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.