There are several different types of buckram: One-ply buckram is a woven cotton fabric that is sized according to the end use. It is currently sold by the yard in 42 inch / 107 cm widths. There are several weights of one-ply buckram – light, medium, and heavy. It is used to make foundation hat frames for fabric hats. One-ply buckram is most widely used for fabric covered blocked hats but can also act as a support in blocked straw or felt hats.
- One-ply heavy – Use for blocking or flat pattern hats that require a sturdy frame foundation. This is a coarse weave cotton, heavily sized, resembling needlework template. Thread count is 17/20 per inch.
- One-ply medium – Use for blocking or flat pattern hat making. It is a fine weave sized cotton and the thread count is 26/30 per inch. This is no longer being made in the US.
- One-ply light – This is a finer weave sized cotton and the thread count is 48/50 per inch. It is often used as a foundation for ribbon and trim work. This is no longer being made in the US.
- One-ply crinoline is used as a foundation for ribbon and trim work or crown construction for very light weight hats. The thread count is 40 per inch. It is a gauzy-look weave of lightly sized cotton and is 39-inches wide. This is no longer being made in the US.
Two-ply buckram (crown buckram) was a heavily-sized cotton fabric in which a plain weave cotton fabric is attached to a finer plain weave cotton fabric. It is used for making very stiff foundation hat frames and costumes for the theatre. Normally the finer buckram is used on the inside of the hat frame. Crown buckram is sold by the yard, normally 40” wide, and is widely used for costumes and bonnet making. This is no longer being made in the US.
About the Care and Use of Buckram
Buckram hat frames are not perfect and that is the nature of the craft. Just remember that the hat frame will be covered with mulling and fabric and most imperfections in the hat frame will not be seen once you use the techniques described below. You are blocking a flat, one dimension fabric into a three dimensional shape.
Styles of buckram hat frames vary according to the blocks and machinery the frame maker has. You may be able to get one style from one retailer but not another.
You can make one-ply heavy buckram stiffer by steam ironing two layers together. Because of the heavy sizing they tend to stick together; however, it is best to baste them together to insure they don’t move. To remove from block, slip a corset stay or other strong, flat, flexible object such as a butter knife, under the buckram and against the block to loosen. Be careful not to stretch or misshape the blocked buckram.
Some buckram hat frames will develop a ‘dent’ or crease in the crown, side band, or brim. To remove them, hold a steam iron over the dent, steam it, and gently press the dent by using a damp towel or tailor’s ham along with the steam iron to remove any dents or creases.
Buckram should not be washed as the agitation of washing and rinsing will remove the sizing and leave a limp piece of fabric. Buckram can be used when dampened or wet if you are using a hat block or some other shape to mold it in a specific shape. Normal dampening or wetting for this process does not remove the sizing. Be careful not to wet it excessively.
Buckram can be used to make a flat pattern hat if you have a pattern and make your own hat frames. The outline of each pattern piece should be traced to the buckram using a felt tip pen. You then cut the pattern piece from the buckram and sew the pieces together using #19 millinery wire that provides support and strength while maintaining the shape. When using this method, remember to mark center front, center back and the center of each side, when applicable. This is a method to keep your pattern pieces aligned.