The Hat Bible
Straw Manufacture

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Straw Manufacture Hat Design Carriage Hat & Head size  

The manufacture of straw hoods is labor intensive and time consuming. Straw weaving and plaiting which is the basis of all straw hood manufacture is little practiced in Europe, the majority of straw is woven in China, the Philippines also manufacture straw hoods, as well as supplying China with manila hemp which is the base materiel for most straw hood weaving, South America is also well known for production of Panama straw. There are three main forms in which straw is woven.

This has a crown and brim and is normally used in the production of large brimmed hats.

CONE: This, as the name suggest is conical. It is used to make hats with a small brim or no brim at all.

BRAID: Sometimes called strip straw or Swiss braid, this type of straw is plaited into a continuous length of braid and then sewn with a slight overlap starting from the center and working out towards the required diameter, any shape can be sewn into the hood prior to final shaping. The more expensive braid is made with a finer straw and smaller weave, it also requires a longer length of braid to make a hat of similar size to a hat made with a coarse straw

PIECE STRAW: Normally fine woven Sinamay in sheet form.


One fact that is often overlooked is that almost without exception straw is plaited or woven by hand. To put things into perspective a good quality SISAL straw will take a straw weaver anything up to twenty five hours of work. This time does not include an additional four hours preparation of the straw which include the selection and separation of the fibers starching the fibers together to form a workable strand up to four feet in length.

Many thousands of these strands will be woven into each sisal hood, the correct amount is then selected and the weaving starts from the center (button) and the weaving continues, working to the outside required diameter. After the straw hood has been woven, all of the excess ends are trimmed away, then bleaching takes place.

The next process is to wash and scrape the straw, this is to ensure that it is clean and supple, the straw is then thoroughly dried, then it is quality checked and any  minor repairs are carried out if required the hood is then hydraulically pressed into a basic shape, finally the straw is  graded.

This example is for a fine quality sisal straw, although all woven straw hats are made this way, the coarser the weave or the thicker the straw used, the quicker and cheaper the hood is to make.

Virtually all straw plait braid or woven straw hoods are manufactured by home workers with the straw hood factories carrying out the finishing procedures.
many thanks to Mr Fred Ruegger for his help on the straw pages

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