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Make a Guys & Dolls-themed Easter bonnet

We invited Director Nicola Coffield to give us a little behind-the-scenes info on Guys & Dolls. Unfortunately, what we got was a crafting tutorial.

If you’re familiar with Guys & Dolls, you’ll know that the Save-A-Soul Mission, a well-meaning group of sin-fighting missionaries, are a large feature. When thinking about costumes for the Mission, one of the first things I Googled (almost jokingly) when we started rehearsals was "how to make a Salvation Army bonnet". Amazingly, I actually found some instructions that fashioned a rudimentary bonnet from a semicircle of black card. However, the tutorial was a bit scant on details like actual measurements, which led to some refining and experimentation at home.

So, ladies and gentlemen (because awesome millinery should be available to all), here are my instructions on how to Make Your Own Save-A-Soul Mission Bonnet. And just in time for Easter!

You will need:

  1. Something big and round. I happened upon an IKEA terracotta plant dish with an approximate diameter of 36cm, which turned out to be a good size.

  2. Fabric of your choice. I happened to have a load of black polycotton sheeting left over from a production of On The Town. You’ll need enough to cut two circles the size of your circular whatever-you-found.

  3. Some cardboard. Thankfully I have lots in the house left over from making singing boxes for a production of Avenue Q (noticing a theme here?)

  4. Multi-purpose glue like UHU (but not superglue!) You won’t need remotely this much, but I got excited because for once they were selling the BIG tubes in Poundland, so I bulk bought three in one go.

  5. (Not pictured) Two metres of ribbon – we’re going for Salvation Army red, but other bonnets may vary.

  6. A supply of the caffeinated beverage of your choice. (Optional, but recommended).

Step 1

Using your circle template, draw 2/3 of a circle on to your card. You’ll probably find it easiest to draw a whole circle and snip roughly a third off one end. My scrap card happened to be 24cm across at the widest point, giving an excellent 2/3 circle which I found worked a bit better than a semicircle. Cut out your shape true to the line.

Step 2

Using your circle template, use chalk to draw two whole circles on your fabric – one for the inside of the bonnet, one of the outside. When cutting out, leave an allowance of around 1 inch outside your chalk outline. (Yes I work in metric and imperial. Go figure).

Step 3

Starting from a curved ‘side’, roll your not-quite-semicircle up get the curve to the bonnet shape.

Step 4

We’re then going to snip three incisions along the straight edge – one in the centre, and then one at the midpoint between centre and outside edge at each side. Make the incisions about 2 inches long.

Yes, I'm making three bonnets at once. Because I'm a show-off.

Step 5

You’ll now have four tabs along the straight edge. Fold these at a rough right angle and then curl the card until the tabs overlap. You now have your bonnet skeleton! Adjust to your liking (by doing some comedy balancing of cardboard on your head in your hall mirror), and secure the tabs with staples. Note: it doesn’t need to be snug to your head, as you’ll be adding ribbon ties to secure your bonnet.

Step 6

Now it's fabric time! Take one circle of your fabric and drape it in the inside of your bonnet. Match the chalk outline to the curved edge, and check you have a reasonable overlap all round. You’ll have excess fabric bunched at the back of the bonnet – we’ll deal with this shortly.

Then, get the glue out and stick the fabric to the curved inside part of the bonnet.

For the excess fabric at the back of the bonnet, cut a line in the middle of the fabric and overlap the pieces so that they sit flush and flat. Glue in place. We’ll trim any overhang at the end.

Step 7

Turn the bonnet over and snip into the fabric overlap to give little tabs all along the curved edge. Fold these tabs over and glue to the top of the bonnet.

Step 7a (optional)

Reward your achievement so far by making bacon rolls for you and your long-suffering domestic partner.

Step 8

We’re now going to repeat Step 7, but for the outside of the bonnet. Drape your fabric, leaving a nice overlap around the curve, and glue in place. Snip tabs along the curved edge as before and fold and glue to the underside of the bonnet.

Step 9

Sorting the excess fabric at the back of the bonnet needs a bit more finesse here. The best way I can describe this is like wrapping the end of a present. Lift the fabric up in the middle then tuck each side in underneath so you get a nice, even overhang in the middle. You can glue the tucked-in parts to the card to help secure.

You can now trim along the edges of the fabric at the back to make it nice and neat – I also stuck a few stitches in the middle of the fabric to just keep it all from flapping about.

Step 9a (optional)

Pause to help long-suffering domestic partner replace the element in the oven. Hooray, pizza for dinner tonight!

I really did have to stop and help fix the oven. Every day is an adventure in my house.

Step 10

Now it’s ribbon time. Cut 1.5m of your ribbon and drape across the top of your bonnet, giving you equal length ties at each side. I positioned mine roughly 1 inch from the back of the bonnet. Glue in place. If you’re feeling decadent, snip a little chevron into the ends of your ribbon.

Step 11

With the remaining ribbon, you can make a wee fancy thing to decorate your bonnet. I made a little rosette by folding it into four equally sized loops and stitching them along the bottom. I then added a little glue to the outsides of the outer loops, and then stuck it to the bonnet, lining it up with the existing ribbon. (I neglected to take a photo of this stage, possibly because I was too sticky). I also cheated and dotted some glue inbetween the loops to make them sit nicely.

Ta-da! The finished bonnet!

Can you rock your bonnet like Nathan Detroit (Alan Digweed)?

No wait. This is better.

Sergeant Sarah Brown (Kerry Burley)

There! You now have your own Save-A-Soul Mission bonnet. Why not wear it about the house and fight the devil from the comfort of your own home?

There's still time to get tickets for Guys & Dolls, 2 - 6 May 2017 at the Brian Cox Studio, Scottish Youth Theatre. Book yours via the GMT Box Office - bonnets not required.

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