Friday, 21 February 2014

A Custom Pillbox: from idea to sketch to finished item

Today I'm sharing with you a pillbox I made recently as a custom order, and talking about how the custom design process worked in this case.

We begin with a dress pattern and a plan. My client was making this dress for a special occasion and wanted a hat to go with it.

We had a long back and forth exchanging thoughts and ideas. She sent me some images of vintage hats and fashion illustrations. We talked about why she liked each one, about the event, the colours and fabrics of her dress. From that conversation, we were able to rule out some of the inspiration images as lovely but not right for this occasion and outfit.

Next I sent her some sketches. The first was based on the remaining image she had sent.

I also suggested another style I thought might work. You may recognise that I later made this one anyway, and used it in my Bandeau class at the IMF.

She had also suggested a pillbox, so I also sketched that idea, with the wide ribbon-y loop trim from the first sketch.

This is the one she chose. She posted me some leftover fabric from her dress. The fabric turned out to be very thin, so I reinforced it with interfacing when covering the base, but no amount of pleading would make it fold beautifully into stiff loops! So I tried draping it over wire loops, but it was not a success.

I'm going to show you the terrible reject stage of progress, for the sake of transparency, but don't judge me too harshly! I fixed it!

Yikes, huh?

It wasn't looking like either of us had imagined. So I bought a more suitable fabric to do the loops. The upside of this failed attempt was that somewhere in the draping in put a few strips across the pillbox, and I loved that feature! So I kept it in place in the next round of playing.

That's more like it. This is the pinned-in-place and still-playing version, but it was definitely going where we both wanted it too.

I just had to stitch things in place, neaten up the top bands to lay smoother, and then I added some buttons too.

An elastic and a lining and it was ready to go. Nestled into a cosy pile of tissue paper in a shiny box, with loops of cardboard to support the trim as it travelled.

It's gone off to its new home now! I hope you enjoyed this hat and its creation story.

And of course, if you want to be a part of a story like this, you can contact me about having your own custom hat made. I love making whatever hat I feel like, but it doesn't compare to making a special one for a special person.


  1. Oh Tanith, this hat is so ravishingly elegant! It makes me think of something one might have seen an incredibly stylish woman wearing while shopping at a posh NYC, London or Paris department store back in the day, or while out on the town with her chap in the evening. You really did a stellar job here! I bet your client is head-over-heels in love with her new hat!

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you! That's a lovely vision for this hat.


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