Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Marimekko | My New Hat

I should really title this "My Adventures in Draping" since this is a very new, very fun process I am learning all the time. But let me begin from the start by describing how this hat was inspired. 

As a child of the 70s, I have been a fan of the fabric designs of Marimekko, which is a company based in Helsinki, Finland. Founded in 1951 as an oil cloth factory, the business failed and then transformed into a very influential fabric design company that achieved popularity in the 60s and 70s. They are best known for brightly-colored printed fabrics and simple styles, used both in women's garments and in home furnishings.

In 1987 I had the opportunity to travel to Finland and got to shop at the Marimekko store. My mother still wears a pair of socks and t-shirt I purchased for her at that time. So you can imagine how excited I was to find that Crate and Barrel was selling their fabric by the yard!

I started with a yard of this beautiful fabric which I think resembles a cherry blossom tree.

Building the Frame
With buckram I blocked a crown on my wig stand and cut out a brim using a platter to trace the shape. (a platter from the 99 cent store!) After wiring, mulling and fleecing both I added a brown silk fabric to the bottom of the brim. Once I sewed the crown to the brim the fun began!

Draping the Crown
We (my teacher Jill and I) placed the fabric over the top of the hat. I turned it until I got the placement right - meaning that I wanted the branch to flow across the width of the hat so you could see the design properly. Once I was happy with that I put one pin on the top of the crown to secure it. Then, using my hands, I smoothed the fabric over the crown applying folds when needed and pinned. This was done by pinning the front and side right and creasing - then pinning the back and side right and creasing. By pinning the crown in 4 segments I was able to more easily smooth the material.

Lining the hat and Creating an Applique
The brim was actually fleeced and covered with a brown silk fabric before I draped the crown. But I learned two tricks with this process.

1) In order to line the inside I placed a piece of the silk fabric across the opening and pushed my hand down inside the crown. Where ever the fabric wanted to fold I pinned it and then lightly stiched it down and trimmed to the edge. That left only the headband (grosgrain) to sew down and cover my stitches.

2) The underside was too plain for me so Jill suggested I cut a piece of the Marrimekko design and create an applique by applying a thin layer of glue to the back. I never created my own applique but now I have something I can do with scraps!

Custom Applique

Marrimeko Fans
Marimekko has a fan base of people who use their fabrics in all sorts of crafts. Crate and Barrel sells a really cool book that features these crafts called Surrur. I plan on posting my hat to the Facebook page as another example of how to use their fabric!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Couture Millinery Fascinator Class in LA

Fascinator by Lee Duncan

I also want to let you know about another great class available in Los Angeles on October 15th from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM! I have taken classes from Lee and she's so much fun. Plus, whether you're a beginner or advanced milliner, Lee will teach you new skills and techniques that you will use over and over. Here's the download on her class:

More than a simple fascinator class, this class will teach frame making and covering; millinery trim, including feather work, and more. Various demonstrations using popular millinery materials (jinsin, crinoline, sinamay, etc.) will be given in class. Learn skills that apply to all couture millinery. All fascinator supplies are included in class fee. Please bring scissors, pins, thread, measuring tape, and needles. 

Although you will complete a buckram frame (wiring, stitching, etc.), finished frames will be provided so that you may cover and trim an additional hat(s), depending on your skill set and time. 

  • A fee discount applies to blog members--$180 members, $225 non-members). Registration fee now due. 
  • A non-refundable fee of $40 will apply should you cancel the class within eight (8) days of the class start date. 
  • For those registering from 1 to 8 days of the class and decide to cancel, the $40 non-refundable fee will also apply. 

Please contact Lee at lduncan@hatstruck.com for additional information. Feel free to make payment through PayPal.

In 8 days

Torrance Cultural Arts Center
330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance, CA 90503

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Steampunk Hat Class | Clockwork Couture in Burbank

Steampunk Hat Class for Halloween

There's a very cool steampunk store called Clockwork Couture located in Burbank, California that sells hats designed by my teacher, Jill Pfieffer, and another brilliant designer, Shurie Southcott. They are  offering a hat trimming class with Jill on October 16th! You can bring a hat you want to rework or purchase a top hat or bowler made by Jill to trim. They'll be serving tea and scones. Plus, you're bound to meet some other cool people while you're there!

Please note - due to circumstances the class has been rescheduled. Please check the Clockwork Couture website for updates.

October 16th 1-4pm

Clockwork Couture
617 South Main Street
Burbank, CA 91506

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wedding Hats | Steampunk

Katie and Mikaela
photography by John Ciotti
Last month I had an opportunity to build my first wedding hat. It was a simple round piece of buckram covered in fabric and trimmed with a cockade (Thank you, Truly!) and a veil. My teacher, Jill, made a matching top hat for the ceremony.

I just wanted to share some pictures that were taken at the wedding by an awesome photographer, John Ciotti! Aren't they a gorgeous couple?

Katie and Mikaela
photography by John Ciotti

Cockade & Veil
Katie - Fascinator with cockade and Veil
photography by John Ciotti
Mikaela - Top hat with Veil
photography by John Ciotti
Wedding Party
photography by John Ciotti

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Millinery Resources | LA & Other Places

I grew up in Texas where I learned what some consider a very bad habit - telling everyone where you bought something! Here's an example of what I mean:

     Friend: Hey, that's a really cool skirt you have on!
     Me: Really?! I bought it at Target for only $15 and they have other colors!

I've noticed that many designers don't like to share their resources for obvious reasons. But since I am really a hobbyist I don't have a problem telling you  where I have found awesome fabrics, ribbons or hat bodies. Below is a list of where I go to spend my money.

Ribbons & Trims

Michaels (MJ Designs)
For decorative trims like bows, cockades and hat bands.

For decorative trims like bows, cockades and hat bands.

F & S Fabrics
For silk, grosgrain, double sided, velvet, brocade, metallic and one-of-a-kind ribbons.

International Silks & Woolens
Silk, velvet, brocade and one-of-a-kind ribbon.

Inexpensive ribbon on bolts

Renaissance Ribbons 

Gorgeous brocades, metallics...etc. But they sell wholesale in large quantities. Sometimes I can see something on this site and find it somewhere else by the yard.

French General
This beautiful store is run by a multi-talented woman who travels to France at least once a year (and other places) to dig through vintage supplies. The she stocks her store full of rare finds like hat bodies, antique appliques, vintage ribbons and hat frames. You can read more on her blog.

Millinery Grosgrain Ribbon (Petersham)

This ribbon should be cotton or a rayon/cotton blend so it will shrink when wet. (Make sure there is cotton!) It also has an edge with semi-circle bumps that allows it to curve more easily inside the hat without puckering.

California Millinery
This is not really a store for online shopping but rather an in-shop experience. There is a wall of grosgrain to choose from. Plus, tons of inventory to dig through.

Hats by Leko

Judith M


Michael Levine
Michael Levine has a scrap department above their store that sells upholstery fabric. You can find great scraps or even bolts of material they sell by the pound. Plus, they often have thread, trim other odds and ends.

F & S Fabrics
For silk, grosgrain, double sided, velvet, brocade, metallic and one-of-a-kind ribbons.

International Silks & Woolens
Silk, velvet, brocade and one-of-a-kind ribbon.

They have left over fabric on huge bolts at $1 a yard.


Hollywood Fancy Feather
This store is located in a warehouse in the Valley that smells like moth balls. But, if you have the courage to go there you will be rewarded with a large selection and the ability to pick out the feathers you want.

Mother Plucker Feather
Located in downtown Los Angeles this store has as much selection as Hollywood Fancy Feather. I suggest you call in advance for an appointment. Great prices for bulk.

Sport Chalet or local sport store fishing Department 
The best price for tails and pads. If you're looking for one long feather or pads with lot's of feathers you can get amazing finds in the price range of $3-$15.

Kit Kraft
This is one of those rare local stores that offers a variety of craft supplies. I drop in there if I need just one or two dyed ostrich feathers.

Michaels (MJ Designs)
look in the floral department for pre-arranged feathers

Millinery Tools & Basic Supplies

California Millinery
This is not really a store for online shopping but rather an in-shop experience. There is a wall of grosgrain to choose from. Plus, tons of inventory to dig through.

Hats by Leko
Most comprehensive online supplier of millinery materials, sizing and tools.

Judith M
Excellent selection of hoods, straw and flat felt materials.

Dedicated to many nearly forgotten arts, Lacis offer's unusual and hard to find tools.

Michaels (MJ Designs) For glue (I use Fabri-Tac only), foam (8 inch ball for carving a round hat block...etc.) and other miscellaneous items for trim.

How 2 Hats
This website is a great resource. They list suppliers, teachers, classes, and events all over the world. I would highly recommend digging through their site for unusual material supplier lists, how-to books and inspiration.

Guy Morse-Brown Hat Blocks
My favorite hat block supplier. If you don't carve it yourself you can't beat these beautiful blocks.

Wayne Wicher - 
Hat Block Resource
Wayne has a blog that offers lots of great ideas on where to purchase hat blocks.

Search for items under "hat blocks" - "millinery hat blocks" - "millinery supplies" ...etc.
Great for all kinds of supplies and inspiration.

Let me know of your favorite places to shop.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blocking Felt on a Round Styrofoam Block

Behida Dohlic on Etsy

Last post I showed you how to carve a round hat block. I carved this block out of Stryofoam so that I could easily fold and pin shapes into the felt. Above and below are some professional milliner's inspirational photos where this technique could have been used.

Since this would be my first attempt at folding and pinning the felt, I chose a $5 hat I bought from Goodwill. After I removed the headband, feather and glue that was stuck to it, I had a lovely brown felt hood to block. (TIP: Rubbing alcohol on a QTip will remove glue)

Here's a complete list of the materials you will need to block:
  • Felt hood
  • Round Hat Block (styrofoam)
  • Straight Pins
  • Plastic bag
    (I use the ones from vegetable aisle or a leftover dry cleaner bag
  • Rubber band
  • Felt Stiffener spray

Get some hot water - enough to immerse your hood in. I used a steamer without the lid this time but often I just use hot water from the sink. I placed the hood into a bowl, added water and made sure all the felt was soaked.

Soaking the Hood
Step 2
Once the felt is wet you can let the extra water drip off and place it on your block. My hood already had the shape of a tight crown and brim. But after soaking it just slipped right onto my 23 inch round block.

Where's the Stryofoam block?
Step 3
Get creative! The felt is loose and you can finger press any shapes you like into the crown or brim. I decided I would create a pair of creases from the tip to the brim. Once I decided on the placement I placed pins deep into the crease so they would dry that way.

Creating the Shape
TIP: the closer the pin is to the crease, the less likely you are to see pin holes. But if that occurs, brush your felt with a wire or felt brush to smooth out.

Step 4
Let your hood dry for approximately 24 hours. You can see I finger pressed the brim into some shape,as well. And one of the benefits of using a recycled hat is that the brim was already finished with three rings of stitching so nothing else was needed.

Drying on the Block
Step 6
When your hat is dry you can either spray it with felt stiffener (see millinery supply) to set the shape or wet  and block again. I have sometimes used an acrylic art spray in the inside of the creases to add extra strength. 

Once you're happy with the shape you can trim however you like. My trimming isn't complete but here's a preview.

Left Side
Right Side


Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Carve a Hat Block - Part Four | Bowlers or Round Blocks

Lena Olin in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The bowler was created in 1849 by London milliners Thomas and William Bowler for the hat shop Lock & Co. In those days most men would wore a top hats. But this proved to be a problem when riding horses...etc because they could be easily blown or knocked off. (I actually like my teacher's story about how they called them bowlers because they are shaped like a bowl.) So, the Bowler was born and has remained popular on the heads of performers (Charlie Chaplin, Marlena Dietrich), business men, art (Magritte's paintings) and some very sexy ladies, like Lena Olin.

Lock and Company
You can carve a round block from styrofoam easily. And this block can be used to shape a variety of styles including a bowler. All you need is the following:

  • 8" inch round styrofoam ball
    (measure around to be sure you have at least 24 inches)
  • Knife  - with a straight edge
  • Empty can - like a coffee can
  • Callus tool - for smoothing 
    Step 1
    Measure you ball to see how wide it is. You want to choose either a 21, 22, 23 inch width for your block. I usually use 23 because that's the size of my head. And if I need to reduce the size I make the headband smaller to fit the wearer.

    Carve off a flat bottom for your block
    Step 2
    Decide on where you want the bottom of your block to be and carve the end to create a flat surface. No more than 3/4 an inch is needed to be removed.

    Try to press with even pressure
    Step 3
    Place the bottom of the ball on top of your can and apply pressure as evenly as possible.

    Crooked! Press again!
     You can flip the ball over to look at the can and see where you need to press in order to even it out.

    Step 4
    Begin to shave the sides of your ball straight down all on every side. Use your hands to feel out any areas that may be bumpy but don't worry too much about that. You have to apply your "Artist" and focus on creating a perfectly round side at the inch size you need. DO NOT ALTER THE TOP OF YOUR BALL! It is already round and therefore providing your shape. Shave until you reach the size you want.

    23 inches with rough edges

    Step 5
    Once you've reached the width you want stop carving and switch to the callus tool. This will allow you the ablity to smooth out any bumps.


    Next, I will show you how you can use a round block to make several shapes - and finally, I'll block something.


    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Wedding Veils - Royal!

    I have been happily anticipating the British Royal Wedding of Prince William and Brilliant Katie! After watching hours of Royal Wedding Specials on PBS, BBC America and Lifetime, I learned that the length of the veil - or train - record currently belongs to Princess Diana at 25 feet.

    So, she had to have a pretty awesome veil to compliment the the train and, of course, the crown!

    All of this got me thinking about veils and how they can really enhance a hat design...
    John French. London, UK, 1950
    Or sometimes, it becomes the hat.

    Philip Treacy for Valentino Couture
    There are lots of creative ways to create veils out of a variety of materials including lace as you can see above. Ribbon is another material that can be used to structure a veil.

    Camille Roman, Tour de Force

    Do you like wearing veils?