Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Happy New Year, a little early

I'm off to India for a friend's wedding tomorrow so I won't be updating this for a while. Happy New Year to you all, may 2010 bring you every happiness and LOTS OF HATS!!!

I leave you with a conundrum - I can't work out if I love or hate the hat Sarah Brown wore for the Queen's speech - what do you think?

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Merry Christmas! & a Christmas Day Project

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and feels as relaxed and contented as I do.

I had a wonderful day and got loads of hat books. The best one was Fashion Hats - Design & Make by Karen Henriksen - lots of fantastic ideas, tips and techniques and all really nicely laid out. Good for someone my level who knows the background and has confidence making the hats, but hasn't done much trimming yet.

Like any child on Christmas day, I put all my lovely presents aside and played with something else - some sinamay and feathers for a hat for my mum for a wedding in January. I blocked it on Christmas eve and got the piece wired yesterday. I was playing around with sinamay and made a fairly classic looking fascinator, which I attached to a comb. It was fiddly, but went together in just a few hours.

First I made a bias strip about the width of a DVD (what can I say, I used what I had to hand) and as long as the fabric could handle. Then I used and iron to stretch it and while it was warm I formed it into soft curls. I worked the curls into a ball shape and stitched it in position. I took several of the long feathers and laid them out in a circle. I used a piece of cotton to wrap around them where they met to make a fan shape out of them and then stitched this to the back of the sinamay ball. I then stitched the black feathers into the middle individually. Finally I attached the whole thing to a hair clip and popped it on my mum. I'm rather pleased with how it turned out.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 12

I’ve been thinking more and more about my design and I think that, although I love the look of felt and love working with felt, it just doesn’t have the ‘occasion’ of sinamay. Plus I’m less confident working with sinamay and want to get more practice with it. So I decided that my challenge for last night was to block a two-piece in sinamay.

The problem is that I just don’t like the look of your classic sinamay hat, all mother of the bride and weddings and not what I’m aiming for. I had a wander round John Lewis and Milliner Warehouse for inspiration and decided to make a hat with a felt crown (so I can have another play at manipulation) and a sinamay brim, teaching me how to block that and attach it. To decorate, I’ll add a large flower motif in felt with sinamay swirls and wotnots to bring the two materials together. If it all works out well I’ll wear it to a wedding in January. To bring it in line with the dress, I’ll do decorative topstitching on all the decorative bits in the same colour thread as my dress.

I picked up a fur felt in chocolate brown and some matching sinamay and was ready to go. Brown’s not really my thing, but I wanted to try manipulating with a fur felt and it was chocolate, pale brown or black. I figured the chocolate will go best with my dress.

First I blocked the brim. I chose and off-centre brim block, not too big, and found out very quickly that blocking a brim in sinamay is a LOT easier than blocking a crown!!! I guess that’s not much of a surprise really as the brim is pretty flat and the crown’s all curved and the sinamay’s flat, but I didn’t expect it to be that much easier. Although I did break my elastic doing it!!! I stiffened it with PVA and popped it in the oven to dry.

I’d had an idea of a block with a fairly blocky top, kind of like this one from Morse Brown, but there was nothing like that in the cupboard so I decided to manipulate some folds into a dome shaped crown block. To fit the big floral thingy on the side I decided to just manipulate on one side. I have no idea what this is going to look like, but it’ll be exciting to find out.

I steamed the hood and blocked it on a tall dome shaped crown. Then I put the centre crease in, the two next to it and then started to work down one side. I didn’t like how the front looked so I brought the creases down to form ‘v’s at the front. It’s a lot easier to manipulate the fur than the wool felt and the finished article is a lot more dramatic. I was really pleased with how it came out.

I popped that in the oven and removed the sinamay brim. It’s the last week of term and I’ll miss the first two weeks of next term because I’ll be in India so I have rushed everything off the blocks a lot quicker than I normally would. I hope that won’t affect the finished product too much. I tacked the line on the block that shows the head fitting, but there’s not much else I can do with that until it’s wired. I have found out that I need to cut out the head fitting about an inch in, put in darts and fold up the excess, then stitch it to the crown like that. I’m very nervous about doing that on my own the first time, but I’m sure it’ll be ok.

So finally I removed the crown from the block and wobbled home overladen with precious very delicate things and getting far too much interest from random people on the tube. I hope to get this finished over the Christmas period – maybe I’ll devote next Monday night to it...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Cow Print Ear Muffs

I've been cycling to the station in the mornings recently and my ears have practically been falling off they're so cold. I don't have any hats that fit comfortably under my helmet and when I've tried that my head gets too hot!!!

Only one solution then, ear muffs.

I got some cow print fabric recently which I've been planning to turn into headwear so I Cut some circles of that, lined it with the very soft plush lining from the wedding wraps I've been doing and mounted them onto a band lined with canvas to strengthen it.

Really simple, but they look FANTASTIC!!! Here they are modelled by a very sexy man on the train this morning (doesn't he look thrilled!!!)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 11

We had a different teacher this week – Gina Foster She’s going to be with us until at least Christmas as Caroline’s having an operation. I hope it all goes well and she heals quickly.

We focussed today on sketching – simple quick sketches, stylised fashion drawings and realistic drawing. I’ve not had a drawing lesson since school (and I gave up art in year 9!!!) so didn’t have much faith in myself, but with the increased patience that age brings and quite a few hints and tips as we went along (plus a few things I remember from Art Attack) I was really pleased with my work.

First we drew a hat on a polystyrene head, focussing on proportions and shape. I took photos as I built up the picture (as this really is a brand new skill for me and far scarier than making the headwear) to record the process:

Then I did some sketching on my “theme” and came up with a few funky ideas, but I’m going to do some more work on them before I put them up.

Finally, I removed the red bowler hat from the blocks. This is the one I blocked the brim and crown together to give a one-piece rather than a two-piece. Where the elastic was sitting, there’s a very strong mark so I hope I can get that out as I wanted to make the most of my one-piece blocking by not having a band round the middle in the classic way. The crown definitely needs stiffening and I’ll wire the edge. I’m going to do a rolled edge on this one. Jenny & I had some fun and games with model poses (she’s much better at that than I am) at the end of the session.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 10

Another week of tutorials and freedom to play about as much as we wanted to. When the teacher had been talking about making hats with crowns and brims, she’d said that it’s possible to block the crown and brim together rather than making a two-piece and sewing it together. Intrigued (as ever) I was determined to give it a go.

First off, I must admit that as the teacher was busy doing tutorials I went for the “bodger” approach and don’t know if what I did was right. We’ll have to see next week if it’s worked.

First I steamed my hood (beautiful dark red wool felt this week) and blocked the crown. I used an elastic and pinned the excess to the underside to get it out the way but to keep it stretched. I picked a brim block that fitted around the crown and propped it all in place. I steamed the brim heavily and then stretched it over the brim, pinning the front, back and sides. Using more steam I stretched the felt all around the brim to make sure it was well stretched and straight. The whole thing was excessively fiddly, but not as time-consuming as I’d expected. The brim had a string groove in so I put a figure of eight knot in a piece of elasticated cord (the only thing I could find that wouldn’t snap) to make a sturdy slip-knot and pulled it tight around the groove. I steamed and pulled until I could see that the cord was making a good indentation.

I also steamed the creases out of the hat I manipulated last week. When I took it off the block though, it is far far too tall! I think I’ll measure how tall I want the crown and cut it to make it a two-piece to bring the height down. I trimmed the brim (I’m really pleased with the manipulation I did on that last week) and decided that I’ll try a rolled edge on that when I wire it.

I was exhausted from a lack of sleep over the weekend so I decided I’d achieved enough and headed home early. I’ll try to get some more work in over the weekend ready for next week. I was disappointed to find out that the last class in December has been moved to early January – when I’ll be away. That means I’ll miss two classes instead of one :o(

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Making an emergency 50s hat

Talking to my friend at work yesterday (the one who picked out the fantastic colours for my sinamay headpiece at college) she said she'd been invited to a fancy dress party and didn't know what to wear. And the party is TONIGHT!!! She'd decided on 50s with a pencil skirt and fitted top, but she was worried it wouldn't look like she'd made an effort.

Well, there's only one answer to that - any 50s outfit is topped off with a hat. So I offered to "knock her up" a little pillbox hat.

First question, what have I got enough of in my sewing room? The outfit is black and dark red. I have a red hood, but it's not been stiffened, and I'm not sure I can manage a felt hat in an evening...all my sinamay's the wrong colour...I could knock something together with buckram and cover it...the only black I have is polyester lining fabric - that won't stretch nicely, but I could go for this sort of style (this is a beautiful example from an etsy seller):

I decided it "must" be possible to block buckram, but seeing as it's SO stiff I'd soak it in water first. Ended up with completely floppy buckram and a bowl of black water - hmmm maybe that's not the best way forwards...still, it blocked fairly easily (it doesn't have the open weave of sinamay so I didn't manage to get all the lumps and bumps out, but that's no problem as the pillbox would be less than half the height of the block and I had it pretty smooth down to there.

An hour later, after making a delicious roasted veg lasagne recipe here the buckram was still dripping wet (and dripping black all over my kitchen floor!) Out came the hair dryer and I discovered that if you use that on coloured drawing pins, the plastic covers fall off and your kitchen ends up looking like you've had a smartie-masacre!!!

But after all that, a beautiful pillbox shape. It twisted slightly (I guess that's because I only used one layer) so I wired the brim and that pulled into shape nicely.
I then traced the top of the block onto the black lining, added a seam allowance, cut a strip a little longer than the distance round the block and made a tube with the oval sewn to the top. I stitched the top into place so it stretched out, then ran several rows of running stitch down the tube.

When the running stitch was all done, I gathered the fabric and sewed it into place over the wire. It's not great, but it's pretty good for just a few hours' work in the evening (and on the train this morning) - I hope she likes it

Update: She loved it and here she is looking fabulous wearing it:

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 9

This week we started to have our individual tutorials. I printed off all my diary posts and added in some of the pictures of my research (not nearly enough it seems) along with the other bits I’ve done – spider diagrams, word association, analysis of individual pictures. Then I stuck it all in a folder, loaded up myself with bags of hats (I genuinely hadn’t realised how much I’d produced on the course so far) and proceeded to almost get it all to Fulham Broadway in one piece (a very nasty man tried to squeeze past me, squashed everything and then yelled at me)

I’d brought a hood with me to try some manipulation. First I blocked it on a rounded dome block, pulling it right down to the bottom. Then I released it, lifted it up a little and introduced a fold around the crown. I was going to do more, but I loved the simplicity of it so I pinned that in place and got to work on the brim.

I steamed the brim heavily then started to play with it to try all sorts of shapes. Eventually I settled on having it up on one side and down on the other, with an additional flick down at the top to keep it the right height. I steamed and stretched and compressed all over the place to make it look right and left it in the oven to dry. When it came out it looked like I hadn’t done all the steaming and stretching though – it was wrinkled up again!!!

While I was doing all that, I made up some bias binding in sinamay and started to bind the edge of my headpiece. I was surprised how easily the sinamay was worked around quite tight curves and how smart it looks as it's done.

I had my tutorial right at the end of the evening. The teacher seemed to like my folder, but expected far more photos and pictures and didn’t really look at the rest of the stuff I’d done. I guess I’m taking the wrong approach with my research, but the last time I did a project like this was at school so I know I’m a bit rusty. Oh well, I’ll try to go in a slightly different direction with it from now on.


Friday, 13 November 2009

Pinstripe Baker Boy Hat

Someone at work provided me with some beautiful and incredibly luxurious woolen pinstripe in dark grey and lime green. She asked if I could make her a hat out of it, provided me with a sketch of what she was thinking and handed it over.

I made up a simple baker boy that I've made for myself a couple of times. I worked hard to get the pinstripes lining up and I love the effect that made. The head fitting band was a pain as I did it on the bias, causing it to stretch slightly. This caused the front to ruck up when I put it together, but I steam ironed it until it came back into shape.

Well, here's some pictures:

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 8

So, we’re on the sinamay headpiece. I arrived and went straight for my work (wrapped up in a plastic bag to stop it fading) – it’s even more beautiful than I remember and I just LOVE the way it looks different colours in different directions. I had no idea when I decided to block more than one colour that it would look this good!

Anyway, enough of that. First we stiffened it by painting over it with a thin coating of PVA glue mixed with water (1/4 PVA and 3/4 water) and putting it back in the oven to dry. Another hat dripped on mine so when I took it out there was a big white splodge on it. I ironed it and the white splodge melted into nothing. Phew!

While we were waiting for them to dry, we made some bias binding and stretched it using the iron. A couple of us had sinamay that stretched massively, leaving us with very long very thin binding that couldn’t really be used for anything – a good lesson in testing before you do the real thing! I did manage to turn it into a very funky spring shape with the iron though, which looks fantastic. It sorts out the edges as well, which fray very easily. I might try using that technique on my hat!

The hats were now dry and we used pins to mark out the shapes we wanted to cut from them. There’s such a variety from classic kidney and tear drop shapes to punctuation marks. I love the v-shape that’s created when the sinamay is stretched when it’s blocked so I based my design on that.

With the design marked, we removed the sinamay from the block (still attached to the cling film) and cut it out. This was really scary – it’s very difficult to properly visualise the shape you’re cutting and you’re sort of trusting to faith. We bent wire into the same shape as we’d cut and stitched it to the edge – tie tacks first, then blanket stitch.

And that was as far as we got. I need to get my research and my diary printed out this week so that it can be put in my folder ready for a tutorial next week to review my progress. I’m strangely excited by that!

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I went to see Phantom of the Opera last night and the costumes were amazing. Yes, yes I know I'm supposed to just sit back and enjoy the show, but I couldn't take my eyes off the colours and the shapes. Plus the HATS!!! They were everywhere and gave me so many fantastic ideas. I came straight out and filled a few pages of my ideas book.

When I grow up I want to be a theatrical milliner!!!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Project 16 - Purple Coat - Update

Well, I wore it to work today - with a belt as it doesn't have buttons yet, but what's the harm in that!!!

I finally worked out, after spending all last night swearing at snapped threads, that if I put the sparkly thread in the bobbin it works beautifully!!! I'd had enough by then though and decided to put it away for the night before I did something stupid.

So, what have I done? I finished off the skirt (the instruction that was completely incomprehensible on Sunday night worked really well with a little playing last night - I just pinned it and played with it until it looked right).

Then I stitched the skirt to the bodice. Again I didn't really understand the instructions so I stitched it to the outside (wool) and then hand stitched the lining onto it, which gave a beautiful finish (and an opportunity to get more hand stitching practice whilst watching a fascinating programme on black holes). I think that's roughly what the instructions said, but I get the impression that whoever was writing them was getting a bit bored of doing it towards the end!!! I'm going to unpick the sleeve linings and do them the same way as it looks really smart.

Then the last thing I did was the top stitching - and a lot of swearing. It was only in testing the button holes on scraps that I tried putting the sparkly thread in the bobbin and it came out PERFECTLY and didn't snap!!! Wish I'd worked that one out earlier, but every experience is a learning experience.

I took a few photos of the bodice last night and will get some photos of the whole thing tonight and put them all up soon.

I'm so unbelieveably proud that I've made a real life coat!!! I'm so proud of how professional it looks - the pleats especially - and the fit of the coat is gorgeous.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 7

Right, so after a break for half-term (I spent my Monday night in the audience for “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue”) it’s back to work this week.

I started the evening with my standard rush to Milliner Warehouse on the way to the course. I picked out two colours of sinamay – royal blue and gorgeous green. I’d been chatting with a friend at work about what colours to do and she’d suggested taking inspiration from a peacock feather – so I did. The two colours look fantastic together.

After a bit of an introduction to sinamay, we started to block a crown shape. It’s totally different to working with straw or felt, mainly as you’re blocking a flat piece of fabric into a head shape, rather than starting with a hood. The technique is completely different too. I’m going to try to explain it without the benefit of photos as I forgot my camera (fool!!!), although I did take a photo of the finished product with a friend’s - oooh I've now blocked another one at home and put the pictures up to explain it.

Right, so first you cut a square of the sinamay, slightly bigger than the block. You place it on the bias, so the corners are pointing to the front, back and sides of the block, pinning the four corners in place. Next you dampen it slightly, just spray a little water on your hands and rub it on the fabric, no more than that, and start to stretch it at the corners. This pulls the threads of the fabric from a right angle to a sharp “V” and as if by magic the fabric between the pins starts to pull tight.

Now don’t get me wrong – it’s NOT that easy! It took everyone a while to get used to it and there was a lot of grunting, growling and swearing in the room. The sinamay’s pre-stiffened and the chemicals dry out your hands massively and the sharp ends of the fibres take a lot of the top layer of skin off – lovely stuff! But eventually you’ve got a head shape fairly smoothly. Great sense of achievement! Plus the amusement that every time you rub water onto the fabric it feels like you’re rubbing a bald head!!!

So, you iron the bald head to fuse the fibres together in their new funky positions, stand back and admire your handiwork. Not bad, but it looks a bit thin to be honest. Aha, that’s because you need 3 LAYERS of the stuff!!! Layer 2 is put on at 45degrees to the original and because of the way you’re now stretching across the straighter bits of the block seems to go on a lot easier. Iron that one and it sticks to the first layer – that’s the business. Then onto the third layer at the same angle as the first. Now we’re talking – this is still hard work, but it’s going much easier as you learn how the fibres move and work together.

I’d done mine with the blue on the first and third layers with the green in the middle and it looks fantastic. I’m so pleased with it. I popped it in the oven for half an hour and got a well-deserved cup of tea.

The rest of the session was spent on playing with manipulating the sinamay. We damped it slightly, put a little PVA glue on (to stiffen it as it dries) and rolled the edges of bias-cut sinamay. I made some bias binding (it’s so easy to manipulate – I did some pretty permanent-feeling folds by hand) and people had a play with making leaves and flowers and all sorts with what they had left over. So next week we’ll be stiffening the crowns and cutting them out into pretty shapes before decorating them.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Project 16 - Purple Coat

Ok, so my first coat – and I picked up McCall 5513 over the summer in one of the $3 sales (BARGAIN!) I’ve got a few smart coats and an old battered leather jacket, but I really like the current styles and this one is my favourite.

I’d already decided not to do the appliqué on the back – it’s just not my style and to do some funky contrasting stitching on the seams. I picked up some fairly cheap purple wool coating (a GORGEOUS) colour along with some red lining from Fabric Land. I was going to face it in either lighter purple or red, but when I unpacked the purple I realised I’d been sold 150cm wide when I was told it was 115cm wide so I had loads too much so I decided to self-face. I also bought a set of massive red shell buttons (costing almost as much as the fabric).

I got it all cut out this week, then after spending most of Saturday re-arranging and cleaning my sewing room I got started on Sunday morning. The bodice went together like a dream. All the easing of the shoulder seams and sleeves slipped into place so easily. I officially love working with wool!!! I did all the topstitching in sparkly red thread which is very exciting (although it does snap at the most inopportune moments). I didn’t change anything really except to topstitch most of the seams (only a select few are stitched in the design and that looked a bit random to me) and to machine the lining onto the shoulder seam rather than hem it and slipstitch it. I’m going to get some red binding for that seam to smarten it up, but it feels fine.

Dark fell (so early – since when has it become NOVEMBER?) and after dinner I got onto the skirt. Now that’s more complicated. First are the dozen or so pleats, the only section so far where the instructions are really lacking. All it says is pleat as shown in the picture. I’d never done pleats before, but with a little help from a book I got them sorted and looking rather smart.

The bottom has to be gathered to about ¼ of its original size which with the wool fabric is hard work. The instructions say to run two lines of stitching along the bottom and use those to gather, but my thread just kept snapping. I ended up unpicking that and, following a review I’d read on I found some thick elastic, cut it to the right size and sewed it on stretched out. Even then I had to manually “squidge” the wool as it went through the machine as it was longer than the full stretch of the elastic!!! Eventually (I must have been working on that seam for 2-3 hours – the first difficult part of the coat) I got it done and stitched to the lining and headed off exhausted to bed. I was really disappointed I couldn’t finish it yesterday (I wanted to wear it today), but I’ll do my best to get it done on Tuesday night. It looks like there’ll be a bit more gathering at the top of the skirt but I’m on instruction 54 of 63 so I’m almost there...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 6

In the words of Kasabian, “I’m on fiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-rrrrrrrrrrrrre” – I had a brilliant evening last night and even finished one of my hats!

Since last week, I’ve been stitching the cord made from the blue felt as neatly as I possibly can. I’ve also been playing with it – knotting it, twisting it, holding it against the hat, trying to work out what I want to do with it. My favourite was a figure of eight knot, which I steamed into place at the start of the class. I had planned to run the rest of the cord around the hat and weave it back through the knot, but when I pinned everything in place that just didn’t look right. I played around until I had found the right position, pinned it all there and started to make holes to thread the cord through.

I tried that on a scrap first – different shaped holes and how they worked with the felt stuck through them. I found that making a cross shape worked best, as long as the flaps ended up on the wrong side of the fabric. I marked my locations and off I went. It was really scary to make the first cut, but as soon as I started threading the cord through I was thrilled with the effect. I’d decided to thread in and out based on where the shape goes out and it looks (if I may say so myself) fantastic. Finally I stitched the knot and ‘tail’ in place, trimmed the tail and made the ends look funky (devil tails according to someone at work). I’m really really pleased with how it has come out and really proud of myself for doing something a little out of the ordinary for once.

Next up, I started blocking a beret. I hadn’t expected to finish what I was doing so quickly so I ‘borrowed’ a black hood off someone and blocked it. I was really pleased with how well it went – it blocked very quickly and I didn’t have very much hassle with the rolled edge – I managed to shrink the felt into it far quicker and easier than I ever have before. I need to have a think about what I want to do to decorate this one.

And finally, we all made up some samplers of tie-tacking wire to the felt, stitching the wire on with a blanket stitch and covering an edge with petersham. I did all the stitching in contrast colours to make it clear on the samples, but was really proud of myself that I could barely see the stitching on the petersham, even though I’d sewn white thread onto black petersham!!!

So, an incredibly successful week. Next week’s half term so there’s not class, but I intend to use the time to get all my planning, research and design work written up. And an early night on a Monday – it’s a mission getting home from Chelsea!!!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

A Tragic Loss

The greatest people are taken from us too young. Joe, you'll be missed every day.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Project 15 - Bumblebee - PHOTOS

Earthwatch have kindly sent me some pictures of the bumblebee in action. Please click on their link below and see what they do.

2nd Millinery Course - Week 5

Good morning everyone!!!

Well, it's Tuesday and you know what that means - millinery course update!!!

Last night we presented our initial ideas for design inspiration for our coursework hats. Mine is the tiny boutique hotel I went to last week for a storytelling event. The atmosphere was fantastic and the plain front door hid the most beautiful and sumptuous interior decorating I've ever seen. Click here to have a look at the website.

The ideas in the group are really varied, ranging from taxidermy to exotic flowers to bubbles to pieces of ceramic art. It'll be so exciting to see how they all develop.

Then, with all the inspiration flowing around in the air we got on with our hats. The teacher showed us how to manipulate hats manually, using a plain block to get some really funky effects. I can't wait to have a try of that.

I had decided to take inspiration for this blue hat from a hat on display in the college. A cord has been made from the felt and laced through the hat to make a very sophisticated-looking decoration.

Using a wet pressing cloth, I stretched my remaining felt (cut off in a circle) into a straight line and cut a long strip of it. I started to hand stitch this into a cord. I'm going to get that finished this week so that I can get it attached next week in the class.

Man making hats makes me so HAPPY

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 4

Good morning everybody and welcome to today's installment in the exciting world of the trainee milliner.

Well, I was in a MUCH better mood last night and had the normal fun that I have on the course the group really is the loveliest to work with - not one person who isn't fully involved, loads of chatter and everyone chatting to everyone else. It's really wonderful.

We started out in the library, researching hat designs, fashion and looking for inspiration for our projects. When that closed, we headed up to the room and got back to our felt hats. Everyone's been going at about the same speed which was great as we were all doing stuff together. I got my hat unpinned, off the block and the head band sewed in by the time we went home. I'm really happy with the shape and spent most of the long train ride home sketching ideas for decorating it. Pictures will follow when I get home.

During the evening, the teacher discussed what we'd be doing during the course, what materials we'll be working with, and said that if we produce really original designs she'll put them forwards for a couple of student competitions which is really exciting and has got me all fired up. There's a list of competition winners for a competition in felt this year and almost all of them are from this college. Plus one of them's on the BTEC course

So, my main work for this week is to think of "inspiration". The things I've picked up so far are the autumn leaves around me and (to appease my colleagues) the olympic rings. She's much more keen that we base on a painting or something like that though so we'll see where we end up...I'm keeping my camera on me at all times and my theatre trip on Wednesday may turn into a gallery instead...

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

2nd Millinery Course - Week 3

Well, the jet-lag is finally dispersing and I'm starting to feel human again. I can tell as I spent the train-ride into work this morning with my nose in my note book, oblivious to the world around me and full of ideas

I must admit, Monday did NOT go well. I was tired and grumpy and full of mistakes. Everything went wrong and I made it all worse!

Well, I'd missed the first two weeks as I was on holiday so I got all the hand-outs - three assignments of research, design and make over the length of the course. The other girls on the course are really really lovely and I feel like I've made friends already. One of them had just got engaged at the weekend which was really exciting.

The first few weeks are practical to give everyone a chance to block. Quite a few people have done it before - mainly as they did fashion or design courses at uni. I picked a beautiful block - very small and a one-piece as I'm a little behind in terms of time. I got it blocked quite quickly (in a fantastic royal blue hood) and started to work out the creases as it has a rolled bottom. That was when I got cross and attacked it with scissors, cutting off far more than I should and making life even more difficult for myself. NEVER do complex work when that tired - it's foolish - although I'm sure you all know that one!

There's some detailing on the crown, a little like the block my husband bought me for my birthday and I started to pin that in, but didn't get it complete before the end of the session.

No photos I'm afraid - I didn't remember my camera (I'm quite pleased I remembered all my blocking stuff actually) but hopefuly I'll be better next week. Think I gave a terrible first impression as I was so tired and had had an awful first day back at work, but I've got the next 6 months or so to make that better.

Now to find some "inspiration" for my designs...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


I'm off to America to walk across the Grand Canyon!!! See you in 3 1/2 weeks!

Project 15 - Bumble Bee

This was an amusing one - a scientist who wanted a fairly accurate costume so that he can teach about bees in schools by dressing up as one...

This is a bombus terrestris:

and this is his outfit (to be worn with full length black trousers and top and gloves, but it was far too hot for that when I was modelling it...

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Project 14 - Silk - PHOTOS

Well the wedding was fantastic and although I never quite fell in love with the dress (I think it's too much pattern and a little overpowering), I adore the hat. Here's a couple of pics for you

Monday, 17 August 2009

Project 14 - Silk - Update

The hat...first thing was to make bias binding and then stitch it to the sinamay base

Then assemble it and add a hairband. Decoration still to come...

Decorated with the silk and lining fabric with fishing wire stitched in the seams, then ruffled into gorgeous little pompoms

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Project 14 - Silk - Update

The dress is finished!!!

Bought a bias binder maker today and made some up from the silk to edge the hat. It's looking fantastic so far, although I'm hand-sewing so it's taking a while.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Project 14 - Silk - Update

Where has time gone? When I started this there was AGES to go, and now the wedding's 2 weeks today! Going down to my in-laws next weekend which means I need to finish at least the dress this weekend. And with a social life to fit in

Well, I've got everything cut, have basted all the lining to the silk and done all the gathering - it's amazing how long all that preperation takes!!! Absolutely exhausted, but want to get it at least looking like a dress today, even if I can't get it completely finished off...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Project 14 - Silk - Update

okay, a slight deviation - the dress will get my attention at the weekend.

Yesterday I had a vision. It was in the shape of a hat/fascinator and it goes with the dress. So I mocked it up while no-one was looking out of a sheet of paper at work. Here's the mock-up.

then I got home and made that fingernail size mockup into something out of a cereal box that is the right size for my head (using lots of fantastic circle mathematics I thought I'd forgotten)

I was really really happy with that so I got some sinamay today and I've made up the first part of the hat. REally happy with progress so far...

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Project 14 - Silk - Update

oh my oh my oh my - some very very lovely person has sent me some marfy patterns to try before I get started on the "marfy challenge" and I've just had a little play with this dress (third image):

I picked it as it was the only dress and as you may have noticed, I have a teeny bit of a thing about dresses...

well I made it up (incredibly easily - I was surprised - it only took about an hour!!!) just to see how it went in scrap fabric and it's the most beautiful thing I've ever put on!

so little bit of a change in plan - looks like this is what I'm making up in the's mind blowing and with the drape of the silk it's going to be divine.

Going to rip apart this toile and maybe cut the silk today I'm so excited!!!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Project 14 - Silk - Update

I made up the bodice again last night but I'm still not happy with it. Tried doing French seams for the first time because all my research on silk suggested it - a lot easier than I'd expected (even though I felt I was doing things wrong by sewing on the righ side of the fabric) and very useful for lining things up.

Had a go at pinning the seam allowances to check how it looks as I'm not 100% sure about it. I had a second go at expanding it as the 'stretched apart' look of the folds isn't what I was aiming for. Gotta get it right and all...and it's a good learning experience if very frustrating. I'm finding it hard to get my teeth in with only an hour or so an evening available to do work on it.

Oh well it's best to get things right before I start on the silk...

Update: Well, that sort of worked, but I just don't like the shape of the dress now that it's my size. Think I might have a look for a different pattern...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Project 14 - Silk - Update

ok, so I finally got around to lengthening the pattern - a good excuse to get my pristine (because it scared me) fitting book out and have a look at what to do.

I had to add 2 inches - there's 2 pleats so I put half an inch above each and an inch below the bottom one. The pattern needed more tweaking than I expected to make the lines match up again, but I think I've done ok.

Hoping to cut that out tonight and redo the toile for the top of it. See if that fits, and if it does I can get on with the real thing (or put it off for another few weeks as I'm scared to cut the silk)

Monday, 6 July 2009

Project 14 - Silk

Well, after years of wandering into Liberty to gaze longingly at the fabric, I finally turned up during the sale and bought myself two metres of this:

I've never held such beautiful fabric and I've certainly never had any clothes made out of something so gorgeous.

As it's the first time I've ever worked with silk, and as it has such a bold pattern I want to make something very simple with it. I have this pattern (used view C for my dress for my Aunt's birthday party) and thought view D would be ideal:

I had to lengthen view C massively (3 or 4 inches in the bodice) when I made it before, and putting the toile together, view D will be the same...BUT...there's no "lengthen or shorten here" line and I'm not entirely sure how to go about it.
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