Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vintage Millinery, Vintage Clothing: The Feel-Good Factor

I never thought I would be a Facebook or Twitter fan; I've been a fan of YouTube forever. Well, I'm still not into Twitter, but I'll get there. I don't keep up with my close friends and family on Facebook because my daughter has that covered. Twitter, well, when I'm in an antique, thrift, or millinery shop, or at my favorite bookstore sipping on over-sweetened coffee and eating sinful pastries, I'm in a meditative state--Tweets just don't factor in, but I'll get there. At my age, I have to keep up with what's going on around me. Never mind that my body is well seasoned and a little stiff, I have to keep my mind young and flexible. People, books, television,YouTube, Facebook, whatever it takes, I'm willing to try it.

So, now intrigued with Facebook's creative community and its friends and friends of friends, I found myself searching for the most creative, the best--la crème de la crème.  On one such occasion I found the Anita Mc'Enzy site--not even hat related--a friend of a friend.  I just fell in love with this site.  Here were vintage-style dresses reminiscent of those from my childhood; they made me feel so good.  So, I skipped over to YouTube, another one of my feel-good places, to find a Pearl Bailey video.  Ms. Bailey resembled one of my  grandmothers...oh my grandmother's smell, her food....  I found the perfect video, Ms. Bailey in a beautiful hat and suite, circa 50s/60s!  (Notice her handwriting on the blackboard.  It looks similar to my handwriting!  OMG, they were beating students across the knuckles with a thick yardstick if they didn't get their cursive letters correct back when she was going to school also!  Maybe we had the same fifth grade teacher!  OK, not everything felt good from that era.)   

Maybe I'll Tweet this?  Enjoy 
Update:  I Tweeted!

Anita Mc'Enzy Web Site (coming soon), Facebook, Email

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Couture Hat Should Be Beautifully Displayed: Introducing Lily Decoeyes

She has finally arrived, my Lily. Lily is a precise replica of a 1940s store display mannequin head created from an original mold from that era. My Lily is a little different from the original Lily. You see, this Lily is a lady of color. Chances are she would not have been displayed in a department store during the 40s. Lily was chosen as one of the ladies of color, as told to me by JR (Decoeyes owner), because of her delicate features and her hair style.

There were a couple of reasons I just had to have this Lily, one reason being that she looks very much like my favorite aunt, my father's sister, except for the light eyes. My aunt is 86 now, but she still has that elegant 40s style. Another reason I chose this Lily is because the mass produced mannequin heads usually have a brownish-green-gray color. Unfortunately, my photography skills are not that great, so you will have to go to the Decoeyes site to see how beautifully hand painted she is. Lily is not mass produced, and she is lovingly casted and painted by JR and his wife.  Their son serves as the Webmaster for their Web site. So stop by Decoeyes at and check out the beautiful displays.

Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Make a Couture Leather and Suede Flower for Your Couture Hat

I've chosen to make the suede and leather flower because there is so much information out there on French silk flower making.  All you have to do is peruse the Web, and/or check out vintage millinery and flower making books  (see sidebar for links to free online millinery books).

Of the few flower making irons I have, the rose petal iron is by far my favorite.  With this one iron I can make small to large roses just by varying the size of the petal and cutting small imperfections into the leather before the shape is pressed.  Actually, in the real world of flower making, you would have petal irons in various sizes  to make a single rose, including cutters for those shapes.

My original idea was to use my leaf irons, but in the end I used vintage leaves and stems to complete my beautiful roses.  This is not a comprehensive tutorial, but one to get you started.  Observe, research, and experiment.  Have fun!

For fun!  I also made a hatpin by pressing aluminum and brass into the same flower mold I used to make my flowers. I'm not sure if this was a good idea, but I had fun.


Please note that this tutorial is only for the type of flower irons shown here and not the ball irons.  Although you can make suede and leather flowers with ball irons, that technique will not be discussed here.  

1.  Create a template for your fabric by pressing a piece of paper towel--I use Viva because it does not tare--between the male and female iron mold parts.  I don't have a cutter (for every flower shape/iron, there is a cutter), so I have to manually create and cut the pattern and the fabric (leather and suede).

2.  Now that you have a petal shape; cut away the excess paper towel.

 3.  Flatten the paper template, glue it to cardboard, and cut the shape out.  For smaller petals, cut smaller templates based on where the curves of the iron fall.

3.  Cut out leather and/or suede petals using the templates you have created.  I didn't count the number of pieces; I just cut them out.  The fuller you want your flower, the more petals you cut out.

4.  Dampen the back of the fabric with water mixed with fabric stiffener (I use Stiffy) and set the petals aside for a minute or so until the mixture soaks in.  Do not over dampen the fabric.

5.  Placing this fabric between the flower press, press down firmly for a couple of seconds and release--the more pressure, the more detail.

6.  Gently remove the petal from the mold and set it aside to dry.

7.  Watch the YouTube video below showing how to put together a paper flower.  This same method can be used for leather flowers.

Please note that the petals (red flower) for this project were made using two methods.  Some petals were cold pressed (using no heat) and some were heat pressed--the mold portion without the handle was placed on a warmer and then pressed using the mold portion that has the handle attached.  Both methods worked very well, although I preferred the cold press because it was easier.  The dark petals were heat pressed.  

I have no idea how the professionals make leather flowers.  When there is little information on a subject, I just experiment until I get it right for me.  This experimentation is continuous, regardless of the project I'm working on.

Because I did not take pictures of all the stages I went through while making these roses, I'm including three videos below:  One for inspiration and study (actually all of them should be studied), one to show how flowers are cut and shaped with dies; and one to show how flowers are put together--included in the paper flower video.  Following the videos are resources where you can buy flower making tools--the same tools are used-- and instructional videos for making silk flowers.

 If you need some inspiration, check out Legeron for some of the most breathtaking flowers I've ever seen!

Ets Legeron, Paris: a tour from Lexy Hulme on Vimeo.


Resources for flower making tools:

I have flower irons that are manually heated, as well as an electric set of irons (attachments are inserted into an electric element).   Both has its advantages and disadvantages.  Over time, if you own both types of irons, you will come to have a favorite. 

Waltraud Reiner (Torb&Reiner) offers millinery supplies. I purchased my set of flower making balls and a flower making video from Waltraud's site.

Lacis offers millinery supplies and other supplies, including books on just about anything relating to the textile arts.  I purchased my electric set of tools from  the Lacis site.

For all of you that are like me that just can't wait to get something in your little hands to practice with as soon as a thought runs across your brow, Clover offers a ball adapter for its Mini Iron II.  I actually I use the tips I purchased from Lacis in this iron, because I burned my electric cord while making flowers.

The flower irons used in this tutorial are vintage (maybe antique).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hats In Vogue: A Milliner's View

 If you cannot view this video here, please view it on-site.  Enjoy hat photographs, including the entire Vogue of Hats series before you leave the Condé Nast Archive Blog.