Disappointment, New Blocks, 21C and little hands

The hat courses didn’t occur and a few days before travelling, they were cancelled due to lack of interest. Now the Tiara and bead workshop I could accept, but crin is whole different matter. We had been asked to make many preparations before attending, which were now pretty much useless. Undeterred I scoured Youtube for some help and found that a soldering iron and sprung wire are vital components. Armed with both I managed to create a 40’s inspired summer race hat. Crin is fiddly for me but has endless possibilities for creativity and I haven’t been put off. Two new hat blocks arrived form Guy Morse Brown, 40’s/50’s inspired caplet crowns and have proved quite fiddly to work with but the results will be great. I decided to book some spaces at the Great London Hat week to sell my hats, under the label ‘Minivers 21C’ using modern fabrics but still with a nod to a lesser vintage style . I’m on the fourth hat with 6 more to do for Spring. After the Autumn of Crin I took a well earned rest over the December period. My son and now family had moved in temporarily, relocating from Slough back down to Somerset to raise their family and begin their new careers and life. Whilst waiting for houses to exchange etc I have had the added bonus of getting to know my little grand-daughter properly. They are here for 8 weeks and now that she is crawling, we have been scouring floors for pins, and all millinery danger for little exploring hands. I shall also be having the privilege of watching her twice a week until she starts school. Game on!

Changes afoot, Tiaras and Crin

I am finally back from Sherringham 1940’s weekend and what a lovely weekend it was. The sun was out for most of the time and no coats were required. All the traders could safely relax knowing that their wares weren’t going to be blown about or lost overnight to dampness and rain. However there seems to be changes afoot on a few fronts and traders were noticing that show attendees were quite different this year. Not as many true re-enactors in evidence and a lot more people dressing just for the day. All trading was down on last year and though footfall was high, it didn’t show in sales all round, even the town traders and shops were commenting. What has happened? Often due to becoming very popular things start to change, crowd control and safety becomes a problem, new commercial managers arrive with new ideas that are not always in the best interest. A platform ticket which is usually £2 per person to look at the trading stands etc was raised to £5 per person, which becomes pricey for a family, so many were refusing to pay. A large naafi and beer tent was erected at Holt station trading field which had a knock on effect of slightly drunken customers tripping and knocking over stands and displays, with glasses of wine in hand. The music was however excellent coming from a big stage with a good sized ‘40’s style band and singers, which was great as we could here them from our tent. On the whole it was a good weekend and we met lovely customers and traders as usual. Thanks to all who visited me with their previous hats (still looking good) and those that purchased this year. We hope to see you next year! As always I look forward to the Autumn as I start to look ahead to forming a new skill set, this year I am focusing on tiara work and crinoline and I am off to London in November to a milliner who specialises in both for some intensive training.l

Packing for Sherringham and reflections

As I sit here blogging away, my wonderful partner in life, Tim is busily packing up the van and caravan with boxes of hats, tent poles and awnings, boxes full of other additional goodies and clothes. It is always an exciting time, preparing for this weekend which has taken all year to achieve. Going back to Sherringham will be tinged with much sadness that mum isn’t with me to see her skills passed on in the form of hats awaiting new heads! However this year I have my little granddaughter six months old attending with her parents for the weekend. Along with my other son and his girlfriend. All getting to the 40’s spirit. My little granddaughter will be in a lovely 40’s style dress with a matching bonnet. So even though it will be a sad time in some respects, life moves forward, the passage of time eases the hurt and joy is found in new growing life. One year on from losing mum and as the heat of the summer fades, a softer lighter autumn creeps forward washing away the difficult past year and opening up new possibilities for the year ahead.

Season 2018 ending closing in

Today it is 8th August and the weather is cooler Hallelujah!! I have spent the day finishing off projects, tidying up and now and finishing up the website with new hats uploaded and getting ready to label and itemise the completed hats for this September. I have been fortunate this year to have quite a few commissions from ladies who have been getting prepared in advance for the re-enactment season. They have been fantastic customers and I appreciate every single one of them. Even though I had never intended to sell from the site, I have found that now,I have had to change direction in that area. Purchases can now be directly completed via the website, if you wish to have a customised hat, a phone call or email is all it takes.  The beauty of customising is that you get exactly what you want in the colour with the motifs and detailing that makes the hat unique to the customer.  I have enjoyed the creative process this year more than ever and each hat is made with resulting attachment to it. I am really looking forward to the show in September as some of my customers will be attending with their hats, it is when I can finally see my creations take their rightful place on the heads of some very well turned out ladies and gents. 

Hats on the set of 'His Dark Materials'

If you are a parent, reading this blog with children in their 20's - 30's plus, hopefully you are settled and rested knowing that your offspring are safe from harm, feel purposeful and are well renumerated, have a roof over their head, food on the table and love in their life. However if you think back to when their happiness depended on yourself you probably couldn't have predicted the type of job they would end up doing. I can remember gazing at my eldest son, now 31, and wondering where his life would take him. Well I can tell you. He is the Director of Photography for many of the 'feature' commercials on TV, has been the cinematographer for a few of the films on Netflix and is currently working with the Director Tom Hooper (Les Mis) in Cardif. I was graciously invited on set (my son is rarely in the country working anymore) to see what happens when a BBC TV series is in the making. Well it certainly isn't a place for anyone over 40! and not someone who needs to stay quiet for long periods but I can assure you that your licence fee this year is well spent! However interesting it was I am not star struck and was quite bored as there are many long periods of time spent in the dark, doing nothing, with no speaking allowed etc and so on these ocassions I took myself off to the rest of the sets and departments and had chat with the others involved in film-making.. One department I was intent on visiting was the costume department where there are racks upon racks of HATS!! What a treat the head honcho was very interested to meet a milliner and infact let me try on some of the hats. Some were original and very moth eaten (something you don't see on close up) held together struturally by safetypins and tape! and others were very good reproductions. The costume department was a hive of creativity and patching up. A lot of the hats and clothing are created in quite short timeframes as often actors are not signed up till last minute and fittings are done under the same duress. There is quite a lot of pressure so clothing needs to be either cobbled together quickly for visual impact but lacks robustness or very well constructed if fitted and well worn in the film/series. An important partnership is the hairdresser and milliner. Often spending a great deal of time together pre-production, making sure that the hats will suit the hairstyles and the face of the actors and actresses. If I was 20 years younger it would have been a dream job however the pressure of deadlines often leaves the costumiers and milliners quite stressed so it is rightly a young persons environment for which I am quiet content to leave alone.

Time is pressing

We are now in the middle to latter part of July 2018 and it seems such a long time ago but also a spit in the eye of time since this time last year, little did I know that mum had a short time left and I would be without her quizzical eye over millinery makings. I like to think that as time is now pressing on towards the annual relief of hats made this year and as Sherringham approaches she would be content at 50 plus hats. I still have 8 more to do which is just about acheivable and will hopefully have me return with just a handful.  I love making these hats. Each and every one is constructed with mindfulness attention.  They are not everyone's cup of tea and indeed they are certainly not fashionable today but I like to think that within the re-enactment community they bring joy and a feeling of having 'finished' off the outfit. Infact the speed at which they rush of the train and pile into the tent, often knocking over hat stands is well worth the time reorganising the display. After spending a great deal of time 'trying on' the various shapes and colours with their outfits many also opt for a change in hairstyle to match the hat.  Some of these re-enactors will only use exact replica hats, as originals are either too expensive, in poor condition or are too delicate to be worn and this is where the wonderful Owen at Guy Morse Brown hat blocks fills the gap. I pretty much give him a picture or a battered original and he will produce a hat block to match the style. One re-enactor who visits every year for a new hat will only have a stitched hat and will have no glue whatsoever and bemoans the use of it which on hot days softens, seeing flowers, feathers and buttons etc come away from the hat and tumble to the floor.  For the serious and all season re-enactor having a wide range of hats to choose from is vital for variety of outfits to be seen in. Re-enactment weekends are held pretty much most weekends from March to October ending with the Goodwood Revival and to be seen in the same outfit and hat time and again needs minimising so I am told. So today I have just uploaded 4 more hats completed and will be pressing on with a few more next week when my fingers will be getting ready for some well earned rest.

Ancestry notes

If you are taking the time to read this blog today then I hope that it will entertain you somewhat.  I hail from a small market town in Lancashire called Ormskirk but spent most of my time with my farming family in Halsall a small village where everyone was married or related to each other. My grandmother had oodles of family, brothers, sisters aunts and uncles etc. One of these Aunts I have just discovered was a professional milliner. She owned a smart fur and millinery shop on Lord Street, Southport in from the 20's - 60's, and I do distantly remember this shop, going to see 'Auntie Florence' on the occassional Saturday with my grandmother who would catch up on local goings on and gossip, while I lost time trying on the furs and hats, with Flo patiently directing me to the different styles of hats and setting them just right on my little head. It must have been close to her finishing her time as a milliner as it was the late 60's, I was about 7 or 8 and she was into her 60's at this point.  So ...... I wonder if the souls beyond this living world do influence our paths, setting in motion events and ideas that will change our lives. Maybe they are our second thoughts, our restraint our courage or timidity. Perhaps they nudge us towards or prevent us from taking paths that will be unproductive or damaging to us, that is, if we are not to learn from that experience. Whether you believe or not i like to think that I was always intended to make hats at some point but the right opportunity and time needed to do it was just waiting to present itself.

Little ones in hats

Precisely 7 weeks ago I became a Maime (grandmother) for the first time. A new life has entered our family and she is called Polly. As soon as I knew she was on her way into this world August last year, I began fashioning a hat for her. The first was a crocheted cream skull cap for her to wear and more recently a floppy bobble hat with a pom pom in fairisle knit. Again even as babies humans look lovely in a hat!! The new family plus my other two boys and their girlfriends of many years are set to attend the Sherringham 40's weekend and they are already talking about their outfits and of course hatwear to wear.  Polly is to wear a typical 40's soft style bonnet but not 'too fussy' says her mum!

Having a baby in the family has helped enormously to manage grief which I have to say has hit me like a ton weight this time round, with my dad 16 years ago it seemed less invasive, but losing mum has been debilitating on many fronts, however 7 months on I feel as bit lighter, the dark days are easing and have found my hat mojo again. Mum would have loved little Polly but she would have said the old make way for the new, which is exactly what has happened. 

Current hats are coming along but as of today we have had a Bank Holiday record heatwave, in fact in my car yesterday the outside temp was 28 degrees..... cant begin to tell you what temp it must have been in the shed and it was not a pleasant time stitching in that heat, but hats have been completed and are now up on the web. It's cooling off over the next week so shed heat shock will be much reduced.

 

A year later and musings on hat and style and how mum rubbed off.

When people ask me what I do, I have to remember that I am no longer a talking therapist of  20 years duration. I have to remember to say that I am a milliner, however I don't feel like one, even though I spend most of my time, designing, copying and making replica hats of the 1940's. When people ask my why 1940's? with puzzled looks on their faces.  I find myself musing and trying to find ways of expressing just what it is that draws me to this era. Over the last year I have learnt a lot about hats, ladies and style and they doesn't always go well together. However, I get immense joy when a woman comes to me and says 'I hate wearing hats they don't suit me and look awful'. To find that 15 mins later she is beaming from ear to ear and everyone is gushing as to how beautiful she looks in a hat. Well I have to say that it's not the fault of the women, it's the fault of the designers of mass produced hats and hat bodies. Most modern hats are dreadful! they don't suit many including myself and I have what is considered a 'hat' face. Vee Powell, who wrote 'How to make and Trim your own hats', a cherished book of my mothers, offers insight into how and why hats should be worn. Most women nowadays when they are to attend an event, find the outfit and then stress over the thought of  'now I have to find a hat'. A choice they are woefully inexperienced in making and so often end up making a mistake. They are understandably fazed when faced with this hurdle and end up plonking some hastily put together sinamay/crin ribbon thing with some feathers on their head with a metal head band and pay upwards of £40 from a high street chain store. They are even prepared to pay in the hundreds from designers who have bought in a basic hat form and 'bespoke designed' it for them, which amounts to putting on flower, feathers ribbon of the clients choice.  There is a milliner not far from here who does just that! Some milliners will design from scratch beautiful bespoke hats or fascinators that would flatter and enable the client to stand out as unique for the same price or a bit more. There is nothing more disappointing than seeing a lovely outfit, ruined by a dreadful fascinator plonked on top of usually un-styled hair. When clients come to me, I ask them to style their hair as they would want to on the day. I was also trained as a hair dresser and sometimes I will restyle when they visit as very often the style of hat they choose is not flattering to their overall look as it does not 'finish' it off as a hat should. The hair, outfit or the hat dominates and the balance is lost. A hat can be too big and swamp the look, or it can be too small and be unnoticeable. The height, width and even density of fabric can also have a huge effect on the final outcome. Even a different hair style with the hat can make all the difference to the look of the outfit being complete. Immediately they stand out. 1940's hats were so varied in their styling that there was always a hat that would suit. Nowadays with 'fashion' hats, there is invariably only two or three different options to styling, which leaves the customer with very little to chose from. These observations and attention to detail was a legacy from mum. Mum could tell as soon as someone arrived which hat style would suit a certain face shape, complexion and colouring and she would gently steer clients towards hats that would flatter. One of the greatest compliments I have received was last year. I was taking a well earned break at a festival and I was standing in the queue for food. I noticed two women who were wearing my hats from the previous year, another women approached and complimented their outfits and hats, 'I bet that's a Miniver's Vintage' she ventured, 'you can always tell'. Job done mum.

The Opening Party London Hat Week 2018

Well I went and I stayed and I am now back home. A bitter sweet time as tears threatened to well on numerous occasions as I reflected on this time last year when the consequences of mum's prognosis were just hitting home. Little did I know that her enthusiastic nod and smile would have me now proudly but sadly viewing my hat 'Hannah II' sitting in the front row amongst the 'blue' hues one year later.  This was the opening party, exclusively for those who had been fortunate enough to be selected, to attend a private viewing with one guest. Never mind the hats, the outfits and hats that people were wearing to attend were also worth a view. The hats on show were from over 30 countries, made in all manner of colours and materials. I had a wonderful conversation with a milliner who had woven wool and covered garden twine in an attempt to create a rams head, very impressive. Some had used heat activated plastics in all manner of designs and shapes and one hat was entirely made out of bits of coral. Some of the hats were from the students of the school of Central St Martins and you could see their flair for design shining out. My hat, on the other-hand stood out like a sore thumb, its simplicity was somewhat unique as it nestled front row next to the imaginative creations that surrounded it. Mum would have probably scoffed at some and conversely been in awe at others, quite what she would have made of the cardboard cut out soup label stuck on a wire alice band is anybody's guess but her comments certainly wouldn't have been printable.   

 

London Hat Week here we come

Way back in September, just two weeks after my mum passed away, my lovely husband and I were travelling back to her home town, Sherringham, not only to attend her funeral but also to spend a weekend at the glorious Sherringham 40's steam railway weekend. On our journey I received an email inviting me to submit a hat for The Great Hat Exhibition to be held during London Hat week in March. Now for those of  you unfamiliar with exhibiting things (which I was and to some extent still am), being invited to submit is not a guarantee for selection, however on Friday 15th I was sent an email with confirmation that I had been selected along with many others. Now for little old me who has only been 'hatting' in seriousness since May this is obviously a huge deal for me. Mum would have been so excited and it would have been wonderful to have taken her as my guest for the private viewing day. London Hat week is in its 4th year and features a whole week of everything hat related, which includes pop up shops around London featuring millinery of many varieties, workshops and demonstrations by renowned milliners, fashion shows for millinery and of course the Great Hat Exhibition, featuring home grown and world wide millinery. It will be wonderful week for hat enthusiasts of all genres. So if you are reading this and can make the week of March 22-28 then I would encourage you to go and check it out.  I am also entering a hat competition in March so fingers crossed.

Silk and Wooden heaven

Well it is now nearing the end of November 2017 and only ten months to go before the Sherringham 40's weekend again (it seems to come round so quick). This time last year mum was bemoaning that her fingers were getting too stiff to carry on with her millinery, little did we know that it wasn't her fingers that were to stop all of that. I miss her every single day and it doesn't seem like 10 weeks ago that she left us. Owen at Guy Morse-Brown emailed to say that the new hat blocks were ready and did I wish them to be posted or would I go and collect them. Now collecting them is fraught with danger for me as it places me in the direct view of all his new ideas, new crowns, blocks and little millinery 'must haves' which sit there as I enter his workshop and threaten to play havoc with my bank balance. However I was very well behaved! I collected what I had ordered but I also took down some ideas for next year and I did not succumb any further than that. I have just finished blocking on one of my new hat blocks and it has come out beautifully, he did a great job just from a photo.

Now there comes a time in a milliners life when you just have to learn a few new tricks. Today they call it upskilling. Some years ago I was given as a free gift, a lovely set of millinery flower tools but obviously didn't have the first clue as to how to use them. So there they sat month after month and year after year gathering dust in the workshop but then BAM! an email wings its way through my inbox from the lovely Anni Stafford-Townsend in Bristol offering a silk flower making day. I duly enrolled and had Anni showing me how to stiffen, cut, soften, paint, wire and most importantly of all, use the flower tools! on Habutai and Dupion silks. Anni's workshop is also her shop in Bristol and is a wonderfully chaotic and creative place to spend a whole day. I thoroughly recommend that you visit her little establishment.

 

Parkin Fabrics and white gloves

As in my previous post, I mentioned that I always look forward to visiting Parkin Fabrics roadshow in September, especially when they start the roadshow off in Bristol as you can be assured of first pickings. Often if we follow on after London, the best of the stuff has already been taken. However this year, Bristol was first and I arrived at 8.50am to get first dibs. I have to say that their prices seem to have risen and I was a bit 'gobsmacked' at some of the pre-formed felt forms that they were charging (considering they are fast pressed industrially). However, undeterred I purchased what I needed for the coming year. Something that they do not supply, and for which I now realised is vital when working with delicate fabrics, are non slippery soft gloves. I have just done two commissions which used delicate silk and satin trims. As a milliner, your hands work hard, they are often damp and the skin becomes quite hardened around the finger tips, this is disastrous when handling 'snaggy' materials. I had to use some soft cotton gloves, which were slightly too big and therefore made manoeuvring the silk and satin difficult and clumsy. I wonder if there is anyone out there making dressmaking gloves?

On a purchasing note once again, I set off to visit Owen at Guy Morse-Brown, the wooden hat block maker near Devizes who can pretty much turn any design in my head into a hat block. I bought three more vintage small crowns and ordered two bespoke designs. Can't wait for them to be done so that I can start creating more wonderful vintage style hats.

 

Sherringham and Holt 40's weekend Sept 16-17 2017 - Julie Anne Pinnington 30.5.'42 - 4.9.'17

After a hectic and very hot 5 months spent in the wooden shed in temperatures reminding me of North Carolina summers and requiring the borrowing of an air conditioner from my kind neighbour, I churned out enough hats to put on a full display at this years Norfolk 40's weekend.  As predicted over 20,000 turned up but bad weather on the Saturday kept a lot under umbrellas and sheltering in show tents, mine included.  Most people were dressed in fantastic and authentic looking 40's style, looking for another hat to add to their collection and others were just starting out, looking for a hat with a nod to the 40's, keen and desperate to fit in for the weekend as being in civilian clothing made some feel conspicuous by standing out!

I always love this weekend, the traders are all so friendly, experienced in their chosen field of sales, helpful and knowledgeable. The organisers are mindful not to duplicate trade stalls where they can so that reliable and trusted traders return each year. Not only does this encourage the traders to come back year after year but its good for the festival customers as they know where to go to get their wares.

On the way up I received an invitation to submit some hats for consideration to be included in a display at London hat week in March next year. So If you are keen on following the 'hat world' then you may see a hat of mine there.

I am keen to get back to Guy Morse-Brown hat block maker soon to ask him to make a few new hat blocks for me and of course Parkin Fabrics arrives in Bristol on Saturday for my annual hat stuff pickings and buying spree.

My final inclusion in this post is to my darling wonderful mum. Mum started off this hat business way back ten years ago when she started making hats to sell at the 40's weekend to support the 'Friends for Weybourne station' stall.  She did so well that she went onto retrain as a milliner in London and then along with my training and her help we set up Mrs Minivers Millinery. Mum was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of brain stem lymphoma in January, suffering a huge stroke during the biopsy operation and was right side paralysed for the rest of the year. So it was agreed that I would take over the business properly and take it forward, giving up full time work in April. Mum died two weeks before Holt 40's weekend, peacefully in her sleep knowing that her hats were in good hands. So even though the weekend was 'business as usual' it was very painful not having her there. I decided to re-name the business but 'Minivers Vintage' has been kept as the design name for our hats. I miss her guidance, creative silence and laughter every day.

 

Justin Smith and Pinewood studios

Well what can I say. Joining facebook was not on my to do list in 2017 but after much pre-empting, encouragement and brainwashing from my eldest son I joined under the name Minivers Millinery and promptly joined the facebook group Millinery UK and what fortuitous action that turned out to be. One week after doing this an invitation to attend a 1 week specialist couture millinery essentials course held at Pinewood Studios and hosted by Justin Smith the esteemed couture Milliner of Justin Smith Esq was posted on the group and I duly signed up for it straightaway. It wasn't cheap and there were some terms and conditions for attendance namely experience of hat making, sewing and basic technique ability. The week was fantastic and the course was held in the props building at Pinewood and with only 3 of us on the course we had Justin almost in a 1-1 capacity which was fabulous as it allowed him to tailor everyone's specific needs for the course outcome and I was relieved to find that most of my ability and techniques were as they should be but my ability to work with complex wiring shapes was very much a challenge. The knowledge of different stiffening techniques and fabrics to use and when not to use were also to be mastered but the most interesting point of learning was the creation of a hat with multi layers as done when making a gents hat. I returned to Somerset crammed full of new knowledge and confirmation of old knowledge and much confidence in my ability supported. Being surrounded by 'creatives' at Pinewood was an amazing experience and I found that my creative side that has been somewhat buried over the last few years, took flight out of my mind, into my hands and emerged during the hat making process. I shall definitely sign up for more of his courses which are to be in specific techniques.....

 

 

It has been so terribly hot this last week and I have to say that I have only managed the morning and late afternoon in the shed as it has been too hot to work. Hopefully I will be able to get more done this next week. 

Second week of full time millinery

Ok, so far so good, I have been very pleased with myself as I have managed to finish at least five hats and have a few others brewing on the blocks.  I have got to grips with Instagram, editing this website and facebook. I now see why people go on facebook. It lets you know of things going on that you wouldn't already know about. Such as courses for hat making for tv, film and theatre. I happened to belong to Millinery UK facebook page and last week there was an invitation for hat makers to attend a 5 or 3 week specialist hat making course held at Pinewood studios either in Cardiff or near Slough. It's not cheap and it's not for the novice however I decided to take the plunge and enrol for the 5 day course. It is being hosted by Justin Smith milliner who probably most famously is known for his strange hat creation that Angeline Jolie wore in the film Maleficent.  This course is designed to equip the industry professional (not me) or the semi experienced milliner (me) with skills and abilities to transfer into film, tv and theatre work. Apparently there are more than enough sinamay milliners making a variety of fascinators but very few milliners who can block, wire and stiffen in a wide variety of forms and styles essential for managing the millinery needs of the entertainment world. More importantly they stress in the course 'blurb' that it is the industry contacts and references that is the key to success after this course and since my dream is to work with period hats within the film and theatre world, it seems this is the course for me. Wish me luck as I hope I am not biting off more than I can chew.

 

FINALLY GOING IT ALONE

 

 

A busy week this week not just from a productive hat point of view but cognitively with the design planning and launching of a web site and Instagram account, which I have been assured is a successful way to market a small cottage industry such as mine, in its infancy. Imagine the look of horror on my face as I heard the words ‘get a web site’ and ‘Instagram’ never mind the dreaded ‘hash tag’ word. Now I am not a technophobe and thanks to my sons who have grown up with all of this and my own involvement with technological evolution through 35 years of working  I thought ‘it won’t be so bad’.  Well suffice to say it was a learning curve. Now I can do the usual, I can surf the net, send emails, attachments, links etc, copy, past, blah blah as good as the rest but navigating around a website under construction wasn’t all plain sailing. In fact my eldest, the ever patient Justin, lost his patience, elbowed me out of the way and basically did it for me. Hurrah! One website up and running.

The hats. Settling down on Monday 17th April 2017 to my first week of full time hat making I surveyed my tiny little world of millinery around me, a 10ft by 8ft sturdy pine wood cabin, with as much light flooding in as possible to compensate for my worsening eyesight. A table with digital radio that links with I phone for total music satisfaction, a shelf for tablet (essential for Netflix), oil heater essential for when it gets a bit chilly by 4.pm, iron essential for when it goes wrong, steamer essential for shape, re shape and re shape again, and of course a very long power extension lead for these things to plug into.

I then eyed my apron. Now this is probably the most important piece of equipment.  When I put my apron on I actually feel as though I am at ‘work’. It has pockets for snippy scissors, thimbles, plasters for needle stabbing injuries, hat block pins (bit silly really as they are like bramble thorns), little bits and bobs that I am continuously picking up and moving about on and off hats in progress.  It has a clever way of focusing the mind which keeps me in the shed and out of  the house. The dogs settle on the dog bed, I reach for the chewing gum (horrid habit I know but it stops me sucking sweets) and pick up the deed for the day.

Last week I managed to re shape and spruce up old stock and restore them to their event level presentation, consider redesigning hats that were rarely looked at as 10 out of 50 came home after last year and it’s always good to revamp poor sellers,  so this little job was a good introduction back into hat making after a winter of rest. This week I managed to block and pin three hats. A man’s fedora, a black brushed velvet cap, and a red wine ‘pork pie with cloche’ style brim, finishing them off completely with hat silks, wire brims, leather sweat band and hat elastics and began the shaping of two others. Amazing what you can get done when you STAY IN THE SHED! I am also now an avid fan of MAD MEN!


 

So the growth spurt occurs ....

The above hats were just some of the ones created using custom made hat block shapes and free form millinery for last year and this years show events.  The previous years had managed to yield enough in sales for me to order ten custom designed hat blocks from Guy Morse-Brown  the wooden hat block maker, who had managed to recreate shapes from some of the original hats that I had in my collection.

The acorns start sprouting

As the years went by I started to try many styles and block shapes and many mistakes were made.  Most were free form in the early years but soon I managed to purchase a few little wooden crown blocks. All of these and many more sold at events and it was such a great feeling to find a hat for someone who was convinced that they didn't suit them! I was still working out of a bedroom at home but knew that I was going to have to spread! My wonderful patient husband was very long suffering of coming home to find hat stuff all over the kitchen table and sometimes in the living room too!

The Beginnings

From little acorns ........

After some intensive training, my first creations were done in a small room of my home in Somerset.  I laboured hard and long over these little treasures but  all were sold at the first event. I can remember feeling worried and nervous when designing and creating them, could I transfer my minds ideas to the physical world, would people even bother to look at them and try them on. Well they did and the others that were added to these, a total of 35 in first year bearing in mind that I was working full time and doing the hats in the evenings and weekends. I had rudimentary tools, equipment and blocks, often using home utensils as shapes to design around and homemade cheap materials. My dream was to be able to buy some custom made hat blocks from Guy Morse-Brown hat blocks which seemed years away.