Thursday, 1 December 2016

Big events and business plans

Fedoras are one of those styles that have dipped their toes into both men's and women's fashion. They started as a women's hat, became more of a male style, and now sit fairly comfortably in both camps. Likewise the colour blue has a longer history of being associated with little girls than little boys. Probably, however, a blue fedora is more likely to suggest masculine vibes to most people, and it does so to me.

So what does a very small blue fedora suggest to you?


If you thought "Tanith's having a baby boy!", you are correct.


We are back in pregnancy mode. Once again, I have survived the awful first trimester of nausea and exhaustion, and entered the second trimester of not fitting into your clothes and less exhaustion.

Having a child and being her primary carer has resulted in a lot of soul searching regarding my desire for my own business. There were times when it just seemed impossible, and others when I knew I needed it so much. I know that having two children in my care is going to be even harder and I don't yet know what that means for my business. I will obviously be taking a break, but what kind of pace I keep up after that remains to be seen. I have ideas and plans to make it work, but in the end there could have to be a lot of pauses that I don't plan for. I do intend to keep it up in the long run in some form, even if it takes years to really get back into the swing.


Regarding the fedora, I don't have a small fedora block, so I blocked it with a regular crown on my toddler-sized block, then hand-shaped the pinched fedora look into place. I'm not sure how well it will last but I'm pretty pleased with the look. Plus, it's just adorable, right?

Oh and the new addition, whose social media nickname has already been chosen at T-Rex, is due in early May. Teacup has been told she is getting a little brother, and says that there is "a baby growing in there" but how much of this she really grasps we shall have to wait and find out!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Rhiannon

Can you just say that every stop in a journey is a special one? It feels like I've been doing a lot of that. But this one is, it really is! Adelaide has been visiting my sister, Rhiannon.

Which also means she is so close, so close, to coming home to me!

Rhiannon chose to try Adelaide with a few different outfits, with vintage and modern twists. This is a more modern one. I love all the blues together!


Pop on over the Rhiannon's blog, Parlour Duck Crafts, to see the rest of the outfits. Meanwhile, I'd better get on with planning my own!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Blocking without a hat block

A standard dome hat block is one of the most useful tools I can imagine in the millinery world. As much as I love special shapes of block, the dome is unbeatable for versatility and usefulness. But if you are just starting out in millinery or just having a bit of fun with it, even one block is a big investment.

There are hat-making methods other than blocking, like making flat pattern hats from fabric or on a buckram foundation, but blocking really is fabulous. It is fun and creative and opens up all kinds of possibilities.

It is true that if you want to block a hat with a nice round crown that fits closely to your head, like a cloche for example, a hat block is going to be pretty necessary. But there are many other shapes of hats out there, especially when it comes to tilt hats.

I do believe it would be easier to learn how to block straw, felt, sinamay or buckram on a proper hat block first, then start to experiment, but it is not at all necessary. And if you learned on someone else's block, in a class for example, then didn't want to buy your own right away, you should consider some other options.

Let me share with you some examples of my own where I've used alternatives to proper hat blocks.

Found objects


First, random objects totally unrelated to millinery. Once you start looking at objects as possible blocks, it will be hard to stop.

Make sure you consider whether the material of the object can take the pressure of blocking, and how you will hold your blocking material in place. Can you pin into the object? Tie string or rubber bands around it? Blocking felt in particular can take a lot of force, so fragility is a consideration. Also how susceptible might it be to steam or moisture, and how well can you cover it (usually with plastic wrap) to protect it?


I did block this felt on a glass vase, it's true. In hindsight I am not sure I would try that again. I used string to hold the rings in place around the bumps of the vase, and everything turned out alright. In my defence, it is a very sturdy vase.


This one was, I believe, a flower pot. But I'm not sure. It could have been a cookie tin. Much sturdier than glass, anyway. Since I couldn't use pins here either, rubber bands held the shape in place.


Not that you can see much of the shape here under the fluff, but the foundation for this hat was blocked on a large wooden bowl. I was able to use pins, which is good because the size might have made elastic more tricky to use. I always keep an eye out in op shops for wooden serving dishes and other bits and pieces. I have a lovely little pineapple blocked and waiting to be finished!

Photograph courtesy of @anneliesvanoverbeek

For this reproduction of a hat from Funny Face, the crown was blocked on a shape I made out of cardboard. I originally had the cardboard over a flower pot for added strength, but as I worked and changed the size, it became a cardboard-only block. Since the straw is a very good quality and blocks easily, the strength was still enough.


The tilt hat in my Nora Finds collaboration collection, was blocked on an improvised combination of two small wooden objects. I think one of them was the turned wooden lid of a glass jar, and one was the base of some kind of stand. I placed them together the way I wanted and wrapped them up tight in aluminium foil. With the freehand swirling on top, the exact shape didn't matter too much, but it gave me the right base I was trying to achieve.

Home-made hat blocks


I was lucky enough at one point to have some round hat blocks turned for me on a lathe, but you don't need access to those skills or tools to create a hat block. If you do have some woodworking tools available, simple cut-out shapes using a band saw or similar are very easy. I made my round and heart-shaped pillbox blocks using a band saw and some scrap wood.


Pillbox shapes are a great one to make yourself, and such a useful block to have as well. You can achieve the same result (at least with fabric covered hats) using a flat pattern, but this is quicker, as well as allowing you to work with felt too.


Both styles of pillbox have been used many times by me!


There are also options for carving blocks out of foam (I have done a class on this but haven't tried it since and I know it has to be the right type of foam) and I'm sure many more possibilities. Not all of these are going to last as long, and possibly aren't ideal choices for a beginner anyway!

Augmented hat blocks


So technically this isn't without a block, but I have also heard beginner milliner's with only a dome block complaining of needing more shapes and more options. I can't fault anyone for coveting more blocks, but there is so much more you can do with the ones you have!


I added a small sweets tin to the top of a dome to create this felt hat. I covered the hat block, taped on the tin, and covered both together, then blocked. Easy peasy!


The block for this cone hat (made for the lovely Kate at Retro Rover) was technically built from cardboard, but I did use a sloped brim block beneath it to add strength. I'm not sure if that was necessary, so this could potentially be one you could do from scratch. Keep in mind, though, that the right materials are key. Stretching a normal capeline to this shape may have been a nightmare, but I got advice from my supplier and used a buntal mat instead, which has a less rounded shape. It was perfect and a dream to work with.

If you've been on the fence about trying blocking, or putting off getting back into it because of the cost, consider seeing what else you have around the house, or can find cheaply, that could make a nice little hat shape.

Did any of these examples surprise you? I like to think they hide their secrets well!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Blocking a sewn fabric hat for better fit

Isn't the human brain a great thing? I love that I can read or hear something once, and remember it later when it is finally relevant to me. Of course, at other times, I forget to bring my wallet to the shops or forget doctor's appointments, but nevertheless I am in general pleased with my memory and the hints and tips it comes up with for me as I work.

Although I can't remember which book or books I read this trick in, it appeared when I needed it, which is what matters.


I do a lot of blocked hats, that are steamed or wet and shaped over a hat block, usually out of felt or straw. Sometimes I make sewn hats too, but they are usually berets or other styles that don't follow the shape of the head. So it was only when working on a couple of toddler hats, with a self-drafted and not that great pattern, that I remembered that you can also block these hats, after sewing.

Basically, after sewing together the pieces of a sectional crown, like on this sun hat, you wet the fabric (or steam it, whichever is appropriate for the fabric) pull it down over a hat block, and leave it to dry (keeping in place with an elastic band if necessary). It helps smooth out any issues with an imperfect pattern, and gives a really rounded look to the end product. Depending on your fabric type, the results will vary.


The first hat I tried it on was this pink fleece pig hat (photo courtesy of @herohappymail on Instagram - a great project, by the way, supporting kids that are having a rough time for various reasons). I've improved my pattern since then, but the fleece was so stretchy and obliging that I managed a really round crown despite any issues in the shape as originally sewn.

When I went to regular cotton, the fabric was not so forgiving. It was actually a great way to work on the pattern though, because the blocking really showed exactly where the lines needed to be changed. I ended up using the first version as the lining and the adjusted pattern to make the outside crown.


So you do need something to block on, and I don't recommend using your own head unless you want to wear a wet hat all day. Hat blocks are of course great, but foam display heads are a possibility (although they are often quite small).

No cameras! I'm covered in risotto!

I'm really glad I remembered, and finally tried, this little trick, and I'm sure I'll find ways to use it again. Maybe it will stick in your brain until you one day need it too!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Little Hat Project 2016 "Chaos"

"The Little Hat Project" is a charity project created, among others under the "Hats for Happiness" banner, by Waltraud Reiner, milliner, teacher and founder of Torb & Reiner Millinery supplies. Milliners around the world donate tiny hats that are sold in an auction, and featured in a book. The funds from both go towards mental health research and projects. (You can read more about how it all started here.)


This year the theme is "Chaos" and this is my entry. Actually I made it last year but for various reasons the project was deferred for 2015 and my hat waited for it's chance this year.


It ended up having a bit of a "The Birds" feel to it, but I think I just can't help that sometimes. The birds are supposed to be nesting, as the centre of chaos in my life then, and now, was the chaos of parenthood. In any case, I'm really proud of this hat, and keen to add some birds to more hats.


Here are some of my favourites from the auction. Clockwise from top left, the milliners are Stephen Jones, Denise Innes, Liana Hastie and Lindsay Whitehead.

If you read this when it is published, the auction is ending in a few days time! You can see the full album on Facebook here, and my hat is here.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Karlie

A couple of times in the Travelling Hat's journey, the participants have taken photos and sent Adelaide on, but have been too busy to post about it right away, so we have a catch up today (and one more hopefully to come too!).


Karlie contacted me when the journey was underway, hoping to be able to take part, and we managed to make room in Adelaide's USA schedule. The more the merrier, right?  See more over at Karlie's blog, United States of Vintage.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Snoodtember weekly theme: With a Hat

If you see a modern girl dressed in vintage style wearing a snood, you'll probably see it by itself, adorned with hair flowers or a simple bow. Back in the 1940s, you might just as often, or perhaps more often, have seen it worn with a hat, or as part of a hat. I don't know what was seen most on the everyday woman, but based on the magazine images, snoods with hats were in the majority!

"The newest thing in millinery is the largest possible snood draped from the smallest possible hat" (Examiner, 2 Feb 1940)

Sometimes the snood would look pretty much the same as the ones we are used to - a knit or crochet covering for the hair - just with a hat worn on top as well.

But the hat-accompanying snoods would also stretch our understanding of what a snood really is. Sometimes the look of a snood was created with some net or veiling that simply fell over the back of the hair, without actually enclosing it. Sometimes the snood might be what is holding the hat to the head, as a more decorative alternative to a simple elastic. These snoods might go over the hair, but not enclose all of it, perhaps leaving curls out at the bottom.

Let's get some inspiration from the archives.

From the Western Mail, 23 Jan 1941

Irene Dunne is the star in question, and she's wearing a black and white outfit, with a black straw hat and a snood made of her dress material.

From the Weekly Times, 10 Feb 1940

The article states that the snood help keep the tilted hat on firmly, as well as holding in the hair. Also, "The pill box, the tri-corn, the glengarry, the coachman hat and the sailor, all take kindly to the addition of a snood."

From the Sunday Mail, 7 Jul 1946

A bit of street-style photography from the forties, this straw hat with mesh snood was seen in the crowd at Wimbledon.

From The Sun, 11 Jan 1939

Two mesh snoods among these hat looks, making their appearance in the Autumn collection at David Jones.

From the Queensland Times, 27 Jan 1941

Suggestions for touching up last year's pillbox hat include adding a mesh snood that sticks out "provocatively". This snood is covering most of the hair, but notice the curls at the side.

From the Western Mail, 29 Feb 1940

Again, the pretty curls are out at the side of the head, but the rest of the hair is inside the snood.

From The Australian Women's Weekly, 4 May 1940

Here the snood is showing curls at the bottom, so while it would keep some hair in place, it is probably mostly serving to hold the hat in place. The hat, by the way, is in the shape of the ace of clubs, and I can't tell you just how fabulous I think that is.

From The Telegraph, 20 Jul 1940

This hat is described as having a snood, but as you can see, it looks more like a drape of veil giving a snood-like effect. Beautiful either way!

So, it's a bold look for modern times, but be brave and give it a try this week, the last week of Snoodtember. I think we can all agree the look is stunning!