Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Millinery, or Do I Really Need Another Hobby?

I'm back from Germany! I didn't actually get anything sewing related. When I got to Frankfurt the hotel clerk at the Quality Hotel Kaiserhof was extremely friendly and helpful, so I hazarded to ask her if she knew anyplace to find sewing supplies. She said I merely needed to go to the big fancy department store and find the sewing floor. Imagine! I know that at some point in the not-so-distant past department stores in the US had sewing sections, but I don't think any vestige of such a thing still exists.

So I was quite excited to hit up the Kaufhof and see if I could find some of BWOF's beloved Vilene bias tape. Alas, while there was a small sewing section in Kaufhof, it was more like the sewing section in a Michael's than an elegant couture destination--needles and thread, iron-on patches, embroidery floss, that sort of thing. No real notions and no fabric at all. I actually found a couple of fabric stores in my wandering, but they were quite small and I wasn't in the market for fabric so much as notions and they had no notions at all. Alas.

On the non-sewing front, I wanted to get a 1920s cloche type hat and a pair of long leather gloves to wear with my cape. I don't prefer to wear leather, being a vegetarian, but for items that will last a long time and give good wear I will buy it rather than cheap things that will clog up a landfill.

I looked all over for hats, stopping into all the secondhand stores. But they were more high end contemporary wear than vintage. I couldn't find a hat store to save my life. I followed some signs to a market for local designers. The "market" turned out to be a few tables with hand-knit goods and hand-made purses--which were nice but not what I was looking for. There was a little shop nearby, Ton in Ton, that had a few hats. I got one that wasn't the exact style I was looking for, but is cute. It was made on a serger and looks kind of hand made (I mean that in a good way, not in a Loving Hands at Home way) and I figured the artisan appreciated my purchase. Of course, as soon as I bought it I found a hat store, but shops close at 4 on Saturdays(!!!!) and it was closed, so it was just as well. I haven't had a chance to photograph yet, but I'll try to show it off soon. I found the gloves at Promod, which is sort of a Contempo Casuals or The Limited of Europe. They're cool though--they have tiny buttons up the side.

I really love hats, always have, and the problem is that I have a tiny head (but a big brain, LOL). It's impossible to find hats that fit. I have been wanting to make hats, proper hats using a hat block and steamer, for ages. This vision of a 1920s cloche just won't go out of my head so I'm going to try it.

New hat blocks run $350-$500, but there are many vintage specimens available on eBay. I was clicking around and found this set that I just had to have. The aluminum is definitely not a traditional material, because pinning/nailing your felt to the block is part of the process, but how much do you love it? And love that it comes with both a cloche and a pillbox block? I don't plan to become a consummate haberdasher. I mean, I'm The Slapdash Sewist. How likely is it that I'd be The Meticulous Milliner? (Though if one were perfectionally inclined and made hats I think that would be a cute name.) So it will serve well enough for my purposes.

Of course, the first place to go for hat-making information is the internet. I've been a fan of La Bricoleuse for quite a while. She is a professional milliner/haberdasher for the stage as well as a professor and generously gives a lot of detailed information on her projects.

I really liked the Wannabe Mad Hatter , especially her series on making a 1920s style cloche.

Here is a more slapdash approach to making a hat (for stage purposes), that gave me ideas for making a hat without a big investment in a block (though I decided to go ahead with the block anyway). This is from The Costumer's Manifesto by Tara Maginnis

Supplies are not available from so many sources as for fabric, but this list of online millinery suppliers from Something About Mary is as comprehensive as I can tell.

Now I just have to (im)patiently await the arrival of my block and find some wool felt. You can buy felt "hoods," which are roughly blocked into a hat shape but need refinement and final shaping. You can also buy wool felt, though it's hard to find 100% wool felt--it's mostly 20% wool/80% rayon (which won't do at all!). I have some roving I purchased in Sweden three years ago and there are some good sources on Etsy so I think I will probably end up making my own felt. Then I'll have to dye it. Then block it. This could be quite a process. But I had to confess my obsession and, more importantly, its resulting purchase on the blog to make myself do something with it!

A serger last month, a hat block this month. What will December bring?


badmomgoodmom said...

I used to buy plain felt hats and blocks at Berkeley Hat Company.
They don't show those on the website, but you can call them for help.

Their prices are very reasonable.

Helen said...

You can get felt "hoods" at Judithm.com. I think she may also sell felt by the yard for those sewn hats (like Vintage Vogue) but I'm not positive.

You might also check out the plastic hat blocks at hatshapers.com.

Another website is the british how2hats.com. They have a newsletter and a whole catalog of blocks.

I took a class when I lived in Houston -- it was much more fun than I ever expected. The instructor had lots of blocks she'd collected over the years, so lots of shapes to try out.

Jill B said...

Glad You're Back - interested in your outcomes!

Sew4Fun said...

You visited the wrong city for hats. You need to come to Melbourne where I'm sure we are the hat capital of the world. :) This time of year is Spring Racing Carnival (horse racing) where every and I do mean *every* lady wears a hat or fascinator. It's almost a crime not to. The stores are overflowing with hats atm in every shape and colour and milliners abound.

Cristina - madhatter wannabe said...

Keep us posted, I look forward to seeing how it goes. I've never made felt myself, and buy my felts not of wool but of furfelt because they are so much soft and easy to block. Recently I was in Germany for a special sale of felts and straws, you can check it up on my blog.
If you decide to buy yourself more blocks please go for the wood ones, I believe they will be easier to work with, but then again, I never tried with a metal one.

Daisy Barreto said...

Hi. You may already have this information, but just in case, you may want to look at some of these vintage patterns: http://www.vpll.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=262&osCsid=as1ctmkc4bdv220fs0bclb3di4