Tuesday 28 November 2017

Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Tanith

Three years ago I had a newborn baby and I made a felt hat that would travel the world.

It was a journey that I expected to take a year, that ended up taking three, when it should have taken two. It's been a year since Adelaide, as we named the hat, came home to me, hand delivered by my sister, who was the last person she visited.

At that time I was pregnant, exhausted, not fitting into most of my clothes, and not really feeling like being the subject of photos. I did plan to do it anyway, many times, but I made more and more excuses. Time. Energy. Wardrobe. Body Image. Hair. Heat. Rain. Then T-Rex was born and naturally it became even more difficult to get a photo shoot done, and life was even more exhausting. Plus, after all the wait, I felt I should make it a really good shoot. A really good outfit. A special location.

In the end, it wasn't any of those things. But enough was enough! While T-Rex napped, we went outside and my husband took photos of me in front of our deck and a bush in our neighbour's front yard while Teacup played and picked flowers.

And it was enough. Of course it was. I should have known.

Because I have no hairstyling skills, I decided to try the hat with a snood, and I really like how they look together. I threw my Evelyn Wood velvet coat/dress over a black shirt dress and there you have it.

Adelaide came home with many souvenirs, including her decorated hat box. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with her after she came home, but I think I'll have to pack her back up with her treasures and keep her for the future, for my daughter perhaps.

I love how Adelaide's journey is one of so many stories. 8 countries, 18 different women. Some of the bloggers who participated are no longer blogging, no longer present in the vintage community. Some have become close online friends, some I have since met in person as well. And the newborn baby who napped while I blocked this felt is now a chatty three-year old, with a baby brother.

Thank you all so much.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Say hello to the Grevillea beret pattern!

More than a year in the making, my first hat sewing pattern is here, and I'm delighted to finally share the Grevillea Beret with you. Choosing what the first pattern should be wasn't easy, but when I think of how many berets I've made for myself from this pattern, and how often I wear them when the cool weather rolls around (which is most of the year, to be honest), it was the obvious choice.

So, here are the basics about the hat. It's a sectioned crown beret, with two views, one with six sections and one with eight, and two widths of side head band.

It's great for lovely wools. I like to use old jackets and coats sometimes, and in fact my first beret from this pattern was once a much loved red coat.

You can wear the beret in a variety of ways; it's really versatile. I'm a fan of wearing mine to the back of the head as shown in most of the images. And I really do wear them. I have three in my wardrobe and I'm making a fourth at the moment, and they are my go-to cool weather hat.

The basics about the pattern. It's available at my Etsy shop as a downloadable PDF pattern. You get two PDF files, one is the instructions and one is the pattern. The instructions contain all you need to know about fabrics, sizes, whether to line it, what to do about grain direction, and of course full step-by-step instructions with photos.
The pattern file will need to be printed out, at 100% size, and the pieces cut and assembled (where they are larger than one page). The instructions include explaining how to do that if you are new to print-at-home patterns.
I'm really excited (and tired and beyond-anything-terrified but let's stay positive) to be launching this pattern into the world and starting out in this new direction. Expect some tips and tricks and bonus tutorials coming up soon!

I do have things in motion for the next few patterns but feel free to suggest what you'd like to see in the future.

(Oh and one more time, you can get the pattern here.)

Thursday 16 November 2017

Flowers, crinoline, and a place for millinery

This latest custom creation combines two more new skills (I said I wanted to learn this year, and I'm really doing it!) but I'll have to talk more about each of them another time.

I actually took another online class on working with crinoline, and I have 1.5 finished hats using those techniques, but no photos of the completed one yet. Still, it gave me a lot of confidence with the material, and I used the techniques in a slightly different way to bring this hat to life.

I feel like it's a real mix of vintage shape and details but using a less conventional material and realising the project using modern techniques. Definitely an unusual one for me, but I'm really pleased with it!

One thing that usually happens when I'm working on custom orders is that I'll get excited and ambitious, and this happened rather a lot here. I sketched flowers in the original design and figured I'd work out the details later. In the end, "the details" became me tackling yet another new skill - French flower making.

Traditional flower making involves heated tools applied to stiffened fabric (usually silk), and it seemed a bit daunting, but I managed to achieved some creditable results in my self-imposed crash course. The usual beginner flowers are roses, but yet again ambition got the better of me, and I veered off on my own to try pansies. In the end I think they are much easier as the petals are relatively flat and they only have 5 petals each, so I saved myself some time there!

It's not an ideal technique for working in tiny pockets of time in the evenings though, so my progress from here may be rather slow, but I know I'll get to it at some point.

This is the first hat of mine to attend the Melbourne Cup (as far as I know). I had mixed feelings about this and had a little reflect on my ethics. I love hats, and in Australia racing fashion is the primary millinery market and the pinnacle of the art is displayed at Melbourne Cup. Milliners involved in this field are pushing the boundaries all the time and creating techniques and styles that are beyond stunning and incredibly intricate. It is the most inspiring stuff.

Racing, on the other hand, stands for a whole lot that I am not keen on, but primarily the mistreatment of animals. (I'm not crash hot on gambling and binge-drinking either). It's mainly for this reason that I've not chased the racing fashion clients, and I'm glad that I chose not too. I've ended up much happier in my lovely vintage fashion niche anyway.

I don't really have a point there, just to say that as much as I am loving learning the newer techniques and making things in different styles, that I won't be changing direction into racing fashion, even though the average person in Australia assumes that it is all any milliners do.

And that I wish there could be some other event that gave every day people a socially-acceptable reason to wear extreme, high-fashion art millinery. That would be cool.

P.S. Thanks to Beccie for letting me use her photos in the post. All I had were the other ones with pins still in the hat!

Wednesday 8 November 2017

"Lace Garden" mini collection

As you may or may not know, as well as selling through Etsy, I have my hats in a local bricks-and-mortar shop, called The Blackheath Hub, which stocks the work of over 100 artisans from the Blue Mountains. They've recently started doing themed exhibitions as well. I wouldn't have thought I would have time to contribute, but when I heard the theme was flowers, and I had just finished the my first lace flower headpiece and the lace halo crown, and was starting a few more pieces, I thought I might actually be able to do it!

And I did! There were a few late nights at the end, but I completed the remaining three pieces I hoped to make.

Two were smaller simpler pieces (although with four flowers each that's still 20 wired lace pieces and at least 5 hours work!) that I felt would help round out the collection. (If anyone's keeping a list of "things that are hard to photograph", you can go ahead and add black lace and white lace to it.)

The fifth was a bit more of a...statement piece. I sketched this in hospital, or perhaps shortly afterwards in my long periods of lying around and drinking coke on doctor's orders, and I've been excited for it ever since.

I had long periods of doubt during the making process, particularly when I was making the bird, asked my husband how he thought it looked so far, and he replied "What's it supposed to be?" In the end though, I'm pleased with the result.

Having heard the next couple of planned themes, I'm keen to participate in more of the Hub's exhibitions. I love a good theme, and although I don't love a deadline, they do help me get things done. I doubt that the gold and black one would actually have gotten done this year, if at all, otherwise, and I'm really proud of it, so the odd deadline must be good for me.

Which do you prefer: over-the-top statement piece or delicate (relatively) subtle crown?

Tuesday 17 October 2017

The Trove Pattern Project - Reviewing Free Vintage Hat Patterns

It's been more than three years since I attempted the first vintage millinery pattern that I found in the pages of the Australian Women's Weekly, and two years since I started my official attempt to test and review all of the free hat patterns I could find in the Trove archive. In that time, I've tried 8 sewing patterns and my sister and I have also reviewed a crochet snood pattern, ranging from the 1920s to the 1950s. That seems a little weak, but I've also made two humans so, you know, back off.

Anyway I decided that it was time to create a page to bring all that information together into one place, and also share the links to some of the future projects waiting in the wings (there are many many patterns I've found, so I'll add to this more as I go). So here it goes, the master list!

Reviewed Patterns

NB: Links here will take you to my review, and the link to the original articles will be in those posts.

1954 "Butterfly Cap", a velvet bow on a wired buckram foundation, from the Australian Women's Weekly.

1954 Scarf Hat, a simple fabric hat, from the Australian Women's Weekly

1949 Pixie Hat, felt or velvet pixie style hat with a pointed crown and turned up brim, from the Australian Women's Weekly.

1953 Scarf Hat, a draped jersey scarf with a padded headband, from the Australian Women's Weekly.

1939 Doll's Hat, a tilted cone-shaped hat on a buckram foundation, from Table Talk.

1934 "Vagabond Beret", an asymmetrical fabric beret, from the Sydney Morning Herald.

1930 "Smart Little Turban", a simple tied turban, from the Brisbane Courier.

1954 Beach Hat, a simple fabric hat that opens flat and does up with a button, from the Australian Women's Weekly.

1942 Bow Snood, a crocheted snood with bow, from the Australian Women's Weekly.

Future Projects

 NB: Links here will take you to the original article and pattern/instructions.
1922 "Easy to make turban", silk or satin turban on a stiff foundation, from the Sydney Mail.

1930 Bandeau Hat, a felt and ribbon hat, from the Western Mail

1913 "A new hat for 1913", four corner hat, from The Sunday Times.

1961 "Six-rose hat", from the Australian Women's Weekly

1934 Five hats from one pattern, from The Home Maker.

1951 "Bed of Violets", from the Australian Women's Weekly.

1950 "Quaker Bonnet", from the Australian Women's Weekly.

1952 Ribbon pixie hat, from the Australian Women's Weekly.

1954 Velvet beret, from the Australian Women's Weekly.

1933 "A Smart hat for sport", from the Sydney Morning Herald.

1912 "Pierrot Hat", from the Brisbane Courier.

1960 Fur hat, from The Australian Women's Weekly.

1915 Velvet Hat, from the Leader.

I'm keen to hear which of those patterns you would be most excited to see me try next. And if you make (or have previously made) any of these, I'd love to hear from you too and would be happy add a link to your creations.

If you are interested in making hats, make sure you are signed up to the newsletter to keep up with future reviews and also the upcoming launch of my own first hat sewing pattern!

Wednesday 4 October 2017

What being a work-from-home mum looks like for me

Let me begin by saying that this is not an advice post. Far from it. It is just me sharing my experiences, mostly because I've found advice of this kind to be something I can't relate to, one way or another. These other mums always seem organised, disciplined, and calm. I'm sure other chaotic but loving mothers out there are struggling in the same way I am, so I want to talk about it.

I love my kids. Being a mum is tricky, and I don't always love it. Like most people who have turned a passion into a small business, I love my work too. Both my children and my business are still young. I'm still learning the roles of mother and business woman, and doing both at the same time brings an added element of difficulty. 

Whenever I have said anything about the struggles of getting work done with kids, someone will say that I should be just enjoying them and comment about how quickly they will grow and how I will miss these times. While I'm sure this is said with the best of intentions, and I know this time is going too quickly and I'll miss my little babies, I still find these comments both sexist and dismissive. 

A father who pursues a career he hates isn't told he should be enjoying his kids instead, let alone a man in a job he is passionate about.

And why should having kids stop any of us wanting to make something more of ourselves? Shouldn't it be the opposite? As far as I know, even parents who devote all their time and attention to their children find that the time passes quickly. Don't most of us feel that way about time? Giving up on my dreams until later isn't going to keep my kids young and cute. When they grow up, I will miss these days either way. But I don't want to also have missed out on chasing my passions and building a business.

I am moderately devoted to motherhood. Parenting is often difficult for me, and I don't cope well without sleep, but it's important and what I've chosen to do. I don't make any major sacrifices in my parenting to run my business. Mothering takes priority when it's important. But I work my backside off to find time for the business too.

I read a post from a work-from-home-mum about her daily schedule, with the times her kids get up and nap and go to bed and when she works. My life is not like that. We've never had a schedule that lasted very long or was reliable. We've had recurring sleep problems, unpredictable naps (and Teacup's are now gone), and I breastfed on demand for almost two years and then was pregnant again. Now I'm doing it all again, with a toddler too, and having to work it all out anew. I'm not sure where I'll get the time to work in the future, but I know I'll make the effort to find it.

So how have I managed to work so far?  During nap times. After bed time. In the evening when my husband is doing bath time. During independent play (rarely!). In weekend or holiday dad time. I've sketched and sewn at the breakfast table, lunch table and dinner table. I've traced pattern pieces next to a baby having tummy time and pulled my fabric away from a baby rolling around the floor. I've listened to business podcasts while washing up. I've blogged, emailed, researched, posted to social media, and read business and millinery books while breastfeeding. I've parked a pram and done a photo shoot while singing nursery rhymes. I've done a photo shoot while playing with a toddler. I've drafted patterns while they are simultaneously being coloured in with crayons. I've sketched hat ideas with finger paints.

We've had times where sleep is good and naps are long, when I've racked up 20 or more hours a week to work, and we've had times that I had to use any free moments to nap after shocking nights, and maybe if I'm lucky have a shower.

Balancing time between parenthood and business has been difficult, especially without set work times and clear boundaries. That was always going to be the case for me and my parenting style. I didn't think as much about having to find an emotional balance between the two roles, but that has been the case too. I'll probably never be sure how I feel about my choices. 

But my daughter is bright and happy, knows the difference between a hat block and a mannequin, and wants to learn how to sew. I hope my son will be the same and that they will learn about loving your work and finding passion in life, whatever it is.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Learning: Lace Millinery meets Halo Crowns

My year of learning continues! This latest headpiece uses a combination of skills I learned this year, through the Hat Academy online classes I got for Christmas. The lace millinery I spoke about before has been combined with the Halo Crowns class taught by Rebecca Share.

Again I didn't buy the full course, but this time for a valid, non-cheapskate reason. The full course is focused on leather flower crowns, and I don't do leather for ethical reasons. But I love the look of the halo crown style, so I bought that class and tried to think of different way to use it.

I'm also experimenting with a vegan, ethical leather alternative at the moment, but I'll have to wait and see how that goes before I share more with you. I think a lot of the leather techniques can be applied to other materials anyway to some extent, and it's all more knowledge in my head that is bound to help me at some point!

This isn't the only course taught by Rebecca Share that I've been taking, and she's a great teacher. I want all of her courses now! She's talented and funny, and the classes are clear and well-structured.

I feel like it's not cool to admit this, but I'm really proud of this piece and of myself for the improvement in my skills this year. I realised that it had been a long time since I had made a piece that became my "new favourite", and now I have again!

I remember my mum's cross-stitch and learning the lesson that the back should be as neat as the front. I never achieved that in cross-stitch, but I'm doing alright here! Not as pretty, but just as neat.

My original inspiration was 1940s bridal crowns but it ended up a bit bigger and more dramatic than that. I still love it, and if I wasn't already married I'd be tempted by this for myself. It's probably a bit too much for a vow renewal though, right?
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