Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Homemade Hat Models

I have learned a lot since opening my Etsy shop.  Things are off to frustratingly slow start. The search for sales has lead me to reading and research on how improve my shop.  My cousin, whose Noodles & Milk shop has been quite successful, has been a great help and so has the Etsy seller's forum.  So I am pecking away at my improvements and knitting to build my inventory.  The theory is that if you build it, the sales will come...eventually. 

A large part of my learning curve deals with improving my product photos.  Pictures are extremely important when trying to sell something via Internet.  Lighting, backgrounds, and angles are everything.  I have been experimenting and learning a great deal.  You can see, or at least I can see, a marked difference between my early product photos versus those that I take now.  I am continually trying to improve.

One key aspect is how the product is modeled.  I make a lot of infant's and children's hats for my Etsy shop.  They are fast knits and I am trying to build up some inventory before branching out into longer term projects like sweaters and blankets.  Right from the start, I have had a dilemma in how to model my knitted hats for photos such that they look nice.   A picture of a knit hat laying flat on a table just doesn't quite do it.  For the best results, you really need to find a way to pose the hat such that it looks as though it is on a head. 

Initially, I approached the problem creatively. I tried using balls of yarn, dolls, teddy bears, glass vases, and anything else I could think of to try to achieve a head-like shape.  The vase and the yarn balls worked the best but they were still just off enough that I was unsatisfied with my results.  I am able to get my kids to model some of my hats.  However, as most parents can attest, it is tough to get preschool age children to stop moving and smile long enough for a good clear picture.  Also, this does not solve my dilemma for baby hats and little girl's hats.  (I am blessed with little boys.)
I decided what I needed was a mannequin, or rather several mannequins in different sizes, preferably gender neutral for maximum usability.  So I did a little Internet surfing for infant-, child-, and adult-sized mannequins and discovered that they are expensive.  If I had a brick and mortar store, then it might be a good investment but for a cottage industry, Internet shop, I just cannot justify that level of capital outlay yet.  So then I searched for just head forms.  My grandmother gave me a Styrofoam head form upon which to store my favorite fedora hat when I was in junior high.  I thought, perhaps, I might be able to find those in assorted sizes.  Well, you can't, or at least I can't.  I have been able to find them in adult sizes but evidently they don't make them in child or infant sizes. 

Then one day I am walking down one of the arts and crafts aisles at Walmart when I see a potential solution - Styrofoam balls of assorted sizes.  You know the kind; you paint them and string them together to make solar system models.  So I picked up two, one that seemed approximately 4 year old head sized and another that seemed approximately baby sized, and brought them home for about $5. 

When I got home I discovered that I still had a bit of a problem, Styrofoam balls are round and a human head is not.  My hats just did not fit on the balls very well.  So with not much to lose, I measured my oldest son's head, got out a steak knife, and began shaping the largest Styrofoam ball to match the measurements.  The whole process was horribly messy but  the serrated edge of my steak knife allowed me to shave off small increments for gradual shaping.  I took my time and eventually created a child-sized, head-shaped, hunk of Styrofoam in the the measurements I wanted.  Then I dug some unbleached muslin out of my fabric stash.   Using straight pins as anchors, I covered the newly carved Styrofoam head in fabric.  It turned out much better than I had hoped.  Thus encouraged, I grabbed the smaller Styrofoam ball, carved, and covered it as well.
Homemade Head Forms

Modeling Child- and Infant-Sized Hats
I have since added two ready-made adult Styrofoam head forms to my collection as well.  One of these is second hand and has been "decorated" by a child so I plan to cover it with some of my left over muslin before I put it to use.  You can pick these up new at Sally Beauty Supply, or some other similar such place, for about $4 each.

At some point a better method for modeling my smaller hats will present itself. Until then, my homemade, muslin covered head forms will do just fine. Now, perhaps if I am a really, really, good girl and pinch my pennies till they scream, Santa will bring me a  really nice 35mm digital SLR camera.  Well that is not really in the budget for this year, maybe next.

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