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Hew's Ducal Mortier Project

So, what else can you wear with a houppeland besides, say, a chaperon?
Federico da Montefeltro portraitGonzaga family and retinue (detail)portrait of Ludovico Gonzaga II, by Mantegna
Well, a hat like the one shown in the Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1465-66 by Piero della Francesca), (left) for one.
Similar ones also appear in (middle) this detail of The Gonzaga Family and Retinue (1465-74 by Andrea Mantegna - Fresco - Palazzo Ducale, Camera degli Sposi (Bridal Chamber), Mantua, Italy).
On the right is a portrait of Ludovico Gonzaga II, also from a fresco by Mantegna.

See also this site - Camera degli Sposi: mostra di Andrea Mantegna al castello di San Giorgio - Mantova  - for a few more portraits with hats like this.

One showed up in the 2004 movie of The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino, on the head of the Duke during the trial scene. The hat, I mean, not Al Pacino.

What I like about it is that there is no modern hat with that silhouette, so it stands out in a crowd. Even the Royal Navy seaman's hats have a sharper ridge at the top, and you certainly don't see them solid red.

Alas, they are no longer as common in the shops as they evidently once were. You can buy something like it sewn together in woven wool, but the one's I've seen have only the single ridge, and they look somewhat floppy. Even if you lined it with interfacing or buckram to stiffen it, it would still not look right because the flare would be missing. None of the local stores had one (more fools they), so I determined to construct my own. I was inspired to attempt it only after having seen this costuming site - A Felt Hat Using Standard Fabric Store Felt. Good enough for a "ten-foot rule" hat.

As mentioned above, one peculiarity of this hat is that they have two rounded ridges around the top of the crown. There are similar ones with (apparently) only one ridge. I have no idea if the number of ridges is significant. The only documentation I've found (other than portraits) is this excerpt from The Book of Costume Vol. I, by Millia Davenport ...

... high flattop hat seen on the elders of the Gonzaga and Montfeltro [sic], and is sometimes called the "ducal mortier"

 ... which was provided by my good friend the Lord D'unstable Peregrinator. That book is also where I got the name from. Unless any other name for it steps forward with a better claim, that's what I'll be calling it.

I decided that the double-ridge would be easier to construct, because the single-ridge versions appear (?) to be formed from a single piece of felt, and I didn't think it would be very easy for a beginner to wrestle felt into such a complex shape - one that is flat on top, and then smoothly constricts into a cylinder that is narrower than the top ridge. The double-ridged version, on the other hand, appears to have a separate top that is joined in a sharp crease or hidden seam of some sort. Essentially, it could be like a frisbee stitched to the top of a cylinder that flares out and then in again.

The top was the first section I tackled.
Inside layer of top section
(Images with solid
borders are clickable,
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I actually got this far over two years ago, intending to have it ready for Twelfth Night. I forget exactly why I left it unfinished for so long.
I cut out a single layer of felt in a circle, wet it, and wrapped it around a hoop made from a length of 1/2" diameter polyethylene tubing ("food grade", according to the label at the hardware store). This is not the same stuff as that transparent aquarium air hose. It's flexible enough to bend this much, and still have a fairly rigid form. I carved out a little wooden plug, about 1/2" long, or maybe a bit less, to join the two ends together in a smooth arc. The plug kept it from forming a teardrop shape.

I ran a needle and some black thread back and forth through the edge of the circle and drew it tight to pull the edge towards the middle.

I brushed the undiluted white glue on the outside fairly liberally, but not right up to the edge of the felt, with the notion that I'd be wanting to sew it to the lower section. I'm not sure (now) that I shouldn't have applied the glue right up to the edge. (More on this later)

I allowed it to dry overnight, right side up, with the threads resting on top of a bowl or something, in order to keep the rim from touching anything.
molding the lower sectionMolding the inner layer of the lower section, shown here upside down. (Details of the molding form later.)

I brought the two ends of the band of felt together, as if to fold it, and whipstitched them together with matching thread. I opened it up into a cylinder, and flattened the seam so that the ends were butt-joined, with no overlap. It took a few experiments with some felt scraps to see how close I could get to the edge without having it shred apart when I flattened it out and pulled it.

I soaked the felt in water, and squeezed out the excess water, then pulled it over the form, with more-or-less the same amount of extra felt around the top and bottom. (to be continued)

[Lots more stuff goes here, once I edit the images.]

Trying it on, half finishedCan't  wait.

This is before I glued the second layer of felt on. I just wanted to see how it fit (pretty good) and to see if it was coming out at all like it was supposed to (it was).

The top part is not attached yet. I just stuck it on there for the photo.

You can see the whitish cast from the glue, as well as lots of wrinkles in the underside of the top part.

[More stuff goes here]
profile photoWearing it at East Kingdom Crown Tourney, April 26, A.S. XLII.

Hmm... the top section looks a bit off-centre, which I'll have to correct when I attach it permanently.

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