Tools of my Trade

Part of my love of hat-making is born out of a fascination for hat blocks. These sculptural forms are used to transform materials into 3D wearables. It is this transformation process that is currently fueling the technical development work I’ve been doing over the past few months. I am using techniques unique to the art of millinery, to explore the properties of fabric. Stiffening, stretching, steaming, pinning and building layers to construct a stable foundation and a wearable hat. Its all basic stuff but I am realising the value of really testing what a material can do – its essential to the skills arsenal of the milliner.

Many of the tools of this trade are no longer being made and indeed the knowledge of how to use them is a scarce and precious thing. I use a mixture of old tools, specialist materials and everyday objects to make hats. My favourite tool this month has to be my mini iron – I already had some old irons but they are a little too heavy and have to be used with a cloth over the handle to prevent serious burns! My new little gem is small, lightweight, heats up really quickly and is perfect for curving petersham, making bias binding and getting great shape when blocking. What a find!

Half-Timbered at Market Place

The 27th of November seems like a life-time ago. This event fell on a Foodie Friday and although there was torrential rain in Stockport, people still came to help us open our¬†group exhibition, ‘Half-Timbered’ and to see what goes on behind our studio doors.

 

The event provided a goal and deadline, a definite reason for making that forced me to revisit sampling – something that has fallen by the wayside in pursuit of a well finished product! It reminded me how much I enjoy writing about my work and the important role that plays in reflecting on what I do.

It was also a great way to get to know the other makers at Market Place. We found ourselves popping in and out of eachother’s studio to get feedback on what we were showing. This gave a new perspective and a confidence boost when it was needed most. Building a creative community is incredibly challenging but there is no doubt in my mind that we are definitely stronger together than we would ever be apart.

This was the first time I’d taken part in an open studio event. If you are in two minds about opening up your workspace I’d say, “Go for it!” Although it was a bit nerve racking, I really enjoyed talking about my hats and it was fantastic to see people having fun trying them all on. ¬†Thanks to everyone who came, tried on a titfer and those who placed an order. I hope to see you all again at the next open event.

Feathers Find Me Out

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Anyone who has been on a millinery workshop or course with me will know that I have a totally irrational fear of trimming hats. I have no idea where this comes from – I think I love the simplicity of blocked shapes so much that it feels unnecessary to adorn with an added extra (millinery sacrilege to some I know). I am starting to gradually get over this thanks to the courses in different trimming techniques I have been attending at Hat Works. Last month’s 1 day course on feathers was fantastic and has really opened my eyes up to the range of techniques and qualities of different kinds of feathers to create stunning shapes and lines that would not act as a mere adornment but totally ‘make’ the hat or headpiece.

The day covered so much, we studied a vast array of feather types, learned their names, qualities / uses, looked at stunning images of couture creations, we got to handle hats from the museum collection, all on top of making our own feather corsage. There was even time for additional experimentation with feather flowers, feather curling, use of wire and beads.

Bring on the next session on the 20th June – Fabric Flowers, I can’t wait!