Category Archives: Background info

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!!!!

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Blossoming art

Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen

So, during my tinternet searchathon, it occured to me that this new habit of mine might actually end up being proper expensive. Semi-private tuition by a master of millinery can’t come cheap, can it? And not to mention all those top-quality materials I love to visualize…

In an attempt to save myself some hard-earned cash, I decided to tread slowly into the learning process.

I invested in a few couture tutorials online, to see how I would fare at a beginner’s level. I went for the higher-end tutorial, not a ready-to-make kit, and chose a couture flower (how hard could it be?!) as my first challenge.

There were a lot of skills involved in the making of this flower (most of which only harmed me), including cutting fabric on the bias, curling the flower ‘petals’ (without an egg iron, a contraption that I later discovered is used to shape fabric in a round way, rather than cook eggs without creases), folding and shaping the petals together and, the most important attribute for a milliner… patience.

The couture fabric flower that you are about to admire, took me a whopping 6 hours to make. Yes, 6 hours of painstakingly cutting the fabric and trimming off the ends, curling and re-curling (because curling manually with a wire is not easy) and trying to stitch neatly and wondering why the silk keeps fraying.

Couture Flower I

Another valuable lesson. Do not believe everything the fabric/haberdashery/supposed experts tell you in store. The silk I went crazy on (ambitiously buying 10! different colours – for 10 different flowers, ha!), was cheap even though I was told it was the best in store.

Cheap = low thread count = fabric losely woven = fraying. As soon as you cut it, it’s frays galore and as roses are meant to have lucious thick petals, the effect was more watercolour rose than real. There is a way around this, I have since been told (by the Guru, but more on her later); either spray the cheap silk in fabric stiffener, or dunk it in gelatine. Gelatine works best, and is probably more fun to do (I will be experimenting shortly, so watch this space).

I loved the flowers I made though; especially in creative colours. For my birthday, I decorated the hat below, a genuine Panama, with a cluster of couture rose, and feather-made bird, butterfly and feathers to a really satifisfying effect.

Not quite the intro image, but just you wait.


Filed under Background info, Couture, Materials, Skills

To be a milliner

Ooooh, so after months of dilly-dallying, endless internet surfing, and scenes of Coco Chanel trimming hats in Coco avant Chanel running through my mind over and over again, I finally… FINALLY decided to book my first millinery class.

And not just any millinery class. Not for me the local community classes, no.

Daunted by the number of classes offered at local fashion colleges, I had to really think about what I aim to achieve. And I know it’s not making ‘fascinating fascinators’. No, I want to learn couture.

Haute couture is about skill and craftsmanship; creating art using the best of everything – expert skills and the highest quality of materials. You wouldn’t attempt a couture gown in an afternoon sewing session, so how could a traditional art like millinery be any different? No, I decided to learn from the best and here I will describe my experience on the way to being a couture milliner (fingers crossed), detailing every blistered finger, wonky brim, disappointing trim along the way.

As an art, millinery is very secretive. I’d love it if you participated on this blog, shared your own information if you are or aspire to be a milliner, or if you asked your own questions on the field that I’ll do my best to answer.

Enjoy. x

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