I haven't been posting as much lately, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to do so, taking advantage of resent events and the images that I took for those, one being the Mad Hatters competition. The winners were announced yesterday, for which I was not one of them. Another event was a Facebook fashion show I participated in. Finally I want to discuss using alternative materials for making hats, and saving a few dollars while doing so.
I didn't place in the Mad Hatters competition but I did get an honorable mention. Considering that there were probably over a hundred entries and so many great entries, I thought the mention, for "The Copper Lady," was quite impressive. I also want to point out that many of the entries that didn't win or receive a mention were also awesome. Actually I had my eyes on the Second Prize--a ton of sinamay; oh well next time. The judge for the competition was actually one of our local Los Angeles milliners, the internationally known Arturo Rios. Thanks for a fabulous contest Mad Hatters organizers and thanks to a great judge.
My next hat entry was for a Facebook fashion show, Men in Hats, a group dedicated to, none other than, men waring hats. The group's founder, Ron Shelton, is also the owner of Res Hats. I have to admit that my show entry was a bit tamed compared to Ron's and others' hats. I'll have to practice on creating a more dapper hat next time. So this leads me to the final purpose of this post, using alternative millinery materials.
Over the years I've collect so much stuff. I'll call it stuff because it no longer has a purpose. My tastes have changed, and styles have changed but I still hold onto the same dull fabrics and trims that I purchased years ago. What makes it so bad is that I keep adding to them. Anyway, I thought I would pull out some of that old stuff and make a hat from it. In this case it was burlap yardage. If you were country raised and had hogs and other animals, you'd probably remember it as feed sack material that animal food came in, also referred to as croker sack. You will also recognize it as the same material that jute hat bodies and hoods are made of. So actually this material is not new to millinery. Yes, croker sack, burlap, and jute are all one in the same.
I created my hat for the fashion show from jute and pigskin leather; the bill, a retractable bill (don't ask me why I made it retractable), was covered with fine pigskin leather. The cost for the entire hat probably cost under $8.00 because I purchase my fabrics from a discount store closer to my home than the downtown Los Angeles garment district. Had I purchased it in the district, it would have cost less. I wanted to point this out because I constantly hear how expensive millinery is. It doesn't have to be. The fine pigskin leather and the beautiful silk satin I used to make the flower in my previous post both came from my favorite discount fabric store; no compromise in quality, because the store chain actually purchases stock from businesses that over purchase and/or have gone out of business. I purchased the fabric to make a utility purse; no, I never made it. If I had purchased it for a hat, I would have purchased it in a finer more attractive quality. I also purchased the feathers from the same store.
So how did I make this hat? I sized the fabric in water diluted fabric stiffener. I love Stiffy because it does not turn yellow. Experiment with your own stiffener (white glue, etc.). For those of you that crochet and stiffen doilies, you will have no problem sizing (stiffening) this fabric because there are tons of recipes out there for that purpose. Finally, after the fabric had dried on the block, I sprayed it with spray on shellac. This gave the hat a slight shine, and it also softened it a little, giving it the right amount of flexibility. You could also use a spray-on lacquer. These spray on products serve to protect the hat from the elements and to maintain its firmness. Usually when I use something from a craft or hardware store and I'm spraying a light color fabric (fabric yardage, felt, and straw), I look for a non-yellowing product.
You will notice in the above paragraph that you did not need to purchase anything from a millinery supply. This is for those that only have access to a fabric store or a community store that sells a variety of things. By no means I'm I suggesting that you not purchase from a millinery supply. What I'm saying is, if you don't have access to certain supplies, use what you have access to. Learn French room couture millinery techniques and make "piece good hats" from fabrics you may already have on hand--a leather skirt, some linen fabric, sheer fabrics, cottons, wools, etc.). In another post, one day, I'll write about creating your own foundation materials. In the meantime, as I mentioned, there are plenty of resources out there if you will only do the research. Please, please, don't try something one time and say that it does not work!
In my last hat class as I went on and on about fur felt and my likes and dislikes, one of the students asked, what if you just want to have a regular hat to kick around in, to paraphrase, for which my lips were glued together. However, it caused me to stop and think, why put a ton of money into an everyday hat that you throw around, and this hat is the answer, at least the materials used and how it was sourced.
Again, use what you have on hand and stop thinking about what you don't have. Either carve yourself a hat block. It's easy to learn, or collect wooden bowls, etc., to block on. We don't live in a perfect world and wanting everything to be so will only hold us back. So, if you don't have access to millinery classes, then do the next best thing. Take advantage of the many resources that you do have access to, including millinery books, many of which are free online books; online millinery tutorials, and use observation. Observation is so important; I have learned so many things through observation. Also, learn basic millinery concepts; one very important one used in couture millinery is bias and how it's used.
Finally, as I have written so many times, stop agonizing over how someone else does something, and step out there and think for yourself. Experiment and write your own book, sort of speak, just as the person did that you refer to as an expert. When you hear someone talk about sound millinery practices, step back and observe them and ask why they are so bent on you not using alternative materials and methods.
Good luck on your millinery journey.