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Repair A Vintage Straw Hat

Fingers poking through the damaged crown of a straw hat with orange ribbon
Vintage straw hat that needs repair

I recently found this cute but damaged vintage straw hat. It was ignored by the other shoppers but I thought it had potential once it was repaired. The top or crown had come partially unstitched but otherwise the hat looked good. I'm no milliner but do love a challenge. Since the original stitching holes were visible they were my stitching pattern. Once I found matching thread and an adequate needle I started this project. Join me as I repair this vintage straw hat.

Beige straw hat with original Happy Capper label on the inside band
Happy Capper label on a vintage straw hat

Before I forget here's a picture of the label- it's a Happy Cappers hat by the Field Company, Los Angeles Calif. Because of the font and style of the images I think it's from the late 50s but could be from the early to mid 60s as well.

Beige straw hat with dented side that needs to be fixed
Repair mended but the hat is still dented

I wish I'd done a video of stitching the crown back together but it was awkward and not pretty to watch. I tied a large knot (or 3) in the end of the thread (single, not doubled), inserted the needle into a hole and took off. The straw hat was originally sewn by machine with a chainstitch on the underside; I used a hand sewing backstitch to sew it together, following the line of previous stitch holes. The curve of the crown and indent on the side made the mending process tedious because I kept catching the inside stitching on the side. After about an hour I finished and was ready to reshape the smooshed side.

Beige straw hat with straight, undamaged side
After photo of straw hat with reblocked side

Once a very long time ago I reshaped my husbands wonderful 40s Panama straw fedora so I had a vague idea how to proceed. This time I used a bath towel rolled firmly into an oval shape as a DIY hat block. Since I couldn't get the straw super wet I used steam from a boiling water-filled tea kettle. When the hat felt slightly damp I carefully slipped it onto the rolled towel. Then I set it on a table outside in the sun for several hours so it could dry thoroughly.

Hand holding a vintage straw hat with orange ribbon band, that has been re-blocked into shape
Repaired Happy Capper straw hat from the 50s

At sunset I checked the hat and it felt dry. I very carefully removed the hat from the towel, put the grosgrain hat band back on the hat and admired the result. It's not perfect- I couldn't remove the spot on the original grosgrain ribbon and I noticed a small spot on top of the hat... too bad. But I'm happy that I could save this hat- if it was my size I'd keep it for myself. I wear between a size 7 1/8 to 7 1/4 (depending on the shape) and this one doesn't fit on my head properly at all. So it and other summer straws and fedora hats will soon be available on my website (that's where you are now, lol).


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