Age counts….

The same cloche-block like in the article before, but another hat bodie. And the same problems! But why?

Not only the treatment of a hat bodie counts, but also it´s age!

Especially straw hat bodies can be to dry and overaged, if they are from the 1950s/60s or before.

Not every vintage hat bodie is concerned, some of them are good to work with and the attempt is worth it!

But some others show cracks and breaks during the process of stretching und some of the folds remain and can not be removed by damping or ironing, because the hat bodies were stored in piles or under other adverse conditions for decades, got crumpled and the material “remembers” the folds….

This hat bodie had both problems. It had some folds and in the brim-area, the straw was brittle and cracked. In such a case, make the best out of it! Depending on where the flaw is, you can make an element of decoration with the damage, like I did on the brim! If the flaw is in the crown, just enlarge it, cut it to shape, line it with some other material or, if the damage is small, use it to draw a feather or any other decoration items through.  Or cover it with a ribbon.

Don´t be disappointed, if the vintage hat bodie refuses to work with you the way you want or respond with damages. Don´t give up!  It won´t be a perfect hat, but still wearable.  And the fine old material is always worth the trial!

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Treat your hat bodies right!

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Look at this little yellow cloche….It looks a bit odd, don´t you think?

All those creases and it´s rather stiff and the texture uneven!

Much more like a beginners hat, not a hat made by a more experienced milliner!

So what happened?

Last year I  bought a lot of millinery items and hat bodies from another milliner. It seems, she wanted to work with the yellow hat bodie, stretched it over a block, starched it- And than obviously changed her mind. Afterwards she must have “crumpled” the hat bodie, and layed it aside.

When I got it, it was dry, stiff, more like a scrunched newspaper and not in the condition, a good and expensive hat bodie should have.

I tried to gently wash out the stiffener, but only succeeded in parts. I didn´t want to give up, so I stretched the wet hat bodie over a wooden block and patient  worked on the shape. But there were some folds, I couldn´t remove anymore. And the hat bodie remained a bit starchy, so I didn´t use new stiffener. I did all I could, to make the hat as good as possible- But in fact the hat bodie was ruined by the rough treatment, it had before.

So please treat your working-items and materials right! If you work on a hat and find,  you changed your mind, don´t  throw it in a corner and let it rot.

Take it off the hat block, wash out the starch before it dries and than reshape it and let it softly dry on room temperature. then put it on another hat bodie or a hat stand. And use it as soon as possible….Or you end up with hats like THIS!!!!


A pair of scrap-caps

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WP_20160317_12_41_20_ProIn series one of “The House of Eliott” Evangeline often wears a black velvet beret with two tassels and appliques. I adore that piece!

But it wasn´t the first time I saw it. Like so many clothing and millinery from  movies , it was reused for another series. So after the end of “The House of Eliott” in 1994, the beret  went to “Agatha Christies Poirot” and embellished the head of Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver.  There I noticed it for the first time, wanted to make one for myself- And forgot it….

But this time I  wouldn´t let the thought slip out of my mind.

I had three scraps from furniture-fabric around 1960 or a bit earlier. The scraps have beautiful patterns and a soft velvet texture.

Perfect for two berets. The only problem was the much smaller diameter.   So my berets look different in shape. The crown is smaller and the band is wider.

I had no template, that was big enough, so I simply used a cake plate to help me with the pattern. Many kitchen-items are helpful for millinery or sewing!

What was left over, made (combined with other scraps from my stock) a crazy little bag, matching both berets.

Result: Zero waste!


Another boring, mass-produced hat, I found in a second hand store. It had a 1970s style, but I liked the damped shade of rosewood and the felt was of a better quality, so reshaping was worth it. I carried my loot home, removed hat band and decoration and stretched it over a genuine 1920s hat block. The original decoration, a small feld-band was reused, I just made a decorative knot and fixed it to the hat again. Front decoration is now a dyed bobbin doily!

So, if you don´t know what to do with one of those nice little  bobbin “dust-traps”, here´s a possibility: Make it a hat-decoration!




Hat-Scraps…or Scrap-Hats

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Whenever you finish a hat, there are some scraps remaining.

But milliners don´t throw them away. Hat bodies- especially in a good quality- are expensive and there aren´t many suppliers these days. So you store the scraps and use them in new projects. Some of them end as decorations, but larger pieces can be combined to complete hats, like in this case.

The salmon hat is made from two different kinds of sinamay in salmon and brown, combined with a piece of salmon straw for the brim. I added some ribbon-pieces on for the flowers and the decoration.

The brown hat is made from two kinds of paper-straw, separately worked of course and then combined. The pattern for the cocade comes from the book  “How to make 100 Ribbon Embellishments” by Elaine Schmidt.

This book has (different from other books in that field) good instructions, also  useful for beginners.

So grab your scraps! You can make always be creative with them !

Tale of the “Rage-Hat”

Hat blocks were made over centurys in Europe. Most of them from wood, but alternative materials like wire, stiffed fabric, paper maché, plaster or different kinds of mass were also used.

Industrial production of hat blocks came with the 19th century. But the handmade, unique  blocks, build by wood-carvers or women still existed. And they looked often very different to the industrial ones.

Industrial blocks have holes on the underside, to put them on a stand for work, but some of the unique hand-made blocks have none.  And it was (and still IS) common, to use laminated wood for a hat block.  Usually hardwood was used, but there are some examples of different kinds of woods, especially on unique hand made blocks.

Huge and heavy hat blocks, that would have tipped a stand over, got supporters of wood underneath or were plain.

And it was not always necesssary to use needles and pins. Until the early 20th century, the hat crown was fixed on the pass to the brim with belt-like stripes of leather or strings. Felt- or straw bodies were just folded under the underside of that huge and heavy hat blocks. And also grooves, very common today, existed then. Little cushions, filled with sand or rice, held the hat body down on cavitys.

Some of this methods are still commonly today!

OK, Lady….But  WHAT is the meaning of this lecture?

Wait and see! Here comes the story of the “rage-hat”:

Some years ago, by asccident, I found a vintage hat block from around 1910-18 with one of those outsized hat-crowns, that were fashionable at the time. I dreamed of making period hats for theaters or reenactment, but it never turned out this way. So I sold the hat block with a heavy heart for a good price.

Problem solved and everything´s coming up roses?

No! The opposite! Soon after, I received a rather “frosty”email from the buyer.

She told me, I had sold her a useless “decoration item” instead of a genuine hat block and wanted her money back.

Her reasons were: The hat block has no holes on the underside and can not be used on a stand, it is laminated from different pieces of wood and those “shelfes” are not suitable to push pins in.

That´s right. But the heavy hat block was never meant to be worked on a stand. It´s weight is 3 kg! And it´s not necessary to work with pins on it. The use of  laminated “shelfes” is also not uncommon. And why on earth, should anyone with a sense make a huge block in shape of a Titanic-Era hat and use it as a decoration item at home?

I must confess, it made me angry. A good milliner should have the skills to work even on uncommon hat blocks and not only on convenient modern or industrial pieces!  It´s ok, to “dump” some technics or blocks, if you don´t go along with it, or you found a better way.  but it´s important, to test it and have the experience!

I payed the money back and the hat block came back home again. I think, I keep it!

But there are things, I won´t have!  And one of them is, if someone accuses me, I had sold her decoration-rubbish, useless for millinery.

So I sat down and MADE a hat with this block! Without using pins! (I should have done that years before!)

And here it is, the hat, that can´t exist, according to this Lady….Rather nice for a hat, made on a “decoration item”, isn´t it ?WP_20160127_15_28_46_Pro__highres WP_20160127_15_32_44_Pro WP_20160201_14_24_42_Pro WP_20160201_14_25_10_Pro WP_20160202_22_30_19_Pro__highres WP_20160203_14_34_55_Pro__highres WP_20160203_14_35_11_Pro WP_20160203_14_35_34_Pro

Dragonfly and Lizards

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Ok…Another cloche again….!

But I love them! And this one got a special embellishment: A big Art Nouveau dragonfly in the middle of the front and eight swarming little brass-lizards  from the same era on one side.  The hat is Art Déco-Style, but I think, the metal stamp-animals are a good match anyway. But there are people, who get a bit edgy, by the sight of this hat…..

Millinery Items? YES!

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It´s fun to have some beautiful wooden hat blocks….But what, if you can´t get the one you desire for a new project, because there is no hat block in the right shape on the market or you simply have not enough money to buy , or let it custom-made for you?

Or you had just started millinery and your budget is very small?

So be creative!

Look everywhere: In your kitchen, your cabinets, on flea-markets, sozial-departments….But for WHAT? Hat blocks seem to appear there seldom…REAL hat block off course…But some items in the form of hats and fascinators are easy to find.

Bowls  in every shape and size, candlesticks, lampshades, sieves, lids, coasters…Whatever inspires you, can be used for millinery.

But what about items, made of glass, ceramic or metal? It´s impossible, to push the millinery-pins in.

I have solved the problem by wrapping some strong gaffer-tape around the edge of the item, I want to use. Usually I  avoid the use of anything plastic, but in this case, I couldn´t find another solution. (And as you can see on the pictures, there IS a blue plastic-bowl! But I simply couldn´t resist the curvy shape!)

The gaffer-tape sticks on the edge in- and outside and you can plunge the pins careful through, if you stretch the hat body.

So don´t let your small budget get in the way of your millinery. There is always a possibility and to use “lost” items like shabby bowls, lids without their pots, shades of broken lamps and ugly candlesticks as millinery items , can be another wise way of “recycling”.

A hat and a crown

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Another rag-princess-tale.

“Look, what I made!” the rag-princess yelled.

Prince charming startlet that much, he almost fell off the chair.  “Wife! Why are you screaming like a sirene? Ist the enemy on our gate, ready to attack the castle?”

“No, silly!  Of course not! I just wanted to show you the new cloche-hat, I recyled from an old one!”

“Another hat?” prince charming groaned. “When I opened your closet last week almost 500 of them fell out!”

“342 including this one, to be precise…They are part of my project “365 hats around the year.” That means, there are still 23 to make! Now tell me…do you like it?”

“I find it hideous! prince charming said. “There are two things, I really dislike and those are cloches and velvet of every kind!”

“But I love cloches and velvet!” The rag-princess beeped.

“As if I didn´t know!” prince charming snapped.

“Do you like ANY of my hats?”

“…Well….Some of your cart-wheels aren´t that bad….But the others are quite absurd. I wished, you would wear the crown instead, I gave you for our wedding.”

“The crown is pressing. It gives me a headache. And It´s not very helpful in the rain or burning sun!”The rag-princess said and straightened her cloche, that was displaced while the crosstalk.

“But you would much more look like a princess and not like a….a….There is acctually no word for it! And everyone in the fairy-land knows, that princesses never get wet in the rain or even get a sunburn!”

“Rubbish! What about Cinderella? When I saw her two days ago, she was wet like a rat for beeing caught in the rain without a hat or umbrella!”

the rag-princess gave her husband a scathing look,  floated to the cloak room to get her coat and soon after, when both went for a walk, she wore her new cloche and a velvet coat……

The red cloche on the pictures is recycling. When I started millinery years ago, some of my beginners-hats were actual catastrophes. This one was so horrible, I burried it as deep as I could in my “trunk of shame”. But that was no real solution, so I digged it out again and turned it into this cloche. It has some little flaws on the inside, but on the outside it looks brand- new. I embellished the hat with silk-satin-ribbon, vintage petersham ribbon and a genuine art-déco-belt buckle.

Another “Phryne”-Hat


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Series 3 of “Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries” finally arrived here on the  day before Christmas. And -as expected- some fantastic new hats did show up.

When I saw the  pink toque with the vintage embroidered flower embellishment, I got “voracious” to have one in that style for my own….

Of course not exactly the same hat.  The dark pink of the original hat does absolutly nothing for me. So I chose eggplant colored felt from a hat, I made years ago and now wanted to recycle.

And I wanted to try a beautiful old french hat block, I possess for years and never did anything with. It has a slightly different shape, but I wanted it that way.

About the vintage flower-decoration, I can say , that for once I was in a good position: I didn´t have to look far, because some of those embroidered flowers were produced in the eastern part of Germany, between the 1920s-40s.

And many of them were hidden and forgotten for a long time in old stores, cellars, attics and storerooms, survived the times of the DDR and now come back to light again one after the other.

By chance I found one, matching my hat and very similar in color to the one on the pink toque. It has of course a complete different shape. To get exactly the same flower would have been a miracle and much more, than I expected.

But mine ist pretty too and I mounted it on the felt bow, belonging to the hat.

After finishing, I made pictures and found the hat pretty well on my “assistent” Lucy. But when I tried, it looked somehow odd.


I turned the hat from left to right, put it on askew and finally turned it completely with the back in front….That´s when I found out, what was wrong: The flower-bow-decoration was on the same side like the pink toque showed. But my Version looked much better on ME with the bow on the opposite. So I removed the bow, turned it upside down and remounted the flower. Than I sewed it on the other side.

And now it works. I made new pictures with Lucy, put it on myself and it really looks much better!

The first comment I got, after finishing this hat was “My grandmother had some like these….”

I answered ” But mine is DIY and there is only one.”

“Well….I hope so!”