The ‘Jeff’ – finale!

Well, in typical millinery fashion, just when you get all excited that a hat is ready to finish, it turns out it’s nowhere near close to completion.

For my lining of the Jeff, I had chosen this very English Liberty print from the Tana Lawn collection.Pretty…

Liberty lining for the Jeff

I had a few choices with the lining. Do a standard lining job – or block the lining to match the inside shape of the hat. Naturally, I went for blocking, which added a few hours onto the proceedings. As with the cord, the lining fabric was cut on the bias and blocked to the shape of the block used for the hat.

As with the fabric for the actual hat, the lining was blocked in two pieces, top and side – the two were stitched together on the sewing machine, and excess fabric cut off. It is important to remember when blocking the lining of your hat that you have to turn the fabric upside down, otherwise the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric will show on the inside of your finished hat.

The final lining stages - Jeff

I sewed the seams of the lining on the machine, and then placed it into the hat. Stitching the lining to the hat exterior was tricky – as the same block has been used for both, the two fabrics will not fit perfectly inside each other – the lining will always be a tad too big. So, when sewing, it’s best to just keep the fabrics as flat as possible against each other and take time as you sew to adjust, to avoid any big gathers in the fabrics, especially at the end.

Finally, after much perseverance, here is is!

The Jeff


Filed under Skills

The ‘Jeff’ – Vol II

Right, so we left of with the ‘cap’ part of the Jeff flatcap finished, so on to the body of the hat. As a reminder, our block for this project was the Guru’s classic cap block.

The body of the hat was to be made in two parts. Firstly, the ‘ribbon’, which is the piece of fabric that runs around the head, and secondly the top of the hat which holds everything together (‘ribbon’ and cap).

To make the ribbon, I measured the circumference of the broadest point on the block, and cut two bias strips. Using the aforementioned careful ironing technique, I ironed the fabric to some stayflex (this comes in black or white) and then attached the two pieces together on the sewing machine (to form symmetrical side seams at the temple of the hat).

Jeff  ‘ribbon’ , with stayflex

Sewing the two parts of the ribbon together required the use of a sewing machine – tres fun! Although my abilities with sewing machines were near to zilch, they soon improved and very little unpicking was required.

Once the two pieces were symmetrically sewn together, it was time to block, starting from the back. I pinned the top of the piece in four places (usual method of front, back, side and side) to keep in place and put pin in the botton front first so that it would not move around and twist the side seams.

Jeff – body blocking

With help from the Guru, I blocked the bottom part of the fabric first, just over the block collar, leaving plenty of fabric to use as a seam later on.

Next, the top of the fabric was blocked. This required a lot of ‘gentle’ force, to make sure the fabric was blocked evenly all round. Fabric blocked, I then steamed it and left to dry.

Whilst the ribbon part of the hat was drying into shape, I cut a bias strip of fabric for the top. Removing the now dry ribbon, I blocked this, covering as much of the top of the block as possible. I made sure the pile was going from front to back – hats should always be lighter at the front (the effect of going with the pile) and darker at the back (against the pile) – this has always been the rule, so even though I’m not sure I understand… I went with it.

Top fabric blocked, it was steamed and left to dry. The next step was to sew the two together. The ribbon was pulled gently over the top – very carefully, as piled fabric is very keen to move and slip around. Once placed correctly, it was sewn into place using an invisible stitch.

A few notes:

  • Cord/velvet – never, ever touch when wet or right after steaming. It will leave a mark that won’t go away
  • Positioning the two pieces: a little bit of moving around and rough calculating of where the cap will go is needed. Unfortunately, there is no exact method for this, just trial and error.

And here it is, Jeff, stage 2. Next time, the beautiful lining, and final touches.


Jeff – ribbon and top of hat


Filed under Uncategorized

The ‘Jeff’ – English flatcap, Vol I

This milliner is also a journalist – as you can imagine, the link between the two isn’t that obvious, so I needed a hat to bridge the gap between my two worlds. Also, I needed some fabric hat experience; the Guru advises that making a fabric hat is imperative for developing couture millinery skills.

Andy Capp

Inspired by one of the most popular newspaper cartoons (and a bit jealous of the man’s Barbour cap that is too big for me), I ventured to make a classic British flat cap.

First, the fabric; I am not a fan of cheque, unless it’s really chic. So I went for a 100% cotton velvet cord, in a lovely coutnryside forest green.

To get started, I was lucky that the Guru had the right block – she, too, is a classicist, so we went for the very basic gentleman’s flatcap shape with the block

Block chosen, it was swiftly put to one side, as the first steps of the flatcap making actually involve mainly the ‘cap’ part of the flatcap.

The cap is made very much like a couture headband. Using tarlatan, stayflex interfacing and millinery wire (medium, as it’s for the brim effectively).

First I cut out some fabric using a pattern, drawn out by roughly tracing around the cap part of the block.

Jeff: Cap, stage 1

Then, I ironed on the interfacing and tarlatan (allowing a 1-2cm seam allowance all round), and attached a wire to the brim and covered with the outside seam of the fabric, like so (stage 1).

In order to allow the curve of the cap to join to the rest of the hat, I cut 5mm indents into the inside part of the brim. I was careful to stitch a guide, so that the indents didn’t go too far in.

Jeff cap, stage 2

Finally, it was time to cover the inside of the cap with the matching fabric. Using the same pattern, I cut out another piece of the fabric and lined the inside with interfacing (ironing very carefully, as the fabric had a pile which could easily lose it’s shape). The result was then stitched to the rest of the cap, using an invisible stitch (stage 2).

Once both sides of the cap were covered, it was time to iron it using the special velvet board. The technique for this is as follows: instead of your traditional ironing by arm stroke, just softly place the iron onto the cap and lift every now and then, so as not to damage the fabric pile by sweeping the iron around. Any indents/creases in pile fabric are usually not fixable and, especially in this case, would be on the front and, therefore, most visible part of the hat.

Vintage velvet board

Et voila, Jeff’s cap finished! Stay tuned for Jeff, Vol II.

Jeff cap, final


1 Comment

Filed under Skills

The torrents of Spring/Summer

Oooh, it’s been a while.

But with summer nearly here, I thought some couture inspiration from the shows back in October last year to be essential viewing…

First, of course, is still-head-designer-less-but-rumour-heavy Christian Dior, for the headwear in the collection is nothing short of magnificent. We are particular fans of the following:

Christian Dior couture Spring/Summer 2011

Nobody does etherial elegance like Dior. Some examples are these elegant but fierce headpieces, using silk and feathers.

Christian Dior couture, Spring/Summer 2011

Christian Dior couture, Spring/Summer 2011

The Chanel show was stunning, despite the sad lack of headwear.

But Givenchy and Jean Paul Gautier more than made up for it, with these beauties – note the nod towards ‘hair-as-hats’ or hair art going on in JPG. Fabulous.

Hair or hat? Jean Paul Gautier couture, Spring/Summer 2011

Jean Paul Gautier couture, Spring/Summer 2011

Definitely hat. Givenchy couture, Spring/Summer 2011


*Photos by no means my own, courtesy of x

Leave a comment

Filed under Couture

Not old hat

Hello everyone,

I am pleased to report that things have been going well with How to be a Milliner – too well, in fact, hence the blog neglect.

But not for much longer – massive blog updating currently in progress, so keep your eye out for a full, proper hat catchup. And my, there is so much to catch up on, isn’t there?

Below, a little taster of what is blogging its way to you soon….


The ‘Jeff’ Flatcap, with liberty lining (pic would ruin the surprise!), plus the ‘Dream’ straw (pic also coming soon), and an exaple of some couture headband creations:

Liberty-print headband (Claire-Aude, L, narrow)

And finally, because this Milliner has to fund her learning and luxurious materials somehow, have a look at some latest developments:

  • How to be a milliner writes about craft (but not millinery, saving that for a rainier day!) – article for Stella magazine, out June 5 2011!!!!

1 Comment

Filed under Background info

Best hats of 2010

As another year comes to a close, everyone is counting the best (and worst) of 2010 and headgear of course, deserves it’s own list! After all, hats and fascinators have had a moment this past year, that I hope continues evermore.

Sooo, without further ado, here are the Top 5 Millinery Moments of 2010 in a snazzy little slideshow. Included are not only the greatest hats of the year (too many of those to choose from!), but the seminal moments in millinery.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are only five because I am in a mad rush to finish my New Year’s Eve millinery creation, more of which you will hear about soon… or next year even!

Happy New Year everybody, thank you for reading and see you again soon for more millinery stories!


Leave a comment

Filed under Inspiration

Like Cloche-work, Vol I

Soooo, a few weeks ago I had a lesson from the legend that is Rose Cory. For those that don’t know, Rose is a master milliner who has made hats for everyone, and was appointed as the Queen Mother’s milliner for whom she made hats for 20 years. An inimitable Rose Cory design, with the signature upturned brim and feather alongside is alongside. The Guru once told me the story of the side feather on the Queen Mum’s hats. Apparently, when one of her hats was being finished in Rose’s workshop, someone got overenthusiastic with ironing the brim and burned the side of the hat minutes before it was due to be collected. In a panic, Rose placed a large plume over the burn in hope that the error wouldn’t be visible. Representatives from Clarence House took the hat away, and days later informed Rose that the new style was the Queen Mum’s favourite yet. (Somehow I don’t think my errors in hat-making would end up with a Royal seal of approval, but hey ho.)

Queen Elizabeth I, courtesy of Life

Rather than go the Queen Mum direction with my hat, I chose to slip into my favourite decadee, the 1920s. This was a special time in millinery, perhaps one of the most creative eras for headgear ever. So many styles we reproduce today originate in the 20s, and if you, like me, don’t have the figure for a flapper dress (yes, I have CURVES) the elegant headdress will always save the day.

Hoping to use the lesson to make a hat that I can show off on a regular basis, I opted for the cloche. Rose had this amazing book that I went through, and here are some pics I used as inspiration.


1920s cloche, from the book 'Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties', edited by Joanne Olian

Cloche-hatted French ladies on a shoot

It was agreed that as I only had limited time with Rose, it was probably best to make a classic cloche without the upturned brim. We started with choosing some fabric; Rose encourages you to only work with 100% natural materials, and the fabric I chose was this one, a French millinery cotton velvet, in my favourite shade of blue. Rose advised that this fabric was authentic millinery fabric, as you can tell from the very narrow width of the material; apparently, that’s how they produced it way back when (in Paris of course).

French millinery velvet

Fabric chosen, we measured my head (I won’t go into how big it is, sigh) and cut a strip on the bias. The key to this is to get as wide a bias strip as possible (within reason) at the length of the head circumference (so the bias line should be the circumference of your head).

Strip cut, I pinned the strip to the block, turned it insided out and machine sewed the seam as neatly as possible (another first for me, very exciting). Turning the now cylindrical piece of fabric back to right-side out, I placed it on the dolly for blocking.

As with all blocking, I placed the seam so that it was neatly diagonal at the back of the head shape, and placed pins in a cross shape pattern at the top, starting at the back (pic to the right).

Blocking the top of a cloche

The bottom of the crown was then blocked, using the usual – rather painful – method of hand-inserting pins. A useful tip for those who find this a bit difficult is: tread carefully. If you find a lot of pins breaking and consequently stabbing your fingers, mind you don’t bleed on your creation, especially if it’s really special or expensive fabric! I bled on my hat, but thankfully it came off straight away. It didn’t stop me stabbing myself repeatedly after though…

So once the bottom of the hat was blocked, I moved back to the top. The idea was to block the top section so that three quarters of the lower part of the fabric was crease free. After filling in the gaps of the initial pins, I steamed the fabric before blocking the rest, like so:

Blocking the top part of the cloche crown

It is important to then dry the fabric completely – I used a hand dryer for this, and held it under for about 3-4 minutes.

Blocking the cap of the crown

Then it was time to create the cap to cover the crown. Using a square bias piece of fabric, I blocked it as smoothly as possible to the top of the block. It was necessary to use alternate steam and drying (as above) several times before the cap was completely smooth. The cap was then sewn onto the rest of the crown, and the final result of Cloche, Vol I is…

Cloche, Vol I


Filed under Couture, Inspiration, Materials, Skills