Thursday 23 April 2015

Getting into millinery - the materials

Because of the fitting issues connected with my post-pregnancy shape, I am getting into millinery this year. I've always wanted to do that anyway ... :)
(yes, I am pausing woolly things for now - what good is a warm scarf or poncho in July at 35 degrees Celsius?  - and I am planning to get into sewing again by the end of 2015/beginning 2016)

A word on millinery:
Millinery is a highly specialized trade. It's not something you just "do". It requires not only special equipment and material but also knowledge and skills. Something that you usually learn in years of an apprenticeship and refine all though your life.
I am hoping to acquire some skills in the future, but you never know what happens.
I am expecting this to be a long and hard ride with successes and setbacks, with good ideas that turn out completely horrible and mistakes that turn out wonderfully. I am hoping to be able to use these skills for my historical projects as well as vintage inspired headwear for "everyday" (1920s cloches, 1950s headpieces).This will include covered buckram frames as well as felt based hats.

Hatmaking/Millinery also includes making the decorations yourself - e.g. work with feathers or making silk flowers from scratch. I have to be honest - I'd LOVE to be able to make one of those hilariously big and beautiful silk peonies or silk roses, but I am not sure, whether I am ever going to get there. Especially the japanese flower making art seems so appealing...  Making something like this would be great, wouldn't it?

from an alaya bar ad, google, never mind the jewellry, look at the flowers!!

Anyway, back to millinery:

It all started with always wanting a properly fitting 1920s cloche. And never finding one. And then I stumbles across free-form hat blocking (see e.g. here, a video on

And then I found this book:

I really like this book, the author gives an overview over materials first. What I REALLY appreciate was her suggestions to use an old fashioned waterkettle to generate steam. So far I had only found apologetic "yeah, these professional steamers are, like, really expensive, but what can you do..." (you can only get these apparently jiffy steamers (Germany)). And to  be completey honest with you, I didn't really think spending about 250 Euros just to do a bit of millinery on just a steamer was quite worth it.

I also got this one:
It is in German and it focusses on modern millinery, too, with reference to stuff available in Germany.
People don't wear headwear as much here, so it's more difficult to get things.

(picture form

So over the last months I have slowly started to collect the ingredients

An old fashioned water kettle.
You can't see it, but it is big. It can contain about 4 litres and the bottom circumference is about 22cms. I love the spout. I could even make tea in it. It is in perfect, spotless condition, looks as if it had never been used before. Or just really gently. It should produce lots of lovely steam. :)

(picture from bidding)
And lots of bits and bobs

- sturdy needles (I got some that are meant for model plane making, they have a finger friendlich plastic top, "Stoßnadeln")
- for a start simple wool felt cones (I prefer the softer surface of melusine or peachbloom, but for practising simple ones should do) and plain 100% wool felt pieces
- millinery wire (Hutdraht)
- millinery needles (Modistennadeln)
- suede brush (Rauhlederbürste)
- felt stiffener (this proved to be the most difficult part, more on this in a later post) and brushes
- water spray bottle
- petersham ribbon (cotton/viscose blend) (Ripsband)
- and last but not least a hat block

- due to the need for experiments regarding felt stiffener I got a small fascinator hat block, so I could try out different stiffening techniques before ruining the felt cones.

(picture from, easyhatblocks)

- For free form hat blocking a hat block like this is required, you can also use it for small headpieces, fascinators and wig-dressing. We'll see to that later. Due to the need to experiment with the stiffener first,

(picture from, borsolino)

The hat blocks are the biggest investment if you want to get into millinery...

So long!


Coming up next in millinery: the felt stiffener project.