For the last few weeks I have gone back to school….every Wednesday I have been attending a Millinery course at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester. Along with my fellow students (all women, average age around 50…) I’ve been learning how to block simple cocktail hats and fascinator bases, how to stiffen and finish them, and how to make head bands with millinery wire.
I am glad to be finally overcoming my fear of ‘blocking’ as I already have a sizeable collection of fascinator and hat blocks, which have been sat on a shelf in the studio quietly mocking me, as I find a myriad of excuses (not enough time, not the right fabrics, just need another cup of tea..etc..) to continue to buy in pre-made bases to decorate as and when I need them. Now I’ve taken the plunge to learn how to make them myself and I see a whole new world of creating opening up before me…..the most exciting of which is to be able to make the shapes in buckram and then cover them in some of the lovely vintage fabrics that I have hoarded over the years, pretty printed silks, soft woven tweeds and felted woollens, trimmed with velvet and lace.
Millinery is a very satisfying methodology to learn, it’s like a key to another world, there are tried and tested techniques which have remained the same for centuries, and once the basics are covered you are free to defy gravity with up-ended shapes, giant brims, and precarious perchers, all of which start life pinned to a wooden block and gently stretched, moulded and teased into shape.
One designer that caught my eye recently is Monique Lee, with her utterly charming and unexpected use of lego in millinery. A case in point of how you can take a traditional, old fashioned craft and subvert it, the hats are technically superb and creatively insane… and I love them!