Monday, May 27, 2013

Another Cowboy Hat into Steampunk Top Hat

Found another lonely cowboy hat at the flea market a few weekends back for five bucks.  So, I thought I'd put together a bit more info on how I reshape them into top hats for those who want to try it. 


This hat was in pretty dingy dusty shape.  But, it was a smaller sized hat that would fit me, which seems rare in the cowboy hats I find.  We tend to only find them in larger sizes. 


This project will require a felt hat (beaver felt is the best choice), scissors, a ruler, a contrasting color of pencil, a sink filled with water, and a towel.  You may also want a sauce pan lid or drinking glass for shaping and a seam ripper for removing stitches.

Remove Decoration - In this case, the decoration was simply a ribbon hat band.  Used a seam ripper to remove the few stitches holding it on.

Pull Out Lining - I removed the satin lining from the inside.  The lining is usually just tacked in with a little glue.  This one had an internal leather hatband that was surprisingly still in really good shape. So, I decided to just leave it in. If it was rotting or worn, I would remove it all.  Might take a seam ripper to get the old band out.  They can be replaced with a simply piece of bias tape. 
Clean Off Loose Dust and Lint - I was intending to cut this hat for an experiment, but it was actually in a lot better condition than I imagined before cleaning it up.  So, I decided to just reshape it.  Being a used hat, I took it outside and dusted and brushed off loose dirt and lint.  I push out the dents and straighten the brim  to make this easier.  Scrub off any stubborn spots.  At this point it's easier to see any damage that needs to be taken care of, like moth holes or stains.  If the damge isn't something that can be repaired, I may decide to try a different style that will eliminate the damage all together.  But small holes can be plugged and felted with scraps from the brim. 

Trim the Brim - Next, I measured how wide I wanted the brim.  I went with 1 1/2" wide all around.  I made small marks with a light colored pencil and a ruler about 1/4" apart.  I trimmed to the marks with a sharp pair of scissors and sanded off any rough crooked areas or bumps with sandpaper.(You could also do the trimming step after shaping.  Especially with a hat that may stretch or shrink while cleaning and shaping.  But, since I was dying my hat, cutting off the excess would conserve dye.) 

Dying (optional) - The hat wasn't a very flattering brown on me, so I decided to try some red fabric dye, but it didn't hold as well as hair dye did on one of my previous experiments.  But, it gave it just enough color to make it more flattering to my complection.  I prepared the dye according to the package and painted on the dye with a paintbrush, let it dry completely in the sun and then washed it off in our stainless steel sink.  In the future, I think I may try henna on one of these hats just to see what happens.  If I wasn't dying the hat, I would just dunk it in a sink full of room temperature water until it was completely soaked.  If the hat is dirty, as with this one, scrub it gently with soap and perhaps a toothbrush.  Don't agitate it too much or it could shrink and distort.

Shaping - After dying the hat will be wet.  I use a towel to blot dry as much of the excess water as I can remove.  Then, set the damp hat on a dry towel to reshape.  I wanted a top hat, so I needed to stretch the top out more.  I used a small sauce pan lid to enlarge the top the the size I wanted.  I push the lid into the inside of the hat (handle out) until it is even all around.  I keep pulling the hat down over the lid until I get the wrinkles out of the top the best I could.  Once it is even, I carefully pull the lid out and fix any distortion with my hands.  (Note that when stretching the top, you will lose some height and make the hat shorter.)  Laying the hat upside down, I push the center of the top back out in a slight dome.  You can used a drinking glass to smooth this out along the inside.  I also curl up the sides using a round pencil and shape til I'm happy with it.

Drying - Lastly, I just wait for it to dry.  Setting it on something will help to keep it from getting flat spots on the brim.  If you decide you don't like the style or it is crooked, just redunk the hat in water and try again.

Final Touches - Once I had a style I liked and it was completely dry, I rummaged through my stash to decorate it.  You can use ribbon, scarves, feathers, pins, goggles, patches...just about anything you want.

I tried a few different scarves.  And, narrowed it down to a long black net scarf with the ends hanging down in back. Also, added a couple feathers and stole the goggles off one of my other hats. 

As always, if you try one, I'd love to see your results!  It's a really easy and rewarding project.  Next, I hope to get a post up with some pics of the Bustle Bar.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Henna Hair Dye and a Couple Quick "Tips"

PLEASE NOTE:  I did NOT use any henna from Alibaba or Keo Henna, and can not endorse their products.  They "borrowed" my pic for their listing.  I have used henna from Henna Hut or EathDye for many years since I posted this.  And, I get nothing from either henna supplier if you decide to try their wonderful henna.

Tried Henna on my hair for the first time about a five weeks ago.  I was so excited, I shared my results on Facebook as soon as I did it.  But, I'd like to share a few more things I learned. 

I've only altered my hair color a few times in my life.  But, as I've gotten older my hair sorta changed to a drab dark blonde and starting to get random grays popping up.  So, I wanted to try a new color.  I tried going dark brown and then almost black for a short time.  I didn't like the price of salon upkeep or the the chemical smell and constant fading of the home coloring kits.  When I became interested in tribal belly dancing, I'd started reading a lot of good things about henna.  I really wanted to try it.  People have been using henna to dye hair and skin for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  But, alas, I couldn't find anyone that did it or anywhere to buy it near me.  It just never caught on in the US.  A couple years ago someone I met told me of a place online, but I'd totally forgotten all about it 'til now.  (Actually, I was kinda intimidated to do it myself.)  Finally, on a whim I took the plunge. 

Pure henna is more of an orange color and is most associated with Lucille Ball from "I Love Lucy" fame.  But, there are now mixes available for many color variations from red-orange to burgundy to brown to even black that uses a flowering plant called indigo, as well.

On the left of the pic above, it shows the day after I used a red mix on my hair.  (I didn't style my hair at all.  That's my natural curl.)  The right is a week later after a couple washings with regular store bought shampoo (and I got around to straightening it).  It was so easy to do.  Just add warm water, mix, apply, wait, and wash out.  I had my man, Mr Sam, help me with mine.  I knew that if he missed any spots, I could always reapply. 

Henna works with your own hair color and highlights, so the color varys a lot.  And, you can't go lighter, only darker.  The smell is pleasant enough.  But, most surprisingly, it really does seem to make your hair softer and healthier looking.  I think this is due to the shine it gives it.  It realy glows in the sun.  The "red" color I chose looked like chocolate pudding going on, but was more like mud when dried after the hour I left it on. There are no harsh chemicals, so you can apply it as much or as many times as you like without harm to your hair.  You can pretty much use it anywhere, too! Even on pets and kids, if you wanted.  I tried dying my eyebrows with it!  (Boy, did I look funny while I waited!  I looked like Groucho Marx!)  It will dye your skin temporarily, but if you apply it late in an evening, it will wear off your hair line by the next day.  Hands will take longer, especially fingernails!
You may be wondering why I took so long to share this info on my henna experience.  (What am I saying?!  It always takes me forever to post things!)  But, I've waited until I had completed a touch up to the roots, just to see how much success I would have with it.  They recommend touching up the roots about once every three weeks or so.  I waited just over a month.  But, it turned out just as well as when I first dyed my hair.  The color on my ends is really holding up to the washing.  But, it IS a permanent dye.  My mom has been using home kits for some time now.  And, they fade well before a month has passed.  After seeing my results, she decided to try henna as well, so I helped her a couple of weeks ago.  She bought the "burgundy" color, but since she already had a dark burgundy color on her hair, I thought it best we just try doing the roots and see where it goes.  We could always reapply to all of her hair.  It ended up about the same color as mine, which was a wee bit disappointing...well, maybe a tad darker.  But, it blended with her faded old color quite well. 

When doing my mom's roots, I didn't opt to purchase the application kit.  Instead, I tried a suggestion of just clipping the corner off of a ziplock bag.  However, the hole in the bag began to get larger and larger as I worked. And, I couldn't set it down or it leaked everywhere. So, I though, "there has to be a better way!".

And, looky here! There was a better way. And, it's an "upcycled" way!  So, here's a quick "tip" for those who want to try henna themselves and don't want to purchase the application kit.  Just make your own applicator tip.  Believe me, it works!

I was inspired by my dollar store pastry bag with interchangable screw on tips.  But, I wanted to recreate the idea using the tip off of an old bottle to apply the henna.  I couldn't just pour the mix in the bottle.  For one, the neck is too small to be practical.  But, also, I don't like when I get air bubbles and splatter mess everywhere.

I looked through my stash of bottles and decided on cutting the top off of an empty school glue bottle. They previously had non-toxic contents and have a nice narrow tip.  With a daughter in elementary school and all the crafting we do, I get a lot of these bottles. So, I cleaned one up really good with soap and water.  You could probably use other containers, like those for fabric paint or even a ketchup dispenser.  The flat design of the glue bottle is rather handy, though.  I left the shoulders of the bottle on to have somethinge to hold on to when twisting the cap on and off. 


After preparing the bottle, I cut the tip off of the ziplock bag as usual.  (It doesn't take a big hole.)  Then, I unscrewed the applicator cap off of the bottle and dropped the shoulder portion of the bottle into the bag.  Then, I just screwed the cap back on over the bag on the outside.  That's pretty much it!  You're ready to get dying.  Just open and close the top as needed to apply the henna like icing a cake with a pastry bag. I suppose you could do this with regualr henna for applying mehndi designs, too.  Or heck, ice a cake with it!
But, here's another tip:


One of the videos from the website suggested putting your bags over a cup to fill them.  Just pour the mix of henna powder and warm water into the bag over the cup.  (It took 1 1/2 bags that are 100 gram each to cover my long thick hair.  But, when reapplying only on the roots, I would say it only took about 1/4 of the bag.  I mixed 1/3 and had way too much left.)  Push out the air and seal up the bag.  You can use a rubber band around a large bag to keep it more manageable.  That made it really easy. 

I'm wondering if it would be possible to just mix the henna right in the bag?  Whatcha think?  I think I'd have to use a gallon-sized bag and mix it to the opposite corner of the applicator tip.  I may try a small batch next time and see how it works.

Yay!  Now, I'm a red head!  And, being so easy to keep up with, I think I'll stay this way for awhile.  I've found that it ends up costing me much less than the store bought home kits in the long run.  I can use one bag to do at least 4 touch-ups.  If you're interested, I got my henna "red" color from Henna Hut (  They're a family run business near Houston Texas.  But, I believe their business is done strictly online.  The website is full of useful info and testimonials.  They were great about getting it to me right away.  And, they're conveniently on Facebook to answer any questions.  Hope you give it a try.  If you do, let us know how your results turn out!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Cool" Organizing Tips to Try This Summer

If you've followed this blog long, you know I love to upcycle stuff.  I'm constantly looking for ways to reduce our waste and avoid having to purchase things I can make myself.  Well, here are a couple things you can try while cooling off this summer.

Any grade school'er will tell you that popsicle sticks make versatile crafting supplies, but there are other frozen treats with handy things worth saving, as well.

Take the simple Push Up Popsicle for instance.  Ever thought to use it for organizing your sewing notions?

Use them as an easy way to organize bobbins and thread spools together so you don't have such a difficult time finding them. All you need is that plastic stem off you a push up. Turn it upside down and slip the spool and then the bobbin on the stick. You can store these together vertically in a drawer or box and never have to search for the set again.   Just pick them up by the stem to pull them out.


I should point out that there different brands to look out for.  Push Up by Nestle brand have removable hollow straw sticks, while other brands are molded in one piece.

If you get the Push Up type with the removalbe stem, you can put another end on the other side and store them sideways to see the colors better.  The great part is they don't touch the sides of the container or each other where stains can discolor them. 

If you want a handy carrying case for those thread/bobbin sets, store them in a gallon-sized ice cream tub.  These tubs are great for storing all kinds of things.  I keep my can tabs, bottle caps, paints and other supplies in them.  I even used to store powdered laundry soap in them when I was back in college years ago.  They not only keep things all in one place, they're a good size for traveling and are stackable. 

So, those were two ways you can feel slightly less guilty when the family is enjoying a frozen treat this summer.  :)  Next up I'll probably be sharing another reworked cowboy hat or my recent adventures with hair coloring.  Until then, be crafty!