Monday, 5 November 2012

Crepe Paper Crochet

I said last week that there are fewer treasures being found at Lee Mills now.  This leaflet isn't really a treasure, but it was an unexpected find - it had been mis-sorted into a box of Coats pattern leaflets.  It isn't clear from the cover, but the Dennison Manufacturing Company made crepe paper, so the leaflet gives you instructions for crocheting a hat out of paper.  From the cover design, I imagine that it dates from the late 1920s, when cloche hats were very popular.

The leaflet describes a laborious process.  First you have to cut the crepe paper into strips.  The instructions say "The paper may be cut in various widths from ½ in to 1½ in. [1 cm to 3.5 cm, approx.]  The wider papers naturally make a heavier straw and are more suitable for Winter Hats than the lighter ones."  Are they crazy?  Who wants to wear a hat made of paper in the winter?

Anyway, then you "Stretch and draw the strip through the lightly closed hand."   That seems a bit under-specified to me, but I guess that after stretching there should still be some give left in the crepe paper.

So then you are ready to start to crochet, and make the hat on the cover, which frankly is not worth the effort.  The woman is clearly not a supermodel, but I don't think the hat does her any favours either.  As well as all the folderol with crepe paper, there is a veil across the face;  you could evidently buy veiling at the time, and it is to have a strip of metallic ribbon sewn around the bottom.  And finally, "It is a great improvement to add a small ornament to the front of the hat."

Another pattern in the leaflet is for a hat with a brim, which looks slightly more attractive.

Finally, there's another helpful hint:  "Hats may be waterproofed by painting with Dennison Wax dissolved in methylated spirit."   And the leaflet goes on to give detailed instructions.  Even so, would you expect a hat made of paper to protect you from the rain?  Maybe the waterproofing was intended just to protect it from damp - you would expect crepe paper to absorb moisture and lose its shape,  without a protective coating.

Just reading the leaflet made me feel tired - such a lot of effort to make something so insubstantial and  flimsy, and not very attractive.  I wonder how many women made themselves hats following these instructions.  It sounds like genteel poverty - I think you would only do it if you couldn't afford to buy a hat, or anything but cheap materials, yet felt that you had to wear one.


  1. Oh, you are so very tough on these hats. I think they are pretty cool :), even the first one (minus the veiling) and in spite of the very odd material.
    There is something quite sharp about cloches and the geometric aesthetics they are part off, and often the lines they draw are interesting rather than pretty. If one is lucky enough to find them flattering, all the better. I have to say, I find difficult to balance my deep love of cloches with the way they look on me.

    1. Thanks for your comment, garofit. I don't dislike cloche hats per se, though I don't think the one on the cover of the leaflet is a good example - it's the thought of making one out of crepe paper that depresses me most... And I'm sure you look great in a cloche hat.