Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bakelite Bangle Bracelets, Hatstruck's Newest Obsession; Plus, a Peak at One of the Plexiglass Hats I Made Recently

OK, I finally took the plunge and became the successful winning bidder on  this set of Bakelite bangle bracelets on Ebay.  Well, I hope they're Bakelite.  I picked up two tiny bracelets labeled Bakelite at my local antique shop earlier this year, but I don't think they really were the real deals.  I rubbed them until my thumb and forefinger almost blistered, but I still didn't get that pungent Bakelite small.  I rubbed them with a cotton Q-Tip dipped in WD-40, but still saw no discoloration on the cotton's tip.  The cost of the two little bracelets was hardly anything, and since I liked them, it was really no big deal.

What really pushed me over the edge was my visit to the book store last night.  While browsing the antique book section, a ran across a book on plastic jewelry; actually I was looking for a book on vintage plastic jewelry.  I was absolutely amazed at what I saw in the book.  So I took the fashion sketching book back and vowed to purchase it later.  After all I had pinned so much of the same stuff on my Millinery Sketches, Fashion Illustration, and Tutorials board on Pinterest.  But since I really love books, it'll be on my book shelf very shortly.

This was not the  first time I had an interest in plastic jewelry.  Several years ago I picked up a plastic jewelry fabrication book.  This led me to purchase several small sheets of plexiglass (acrylic--plastic) for the purpose of making earrings.  Well that plexiglass hung around until I recently made and entered a hat contest on Facebook.  The hat to your right is one of those hats.  The hats were made using the same tools I use to fabricate sterling silver, brass, and copper jewelry.  I'll talk about that at a later date, and I will also do a little tutorial on this very simple creation; stay tuned. Anyway, if you like Bakelite jewelry, let me know what you think of these bangle bracelets.

WOW, I guess I have two tutorials in the oven!

Note:  Check out this image from  Heather Sonrisa, Fairytale Dreams In FashionIt is a hat from the 1930s that has a plastic brim.  So you see, this is not a new concept at all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hatstruck Couture Millinery's Impromptu Crocheted Infinity Rope Scarf Post

 Sorry to disappoint some of you, but there are no hats in this post.  Instead I thought I would share my first completed Christmas gift, a crocheted rope scarf.  For those of you that don't knit and/or crochet and have no interest in these crafts, please feel free to change the channel.  For those of you that do, stay tuned.

Although I've been knitting and crocheting since the age of 10, I'm no expert.  I can read patterns but I prefer free-from crocheting and knitting.  I have to admit that I'm more partial to crocheting because, for me, correcting mistakes is so much easier, just unravel and proceed on.  Plus, I prefer to be in a meditative state when I'm crafting; I don't want to think about what I'm doing.  Whatever I end up with is exactly what you will be getting.

I made similar scarves last year, but this one was made using a different method.  Last year I made rope scarves using both Crocheted I-Cord and Knitted I-Cord techniques, both of these methods are found on my Crochet, Knitting and Tutorials Board on Pinterest.  I preferred the knitted I-Cord to the crocheted one.  If you decide to make this scarf using one of these methods, make a swash using both methods and choose the one you are most comfortable with.  Also, please note that the thickness of the cord depends on the number of chain stitches you use to start circular tube, the thickness of  the yarn, and the size of the needle.  If you do not crochet and would like to learn how to, I've created a query link for beginning crocheters here on YouTube.

How I Made This Scarf--My Yarn Box Runneth Over!

I really wanted to make a thicker, faster, and easier rope scarf this time around; so, I decided to crochet in-the-the-round rather than using one o the I-Cord techniques.  If you are a crocheter, this scarf will be extremely easy and fast to make.  I chose a chunky (they called it chunky; I refer to the really thick, thick yarn as chunky) and a large crochet needle (10mm--[N]) .  Again, the same applies here as mentioned above about the thickness of the I-Cords, it all depends on the number of chain stitches you use to start the circular round, the thickness of the yarn and the needle size.  Proceed as follows using the yarn, number of chain stitches, and needle size of your choice:

1.  Chain 5 stitches and slip stitch the ends together.

2.   Insert needle into the second chain.

3.  Single crochet into each chain in the round (just go around and around) until you reach your desired chain length.

4.  To finish off scarf when desired length has been achieved, cut thread leaving approximately seven inches, pull thread through last crocheted stitch and pull tight, but gently.

5.  End the rope by threading the excess thread onto a wide eyed needle and sewing in the round until the rope (tube) has been closed and secure.

6.  To hide some of the excess thread, work it through the stitches, and finally cut the excess thread off.  If you don't crochet and you are trying this project, you may want to follow the beginner's link above.

That's it!  I collect vintage brooches, so I just temporarily put one onto the scarf to dress it up for the shoot.  I may even keep this one for myself because the color looks great on my skin tone.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mrs. Essie Edwards, You Look Beautiful in That Hat! Contest Winner, Please Step Forward?

For those of you that attended the Rose Garden millinery classes with Mrs. Essie Edwards, well there is great news!  Mrs. Edwards is back teaching there--millinery and sewing.  This is your opportunity to take classes from a master in both crafts again.  Our retired and loved teacher is lending her time to all of us that have been morning her retirement.  So please come out in numbers to support her.  Mrs. Edwards has been a milliner for over 60 years; no fluff here.  This is the real deal.

In case you recognized the hat Mrs. Edwards is waring, it is the hat from my last post, Blocking on My First European-Style Hat BlockThis time Mrs. Edwards won over my granddaughter, because I knew she would cherish and really rock that hat; so, enjoy your gift Mrs. Edwards.

Contest Winner, Please Step Forward!
I am so guilty of not visiting my favorite blog sites, and when I visit I usually don't leave comments.  For the second time (or more), I will improve.   So I understand why some may do the same when visiting this site--Oh no! I have to log in?  Let me stop this moment and at least thank you for the number of daily page views I receive; I really appreciate them.  The response to this site has been fantastic.  I have truly realized my goal of giving back through millinery.

 I was thinking, What if I made leaving comments a little more fun?   So, at the end of the last post I asked several questions, for which no one responded to any of them.  The purpose of those questions was to select a winner of my little secrete contest.  Well, what I did was to choose a site visitor that had commented on this site very recently, satisfying at least one of the qualifying answers.  I don't think she is a member of the site (a first and may be the last), and I think she lives outside of the States.  Her name is Georgia Lordorche(?), and she is a student or was a student [from your profile]....  Georgia, since you are a student (you gave me some information about yourself in an earlier post before your last post--new to millinery), I will be sending you some millinery supplies (fur felt and straw, a hat stretcher, some millinery needles, and whatever else I can think of.  Or you may want to make  suggestions as to what you would like to have in your box of goodies--within reason :)   No, all questions contained in future posts will not be contest related....

Log-In for Site Members

Although I set up pages and a test log-in (extreme bottom of page) for site members months and months ago, I thought, This is not why I created this site--exclusivity to some.  A lot also had to do with the people that may be excluded and those that would actually take advantage of this site.  So, the log-in is at the bottom of the page, there for when I need it.  I will use it one day for something; maybe I will create a class for a site contest winner(s) or something.  Also when I presented the private log-in idea, I did not associate it with any contest, etc.; that's because I wanted to be able to change my mind if I became uncomfortable with the idea.  Another thing is that the volume of respondents is usually a little more than I want to manually handle (check membership, assign numbers, etc.).  Also the reason for the secrete contest was to capture the comments of those that took the extra effort to leave them without the coaxing from a contest.

Next Post?

I don't know what my next post will be, but I'm leaning toward an American-style hat block, blocking video.  What I need to do is get back to couture millinery (foundation covered hats), my first love technique.  So stay tuned.  What do you think?  No, this is not a contest question.  Anyway, I'll try to keep the site as exciting for the both of us as I can.  If you have any ideas, just let me know.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Blocking on My First European-Style Hat Block

Recently I acquired a European-style hat block. I had always wanted one to add to my block collection, and when one popped up on Ebay that suited my budget and of a shape I liked, I jumped on it. OK, now I'm over it. I must say that I prefer the American-style block more because I found it to be faster and easier to block on. So what is the difference between the two styles of blocks. Well American blocks, the more complex shapes at least, are cut into sections of two or more and have rope lines to secure your material (felt, straw, etc.) over it. The complex European blocks are not sectioned off and may not provide rope lines. I think I read somewhere that the sectional/collapsible American block was actually invented and patented her in U.S.; I don't know.

 Déjà Vu

 When I was creating the video below it suddenly occurred to me that I actually, to a certain extent, block on my wooden bowls in the same manner I was trying to block on the European block, except that I used push pins on my bowls, something I would never do on my hat blocks. If you have followed me for any length of time, you would know how much I hate seeing milliners pin or nail into their hat blocks. Actually, this is how I was taught but after seeing how hatters blocked their hats, I immediately changed the way I blocked mine, and that was a couple of decades ago. To me, blocks made today are not as sculptural as those made decades ago. Plus, many new blocks have knots and the wood is not as heavy or as beautiful. So when I purchase a hat block today, for the most part, I am buying a piece of art, a sculpture, history, workmanship. Of course there are block makers today that make beautiful hat blocks, but I prefer to collect vintage, soon to be antique blocks.

There's a Reason for My Passion

Another thing I wanted to mention is that my daughter suggested that I should not make comments on Facebook. I think I'm getting it. When you read my blog, you may read it in a kind gentle manner or you may read it in a harsh angry manner. You can't see my eyes and you can't see my demeanor. That's why I prefer face to face interactions with humans, but we know that that is not always possible. All I will say is that it is hard to convey the passion you have for certain things, especially when you have a history that causes you to think a certain way. I have a thing about learning; I have a thing about not giving up; I have a thing about outside imposed barriers, I have a thing about sincerely supporting people, and I have a thing about independence. I don't particularly care for the word perfectionist and I would never subject myself to it.  However, I do believe in continuous improvement; and I do believe in doing my best, thus my never ending desire to improve on WHAT I WANT TO IMPROVE ON and I should give others the respect to do the same. Enough said.

A Few Blocking Tips

This post came about because I hated seeing milliners' half blocked work, as well as seeing blocks that looked like termites had been chewing on them for some time. I guess I have lots of issues.... I'm tired of complaining. I figure I could either complain about this stuff or give suggestions to those that would welcome suggestions. So here are a few blocking suggestions whether you are blocking on an American-style or a European-style hat block:

When working with straw, felt, etc., you should block your material. If after you've finished blocking it, and your finished product is lumpy and looks like thigh cellulite, it has not been properly blocked.

Although I block almost everything, let's concentrate on fur felt for the purpose of this post. What is interesting about blocking felt is that you can nail a hundred nails into your block when securing the material or zero nails, the outcome could still result in a bad blocking job. It is not how many nails you nail into the block, it's how well you steam, pull, and iron the material that's on the block. So when you block, start from the bottommost rope line or from the bottom of a block having no rope line, then move up the block, securing the material. As you go up the block, the material gets tighter and tighter. Continue steaming and pulling until material is secure, ending by ironing with a dry iron over a damp pressing cloth. By the way, a correctly tied knot on a blocking cord will not slip. If you are insecure about slippage, just drop some water onto the knot or push a millinery pin through the knot, but not the hat block.  I actually left out the portion of the film wherein I ironed the felt with a dampened press cloth; the video just became too long; sorry.

Always have a pressing cloth at your disposal while blocking your material. A damp pressing cloth can solve problem your steamer can' nt.

Finally, if you are new to millinery, read my fingers, you do not need a lot of money to start the craft. Yes, I have plenty of toys to play with because I like collecting them, and I have collected them over many years. However, I can do without most of them, except my balsa wood hat block. Women/men invent things to make life easier for them; no matter what the craft may b
e. Milliners did not start out with many of the toys they have today and the hats they created back in the day were just as beautifully and well made.  Sometimes we defeat ourselves before we get started because we want to start where we should be ending.  Wow, that was profound!

A Few Questions

Well this post is getting too long, so I will touch on some other things in the future. However, I have a few questions. What types of tools (blocks, materials, etc.) do you have and work with, especially if you are new to millinery. If you had one thing in your work area that you don't have today, what would it be and why? Now tell me how do you improvise since you don't have this object to work with today. Just leave your answers in the comments section. The reason I ask is because have become accustom to improvising when I missing a millinery tool.

Enjoy the Video

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Coming Soon: Blocking on My First European Style Hat Block Without the Use of Pins or Nails

I've always wanted a European style hat block.  I've finally acquired one, and I was determined to block on it without the use of pins or nails.  If you follow my blog, you know how much I hate seeing pins and nails pushed and nailed into these beautiful wooden hat blocks--sculptures.  Well, I hope to put the final touches on the video to the post soon.  Stay tuned  to view the process and to gather a few tips on blocking your work!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Slow Down; Don't Endanger Others Lives by Running Traffic Lights

I guess my life was not important enough to obey a traffic signal. Please people, nothing is so important that you have to run a traffic signal, text while driving, or drink and drive. I thank God that I'm still here to enjoy my family and friends, and also my hat books. My faithful companion of 21 (would have been in November) years did not make it, but she saved my life. Had there been someone in the passenger seat, they would not have survived, being that my car was hit so hard on the passenger side, the door ended up near center. I'm sad because my kids would ask me to drop them off two blocks from school until I bought her (the other car was extremely noisy).  Lots of memories and stains were in that car. She can never be replaced. Except for a few lumbar spine fractures, pain, and bruises, I'll be O.K.
It appears that everyone is in a hurry these days.  A car is a dangerous weapon, and it should be treated as being so.  Have a safe life. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

How to Shape Leather Flower Petals Without Using Traditional Flower Making Tools

I had all intentions of making a live video showing how I shaped these leather flower petals without using traditional flower making tools, as I hinted to doing in a previous post.  But as I was completing this post, one of my last two aunts passed away.  When I would visit her, she would always grab my cheeks, screaming, "My favorite niece! My favorite niece!"  My other aunt, having no children, was feed up with years of this asked me, "Do you realize that you are her only niece?"  I was in my 30s, and never realized this fact.  So, at my aunt's funeral, I had this flower placed inside her casket.  Thank you so much auntie (the both of you) for making me feel as if I were the only niece in the world.

Last year I posted a similar flower making post on using non-traditional tools to shape fabric flower petals.  If you haven't read the post, I suggest that you take the opportunity to do so because I give references to resources that will show you how to assemble an artificial flower. Plus, some of the things shown in the fabric flower petal video will be of help to you if you are not familiar with making hand made flowers.  Maybe somewhere down the road I'll make a live flower making video; I'm just not feeling it now, as my remaining aunt has been ill.

Anyway below is my video/slideshow showing the leather flower shaping process I used when making the red leather rose.  Also following is a video wherein the edges of the flower petals were shaped; this is the method I used.  Although the flowers in this video are made in silk fabric, the method of shaping the edges of the petals is the same.  Finally, follow my flower making board on Pinterest; there is plenty of information there on flower making.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Images From Hatstruck Millinery Class: The Fedoras Stole the Show!

I'm a little disappointed, well very disappointed, because my sweet daughter deleted all but two of my images from the first class session, and many others from the second class session.  So I have no images of the ladies' large straw picture hats, none of my hat blocks, and no pictures of my millinery teacher, Mrs. Edwards; thank you sweet daughter.

On a more upbeat note, the class was a blast!  Mike, our only male, kept things spiced up--you were too funny Mike! Ola, you are too generous; thanks for all of those snacks.  Natasha, you are so nice.  And Mrs. Edwards, thank you so much for sharing your hats and knowledge with us.  Every time I could not remember something, I would consult my dear teacher.

To your upper left, is Natasha.  Natasha was on a mission to make one of her friends a fedora modeled after one of his vintage fedoras.  I must say that she knocked it out of the park.

As mentioned, Mrs. Edwards stopped in.  She  brought two hats from her vintage collection, including two hats that she personally made. She made the beautiful flower hat to your left in the early 1960s.  She also made the pearl-appliqued pillbox to your right.  However, one of her students made the flower many years ago.  Although we originally rolled the edges of these types of flowers using our own saliva (spit-rolled), this one was rolled by adding glue to its edges.

Ola fell in love with my square crown hat block, and besides making an open-crown pork pie floppy straw hat in the first session, she also blocked two felt hats from the square crown block. There are several things that will make a fur felt hat look amateurish, some of which include leaving in a rope line if trim will not be covering it; blunt cut brim edges; turned up brims showing flat surface when the remainder of the hat has a nap.  The latter issue drives me crazy.  So, on this hat, Ola was shown how to turn the upturned brim of this hat into the same velour finish as the crown.

Mike, yes Mike, I threatened to tie his hands and gag him; he had lots of energy.  Anyway, Mike also wanted to make a hat for a friend; so, in the first session he made a fedora, see left image.  Although the block head size was true to his head size, there was a gap between the hat and the sides of his head.  So, I shared with Mike how he could get a custom fit in the same manner that hatters did using a conformature (a head sizing device invented in the 1800s, today costing several thousand dollars), except he could get the same results for little or no cost at all.  So, Mike went home and created his own custom hat block using some of my custom fit suggestion, including the instructions for making your own hat block from a post here on this blog.  He also made his own block spinner (block stand).  See image in upper mid-right.  In this image, Mike is beveling the brim edge.  Anyway, the final hat shape that Mike decided on is what he described as a "modified cattleman."

 Although it was not my intention to turn this into a hatting class, this is where all of the students wanted to go.  Hatting, the making of men hats, is extremely labor intensive. We stayed long hours working on these hats. All but Ola's hat, above, were blocked on an open crown block, a block having no definition.  All of the shaping was done by hand.  Hatting requires many more steps than a milliner would employ to make a fedora, but hatting is fun and exciting despite its labor intensity.

Below are a few more images. They are not in any particular order and there are many procedures missing. Enjoy!
Adding Band Block Before Ironing Brim
Bashing With the Open Crown Block
Ola Sporting a Hat I Made for Show-and-Tell
Singing the Fly-Away Fur
Polishing the Felt

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Upcomming Millinery Class for Men and Women Straw and Felt Hats

I just received an email that stated that I was only giving a hatting (men hat making) class, and to please inform "me" when a women hat making class was being given.  I don't know where this came from, but the upcoming class (August 27th and 3rd) is a straw and felt blocking class, women hats included. A gentleman attending my class is interested in making hats for men, and of course, I'm more than pleased to accommodate him because the fedora is my favorite hat.  We will be touching on the most important hatting techniques.  As a matter of fact, I use some hatting techniques when making my hats, especially felt hats.  If it's anything I hate is a dead unpolished felt hat.

Also, as I've mentioned to those inquiring about a class schedule, I do not have a schedule; I do not give regular classes; and I probably will never give regular classes.  As much as love millinery, there are many other things, including my furthered millinery learning, I have to explore before I leave this earth, if God is willing.  This class was scheduled because of the large number of people requesting a class.   Unfortunately, most of those have not responded, and I put off a trip out of state.  My family has aged and is passing away, and I would really love to move about without having other commitments holding me back.  So catch me when you can, or if there are those out there that would like some referrals, I would be more than glad to refer out.  This does not take anything away from me.

Back to This Class

For all of those that say "I know how to block straw and felt,"  well more goes into it than steaming material and pulling it over a hat block and tying it down--classic YouTube.  It includes a knowledge of how hat blocks work and how they are used, and how they are underutilized.  If you're new to millinery and many of the not so new, I know you think you already know all about that.  Well, the hat to your upper left looks nothing like the block it was blocked on, yet many will leave the hat just as it came off the block (although anything goes), because they just don't know any different.  I have a pretty common cap block, and when I see some others block on it, I often wonder why they've left the hat unfinished.  It's because they don't understand how to use the block.

Although I don't make hats entirely how I was taught, there are many critical techniques I will never abandon.   For example, I would never leave this type of brim (purple hat) unfinished and razor flat.  You may say, it is finished, and if you said that, chances are you were never taught how to finish a brim that doubles back under when taken from the hat block.  That's why this brim stands at attention and will always do so when finished correctly, because of the structure behind it.  The same goes for many small hats and the underlying structures that many milliners fail to incorporate into those finished hats today, especially those hats made on vintage blocks.

So how do you polish your felt hats, or how do you conceal your machine stitching when sewing felt hats by sewing machine or by hand to get that rich finish look, rather than that manufactured look. How do you finish your cut felt brims?  What do you remove from your felt hats after you block them to remove some of that dull look before polishing?  Unless you are using a European style hat block (having no rope lines, usually pinned underneath) rather than an American style block (having real estate for rope lines), you should understand why all of that pinning may not yield any better results than a single rope or two, thus saving your blocks from destruction.

Do you know what an open crown block is?  No it's not a hat block with a hole in the middle.  But many men use them to block their unshaped hats, only to put the details in by hand.  This is a great technique to incorporated into women hats for those of you that are so dependent on hat blocks and are frustrated because you feel that you have to purchase every block that comes along, but you don't have the budget to purchase them. 

Finally, if you look at your blocked felt or straw hats and they look like they have cellulite (they're not smooth after blocking), their brims are undulating and look like they are frozen in a 120-mile wind storm, you still have more to learn about felt and straw blocking.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Millinery (Hat Making) Class: Straw and Felt Blocking, Including Hatting (Men Hat Making) Techniques Taught

I know, I know, it's a crappy picture.  But I just didn't want to do a photo shoot this evening.  I needed an image to put up with this class reminder/announcement.  I know that I'm more likely to look at a picture rather than read a lot of text.  Anyway, I think this is a 1920s cloche block.  What do you think?  I see at least four styles, hat designs, in this one block, possibly more if I think more about it. It's a shame that most hat blocks were destroyed after every season to prevent copying.  Such beautiful things.  ...and if  a hat is created and put into the public domain, isn't it already out there?  I don't understand the reasoning,  Oh well abut the class and a few more details.

The Class, the Wonderful Class!

For those that are interested, I am offering a two-day, seven-hour straw and felt blocking class. The class will include blocking and finishing, sizing, polishing (fur felt), trimming, simple silk and leather flower making, etc.

Along side millinery instruction and as requested, I will be teaching hatting (the making of men hats) techniques, including valuable techniques that set men hats apart from women hats. The class will learn how to use open crown hat blocks (plain blocks, having no definition) and how to "bash (crease and telescope)" their hats by hand in order to achieve a number of popular men shapes (fedora, cowboy, pork pie) .

This is a two-day class, and it will be held July 27 and August 3, 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., in Southern California, South Bay area, Torrance, California. The cost of the class is $245.  One straw and one felt (wool or fur--by request) and trim are included in the cost of the class. Homework required.  This class is suitable for all levels.  I'm sure advance students will benefit because I use some hatting techniques when making my own hats, techniques that many milliners do not use..

Contact me at:  lduncan@hatstruck.com

#Hatstruck Couture Millinery, #Millinery Classes, #Hatting Classes, #Men Hat Making Classes

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Google Reader is Going Away! Plus, How I Practice Sewing Straw Braid

Follow My Blog With Bloglovin

Yes, the Google Reader is going away tomorrow, July 1; so if you enjoy reading my blog and use Google Reader for your blog feeds, please follow me on Bloglovin to continue receiving them. 

How I Practice Sewing Straw Braid

The image to your left gives you a glimpse into how I practice sewing straw braid.  Yes I practice, still I practice.  As a matter of fact, I practice (play) more than I actually produce anything.  I call it meditation.

So how does this meditative process start.  I start from scratch.  What I mean is that I screw up the tension (there are two), the presser foot adjustment, the position of the thread (small or large spools); type of thread, and just about everything else I can destroy.  The result, I always wonder why I would do such a thing.  But I learn so much.  A funny thing about learning is that we are always rewarded by the amount of effort we put into learning something.

Since braid is expensive, I make small hats.  I use a thread color that enables me to see and study the stitching.  You know what, sometimes I don't remember what I did to achieve a result, except for that time my finger wanted to incorporate itself into the design, OOOOOSH!  But not really forget because practice is imprinted on our brain, not another person's practice but our own individual practice and exploration. No matter how much public domain (free information) we come across, nothing will impact us more than our own efforts.

If you enlarge the image above, top left, it's easy to see the results of my play.  Notice the spacing of the braid.  What you may not see is the skipped stitches from over/under adjusting the tension and/or varying the pressure foot adjustments.  In the end, things always work out.

Oh, finally, how do you find techniques to practice, by observing others' work, especially the work you like.  If you can't do something, practice until you can.  But remember, when you design your own hat, design your own and don't copy another person's design.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Millinery Classes: Call for Serious Inquiries

Hi all, below is the message I left on my Facebook page concerning possible future classes in July and/or August.  Please only contact me if you know you will do this. I have a vast range of millinery skills that I have acquired over almost 30 years.  I do not enjoy giving "drive-by" classes in which a student walks away with the same skill level he/she walked in with--been there, done that.  You need feedback on your work giving over a period of time, especially beginners!  Location:  Torrance, California, Los Angeles County, good old sunny Southern California!

The hat to your left was constructed using a hand blocked parisisal straw hood and hand-sculptured sewn straw braid for the crown.  The brim was constructed of vintage four-inch straw braid, hand sewn (each row separate, not spiral), and wired and hand weaved where straw is joined at back. 

"I get many class inquiries through my email address and one ever once in a while on the Hatstruck Class site; many times these inquires are just that.  If you are serious about taking a class, I will consider giving one or more in July and/or August.  I don't have a regular schedule because I'm retired from my regular job, and I will never have a full-time job again, no matter how much I love it. 

In order to weed out those wanting to know how much it costs (too expensive I'm told), the cost will be between $180 and $245 (more for machine sewn straw, $575)--two, four hour days, preferably Saturday and Sunday, unless the class does not call for a break ($55 nonrefundable fee for cancellations within a week). 

I will consider doing semi-private couture classes, as my place is small, and I will not do drive-by couture classes for beginners; you will have to do the time--two hours each visit (same price) so that you will have a chance to bring your work back for critique.  I refuse to let you leave if your work looks worse than mine :)

So, if you are in Southern California or would like to travel to take a class, and you are serious, please let me know the class you are interested in taking and I will pool the class depending on what type of class the majority wants to take.  For me, because I do not have a studio, classes are expensive to pull off and I personally don't like hauling so many supplies around
[but I will for these group classes if there are enough students], only send an email or message me if you are doing so to commit to a class.  Thanks"

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Coming Soon, Blog Update: How to Make Leather Millinery Flowers Without Heat or Traditional Flower Making Tools!

Hint!  Can't wait?  It's not that much different from how I made this flower.  Except this one is much easier and faster.  Try it, experiment and report back. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Some Hatters Tools You Should Welcome Into Your Couture Millinery Workroom

Hatters, those specializing in making men hats, have the most wonderful tools you would ever want to play with in your couture millinery workroom.  Over the years, I have passionately studied hatting.  As I've mentioned before, the fedora is my favorite hat.  I'm sure it's because of my grandfather.  I've seen where some have written that there are approximately 92 processes that go into making men hats.  I'm not writing about those making men hats in the same manner women hats are made.  I'm sure that these 92 processes probably start with the collection and processing of the wool or fur.   Anyway, to your left, are a few of the tools I have collected over the years.  With the exception of the wooden foot tolliker,  these tools range from vintage to antique, and they really have the potential to make your job easier in the workroom.  Following are short explanations describing what I use these tools for.

Hat Sizer:  Used for measuring the inside head size after a hat has been completed.  Remember that everything that we add to the inside of a hat (head size ribbon, lining, or brim lip under crown if they have been blocked separately) diminishes the head size opening.  Therefore a slight stretching may be needed if these things have not been taken into consideration before blocking the hat.

Brass Band Block:  Used to hold material inside the flange (brim block having a center head size opening) opening.  Please view the video at the end of this post to see how the brass band block is used.

Rounding Jack: Used to cut the brim a uniform distance from the crown.  Here is a demonstration showing how to use the rounding jack.

Shackle:  Used to curl the brim.  Here is a demonstration showing how to use a wooden shackle.  A demonstration showing how to use the metal shackle is shown here.

Foot Tolliker:  Used to set a 90 degree angle from the crown to the brim.  When I learned felt and straw blocking, it was required that the crown and brim be blocked separately, and that the crown or brim head size be wired.  This ensured that there would be a 90 degree angle.  However, today many of us block our hats in one piece, and if the hat is not blocked correctly, it will droop from the head size (when not in the design).  I use the wood tolliker on straw and the iron tolliker on felt.  Another way I use the the foot tolliker is to reduce the head size of a hat after it has been blocked.  View this video for a demonstration on using the wooden tolliker.

Pot Belly Polishing Iron:  I'm not sure if this is the correct name for this iron.  I know that it is a polishing iron, and I call it a pot belly iron because the underside of the iron is curved.  This is not a hatter's iron.   I actually saw it in a vintage millinery book.  I don't even know how milliners used the iron.  However, I use the iron to curve brims without the use of brim blocks, as well as to iron dents and creases into hats, especially fedoras.

Below is a YouTube video that I fell in love with because I learned a new technique.  I can bash an open crown (a man's hat crown having no dents/creases) as well as any man or woman, I'm  proud to say.  As a matter of fact I prefer hand bashed crowns on men.  What I liked about this video is how the hatter blocked the crown on an open crown block, then put it on a pre-shaped fedora block having built in bash and telescope, and finally using the tolliker to set the telescope at the tip (top) of the crown.  Just another way of doing it, although the end results is still a pre-shaped hat.  Anyway, enjoy the video.  Oh, if you are familiar with hatting or blocking in general or the difference between hat bodies and hoods, you may notice a few interesting things in or not in this video.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Myesha Collins, Grand Prize Winner
On Sunday, April 7, I attended Target Sundays at the California African American Museum (CAAM).  This Sunday featured Hattitude! CAAM's annual hat showcase and hat competition. Every year I would hear my millinery classmates talking about the event in class, and every year I had promised that I would attend it.  Well, this year I made it.  Although I missed some of the events, I arrived in time to enjoy the wonderful singing performances and a fabulous fashion show.  Mrs. Essie Edwards and her daughter Catiana accompanied me to the event.  I love, love being in the company of good people.  Thanks you guys.  Last came the hat competition! 

Before we arrived to the event, some of the attendees had created their own whimsical hats on site, and some of those creations were entered into the fashion show.  Competition categories included children, men, and women hats.  Some of the contestants modeled their purchased hats, some modeled hats that they had made at the event, and some modeled their own custom made designs.  Each category had a first place winner; there were no second place winners.  Of those winners, there was a grand prize winner, Myesha Collins.  CONGRATULATIONS MYESHA!  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take pictures of all of the contestants and their hats because I was standing in line waiting to model my hat; plus my little toes were cursing me for wearing heels.  There was so much excitement in line until I think most of us probably didn't think about taking pictures.  I took Myesha's picture only after the competition had ended.

The first place winner was none other than yours truly!  Yes, I was the first place winner in the women's category.  I didn't even think I would place because of the large number of church hats that were in the competition.  One of the judges told me that it was the uniqueness of my hat--the spider, etc.  It was unbelievable the number of inquiries that Mrs. Edwards and I received concerning our hats.  Apparently many people still want custom made couture hats and millinery classes.  Sorry, I don't do custom hats for others, and I've been a bit slow with the classes, but they're coming.          As always, click on the images to enlarge them.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Classic Millinery Techniques: My Love Affair With Buckram Covered Hats

Well I'm back. Wow! doesn't time really pass fast.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and I hope the new year started out  as you ordered.  As for me all is well.  So what have I been doing?  Not much.  I made a crown wedding hat and veil for one of my friend's, friend's African style wedding, and I helped with making the broom.  I attended and participated in a couple of fashion shows.  I also converted one of my portable electric straw braid machines to a treadle.  I'm sewing straw braid again and loving it.  I hang out with Ms. E', my granddaughter, and I'm still amazed at her every move.  Oh, I picked up a new obsession--hula hooping!  Well, I'm still learning.   Check out my hoops at the bottom of the page, two of which I made--you go girl!

Vintage Sewn Braid and Crochet Rope
So, lets talk about the subject at hand couture millinery and foundation materials.  I must warn you that I've been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks.  I have been totally distracted.  Forgive the rambling; I hope you get a little encouragement and knowledge from it.  Also, I have to note that these are my experiences with couture millinery and how I prefer to makes my hats.  How others make theirs is totally up to them. 

We probably have our individual definitions of couture millinery.  When I think of it, and as I was taught starting out, I think hand made--hand sewn, not being glue gunned or mass produced, and the outer covering of the hat being support by a foundation material.  As a matter of fact my instructors referred to this  type of millinery as French room couture millinery.  In earlier days, these types of hats were referred to as piece good hats.  Well, what about felt and straw hats?  You figure that one out for yourself; certainly some, including this milliner, hand sews all of her hats.

Buckram is  my favorite foundation material for making covered hats.  We always like what we are most familiar with.  It is economical, costing approximately $8 per 60-inch-wide, square yard for regular ply.  That translates into quite a few hat frames.  Throw in a small piece of high quality cover fabric, not including a few other things, and you have yourself a very expensive couture hat for a minimal cost. 

 I guess at this point I still use buckram out of habit, but mostly because of it's flexibility.  I could use a more modern foundation material, one being Fosshape.  I talked about this material in a post on copying a hat block, so I will not discuss it here, except to mention that when using it as a foundation frame, it is not necessary to mull (pad) the frame to cover frame imperfections, because its texture takes care of this step.

When possible, I try to give you the names of a material as used here in the States, as well as outside of the States.  The differences can be quite confusing, at least to me. In some parts of the world buckram is referred to as 20/20.

My first experience with buckram was the same as shown in Stephen Jones's YouTube video, Millinery in Action: making a hat in the Stephen Jones workroom.  In Mrs. Eloise King's classroom, we could only use steam to block our buckram into frames.  Of course I don't steam buckram any longer because I figured out how to block it without loosing any sizing (stiffener).  Yes, a fast dip into water and/or spraying with additional water if needed, kneading it in the hands, and finally blocking it on a hat block will yield the same results as steaming--a firm stiff foundation.  Both methods are great; there is no wrong or right way to getting the job done.

If you look closely at my spider hat to the left you may notice something a little different, the softness of the folds in the hat.  It is this flexibility that I love in buckram, the ability to create any shape, molded or flat patterned.  Depending on how complex the hat's shape, you can lay the buckram in strips to eliminate gathers or block it in one or two (or more) sections.  What I'm saying is, don't limit yourself to one blocking method when using buckram.  You can combine it with straw or fabric to create another fabric, and to an extent, you can control its resilience, flexibility, and stiffness.  Like everything in life, you are only limited by your imagination.  I will use buckram right off the role or treat it with other solutions, depending the size and type of hat I'm making.

OK, let's discuss a few vintage millinery materials, more specifically willow, referred to as esparterie in some circles; flexible buckram (lightly sized--stiffened);  and buckram (heavily sized) is still around, of course.  The willow/esparterie was used to create hat frames and shapes in the hand, make hat blocks, and as extensions on felt, straws, and buckram frames.  Flexible buckram was used as extensions over buckram frames and frame edges.  When we purchased frames with flexible buckram attached, we would have to remove the bubble-like extension, cover it with a bias strip of fabric, and sew it back onto the covered frame perfectly.  If was not put on perfectly, we had to remove and reapply it.  See the two uncovered frames below left.  These frame images were obtained from a vintage millinery supply book.  Covering the frames was a true art form because flexible buckram was extremely stretchy.  

So why am I mentioning this to you?  Because if couture millinery is your passion, as it is mine, you have learned to work around the fact that many millinery materials are not being made today, or you may not have access to them depending on where you live in the world, or you may not even know that they existed.  If you have been making couture hats for a short time, chances are you will not miss these materials, but it would be worth your while to study them and to learn exactly what they contributed to this wonderful craft.  For example, since I've worked with flexible buckram, it is easy for me to simulate it using different materials just by knowing the properties of the substituted material--flexibility, stiffness, type of stiffener needed in order to achieve my desired results, etc. 

Above right is a large hat I made for a fashion show some time ago.  One of my former millinery classmates called me to tell me that the Haute Couture Hattitude Tea, held at the California African American Museum every year, would be held on Sunday--three days away! Well, at least I thought she said the tea would be in three days (that was a couple of weeks ago--it's actually on April 7th).  I thought to myself, I need a hat!   It takes me forever to design a hat--the hardest part of hat making--and I was not going to be stressed (remember I thought the tea was in 3 days).  So I put on my thinking cap and ...YES! I would do a quick remake on my large bowl hat; I was not very fun of it anyway.

As always, when I need a hat for a fashion show or whatever, I have to rush and make something up, never mind that I have a ton of hat boxes filled with hats.  I also needed a dress because I always need something to wear being that I only buy dressy clothes when I have to. You will not find tons of shoes and clothes in my closet--hat blocks, sewing machines, etc., yes.  I will live my senior years as comfortable as possible, heels off, the whole thing.  So for my original hat, I ran down to Ross Dress for Less and purchased two dresses from the "clearance rack," costing me a whopping $7 each.  No! I didn't forget a zero or two; SEVEN DOLLARS each is correct--two of the same dresses in different sizes.  No, I didn't plan to purchase two dresses, but when I saw them on the rack,  I thought I would wear one in the fashion show, and the other I would use to cover the hat I would be wearing.  Those dresses had been on that clearance rack since 1980, balloon sleeves and all.  Tuesdays are 10% off for seniors at the store.  The original hat also contained the sterling silver spider nested atop stiff vintage veiling.  Anyway, the outfit was a hit!  Vintage is the thing....

When I blocked my bowl hat I treated the buckram with a different solution than my regular hard buckram, water only solution.  I would need a flexible but resilient frame to accommodate my over-sized hat.  With a hat that large, the shape had to rebound if picked up in the wrong manner--usually on its edge,  punched in, or stumped on by a toddler, at least within reason.  Because I had  treated the buckram, I was able to shape my restyled tea hat in the hand as I would shape a free form straw or felt hat because the material was so flexible.  Had I not treated the buckram in a different manner than I would have treated a smaller hat, I would not have been able to create the free from buckram hat below.  While forming the folds in the hat, I had to reposition them to obtain the result I had envisioned.

So, make your hat foundation based on the type of material you are using, the size of hat you're making, how the hat is to be used, the mood you're in (have to make a hat but don't want to), etc.  I have many millinery books.  Most of which I've never read.  When I open a millinery book, I start at the last page and work my way back to the front.  I'm not concerned with how someone else creates a hat, I'm more concerned with how I will make that hat.  How can I learn if I always mimic someone else.  However, there are certain things you will need to know, certain rules and principles of the craft; rules can be broken.  It would not be practical to try to learn couture millinery (speaking in terms of the beginning self learner) without understanding the importance of fabric bias, hand sewing, properties specific to individual materials, and yes there are other things you should know; that's where study and experimentation comes in.  Contradictory?  Not really; I guess what I'm saying is you need to know certain skills before you can even start at the back of the book.

I study other milliners' work, but not because I want to make a hat in the same manner as that milliner, but to achieve a similar outcome based on my research and experimentation, taking into account the properties of the materials I'm working with.  My concern is not how they achieved something because that prevent me from moving forward.  You see this all the time, learners asking how to achieve a task rather than trying to achieve it on their own.  Why?  Because many think that there is only one way to achieve something.  Well, there are many ways; various materials have different properties and different properties require different solutions.  You will not find everything in a book but you can learn a lot just by experimenting and adding to that newly acquired book knowledge.  The results of that experimentation is burned into your psyche.  Just think, if I had not been experimenting with various solutions on my buckram, I would have never learned how to make flexible, resilient buckram.  So you stumble upon things when you are trying to achieve other things.  I know I'm rambling, but I hope you get the idea.  ...and if you think all of those YouTube videos, etc., are telling the whole story, you had better think twice.  But what they give you is a good foundation to take what you are trying to learn to another level.  You see, very few people are willing to put in the extra effort. Stop thinking that you have to do something exactly ow someone else has done it.

Understand that when I give you millinery advice, it is from almost 30 years of experience and continued learning.  I reiterate, it is not good enough to do something a certain way just because someone teaches you a certain way or you read something in a book.  You have to go beyond what you are given.  Another things, my knowledge is limited to my domain.  For example, there are materials whose descriptions sound similar to what I mentioned have been discontinued or no longer exist.  I know that willow/esparterie is being made again (although not of the same quality) and some milliners never stopped using  it from old stock.  So I advise you to do your own research.  Always, do your own research, and if you run into a barrier, go around it.

All of us learn in different ways; explore how you learn and exploit it. I was lucky enough to start out with great couture millinery instructors.  I would advise you to do the same.  If you are unable to do so, learn to critique your own work, otherwise you will never improve.  Your learning is your responsibility.  I still study millinery by studying vintage millinery.  This is why I mostly pin vintage hats on one of my Pinterest boards.  I do this because these hats are more diverse in styling and they require, in some cases, more millinery expertise to complete.  Once you really learn millinery and understand that there are many ways to achieve a task, you will be able to create any couture hat using any type of material regardless of whether you have ever used it before.  I'm not that great at identifying some fabrics, so the first thing I ask my fabric store manager is (I've known her for a couple of decades), "Is this fabric made from natural fibers?"  If not, I ask how much synthetic fiber does it contain, etc.  This does not mean that I will not be able to use the material, it means that I know what I need to use on the material to achieve the task I want to achieve.  And what about straw and felt?  The same applies.  Good luck and happy learning!  Oh, in case you got lost on this long journey, so did I.

Who needs a treadmill when they could have a hula hoop?  Stand at attention treadmill and hold my hoops!