routinely mold.  It stiffens the leather much more and allows one to make a proper shape out of it.  I'm not sure why some manufacturers just cut out a piece and boom. 
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Salty Carruthers
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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2014, 05:25:03 pm »

I love these hats! great work, Mr Oakes, the more modern style you posted is a favourite of mine. Can't seem to find many examples of them on a google image search, do those later ones go by another name that you know of?
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W. S. Marble
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« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2014, 05:46:03 pm »

They are often called "Mechanic's Hats" as well...and I agree about the consistently intriguing quality of Mr. Oakes' efforts.
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Salty Carruthers
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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2014, 05:57:20 pm »

Thanks W.S. Much appreciated
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Will Howard
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2014, 02:17:15 am »

I have also heard them referred to as an "Immigrant cap", presumably because so many European immigrants wore them.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2014, 01:24:23 am by Will Howard » Logged
D.Oakes
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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2014, 04:54:18 am »

Yes: Mechanic's Hats, Rhine Boatman Caps, Fisherman's Caps, Fiddler's Caps, Immigrant Caps, and they also served as the "early form" of most of the frontwards flopping flat caps seen today.  (though some have a history prior)  As a maker I generally consider Mechanic's Caps to be a separate type with a crown made of single piece, however in time the significant differences in meaning have been lost.  I'd post a picture, but an apprentice of mine has the particular book, it's of a Missouri Militiaman ca. 1860 wearing a low band wheel hat.  His is actually likely a military issue/military-style variant.  When you start digging, you find A LOT OF THEM.  Again, the history of them goes from the early 1800's well into the mid-20th century. 

Thank you all for the compliments.   Grin
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D.Oakes
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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2014, 01:46:17 am »



Zoom in on the picture and check out the two guys in the back.  This is London ca. 1877.   Grin  I must admit, tumblr has a lot of great images that come up on it periodically. 
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D.Oakes
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« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2014, 10:48:27 pm »

Model 1839 Forage Cap with Ear Flaps! Grin



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Will Howard
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« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2014, 04:13:26 am »

I'm planning to make a wheel cap to use when doing the Runaway Scrape-era and later costumed performances that the dulcimer club I belong to gets into; supposedly such were a common item among Texian menfolk of the era (General Sam's wide-brim straw hat notwithstanding). These pics are giving me ideas. Thanks!

While making such a cap might be fun & the finished cap a source of pride, the cost of materials plus your time might make buying one from Danny at Brass Kepi a practical alternative.  He doesn't charge that much, allows you to pick what features & materials you want, & he knows what he is doing.
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MWBailey
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"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2014, 03:30:31 am »

Despite probable appearances, I'm not averse to buying such an item (or any other) from someone else; I removed my comment because in retrospect it seemed to me that I had been somewhat rude and misleading in my wording.

I've been studying the problem (the cap) for several years, based on sketchy accounts/legends/rumors of a type of cap proposed at one point, just before the Panic, for a forage cap for the Texian infantry (laughable though the idea of calling them 'infantry' may be to some). None of Danny's designs shown here so far sport the type of top that appears in most accounts, the sutlers at the reenactments never have the type, and in any case I want to make it myself. I intend no disrespect to anyone in doing so.
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D.Oakes
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« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2014, 02:11:16 pm »

There are 2 designs I've seen referenced: the 1825 "Pinwheel" Cap and the 1833 Leather Forage Cap.  I think Dirty Billy is the only one making the pinwheel caps, and I personally have not found enough written on them (or artifacts) to even attempt a reproduction.  As for the leather 1833, I would love to see an original. 

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MWBailey
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"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2014, 03:17:43 pm »

Most of what I've found, construction-wise, have been instructions for similar but different hats; a method for making the top of the ubiquitous engineer's (as in locomotive) hat from a square of fabric suggests a way to make a pinwheel top, for example (just use a bigger square). The fabric is sort of an enigma. Several Texas Army reenactor's wives sewed an example some years back from something like  black merino wool whatever-you-call-the-stuff (really sheer but thick knit-like material. They make winter dresses out of it, it's like Jersey but woolen). It's probably just common wool homespun, but try telling that to a fabric store clerk and watch the sidelong glares you receive. I'll probably just do the first attempt in some gray felt I have laying around and see what happens.
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Will Howard
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« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2014, 05:20:54 pm »

Most of what I've found, construction-wise, have been instructions for similar but different hats; a method for making the top of the ubiquitous engineer's (as in locomotive) hat from a square of fabric suggests a way to make a pinwheel top, for example (just use a bigger square). The fabric is sort of an enigma. Several Texas Army reenactor's wives sewed an example some years back from something like  black merino wool whatever-you-call-the-stuff (really sheer but thick knit-like material. They make winter dresses out of it, it's like Jersey but woolen). It's probably just common wool homespun, but try telling that to a fabric store clerk and watch the sidelong glares you receive. I'll probably just do the first attempt in some gray felt I have laying around and see what happens.

Please let us see the results.  Post lots of pictures (especially of the construction process, as well as of the finished cap).
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 05:32:33 pm by Will Howard » Logged
MWBailey
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"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2014, 07:07:58 pm »

Posting results is no problem, but process... I tend to get caught up in it and finish or toss it before I remember to take pics, but I'll try. It'll probably be several weeks/months before I have anything to show. As I've mentioned before, I sew like a blacksmith (I do what works and the heck with pretty stitchery, basically; not that I disdain it, I just don't do "fancy" very well), so don't expect Versace-level work.

I've hypothesized that a cap like the one 'tutorialed' here
http://mushroomvillagers.wordpress.com/the-eddie-cap-tutorial/
could result in the desired outcome if the outside diameter of the pleated form of the top is expanded to eighty or more percent larger than the diameter of the headband. The stiffness of the material would be a major factor, however, in my view; something floppy, like military felt blanket material, might work better than the dacron felt I have on hand, for example.

Edited for better mathematical plausiblity. Er, I hope...
« Last Edit: February 24, 2014, 07:30:34 pm by MWBailey » Logged
Will Howard
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« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2014, 07:40:27 pm »

Thank you for that, MWBailey.
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D.Oakes
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« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2014, 08:15:20 pm »

Posting results is no problem, but process... I tend to get caught up in it and finish or toss it before I remember to take pics, but I'll try. It'll probably be several weeks/months before I have anything to show. As I've mentioned before, I sew like a blacksmith (I do what works and the heck with pretty stitchery, basically; not that I disdain it, I just don't do "fancy" very well), so don't expect Versace-level work.

I've hypothesized that a cap like the one 'tutorialed' here
http://mushroomvillagers.wordpress.com/the-eddie-cap-tutorial/
could result in the desired outcome if the outside diameter of the pleated form of the top is expanded to eighty or more percent larger than the diameter of the headband. The stiffness of the material would be a major factor, however, in my view; something floppy, like military felt blanket material, might work better than the dacron felt I have on hand, for example.

Edited for better mathematical plausiblity. Er, I hope...


Floppy material for that style is not necessarily good.  You want some stiffness but not too much to it so it will keep its shape, but not decide to blow up into a chef's cap.  I'd recommend a mid-weight kersey or broadcloth. 



This is a Newsboy cap which is ESSENTIALLY the same principle, except instead of pleating it, you cut out and stitch where you would pleat it.  If I don't press down on the top when I put it on.....it blows up in a chef's hat.   Grin

Find a typical round serving tray, that's what I use as a pattern on metric sizes 58-63 when I make these sorts of things.  It gives you the right size.  Making it from a circle as oppose to a angular shape is not too difficult.  The only thing I caution with either method is to compensate for the stretch of the wool, boiling it first can take away some of the stretch, but not all.  Hand-stitching it makes it easier. 
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MWBailey
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"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2014, 11:56:40 pm »

Thanks for the tips!

At present I only hand-sew, since the electric Singer has some kind of sadistic grudge against me...
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D.Oakes
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« Reply #23 on: February 25, 2014, 02:00:23 pm »

I can't sew either.   Roll Eyes

Back in middle school I sewed my finger...and I swore I would never use a sewing machine ever again.  When I got into reenacting, I dabbled in it, but never went far with it.  Then.....I graduated college, mom died, job searching landed two part time jobs, and I if it was not for a friend I would have been homeless.  With a free sewing machine and a box of scrap fabric...I went all in. 

But really, you will want to hand stitch, even I would.  A few of my expensive competitors do it quite regularly on things pre-1845 and it irritates me as a professional and as a reenactor.  A lot of your military stuff, even as late as 1865 was 100% hand stitched due to the belief that hand stitching was stronger. 
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MWBailey
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"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #24 on: February 27, 2014, 12:22:09 am »

I just posted about this in Tactile; I lost yet another of my hemming clamps (they tend to grow legs, I think), so I made another one this morning to use with the cap. Basically it's just a kind of screw clamp with a clothespin on top. Here it is holding one of the headband pieces...


The device in use.

It makes it easy to stitch a bit faster than if one just holds the piece on the table or in one's lap.

« Last Edit: February 27, 2014, 12:23:54 am by MWBailey » Logged
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