OUR PROCESS: The Straw, weaving, and blocking techniques
The process of making a Panama hat starts with selecting the right stalks from the Toquilla palm leaf which grows locally in Ecuador. This is where the straw comes from for Panama hats that are hand-crafted and individually made. About 48 Toquilla palm stalks are needed to weave one Panama hat. After the straw is selected, the next step is to take the straw from the stalks. When the stalks of the Toquilla palm are peeled back, there are fine strands of straw inside it.
The strands of straw from the Toquilla palm are then taken out and the strands are boiled in water for a set period of time. Done properly, the strands of Toquilla palm leaf straw are then left to dry. Once this process has been completed and the strands are completely dry, then the next stage is assembling the dry strands to prepare them for weaving.
The weaving for a Panama hat can take some time and may actually take a few weeks. For each weave, you need special weavers that are knowledgeable in the various weaving techniques to finish the entire hat. The weaver will start by weaving the hat and then work on weaving the back edge of the hat. That way when the Panama hat is finished, it will have a tightening in the brim edge and they can cut off any excess straws.
After the Panama hat has been woven, the hats are then washed. They will also be bleached and dried. The next step is to pound the hats to help soften the straws and make them more flexible. The hats may be dusted with sulfur powder before they are pounded out. When the pounding has been completed, the hats are finished off and any extra straws will be shaved off with a razor. With the edges trimmed, the hat is now ready for ironing. The hat will then be measured as it has a specific form in order for it to be considered a Panama hat. The next step for the Panama hat after the ironing will be the blocking to help give the hats their final shape.
Blocking a Panama hat is a very interesting stage in its preparation as it helps to give it its final shape. Hat blocking is very specific for Panama hats and can help contribute to their overall beauty. The hat blocking technique is an art form and very unique for Panama Hats.
A true Panama hat will be blocked and is easy to distinguish from one that has not been blocked. To have a truly recognizable Panama hat, it must be blocked by hand and not machine as the machine can spoil the look and refinement of the Panama straw hat. An endangered art form, there are very few remaining artisans who hand block Panama hats today. While they are trying to bring this exquisite art form back, the true essence of hat weaving is in the blocking process.
Hand blocking takes specific tools and a unique technique as it will have a lasting effect. This is an old-fashioned style that is timeless and should be reserved and admired for its delicate craftsmanship
It has been argued that hand-woven Panama Hats are the best hats ever made. Genuine Panama straw hats are made exclusively by hand in Ecuador. Their name was acquired from the commercialization of the Panama Canal in the 1900's. With the one-of-a-kind craftsmanship that goes into a Panama hat, each hat is unique and custom made from the Toquilla palm leaf that only grows in the warm coastal lowland region of Ecuador. Given the special technique that goes into selecting the palms and shredding them into straw, they are sun-dried, hand-woven, trimmed and shaped by hand into Panama hats. What a priceless gift and treasure!
With a texture comparable only to fine silk, the Panama hat is known for its rich style, durability and the classic look it gives to each person that wears one. Light as a feature and ready to provide shade on a warm sunny day, the Panama hat gives the wearer a refined look that is fresh and stylish with any attire. Worn by celebrities, world leaders, politicians, Hollywood elite and singers from all over the world, Panama hats are a classic symbol of luxury, elegance, and sophistication. Handmade Panama hats are the finest hats in the world!