Good Bye London, For Now.

Dear London,
Your grey skies and brick buildings welcomed us to city living.  We landed here in 2011 and only meant to be your guest for a couple of years, to enrich our lives with your worldliness and history. Little did we know your beguiling ways would enchant us for a surprising ten years and we would become part of your  family.

The Anchor Pub
Pub on Bankside along the Thames
Chainmail and helmet try on
2012 my youngest daughter (L) and youngest son (R) enjoy the interactive attractions at one of the many museums.

Thank you for sharing your people. Friends who have welcomed us into their hearts and homes. Diverse communities that have expanded my children’s minds and attitudes towards others. Hardy companions for my husband to stand out in all types of weather for a round of beer.

The 137 at Sloan Square
The 137 at Sloan Square
2016 Eldest daughter wears a hat I made.

I appreciate,  all the people who taught me to make hats within the context of a city and country were hats, history and craftsmanship are so intertwined that it is impossible to tease apart the individual fibres that create the most enchanting headwear.

London Skyline 2021
London Skyline 2021
London Hat Week, Hat Walk with Elly and Ana
2016 London Hat Week – Hat Walk with Elly Stemerdink and Ana Pribylova

London, you have changed our lives immeasurably for the better. I hope that in some small way that I have given back to you, my adopted city and country. I will strive to be an ambassador of craftsmanship and tolerance, by embracing uniqueness in people which makes their art and their communities special.

For all that you have given me, I am thankful.

Man with hat and bike at Covent Garden
Man on the street at Covent Garden
Tricorne in art at National Gallery
Hats in old art at the National Portrait gallery
Hat in new art at National Portrait gallery
Hats in new art at National Portrait gallery, by John Borowicz
Vintage top hats on display
Vintage top hats on display

It is with a heavy heart and a fair amount of tears that I say good bye, at least good bye for now.

Love,
Leanne

As of October 2021, I will be settling into a new reality of making, teaching and writing about hats from Santa Cruz, California. Please, sign up for the newsletter to hear about new workshops and events.

Bonus photos — A lovely find at a charity shop in Balham, London yesterday.
A Top Hat and Box that I over heard a charity shop manager discussing with a member of her staff and she allowed some photos. 

Grey silk top hat
Beautiful grey silk top hat.
Top hat box at Charity shop in Balham
Top hat box at Charity shop in Balham
Top hat silk lining, wide leather band, crest and initials
Top hat silk lining, wide leather band, crest and initials

Willcox & Gibbs S200

Introducing my new baby, a Willcox & Gibbs S200 straw plait (braid) sewing machine.  Here are some pictures of the machine and interesting links to 17 Guinea, Hatlines #71, Straw hats, Alex Askaroff, Mad Hatter Blog, and how to lock a Chain Stitch

Willcox and Gibbs S200 Straw plait sewing machine
Willcox and Gibbs S200

I have had two big ticket items on my millinery wish list for a while now.  One is a hot block hat stretcher and the other is a Willcox & Gibbs straw sewing machine.  I can now check off one of those items after winning an eBay auction a few weeks ago.

Treasures from the little tool box
Treasures from the little tool box. Spanner (wrench), needles, tweezers, screw driver and oil bottle.


I was first introduced to the idea of a straw plait (braid) sewing machine while working at Edwina Ibbotson’s.  There was one that sat in the corner with a clear upturned box covering it to protect the 17 Guinea, as she calls it, from being knocked about and keep the dust off.  

I am not sure where the term 17 Guinea comes from as the Guinea was replaced by the Pound coin in 1816 and these machines are later 1800s and early 1900s. According to Wikipedia a Guinea is worth 1 Pound & 1 Shilling.  The National Archives estimated the value in 1880 as equivalent  £69.49 as of 2017. At the time it was worth 1 stone (6.35 kg/14 lbs) of wool or 3 days wages for skilled tradesman, which doesn’t seem like very much for a sewing machine.

Hatlines Issue 71, The Repair Shop
Hatlines Issue 71, The Repair Shop

I have looked on and off over the years for a “17 Guinea” with no success.  Not long ago the Hatlines magazine published by the Netherlands Hat Association, had an article about these old sewing machines. The article did a great job of showing how to clean and maintain the machines. It gave the names of several brands that I believe would fall under the name 17 Guinea and also gave me a sense of confidence in finding one.

Straw plait bonnet
Straw Plait Bonnet by Leanne Fredrick Millinery
Straw Plait hat in progress
Straw Plait hat in progress by Leanne Fredrick Millinery

I made several straw plait hats after taking a class from Jane Smith at Morley College, London and loved the process and the results.   Jane’s class taught how to make the straw hats on a standard home machine.  It is a bit tricky getting around the crown, but it can be done. Ever since I’ve desired to work with a proper straw plait machine.

W&G S200 logo button
W&G S200 logo button – Look close, notice how the needles make a W for Willcox and the machine makes a G for Gibbs
W&G S200 patent plate
W&G S200 patent plate

I don’t buy on eBay very often and even more rarely do I win, but I had been watching this machine and another on Gumtree. It was a Friday night and the auction ended at 8:15 pm.  As the last few minutes of the auction approached, I entered my highest price, into the bidding system on eBay.   It automatically bids in increments only until you are one increment above the last highest bidder, then stops. To my excitement, shock, amazement and delight.  I won.

W&G side view
W&G S200 side view

Although we have stayed very close to home in London since March, due to Covid, my husband and I adventured to Eastbourne to pick up the machine from Alex Askaroff. Followed by a stay at the Hydro Hotel. It was a good weekend.  

W&G S200 seam gauge
W&G S200 seam gauge

It doesn’t look like much, but the new tensioner was patented around 1875, so my understanding is that this machine was made around 1880. 

The video of my machine being demonstrated by Alex Askaroff.

Alex Askaroff’s YouTube Channel has some great videos if you are interested in vintage sewing machines.  I love this kind of stuff.

Another nugget was in the little wooden treasure box was a print out of the following blog post by  Mad Hatter, Cristina de Prada from 18 April 2009.  The link to Jane Smith’s straw hat e-book is not longer active, but she has many of the patent illustrations which I think are fascinating.

These early machine made a chain stitch, rather than a lock stitch of the current sewing machines.  A chain stitch  doesn’t require a separate bobbin. The underside can be used as a lovely decorative stitch but the chain stitch is know to easily unravel if you break a stitch or don’t lock the end.

Great video on how to lock a chain stitch.
It is a different model machine but the concept is the same. Go to video at 7min 20sec for how to easily lock the chain.

Me and my “new” machine are still getting to know each other. I love the way it sews and sounds, but so far I’ve only used up a lot of thread and made a little navy blue straw plait bowl, perhaps it will become a cocktail hat. I am excited to get a bit more time with my new W&G S200. 

The Hat Fairy & Live Virtual Workshops

Late at night when everyone else has gone to bed, I get into the hat zone.  I work until the wee hours and occasionally into the next morning. Recently this has been while having a great time learning from and teaching Live Virtual Millinery Workshop

When I get to a stage where I am tempted to start taking things apart and redoing the whole thing, that signals bed time.  I set down the scissors and back away. Ideally, I do a quick tidy of the work space and put the hat on a poupée, which doesn’t alway happen but is always appreciated by my future self when it does happen.


Then it is off to bed for a few hours of rest before the next day begins in earnest.

In the morning when I get up I say, “I wonder what the hat fairy brought last night.”  Making my way to my home studio, I look at my piece with fresh (overstatement) eyes.  There are three possible reactions.  

Reaction one, is joy and delight, it is beautiful and well worth the loss of sleep, maybe even a little pride in the thought “I made that.”  Which is followed by me wearing the hat around the house while still in my nightgown. I feel fired up and want to make another hat.  

Reaction two, the big let down of disappointment followed by why did I invest so much time into that awful looking thing. I should just throw it away. Followed by, I can’t throw it away that is wasteful and it may be a useful sample of a technique or I might  be able to fix it. The reality is there are so many unfinished hats and so many more yet to be created.

Reaction three, which is by far the most common one, which is in between the other two.  Pleasure with a tinge of disappointment. I like it in general but something isn’t right.  


The current problem by far is the multitude of unfinished hats.

The red Swirl Sinamay  and red Floating Quills just need the labels, the green Macintosh Rose need a lining and the label, the grey Kakadu Lily needs something in the centre, and the label, the white Veiling Brim with Crinoline Roses needs the trimming sewn down, the base attached and the label. The giant blue Silk Abaca Bow needs a whole hat to put it on, as do the Silk Abaca Lilies. 


These are only a few of the hats that I have made in the B Unique Millinery Virtual Live Workshops which started shortly after the Covid-19 Lockdown.  The workshops have been a safe haven of creativity and camaraderie.

Please keep in mind that these pieces do not reflect the skill of the tutor, only my interpretation during a 4 hour workshop.

Workshops 
Red Swirl Sinamay and Red Floating Quills with Rebecca Share
Grey Kakadu Lily with Sandy Aslett
Blue Silk Abaca Lilies with Tracey Wells
Blue & White Bows with Neil Grigg
Electric Violet Free Felt with Katherine Elizabeth
Veiling and Veiling brim with Jenny Roberts and
Crinoline with Alison Clark

Green Macintosh Rose by Me, Leanne Fredrick
Next workshop on 31 May/1 June 2020

Rolled Edges and Rouleaux by Me, Leanne Fredrick
next workshop 9/10 June 2020

There are more Virtual Live Workshops on the B Unique schedule. 

And Live Virtual Workshops with Me, Leanne Fredrick coming soon to Hattin’ Around.

p.s. Live Virtual workshops are working out really well.  Although nothing beats human connection,  there are some elements that make the Live Virtual workshops even better than in person.

  • Travel is cheaper  
  • Workspace is tailored to personal preference
  • A close up camera is great for small details  
  • Mute and unmute for noise control 
  • Step away without disturbing the rest of the class
  • and you still get to know others in the workshop

Harris Tweed Hat from Scotland’s Outer Hebrides

Our family trip to Scotland consists of two halves, at least in my mind, the 8 Piece velvet hat (aka 1st half) I made at a class in June and the Harris Tweed hat (aka 2nd half) I bought on the Isle of Lewis & Harris.

Ullapool boatRoad to KnockandoHarris boat

In true “Leanne Style” I wanted to see Scotland, but had only 9 days. Our trip started with a 7.5 hour train journey from London to Aberdeen. Then a drive to Gardenstown on the East Coast, to a beach house with friends. We enjoyed fish, a sandy beach, art studios (see Jeff’s new knit cap below), tweeds and whisky distilleries (Cardu & Glengrant). Followed by loads of driving, a few ferry trips, beautiful landscape, tons of rain and some more tweeds!

Jeff in his new knit hat from Gardenstown open art studiosHarris road

The first half on the East coast had much better weather. Our friends are both Scottish and I was taught how to make proper breaded fish, Scottish style, with fish “that was swimming that morning.”

breading fish 1 breading fish 2

We visited the Knockando Mill . A working mill, which we choose to visit while the weavers were on their summer holiday 🙁 But I bough some beautiful fabric and learned about Teasels. They are part of a machine that you use to make the surface of the woven material fuzzier.

Knockando MillKnockando Mill bristle machine Knockando Mill teasel closeup  Knockando wool

A stop in Johnston’s of Elgin allowed me to stock up on jumpers (sweaters) which I put to use immediately. They also had this nice purple tweed & fur hat.

purple tweed n fur from Johnston's of Elgin

We said farewell to our friends and started driving a counter clockwise journey around the middle of Scotland. A night of camping at the Culloden Moor, a sight seeing day through Inverness, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle. The castle gift shop had a couple of nice tweed hats also.

Urquhart castle on Lochness

Urquhart castle giftshop hat 1 Urquhart castle giftshop hat 2

A night in Ullapool with a morning ferry to the Isle of Lewis. Lewis is the top of the Outer Hebrides, a set of islands off the West coast of Scotland. We visited a Norse thatched roof kiln and mill.

Isle of Lewis mill n kiln 8 piece hat

The next stop was Rarebird, where I acquired my Harris Tweed hat. I adore the pleating and button detailing, on the left side. I also like the fairly shallow but wrap around peak.

Hiking fairy pools Isle of Skye Harris Tweed Hat (1) Harris tweed hat detail

Steve from Rarebird makes ceramic buttons and cuts the pieces for their shop. He was very generous with his time and showed us how he makes his buttons as well as what a tweed sampler looks like, so you can see how the different colors interact.

Rarebird Steve Rarebird tweed sampler

 

The second half of the journey starts…The Isle of Harris which is the lower half of the island which also has the Isle of Lewis. It is not a very big island for having two names. The Isle of Harris is known for its hand woven tweeds that are produced on the island. The craftsmanship is superb and the colors are divine. People would have tweeds woven in colors to match the colors of their estate. What a wonderful way to capture the essence of a place with a tweed of the same colors.

Harris natural colors Harris TweedsHarris Tweed label

It rained, everyday. But oddly it suited the landscape and I am not sure I would have wanted it any other way, as they have little biting bugs called Midges, which come out when it isn’t rainy & windy. Our brief sample of “Midgies” was enough for me. I guess it was good, as I think the girls would have been disappointed to never have experienced something we heard so much about.

Hiking fairy pools Isle of Skye Harris Tweed HatWest Coast Scotland sunset

Then a Ferry to the Isle of Skye for a wonderful hike to the Fairy pools and a night of camping in Dornie on the West coast of Scotland. A final big day of driving through Cairngorms National Park, back to Aberdeen, for a night of rest and a lovely dinner at Musa, which I am sad to say I was too tired to fully appreciate. When you do a lot of driving you come across things like, a tortilla chip which looks like a hat.

Hat shaped tortilla chip

Our final day in Aberdeen allowed for a trip to the Gordon Highlanders Museum. They are a military regiment. The volunteers who run it were very enthusiastic and proud of their museum. The girls enjoyed trying out the uniforms. I loved getting to take a close look at the hats.

Eliana Gordon Highlander formal Emeline Gordon Highlander camo

I no longer just look at the landscape without seeing the color palette and think of the tweed that the colors around me can create.

Skye fairy pools   Luskentyre blueLuskentyre peach   Lewis mill rock closeup