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.

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