Susan Malovrh
Wisconsin, USA

I have attempted to make a balzo. I read Elizabeth Jones' article "Cooking Up A Balzo" and set off to gather some grapevines to give it a try. After wading to knee deep snow to get them and thawing them out, I decided it wasn't the right time of year to harvest them and my willow tree had much more flexible branches that seemed like they would work better.


I soaked both in the bathtub for several hours and then put them into a canning kettle to steam. My 3 year old grandson said, "Are you going to eat sticks Grandma?" which still cracks me up. I had a mannequin head the right size and twisted my branches around it and wired them in place using a combination of the grapevine and willow branches. A couple of the willows broke when I tried to smoosh the shape flatter so I wired in some more. The next day after it had dried, I wrestled with some of the branches pulling out of the wires and then breaking when I tried rewiring so I felt it was time to leave as is. I found that even though the grapevines were very stiff to work with they were more flexible and strong when dried.


    



I got some quilt batting and wrapped and stitched it around the middle to soften it and line my sheer fabric. For the covering I sewed a tube from a 60" wide 36" long piece of gold fantasy fabric folded double. I sewed a liner out of linen and gathered the tube onto the linen. I ran a gathering stitch along the top and pulled it tight, and last I tacked the top of roll through the framework and into the linen liner.


    


It turned out VERY large...Sooo...I started over.




This time I took a small grapevine wreath I found in a thrift store for my base. I put my fashion fabric and linen right sides together and cut a large circle. I then stitched around the outside leaving an opening to insert the wreath. I turned it right side out, inserted wreath, and stitched the opening shut. Since the balzo sits on the back of my head I needed the pretty fabric to come around the wreath so I gathered the edge and just let the lined poof up inside the hat. I tacked inside the wreath through to the lining to get my circle shape.

    



I also wanted to share how I change my chin length hair to a more period look. I have two fake hair braids wrapped with pearls, one of which is coiled into a bun. I take the straight braid and attach it to my tiny pony tail, wrap it around my head and secure with hair pins. I then pin the bun to cover the ends.

    





I am much happier with my second attempt. It is pretty as it is, though I may add pearls and jewels to flaunt my persona's wealth.



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