I have been making hats for about 12 years now and many people want to learn the art of hat making. That encompasses many different techniques and different equipment and materials. Here is my best attempt to explain all of this. I consider myself a milliner. Webster's definition is : a person who designs, makes, or sells women's hats. That is a very broad definition but correct. The method I like to use is to shape pre woven straw hat blanks with wooden hat blocks that have two parts. The crown and the brim. I will usually dye the straw and add a gelatin stiffener before I block my hats. I can also use pre felted hat blanks that are made up of wool or rabbit fur.
The way I get the the hat blanks to take the shape of the wood is to wet them and for the wool ones I use steam. Once the hats have dried I then can finish them so they maintain the shape. This usually means adding a wire to the edge of the hat and or a binding over the wire or to just leave the edge unfinished. Sometimes the crown and brim have to be sewn together if they were made from two pieces. I then finish the head band inside of the hat which will serve to maintain the headsize.
Next onto the fun part which is making up a trim that goes on the outside of the hat.
Another commonly used method of hat making is to use fabric in yardage the preferred choice to this method is Sinemay which is woven out of banana leaf fibers. Again the yardage is dyed and sometimes stiffened. Using a crown and brim block the hat parts are made and assembled. This is a more difficult and time consuming process because you are using 3 layers at once to fit over the hat blocks to give the required thickness so it will hold the shape.
A third method is to use a buckram foundation shape that is covered with fabric utilizing the bias of the fabric to stretch over the shape with out excessive puckering and wrinkles. Many fascinators are made this way as are cocktail hats.
Then there is another whole different technique using sewn braid straw. This product is bought in sufficient quantity in order to sew out a crown and brim. It utilizes a sewing machine and the technique roughly is to start with a little coiled center and to sew round and round which grows out of the center until the crown is sewn then with a slight manipulation the brim is added sewing round and round adding width to the brim as you go. This is a very different technique from the blocking method. Sometimes after the braid is sewn the hat is blocked as well. There are different types of braids as well some are natural milan straw for example and others are synthetic as in the case of horsehair braid. There are many hats made with ribbon this way.
The last type of hat making I will mention is flat pattern sewn hats. These are made out of a huge variety of types of fabrics, leathers, suede, wool. The pattern pieces are cut out and sewn and usually a lining is cut and sewn as well the crown is stiffened by using interfacing or plastic canvas inserts.
So when you express a desire to learn how to make hats think about which method suits your fancy. Each method has its own unique equipment and techniques. Some of the vintage hats that were made in the past were made out of materials that are no longer available. On the flip side there are new materials that are being used such as fossshape.