Bridport Hat Festival 2017

Bridport is a small villiage in Dorset, in the south of England, just 1.5 miles from the English Channel. I had heard of the Bridport Hat Festival for several years and this year I finally entered images of a hat in the contest. I was delighted to have been shortlisted and sent in my hat for judging. I took the train/bus down from London on Friday afternoon in early September. If you can get a seat with a table,  long train rides are perfect for finishing a hat and meeting nice people.

There were hats in nearly every Bridport shop window and the charity shops had loads of hats for sale at great prices. Above are my favorite charity shop finds of the weekend, although I didn’t buy any of them. An eccentric grey hat by Pop Goes the Weasel, a lovely but far too small, white felt by Graham Smith for Fortnum & Mason. A Frederick Fox in a fawn with black ribbon & flower trim and another no-label hat with loads of stitching.

From Bridport I enjoyed a walk that lead me by the river then through three fields,  down to West Bay for the evening. (Images L-R, water mill by brewery-Bridport, Harbour West Bay, Dorset Coast – West Bay, Station Kitchen – West Bay). It was a gorgeous day and I savored a delicious dinner at the Station Kitchen. I appreciated a cozy night’s stay at a vegetarian B&B, The Old Mill House in Bridport.

The Old Mill House was not much to look at from the street, but had gracious hosts and a small bridge over the river in their serene garden.

The highlight is seeing the variety of hats. A lovely couple wore Twin Peaks, hemp hats from Kathmandu by Elephant Road, a couple in matching outfits, and my strip straw hat with wavy border and vintage flowers.  I think this hat below, a hand felted scene of Poseidon/Neptune was stunning. Can you see the horses coming out of the sea foam on the left and sea creatures following behind on the right?

The Bridport Hat Festival is a fundraiser for various charities. One of which is Brain Tumour Research. They seem to be at a lot of the events I attend. I like collecting their annual hat designer badges.

At one of the charity fundraising stands a gentleman was enjoying selling 2nd hand hats by coming up with some outrageous claims. I bantered with him a few moments, then just as I was ready to decline and depart, I saw another unlabeled stitched beret, in gold and it fit me. If you’ve been following my blog posts, I have come across several of them in my adventures in Southern England. Who made these hats? The price was right and it came home with me. 

More crazy hats from jesters to lampshades. A couple who went with a breakfast theme of a skillet with bacon & eggs and a large fried egg.  Hats with loads of stuff on them to a US political themed hat.

Then in the vendors hall I spotted this little wire framed gem. I will be teaching a wire frame half hat class during London Hat Week in 2018, Cocktail Half Hat with Daisies. It also came home with me, as another sample of how versatile the wire frame technique is to make charming hats.

The vendors hall featured several milliners and hat makers. Here are a few.  From Left to Right. Fairytale Chic, Humphry Hats, International Feltmakers Association, and Hats-A-Head. I love all their creativity and craftsmanship.

Finally, the catalyst for my journey the Milliners and Hatters Open Competition.  The hats were on display all day in the Town Hall. At the end of the day the hall was cleared, then set with chairs with a center aisle. Each hat was modeled and awards were given.  I didn’t bring home any prizes but it was fun to have my hat on display and then modeled at the end. The hat on the far right was the overall winner. I think they will eventually get photos of the hats on the Bridport Hat Festival website.

My learning opportunity came when the hats were modeled. Despite having a center back mark and comb for placement, my hat ended up backwards and on the wrong side of the model’s head. Luckily it looked beautiful from all sides, but it really would have shown better if it had been worn properly. Live and learn, next time I’ll make it super obvious. 

Bridport was a lovely town and we had great weather. I think it would be a good place to take my family for a little holiday in the future.  Thank you Bridport for a fun day out.

My Birthday Hat – Mini Topper Sinamay

My life does not have nearly enough “occasion” hat wearing opportunities, so when I was approaching a milestone birthday I decided it was going to be a hat event.  A mini top hat (topper) would be perfect, festive and small enough for easy travel.

I have wanted to make a mini topper for ages. What is it about things in miniature that are so appealing? Beautiful dolls houses, tiny baby clothes, exquisite Fabergé eggs, even well made Barbie clothes I find intriguing. My hats isn’t super tiny, maybe I should call it a midi topper?

Without a firm plan in mind about trimming and nor a 5 piece top hat block, I set to learning how to make a mini topper in sinamay on a buckram and wire framed block, with the mentoring of Edwina Ibbotson during her evening Hat Class.  The mystery was how to get it off the block once it is has dried and been stiffened. If you practicing millinery, you will notice the under cut of a waisted topper as a red flag. Unless you use a 5 piece block that you can take the block apart to extract it from the hat rather than pry the hat off the block, an under cut means you either carefully cut the hat, or destroy the block, neither seemed a good choice for a sinamay hat.

What I Learned…

      • To get the hat off the block without damaging the block or creating a cut edge on the straw, wrap the straw to meet in the back then fold the raw edges to the outside on the first layer. It is tricky to get it to butt together and stay put. I used lots of pins. The second and third layers are butted with the ends folded to the inside. Also use a wide petersham ribbon to hold the waist in while dries. Once off the block you have to sew each layer closed. Starting with the inside layer.

    • It is made in three pieces, the brim, the crown and the tip (top of the crown), make sure you mark the matching up points, especially for the “round” crown & “round” tip.
    • Making a band for an asymmetrical hat with extreme and changing angles is really difficult. I finally fashioned a pattern out of some bias muslin. It was not perfect but that is okay. I used the flaws to guide some of the flower placement.

  • Working within the hat to make invisible stitches between the layers was challenging.  I feel good about the quality of finish I achieved.
Inside finish with covered seams.
Outside wired edge finished with a bias band.

There are lots of steam punk mini toppers which are fun, but I was looking for something lighter. I have a thing for grey and I had some amazing silver little wired stamens from Masario, which I was hankering to use. I had some leftover grey silk georgette that I loved working with on a previous project and experimented to create little bias cut flowers with a dusty pink bead for the center to add just a hint of warmth.


I was sewing the last bits on just an hour before my birthday party. I am delighted with the result.

I have since carved a mini topper block myself and made a variation in felt. It is a different technique with felt. Hopefully I can do a “What I Learned…” for that hat soon.

I would love hear if you have ideas on how to work with an undercut hat block.

Cheers, Leanne

My Hat in a Gallery!

I would like to introduce, Migration, a hat I made of teal pleated sinamay with hand beaded butterflies and a seed beaded crown. This piece was inspired by a mix of several pieces from the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum of Childhood (MoC).

Migration Morley Gallery

Over the last several months I have designed and made three different hats for three hat contests. Not all the hats made it to the second round of judging, but to my delight I got an email that my hat, Migration, was accepted by the V&A Inspired by… contest and that it would be exhibited at the Morley Gallery in London.

Inspired by acceptance

If you would like to read more about my “Inspired by…” entry, Migration. I am in the Exhibition Catalogue on page 3.
If you want to learn more about the UK based “Inspired by…” contest or details on the exhibition Inspired by…2016 is on exhibit from 17 May 2016 – 17 June 2016. Please check the website for the details regarding opening hours.

Migration 2 Rear Right web

Migration 3 Left web

Migration 4 Features web

I recently attended the Gallery Preview and Awards night at Morley College. It was a thrill to see a hat I made on display in a gallery. I just discovered a video of the event on the Inspired by…website. My hat shows up around :13 as well as my family and I on the left side at 1:21 for 1 second! It was a lovely evening with good weather, fabulous music, and creative people.

Inspired by… is an event for adult learners throughout the UK to submit photos of a piece of art/craft they have created with inspiration from something in the V&A collection. The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. The V&A Museum of Childhood (MoC) is located in Bethnal Green and where I drew my inspiration for this piece. MoC have effectively created a place that is interesting and fun for both adults and children.

I have been attending classes at Morley College for several years and it is a wonderful place to learn new things and meet people. Many of my friendships have grown from classes at Morley.

Migration 5 In Progress

This is a collage of images highlighting the pieces I was inspired by as well as the hat making process.

Inspired by… at Morley Gallery is a small and diverse exhibit, I encourage you to go take a look. It is around the corner from the Imperial War Museum, just a short (5 -15 min) walk from Lambeth North or Elephant & Castle tube stations and Waterloo station.

Loving living in London!

and remember…interesting people wear hats.

Petershams
at Elephant and Castle

Hurray a new millinery supply place in town that is close to me. This could be dangerous.

Back in October, I rode my bike over on a Tuesday and was greeted by the owner Michelle.  Petershams.com has been around awhile online, but has just opened a physical shop at  The Art Works Elephant which is around the corner from the Elephant and Castle tube station in London at Elephant Road & Walworth Road. Look for the orange door inside the courtyard.

Petershams at Art Works Elephant
Petershams look for the orange door

Petershams has a lovely selection of sinamay and feathers.

Sinamay feathers petershams
Sinamy and feathers

Shelves of basic hat bodies, combs, headbands, veiling, etc.

Supplies Petershams
Miscellaneous Millinery Supplies

And a few skeins of strip straw. This red was so amazingly vibrant. I was very tempted, but I already had a table full of feathers, sinamay, and tubular crin.

strip straw Petershams
A few skeins of strip straw

Let us not forget the petersham ribbon.

Petershams
A variety of petersham ribbon

The shop is small and does not have every size of every colour, of every item, but it probably does have something that will work. And if you are in need of ideas, she has a box of vintage hats under the cutting table that are good fun to look at and try on. I thought these two were fun. The red straw with strawberries and the little beehive of tiny blue tubular crin.

red vintage hat petershams
tiny tublecrin vintage hat petershams vintage hats under the cutting table

Michelle is also from California. How many people do you think are from California, living in London and making hats? More than two?

Michelle Petershams
Here is Michelle Osborne the owner of Petershams.com

And if all of this is not enough, Michelle has a new puppy, that can be found in the back workroom. I am sorry that I didn’t get a photo of puppy cuteness.

50 Hats that Changed the World – Book Review – HA3

50 Hats That Changed The World
by Design Museum, published in 2011

HA3 50 Hats

HA3 – 50 Hats is 10:41 in length, scroll down to see some text and images that go with this podcast.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a great combination of lovely pictures and short paragraphs packed with information. The writing is accessible but also requires a bit of a stretch for my vocabulary.

Hats have three possible purposes, protection, symbolic and aesthetic. I like how the books finds a balance between these three factors. It highlights how a hat is often meshed with the wearers identity. This may be on of the reasons for the decline in hat wearing after WWII combined with a general trend toward informality. I don’t know if Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, or Noel Stewart were influential in this book, but they all got a rather prominent shout out early on.

There was an interesting quote from the book, “Everything around us is designed.” This quote seems appropriated as the book is written by the “Design” Museum, but personally I think most things more often evolve.

With a broad stroke overview, the book is heavily weighted in the 1900’s by deferring several shapes into the 1900’s, such as the bicorne which was a hat commonly worn by captains and pirates. However the first hat was an impressive crown from 1300’s, but it then skips ahead 400 years to 1789 and Marie Antoinette’s milliner. Nine well known hat shapes were highlighted for the 1800’s and a whooping 32 of the 50 hats were allocated into the 1900’s. Reasonably only 7 hats were saved for 2000’s.
monomakh cap

It must have been a rather daunting task to try to distill the entire history of hats into just 50 and also how to order them to be relevant and interesting. In general I think the book is fantastic, but bringing some of the older hat styles into the current times is misleading, such as the tweed flat cap has been around for 400+ years but doesn’t get a mention until the year 2000.

Areas that I really did like were the discussion about the Bowler, introduced in 1848. I was particularly thrilled to learn it was originally made by James Lock & Co.. It was commissioned by Edward Coke for his gamekeepers to protect their heads from low branches and was designed by Thomas and William Bowler. This was exciting for me because for London Hat Week in 2014, I went on a tour of James Lock and Co. on St. James Street in London. If you get a chance, it is a lovely store. The people were delightful and the hats and history are unmatched. The ladies hats are upstairs and designed by Sylvia Fletcher. I’ve not met Ms. Fletcher but one of the ladies that works there, Claire Strickland, is a really talented milliner. I met her last year at London Hat Week. Take a look at some of her amazing creativity at http://www.clairestrickland.com.

bowlers I love

There is a lot of history involved with the bowler, which is called a Derby in the USA. One element I learned about while in college, which is hat the Bolivian women wear a bowler as part of their traditional clothes.
bolivian bowler

The Balaclava was a term I’d heard, but it was nice to see a picture and be able to see the spelling for the hat that I’d always referred to as a ski mask. Luckily my ski gear is all over the house right now, so I was able to do a “selfie” of my balaclava.

balaclava
Ready for the slopes?!

 

The Victorian Bonnet is fascinating with a huge amount of variation in shape, style and trimming. It was validating that it was mentioned as I’ve been working on making a strip straw Victorian bonnet for several weeks now. It is slow going, but I hope to have photos for the blog soon.
-

victorian bonnet 2

I didn’t like the mesh floppy hat by Maria Blaisse for Issey Miyake. I thought is was just a piece of sinamay that was tied with a string on a wooden head. The only redeeming element of this entry was that this may have represented the introduction of sinamay as a new material in the millinery world. Sinamay was introduced to Australia in 1990, so perhaps the 1987 introduction of the “Mesh Floppy Hat” was a big deal based off materials no necessarily its design. Sinamay is a straw type fibre from the Abaca tree, a member the banana palm family and it is pervasive in the world of millinery.

One of the great things about this books was that I learned about people I’d never heard of, such as Alice O’Reilly, who was the milliner for Cecil Beaton, who designed the hats for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.
My Fair Lady - Alice OReilly Milliner

And Lindy Hemmings who designed the large black hat, worn by Andie McDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral. That wide brimmed hat was made by Herald and Heart in London, here is a short video about this famous hat.

4weddings black hat

In addition to learning about new people, I also learned more about people that I have heard of such as Philip Sommerville. The Millinery community was saddened last November (2014) with the passing of Philip Sommerville. I knew he was a very well accomplished milliner and that many current London based milliners apprenticed with him, but I didn’t know he’d made hats for Diana, Princess of Wales. All of this made me excited all over again with a new (to me) hat block that was from Philip Sommerville’s collection at one time. I have a beautiful beret that is 1/2 done, waiting for the trimming, that I made from his old block.

I adored the second to last hat. I was Aretha Franklin’s grey felt, that she wore for the inauguration of Barack Obama. It was lovely, but I am not sure it qualifies as one of the 50 Hats that Changed the World. But it certainly was a momentous day for many people as the US inaugurated it’s first black president.

Aretha-Franklin-at-Barack-001

Noel Stewart finishes off the hat line up, but it is his quote that caught my attention, “People often draw parallels with sculpture and fashion, but in the case of millinery, it’s a genuine love match.” I like it.

I borrowed my book from the library, but I wish I’d bought it as an easy reference.
http://designmuseumshop.com/products/fifty-hats-that-changed-the-world
50_Hats_That_Changed_The_World

This post was originally planned to be posted in conjunction with the movie release of 50 Shades of Grey, as I thought the similarity between the 50 shades and the 50 hats was funny. However our family had a last minute opportunity to go skiing in the French Alps for a few days, and I’ll admit that I dropped everything to dust off the ski gear for a chance for a skiing adventure. Thus it is a week later than planned.

The book was better than I expected. It was interesting and informative with plenty of eye candy.

Three new words for me.

“Leitmotif of the queens style” – recurring musical idea which is associated with a particular idea, character or place.

“the classic Ska uniform” – music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950’s.

“Vivienne Westwood’s elective oevure” – the body of work of a painter, composer, or author.

Iconic Heads by House of Flora by Neil Moodie, 2003. I am pretty sure I saw this piece in the Museum of Decorative Arts

iconicheads

Field Trip to Luton – HA2

HA2 Field Trip to Luton

It was autumn 2013 and I was surprised with an invite to join Edwina Ibbotson and another apprentice, Mee on a field trip up to Luton to visit three millinery suppliers. Boon & Lane the block makers, Baxter, Hart & Abraham suppliers of felt, straw, and petersham, and Randall Ribbons suppliers of feathers, flowers, an endless array of sinamay colors and much more.

Mee, Me and Edwina
Mee, Me and Edwina

We drove to Luton in Edwina’s light blue vintage Mercedes. That is an experience unto itself. It takes me about 10 minutes to figure out how to do the old seat belts. It is an odd hook and magnet device.  The journey to Luton is about 40 miles through London and takes over an hour and 45 minutes, but we arrive mid morning at our first destination, Boon & Lane.

Edwina and the her vintage blue
Edwina and her vintage blue

 

Boon and Lane  are the block makers. This was an experience to remember. There were two men working in the block factory that was filled  with wood and sawdust on one half and different types of sand on the other. They make both wood and aluminium (also spelled aluminum in the USA, so the reason we pronounce this word differently is that it actually spelled differently in the UK vs US) blocks.  The aluminium blocks are used for more industrial use, where they are attached to a heating device and there is a top and bottom piece that clamps together to form the hat shape all at once.

Steve and sand
Steve Lane tamping sand for aluminum hat blocks.

 

Alan Davies and Steve Lane make everything.  When I was there, Alan was working on wood blocks while Steve handled the sand packing in preparation for the molten aluminium. They were welcoming and generous with their time. Explaining what they were doing, the stages of making a hat block and showing us the various pieces of equipment.

Alan and Edwina
Alan and Edwina discussing her custom shapes that have she has carved from polystyrene.

 

Stages of a block
Stages of block making from Right to Left

 

Thus far in my hat career, I’d done very little blocking, but I was completely seduced by being there. As you are sure to have guessed, today would be my first custom made block purchase. I choose a large downward flat 45 degree brim block and an oval head shaped flat topped crown block with slightly rounded edges, to contrast the domed oval crown block I had in my very limited collection. It took a couple of months for the blocks to be made. Shortly before Christmas, Edwina came back one day with her new blocks along with my freshly varnished crown and brim blocks. They were beautiful shiny golden yellow with my name and the year stamped into them. The excitement was only dimmed a bit as I tried to figure out how I was going to get this massive brim block home on my bike. Alas, I could only manage the crown block that day on the bike, I’d have to wait and bring it home on the bus a couple days later. The journey was made easier by using my very large linen furoshiki

Hat Block from Boon & Lane
Hat Block from Boon & Lane
hat blocks from BL
My first custom hat blocks.

 

 

Next stop –Baxter, Hart & Abraham, suppliers to the millinery trade. This place of tidy and well organized. The textile junkie in me thrilled to touch the various different felts. Wool felt, fur felt, and the really furry felts called Melusine. Then there was the colors. My shopping strategy goes, walking around and gather everything I want.  Then doing a mental subtotal of how much it will cost. Then feeling anxious about how much I have, then putting back some of my treasures, until I don’t feel the sense of financial panic. I bought several wool felts to practice on without too much financial impact, but my prize purchases were a yummy small (cone) cognac (gold) and a beautiful large (capeline) grey fur felt. It was glorious and I was so nervous at messing  up the fur felts. I envisioned a gray (grey) large brimmed hat with a fairly simple crown that I could wear all winter. However, it wasn’t going to be that winter that I’d get to wear it.

my treasures from BHA
My treasures from Baxter, Hart & Abraham – Felts, Petersham, and hat boxes.

 

Last stop- Randall Ribbons, the makers of all things feathers and flowers. They had a minimum order. Their website says a minimum order of £30.  I did not spend anything at Randall Ribbons.  I think I was a bit overwhelmed by this point.  I had placed a rather sizable order at the block makers, and purchased enough felt at the millinery suppliers to keep me busy for a while. And honestly I just could not envision how I would trim these new hats of mine. I would have bought a simple hat pin or something, but with a minimum order, I left with nothing. I cannot say the same for Edwina or Mee.

feather sample board at RR

Boxes of flowers at RR

Sinamay at RR

We only went to three places, but it was such a full day. Many thanks to Edwina for the tour of Luton and Mee for being a newbie like me. It was nice to be able to listen to someone else’s questions.

Since the field trip to Luton, I’ve heard the name mentioned several time in relation to the hat making and millinery industry.  In this country they have been making things for a very long time. Thankfully there are others who love doing to research and writing of the history and I get to read the fruits of their labour.  It was oddly relevant as I have just begun taking a strip straw class at Morley College with Jane Smith.

Stay tuned for future episodes about Luton History and my Strip Straw Saga.

HA Field Trip Luton map