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