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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

WAWAS Work--Blocking Straw and Felt

Last Friday was the monthly scheduled Studio Crawl for the WAWAS--Wrightsville Avenue Working Artists Studios. I chose to block a parisisal hood and a felt hood so that everyone could see how that is accomplished. While I didn't do anything other than block them during the open studio hours, here you will see the process including the finished product.

As some of you know, I love the free form process of blocking a hood over a block. The many, many styles one can achieve using this process never ceases to amaze me. I usually just let the material guide me as to what it wants to be. Something I call 'the spirit within the material,' is real...I've experienced this too many times. Sometimes the material knows what IT wants to be, NOT what I want it to be. Try it; you too will be amazed.

Above you see the folds and pleats I used to come up with the style. See the bead-head pins? They help keep the folds in place until the straw dries. It has been spritzed with water and steamed over a steamer to help control the straw, to get it stabilized into a shape.

Here you see the shape on Deloris, one of my mannequins. It helps immensely to see the hat on a mannequin head or a REAL head. I've made many shapes that looked fabulous on the block and horrible on the head. I find this especially true with the more abstract shapes that free forming gives you.

Deloris wears the finished product. I've stitched two vintage shades-of-green flowers of silk and velvet, plus a few stipped coqs with beads. It is difficult to see but the straw is the palest shade of green, more a natural straw with a tint of green. I really didn't like the color of the straw until I started looking for embellishments. When these flowers were placed against the straws it popped nicely!

Here's the wool felt after it has been blocked on this 'negative' block. The hood is placed into the block instead over the least the crown. Then the brim is pulled over the edges of the block. You are actually looking at the hat upside down! I've used blocking line and pins to hold the felt against the block as there are a few indents in the shape.
This shot was taken outside because I was in the process of spraying felt sizing on the hat to stiffen it and hold the shape.

Inside again. I've taken the blocking lines off the felt and am ready to take the felt out of the block!

The crown has been removed from the block base. This is a two part block--one part for the crown and one part for the brim. Note on the back side of the felt that I was NOT able to pull the hood all the way down onto the brim part of the block. That is why you see a horizontal line across the inside back. Ah, to be remedied later.

The next few shots are experiments in embellishments. People always ask me how long it takes to make a hat. That is an impossible questions to answer! I can tell you, however, that if I am making a hat for the shop, and have every possible option for embellishment, that it can take a long time. What embellishment; how many; what color; what combination of items??
Piece above is a vintage horsehair bit. Yes, real horsehair! What we call horsehair these days is not real (and is usually a braid of sorts) and you can certainly tell the difference in feel and texture.

Next I tried a pheasant feather pad and a swirled fabric pad in gold. Needs more.

What about a combination? I really liked this but in the end thought it was too much for my tastes.
Oh, and by placing the hat on the dollie head I was able to round out that part of the felt that had the horizonal line on one side of the hat. This is not ideal, but that felt was NOT going to go up against the block in that spot. I've used the same block with straw with much better results in blocking. As some of you know, blocking a tough shape in felt can be, um, problematic to say the least.

I finally came up with using the feather pad, fabric pad, a vintage bakelite hat pin on that wide expanse of felt in the front, and a small triple loop of irridescent ribbon to pull it all together.

Another view of the final product. Can you see the indents in the felt from the block? Remember, these were also a result of using the blocking line.
So all in all it took me about 3 days to finalize these hats that are now in the shop for sale.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer Style Swap Sensation

The latest Style Swap was held last Thursday at upscale shopping area Lumina Station, out at Wrightsville Beach. This is not only a favorite local place to shop but also a tourist attraction as well. Lots of lovely shops, award-winning restaurants, and a beautiful courtyard where our event was centered.

Here's one of my favorite models and Style Ambassador, Nnenne, checking out the sinamay calla lily headband I made for her to wear for the evening. All the Style Ambassadors met me at Hewitt, an upscale home style shop, to get their headbands before heading out to the courtyard to help with the Style Swap.

That's Style Girl Jess James in the center, getting ready to begin the 'shopping' spree for attendees. Everyone had checked in the items they wanted to 'swap' and the fun was about to begin--special 'swap-tinis' from The Dirty Martini, mini-pedicures from Harbour Club Day Spa, great eats from Port Land Grille and Brasserie du Soliel, and mingling with fellow fashionistas.

Here's one of the special giveaways for the evening, designer Amanda de Leon's 'Gallery Dress'--designed just for the Lumina Station Style Swap!

And here's Amanda (left) and fellow Wilmington designer Alexa Castillo (right). Amanda has on one of her designs, a burgandy sheer short jumpsuit over black leotard. Very chic! Not sure Alexa has on one of her own designs but she looks gorgeous just the same.

Ah. A crowd shot in front of swell shop Beanie + Cecil and The Dirty Martini.

Two fashionistas awaiting a game of musical chairs to see who wins Amanda's dress. There were many fabulous giveaways from Lumina shops including--Paysage, Ziabird, Hewitt, Sole Searching, Harbour Club Day Spa, and others. Everything from complete outfits to jewelry to homewares to spa services were up for grabs. Some REALLY great prizes!

And here's Tuesday wearing the feather and jeweled headband she won from me. She not only was a Style Ambassador for the event but is an assistant to Amanda de Leon as well. A very lucky young lady.

Next Style Swap is September 10 in CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA. Love to see you there if you are in the neighborhood. Style on....