Sunday, December 13, 2009

Evolution of a Hot Pink Hood

Follow the pictures as I take you on the evolution of this hot pink wool hood into a hat made for a recent trunk show. It will be initially blocked over a simple crown block and then free-formed from there. And finally embellished.

Here you see the hood in the very first blocking over the hatblock. It will have to be steamed and blocked several times to get it smoothly over the hatblock. In fact, because the tip of this block is rather flat, it was difficult to get the tip of the hood flat. I had to finish it off by using an iron and damp pressing cloth to get it like I wanted.

I use a length of 3/4" wide elastic to help hold the hood against the block and to give me stability in starting the free-forming.

Another view with further free-forming. Remember that I'm steaming as I shape. And using bead-head pins to hold shapes.

After I get the shape as close as I can get to what I've envisioned, I start trimming away bits I don't want or need in my final design. Be careful in this step!

Close-up of one of the twists that adds interest to the design. I've also added a bias cut silk band, a wide one, with fraying on the edges. The silk is a very cool grey to contrast with the hot pink.

After I secured the band I began adding some fringe, made from the roundings, and then 3 felt balls in different colors.

Final product on a mannequin head at yesterday's trunk show.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Millinery Shop's Holiday Open House

Friday night aMuse had its 3rd annual Holiday Open House! We had a great attendance, not only for the champagne and canapes, but for the work of our featured artist of the evening. After a glass of champagne or two each guest had a great time trying on my handmade hats, handmade felt scarves and bags, plus EVERYONE loves the vintage costume jewelry! A room full of women (ok, there were 3 men in attendance) sipping, noshing, and shopping...what more could you ask for? This was an offical WAWAS event (Wrightsville Ave. Working Artists Studios.)

Debra Pyeatt, the featured artist, does incredible beaded jewelry. Her designs and color combinations are spectacular. She is a local artist and is represented by several galleries, including aMuse. Debra set up her collection in the front atrium of the shop so that as people arrived they would see her first.

Debra first came into the shop a couple of years ago. It was several visits later that we realized we had a deep connection in my sister (also a bead jeweler), whom Debra had worked with in far-away Dallas, Texas. My sister passed away several years ago. We felt an instant connection and have been friends since that miraculous discovery. I get chills every time I think about our chance meeting so far from where she and my sister knew each other.

Chef Lori Eaton, who not only is a personal chef but an internet cooking show hostess, whipped up some yummy, yummy bites. I met Lori 3 years ago as I was opening the business. She popped in to have a custom hat made for a 'milestone' birthday. We've been friends ever since. Great chef, good friend, and a fun person!

My good friends Louise Giordano and Amanda deLeon. Louise is a fiber artist, represented in several galleries, and Amanda is an up-and-coming fashion designer. She was a semi-finalist at Charleston (SC) Fashion Week last year. Very, very talented ladies!

Looking for hats, headpieces, and jewelry!

That's my adorable husband in the background. Michael served as bartender for the evening. He is soooo supportive of the shop and my millinery endeavors! Also shown are raffle winner Margit Royal (trying to decide on her choice of prizes) and Amanda deLeon.

What a great night! Sold a few hats, some jewelry, and had a slew of new folks come through that were not familiar with aMuse previously. I think they left knowing they'd be back soon...I hope so!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vintage Costume Jewelry

Most everyone who reads this blog is here because they have an interest in hats: looking at them, learning about them, discussing them. But I started this blog as a showcase of not only what I do as a milliner, but what my shop, aMuse, carries other than hats and headpieces.

This is my first entry about the fabulous collection of vintage costume jewelry aMuse has in the jewelry cases. Jewelry started as a tiny portion of the merchandise at the shop, but I quickly determined that practically everyone who came in was mesmerized by the bling. Sparkle in the cases, sparkle in the eyes!

aMuse is known in town as a place you can get quality vintage jewelry from the 1880's to the 1980's. Most of it is from the 1940's through the mid-1960's. There are LOTS of rhinestones! Think back to the vintage Vogue magazine photo shoots--the models in their gorgeous clothes and jewelry draped everywhere--necks, ears, arms, shoulders, fingers. That's the kind of jewelry we have.

The above necklace is in the style of Haskell, Robert, and DeMario, although it was not marked.

This sparkler is a verified Juliana necklace--one of the most sought after designer names in costume jewelry.

Very wide brushed gold-tone bracelet spaced with rhinestones. Can't you just see this on a glam arm holding a dry martini?

Bling bling!

Oh. My. Gosh! These rhinestone earrings are about 3" long and full of fire! Notice the different shapes of stones. Quality stuff.

Pave rhinestones that twinkle all over the room, especially since the bottom teardrop swings freely.
I'll post some other jewelry in the future. Just thought it was time so show off some of the great pieces in the collection, which changes constantly due to the popularity of vintage costume jewelry. Doesn't hang around the shop too long! Make a statement at your upcoming holiday parties with vintage costume jewelry; get noticed!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bridal Millinery

I make alot of hats during the year. Straw. Felt. Sinamay. Abailk. Buckram. Wire. Straw Braid. And the vast majority of those are custom-made for clients. Sometimes I sell the ones in the shop but that is a rarity. Usually those are sold to someone who has waited until the very last minute for a special occasion and comes running in to get something for the event. That's fine. Always some hats on the mannequins for folks to try on and get ideas for the custom-made hats. Ah.

And then there are my lovely brides. Gotta love them. My bridal clients tend to be young ladies (and mature ladies as well) who have a strong sense of their individuality. They are not, as I say, 'cookie cutter brides.' They are not usually the brides you see in the Sunday paper. Yes, they may have a traditional dress, but the shoes may be red, or flip flops, or none! The jewelry is usually from our vintage collection. All put together for a uniquely beautiful bride.

I have NEVER sold a single bridal piece that is in the shop. You: "Never? Doesn't that worry you?" Me: "Not a bit. I want the bride to come up with her own ideas, guided by what I can offer her to get that idea to gel. That includes looking at new and vintage materials, pictures, sketches, and talking it all through. The pieces in the shop are starting points. We design a one-of-a-kind piece from all the elements available."

So. Below you will see just a few of the pieces I've made for my brides during the last year. Enjoy!

Beauty-marked ivory veiling with emu feathers.

Very wide vintage horsehair braid with biots, coqs, and sequins, pearls and beading.

1940's inspired bridal veil with handmade silk flowers with gilded embroidery stitching and vintage glass glitter stamins. Gold embroidery edging.

Headband of white veiling sprigs and a twisted flower made from remnants from the bridal gown.

Ivory pleated silk Juliet buckram form with handmade silk lillies. Delicate vintage face veiling.
I love my brides!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Flat Felt Hat Pictures--Millinery Class at Arrowmont

Here are more pictures of the great hats made at Arrowmont School of Art and Craft. Pictures speak louder than words. All are made from flat felt skirting by my talented students.

Thanks, Erin, for sending these along for all to enjoy!

Fabulous, fabulous job, ladies!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Arrowmont Millinery Class--Flat Felt in the Smokey Mountains

Hello again! I realize it has been a while since I've posted to the blog, but I wanted the fundraiser to be front and center on the blog until we closed it yesterday. Thanks, too, to all who contributed to such a worth cause. Muchly appreciated!

Many things to catch up on, but the most recent are the results of a class I taught at Arrowmont School of Art and Craft in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last weekend. Arrowmont, one of the US's most prestigious art and craft schools, is nestled up against the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and the leaves on the trees were were my students. The class was entitled Hats That Felt Good: Retro Hats From Flat Felt, and the hats were fashioned after hats that we usually think of as those in the great 1940's movies. Many of those were made from flat felt or felt skirting as it is also known. And that is what the class was based on. Scroll down for some yummy hats.

I took quite a few true vintage hats with me for the class to look at, plus some pictures of vintage hats from that era, and even a few I've made myself. To say this was a creative class is rather an understatement. There was TONS of creative spark in the class and the results showed that.

Above you see a closeup of a two-toned number. You'll see the finished product a bit down the page. Don't you love this? Fabulous job!

We had several professional costumers in the class, and McLeod, above, was one of those. Somehow I just believe they were strong influences for the class--fun, creative, willing to share, and energetic! Here she's working on one of two hats she made in class. Dang if I don't have a single picture of her incredibly detailed leaf hat. Maybe she'll send one and I'll post. (Hint.)

How many hats can you make in a weekend? Well, I think this may be a record--5!! And each and every one of them wonderful. Yep, another of the costumers.

Diane has been to quite a few of my classes over the years, and continues to impress. Here we see the front (and next a side view) of a burgandy fur felt with a snazzy chin veil.

Pretty cool, huh?

Ah, and here is the finished hat that you saw a close-up of further up the blog. Lots of tedius work in the creation. Looks like a striking water lily...with streamers.

And here are the two hats Shirley made. The one up front is an abstract version of a toque, and the other is a very delightful perching hat made from many many pieces 'patched' together. Nice.

Another two-toned hat with some biot feathers. You'll see Jean wearing this one in the final picture of this blog entry. Lots of great ideas, lady!

And here is a group shot of 5 of the 13 class members--Terri, Jean, Erin, Diane and Lynne. Stylin' with a reason!!!
For those of you who don't know, flat felt was manufactured for years and years as a millinery medium. But somehow it lost favor and was no longer produced until millinery supplier Sandra Leko of Hats by Leko found someone to make this soft as butter skirting in Russia. It is a dream to work with and can be stitched from patterns, draped, and even blocked to some extent. An old, old skill made quite contemporary by some very talented students. Good job Arrowmont students!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

aMuse For Shoes/Sierra Leone Fundraiser

Bear with me on this next blog entry--lengthy but important. I have never used my name or shop or talents to help raise funds for any charities--except breast cancer research and that's another story. I choose to keep my charitible giving a private matter in most cases, as do most people. However, I now feel compelled to ask for your help in raising funds for a dear friend who has been called to war-torn Sierra Leone, West Africa. Here is his story. Donation widget box is below.

The widget box above will take you to PayPal, and, as I'm sure you know, the transaction will be secure and private. We'll know who is giving but other private info is totally secure. You will have to have a PayPal account, but I'm sure most of you have accounts anyway.

Several years ago I had the privilege of studying with Glen Leasure at his shoemaking workshop outside Lexington, Virginia. Working with him, and enjoying the wonderful hospitality of he and his wife Peggy, was a truly eye-opening experience. They are, without doubt, the most dedicated, humble, giving people I have ever met. These people gave up what most of us would call ‘the good life’ many years ago to raise their family among like-minded folks—growing their own food, home-schooling their children in a communal setting, building their amazing log cabin by themselves, eschewing television, all to live close to the land, relying on each other for the basics in life. Part of their compound is shown above--breathtakingly beautiful and serene.

Recently Glen was asked by the non-governmental organization Child Help Sierra Leone, to go to Sierra Leone, West Africa, to teach shoemaking in January 2010.

The people of Sierra Leone are survivors of a war beyond imagination. Due to 11 years of chaos, they have become the most desperately poor people on earth and have lost the skills required to rebuild their country. They are now focused on recovery, but the problems are many and deep. The average life expectancy is less than 41 years. Diseases are rampant and treatment is largely unavailable. Many are stricken by water and vector borne diseases. Shoeing the shoeless will save lives by providing protection from disease. It is their dream and goal to become shoe self-sufficient; shoes are a short-term solution to the many problems these people face daily.

His students will be selected from the local population by Child Help Sierra Leone. They will be from their late teens to early twenties, and priority will be given to women, who are the most disadvantaged, suffering from the scars of abuse and isolation. These young women are also trying to provide for their own children and all those orphaned and abandoned. As the director of Child Help says, ‘empowered women make a nation.’

It is one of my greatest wishes to help Glen help these people. Glen will need to cover his own expenses in getting to West Africa, including airfare, shots, medications and food. Glen and his family live by modest means themselves; that is why I am asking you to help me help him. We can all make a difference by donating what you can to help cover his expenses.

Below are some pictures of my time spent studying shoemaking with Glen. You will see him in a couple of the shots, hard at work.

For Wilmington and surrounding areas
: 'Style Girl' Jess James and I are raffling off a ‘holiday makeover,’ with raffle proceeds going to help expense Glen’s trip to Sierra Leone. Raffle tickets are going for $5 each. For each $5 you donate your name is entered in the drawing. The more you give the better your chances to win. On November 1, we will draw a winner! You can buy your raffle tickets by clicking the widget box below. Go to the Style Girl page to see the great shops/services included in the makeover! You'll be pleased!!! Clothing, hair, make-up, shoes, hat/headpiece, styling, and more!! THIS IS A $700+ VALUE!

For my millinery students: Donate at least $30 and you will have your supply fee waived for any upcoming class through January 2010. (Value $35--$75!) Those would be classes in Mendocino, Chicago, Gatlinburg, and Washington, DC.

Please know that each and every dollar will go directly to Glen and the Child Help Sierra Leone cause.

Thank you for caring...and for giving!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fiber Folks at aMuse--Felting, Knitting, Painting, Quilting, Hatmaking

Last night I hosted the first meeting of a group of local fiber artists. It is something I've been wanting to explore for about two years--a group that loves working with all fibers and fabrics, loves to paint, stitch, structure, manipulate, dye, discharge, yeah, do about anything to them. And with beautiful results!

So we got together, got very excited about what each of the others was doing with their work, what we could learn from each other, and decided to keep getting together in the future to learn new skills from each other, to learn of resources (classes, publications, etc.), and to support each other.

What processes were represented? Felting, knitting/crocheting, floor cloth painting, and hatmaking. Everyone brought either samles of their work or a portfolio. Lots of surface design examples. Below you see the group, minus me--l to r--Nancy, Ginny, Louise and Diane. Hoping the group will grow as we find others who have a love of all things fiber/fabric.

I'll be posting some of our work as we progress. But before our next meeting in November each person will be working on a 'challenge' piece to share with the group. Everyone is to take an 8" square of fabric, or create an 8" square of felt, then stitch it, paint it, dye it, distress it, discharge it, work it work it work it. Can't wait to see what everyone comes up with! I'll show it when I see it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Millinery Classes/Courses/Instruction

The Hat Magazine just listed me as a millinery instructor in their most recent edition. Thanks, Nigel and Carol! Good folks there. I wish there was more info published about millinery in the United States. Granted we are not the hat-wearing nations that England or Australia or Nigeria are, but we do have our moments.

Thought this would be a good time to post the millinery courses offered for the remainder of 2009. Each venue I teach in is offering different classes so check them out. Click the links for more information from the vendors or to register. You can always go to my webpage for classes, as well-- .

Sept. 19-20: Mendocino Art Center (Mendocino, CA)--Crowns and Brims: Hatmaking Survey
Oct. 9-11: TLD Designs (Chicago, IL)--Blockmaking; Blocking Felt: Capelines and Hoods
Oct. 26-28: Arrowmont School of Art and Craft (Gatlinburg, TN)--Hats That Felt Good: Retro Hats From Flat Felt

Please check with the venues for registration information. You can contact me at or leave a 'comment' here on the blog about class content. I'll get back to you ASAP.

The 2010 schedule is being put together now. However, a few are already listed. Those of you in the Washington, DC, area--I'll be at The Torpedo Factory (Art League School) in very early January. Howz about asking for a millinery Christmas present??

More 2010 millinery classes to be posted as they are confirmed. May be a few surprises in the mix!!

Happy hat making!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Pretty Big Hat--Crowned

Last year I had a client come into the shop who was vacationing at one of our local beaches. She loved hats but had never been able to find one that fit her head. This is something I hear quite often. Commercial hats are either too large or too small for the purchaser's head. Well, gosh, as a milliner I'm more than happy to show clients what I can do to make a hat they can wear; not gonna fall down on the ears and not gonna squeeze your head. By-the-way, 22"-22.5" is the average headsize for today's women.

OK, so what was so special about this client's plight? She had a headsize of 26"! Now, I've made hats for some large heads, my own headsize is 23", but nowhere near a 26". Just try to find a hatblock even close to this. Believe me, I tried. I realize there are probably some men's hatblocks out there that are close to this. Besides, since she was only in Wilmington for a short period of time we didn't have much time to look for hatblocks in her size.

To be perfectly honest, her headsize isn't really 26". However, she is a lovely African-American woman who wears her hair in many, many tiny braids at all times. THAT is what makes her hat size so large. One of the many reasons I ask clients how they will be wearing their hair when they wear the hat I'm making for them. Hair styles can change the hat size.

She left town with the both of us agreeing we would look for a 26" hatblock and I'd make a hat for her if either of us was successful in finding a block. Long story short--neither of us found a block. Cut to the present.

Same client was back in town recently and came by the shop to see what we could do about making her a hat. I explained that I'd not found a 26" block but that I thought I had a remedy, albeit not the best way of blocking a hat.

Enter my recently purchased hat stretcher! Hat stretcher? To block a hat? Well, in a word--YES. And it worked!!

The capeline above was chosen for its neutral coloring. This hat was going to have to work at many, many different hat-wearing occasions for the client.

Here's the wooden hat stretcher. Jeeze, I've wanted one of these for a long time. And they really do work for stretching out a too small hat. But I digress...

Note that there is a crank on one side that opens up the two halves of the crown.

After I opened it up to 26" I placed Press and Seal clingwrap over the 'block' to protect it and also to somewhat close the gap between the two halves. I was a little worried that the straw would collapse at the place there was no block and thought the clingwrap might help, which it did.

Here's the crown being blocked over the hat stretcher. It may not be overly obvious in this picture but believe me this is a very looong (front to back) crown. Again, not optimum for blocking, but the best I could do at the time. The elastic is to help hold the straw against the block.

Here's the finished product. The client didn't want too much embellishment. We had to place the simple hatband, which she loved anyway, to cover the petersham stitching. So it was decorative and functional. The edge was wired because she wanted the option of changing the brim shape.
When she picked up the hat she told me, "You have a very happy customer!" That's exactly what I love to hear.
As she left town this year we made a plan for me to make a hatblock for her in a different crown shape. Can't wait to see her next year for yet another hat!
Millinery tip: Hair styles can change the hat or head size.