Monday, March 30, 2009

Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones

I'm on an English millinery streak I suppose. How many of you have heard about the Victoria & Albert Museum's millinery exhibition? Entitled Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones it is a showing of over 300 hats from Egyptian times through the present. Oh how I wish I could see it!!

If any of you are in England through May 31, 2009, YA HAVE TO GO! Here is a link to the V&A-- . And if you don't know who Stephen Jones is, well....

Here's a short description from the V&A's website:

"After the V&A invited Jones to explore its millinery archive, he and V&A fashion and textiles curator Oriole Cullen spent more than two years examining the cupboards, stores and archives of the V&A and other international museum collections. They made many new discoveries and uncovered wonderful examples. They came across Dame Margot Fonteyn’s Dior arrow cloche of 1949 in Bath and the straw hat worn by Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle in 'My Fair Lady' in the bottom of a box in the Warner Bros’ Hollywood archive."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Friends, Hatblocks and the Queen

Check out this happy couple! That's Guy Morse-Brown, and his lovely wife Ann, on the steps of Buckingham Palace after being presented his MBE from Queen Elizabeth!! Guy, for those of you who may not know, is one of the premier hatblock makers in the world. You MUST check out his website to see and appreciate the amazing work he Ann founded the Wombourne School of Millinery that some of you have attended. They continue to publish their electronic books at . Go check it out. I am proud to call them my friends and wish them all the best. They were delightful hosts when I taught at Wombourne several years ago.

Speaking of hatblocks...I'm always asked where I get mine. (We milliners are ALWAYS on the lookout for new and different shapes.) My answer--everywhere. Yep. Look in antique shops, junk shops, online for vintage blocks. And for newer ones you can, again, check out Guy's website, along with several other block makers on the Internet. You will find them in all sizes, shapes and condition.

Crown blocks: these, obviously, shape the crown of the hat. Many you will find are very simple shapes, like the pillbox (or boater), round, gentle dome. The more complex shapes are usually found in the puzzle blocks you find from time to time. These actaully break apart into pieces. Reason? So that you can get the felt or straw OFF the block. The pieces of the block fall out the bottom of the hat form so that you don't destroy the shape trying to get it off the block. Clever, huh?

Brim blocks: to shape the brim. There are two different kinds of brim blocks--flanges (the ones with the holes in them) and brim blocks which have pegs at the top to place headsize rings. With flanges you normally place the crown part of the hat form through the hole and then block onto the flange. With the other type brim block you place the brim of the hat form over the shape. With each of these you will need to use a cinching cord to hold the shape onto the block.

Whole hat blocks: these shape a complete hat in one block. Some of these are what I call positive blocks and some are what I call negative blocks. I have NO idea if these are proper terms, but they somewhat explain how the blocks are used to make a hat. With the positive blocks the hat form if pulled over the block. What the block LOOKS like is what the HAT will look like...for all practical purposes. The negative blocks are made such that the hat form is placed INTO the form and (usually) another piece of the block is placed into the hollow of the hat form. Think of it as pouring chocolate into a candy mold. The impression is made in the negative. Got it?

Hey, I know I'm over simplifying the blocking process, but as I often say, this is really the sort of technique you need to see demonstrated. So, that is my subtle way of inviting you to come to a millinery class to learn these techniques in the old-world fashion.

Monday, March 23, 2009

International Millinery Forum 2009

The Boys!

I'm adding some pictures from the International Millinery Forum, in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia, held in January 2009. I was honored to be one of 4 international milliners teaching there, as well as about a dozen Australian milliners. The next Forum will be held in 2011 so start saving your pennies!

Above you see 'The Boys,' 3 of the instructors at IMF. They are: Philip Rhodes (Melbourne), Neil Grigg (Sydney), Ian Bennet (London), who was Hat Designer of the Year several years ago.

Kerry Ann, a milliner from Sydney. A Runner-Up to Hat Designer of the Year couple of years ago. She makes some great hats! Love the peacocks, Kerry Ann!!

Above is Jean Carroll, OAM, another of the instructors, with her assistant. Jean is a theatrical milliner and is 80+ years young. She has been a milliner since the age of 14. Amazing lady.

Beautifully dressed ladies at the Finale Gala. At left is Jaycow, another of the international instructors. Jaycow is from Hong Kong.

1920's flappers! Everyone was dressed in '20's attire for the final night dinner.

How about these two great hats made in my classes at IMF. At left is a hat made in the Fabric Frolic on a Buckram Base class, and on the right one made in the Retro Hats From Flat Felt Skirting class. They did a great job!

All the instructors were chauffered to the 1920's Finale Gala in vintage cars. That's me on the left, Ian Bennett (London), and Bette Fogarty (Melbourne) on the right.
I'll be posting some pictures of more hats made in the classes soon!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Genesis of My Millinery Blog

OK, so I guess I'm finally getting on the band wagon and starting a blog. I've been meaning to do this for awhile, but several things have happened lately that have made me realize it is a 'must do.' So I'm doing!

Since this is my first post I'll tell you a little about who I am, what I do, and maybe a millinery tidbit to entice you back for another visit!

I've been a milliner since 1995. Or rather, I studied millinery in Australia in 1995 and have been at it ever since. Guess I wasn't a 'real' milliner at that point, but it was something I really, really loved doing. I started teaching after about 3 years of making hats, taking vintage hats apart and putting them back together, and learning who I was as a milliner.

I now have a shop, aMuse: artisanal finery, in Wilmington, North Carolina, where I make custom hats for clients. I also have a range of hats in the shop, but most of the hats I sell are custom--to fit, to match an outfit, to embellish as you want. aMuse also carries a HUGE array of vintage costume jewelry--from the 1880's thru the 1980's. Ya gotta see the beauties I have!! I also carry some wearable art like handmade felt scarves/bags/neck wraps, and a few fiber and bead artists from this area. aMuse is definitely an accessories shop with a heavy concentration on all things HAT!!

I started teaching because I kept getting emails for folks looking for places they could learn. And I thought, well, I don't know everything about making hats, but what I do know I know well. I started by teaching Straw and Felt Blocking. I was overwhelmed by the numbers of people who signed up for that first class...and knew I was on to something.

I've been teaching millinery workshops now for all those years and have expanded not only where I teach but what I teach. I now teach classes in wire construction, making your own hatblock, sewn straw braid, blocked and free-style sinamay, covering buckram shapes, making your own buckram shapes, something I call big buckram brims (church lady hats), surface designed fabrics with millinery, working with Wonderflex and Fosshape, French Flowermaking, featherwork, flat felt skirting (yardage) and a new one I'm currently working on called Unexpected Millinery--making hats out of materials not traditional to hatmaking.

And I now teach all over the United States and from time to time out of the country. I was asked to teach at the International Millinery Forum in Australia and returned from that amazing one week forum in January. I'll be posting some pictures soon of some of the incredible hats that came out of those workshops.

Check my website, , for an updated list of where I'll be teaching this year. Sometimes classes get added at the last minute so always check.

So now you know a little about me. I hope to post to this blog 2-3 times a week. Hope to see you here again soon!

TIP: You need to know your headsize when making a hat, or what I call a 'fitting' hat. No need to know if for a 'sitting' hat. Place a tape measure halfway between your eyebrow and your hairline, about 1/2" over your ears, across the biggest part of the back of your head, and keep your finger inside the tape to keep it from being too tight on your head. Your headsize will probably be somewhere between 21"-23", but could be larger or smaller. Average is 22--22.5" which is what the store brands usually are. If you have trouble with store bought hats being too large or too small for your head, that's why! Learn to make hats for your headsize!