Once Upon a Hat Trick

The Mad Hatter has always been one of my favorite story book characters.


Though hatters used to go mad because of the mercury used in the process of felt-making, last night’s episode of Once Upon a Time saw an edgy and new spin on the genesis of this famous Wonderland character in episode 17 – ‘Hat Trick’. It was FANTASTIC!

When I got the call from the Props department that they wanted my help in building the hero prop of this hat-centric episode, I was quite over the moon with delight.


I had already had the pleasure of helping out the Costumes department a couple of times in the past on a hats for the Evil Queen and for Princess Abigail, but to be able to build the hat that was central to the plot of the Mad Hatter episode  was especially close to this millinerd’s heart!


I got a copy of the script and met with the production team to go over how the hat was going to play on screen.  It turned out they needed several versions of the same top hat. One version would be the ‘Portal Hat’, the magic hat that Jefferson used to open up a portal from Fairytale Land to Wonderland, another one that Jefferson has been working on in Storybrook, another that he was working on in his Wonderland hatting workshop, one for the stunt performer who dove out the window, and several in various states of production, including the one Emma worked on.

I worked with the designer on the look they were going for with the hat and we decided on a buckram frame, as opposed to felt.  The fabric I would use to cover the hat had a shiny quality that would look a bit more ‘magic’ on camera that the felt. I was amazed when the construction department made me a 5 piece Mad Hatter style crown block to use – IN ONE DAY.  Amazing.  The Costumes Dept. had the interior grosgrain ribbon and silk lining specially dyed, as well a really cool graphic silk screened on satin to line the bottom of the crown with.  There was no time to waste, I had to build lots of hats in a short amount of time.  I cleared my schedule and GOT TO WORK!

Bias binding the blocked buckram brim.

Sewing with needlenose pliers when my finger tips got too raw to hold the needle! Please excuse the knickers poking out. I didn't have time to fuss with the little things. 😛


Some of my assembly line - several hats in various stages of completion.


How my mornings began and how the day ended...tea, sewing, Moleskine handy for scheduling production and deadlines (and bathroom breaks).



Aside from getting to make several hats for this episode, I was also spent time on set as a technical consultant.  Essentially, I got to work with the actors who played Jefferson and Emma, as well as help the Set Dec Department when they were dressing the sets for both Jefferson’s workshops – in Fairtytale Land and in Storybrook.  Every single hat block I own, and many other bits and bobs from my own workshop, were used to help dress the Wonderland hatting studio set!  It was shot on green screen and then later filled in with CGI.


Jefferson's Wonderland Hatting Studio - the set before the visual effects team worked their magic

Jefferson's Wonderland Hatting Studio - the set before the visual effects team worked their magic


As I type this, the actors and crew of Once Upon A Time head into their final week of shooting, here in Vancouver. I have been promised that there are some HUGE plot twists coming and with every episode getting better and more addicting, I am really hoping ABC announce a second season very soon, as I am looking forward to more adventures through the looking glass with this wonderfully fun and talented bunch.  My experiences on the show inspired a collection of hats called ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’  (sold out, but more to come!) and my imagination continues to work overtime, I can’t keep up with the design ideas that my wee brain is churning out these days!  I need to clone myself or maybe find my own magic hat!  I daresay, playing an actual mad hatter would not be too much of a stretch for this very busy and inspired millinerd, but I’d prefer to leave that role to Sebastian for now.  😉

Here are some screen grabs from last night’s show. You can also watch it HERE.


The Evil Queen admiring Jefferson's...hat. "Hm, that looks like a Saucy Milliner!"


Other than expecting Emma to pump out a magic hat, he doesn't look tooo mad, I don't think.


Here's one I made earlier! Now get to work, Emma - it's not *that* difficult!


Jefferson growing impatient. This is the antique wooden brim block I used to block the brims.


Emma discovering that it really is *that* difficult.


Jefferson inspects my, I mean, Emma's work. Not baaaad....not baaaaaad....


NOOOOO!!! The HAAAAATTT!! It's OK, it was a stunt hat, it knew what it was doing. 😉


A cute shot of Emma and Mary Margaret wondering who the hat will fit better. Sorry ladies...it's a 24" headsize, a little big for your noggins.


Going Mad....Jefferson trying in vain to "make it work". Mitchell Mackay, the show's expert cutter, made the topper that Jefferson wears in this scene. He is a wonderfully talented milliner and draper! And yes, this is pretty much what my own millinery atelier looks like. On a good day. 🙂


5 Responses to “Once Upon a Hat Trick”

  1. Jenny C says:

    Thank you for producing such inspiring work and being able to convey it so beautifully. I have been engrosed your site over the last hour, or more. Congratulations on taking the leap to follow your passion. May SM grow and flourish!

    • The Saucy Milliner says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely words, Jenny! I am so thrilled to be doing something I love, and I am working hard to grow my leap into bounds! Keep checking back often, lots of blog entries to come 🙂 Come join me on my facebook page, too. Lots of daily updates there!


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