Gemma Sangwine

Unique and bespoke millinery and hair accessories


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Parkin Roadshow – a sort of convention for Milliners!

This weekend I took a rare Saturday off to visit the Parkin Roadshow in Bristol.

Parkin Fabrics are a family firm based in Lancashire. 14484959_1327825540569693_7383953612802224056_nThey sell mail order, so the roadshow is a great chance to see lots of millinery materials and supplies up close in real life and quiz the team about any technical issues regarding using them.

I also learnt more about the history of the company and the lengths they go to to source materials from the UK and around the world. For example, in 1993 renowned milliner Mitzi Lorenz gave Parkin a small sample of woven fabric which she said was called Cinnamon, and asked if they could source it ….this turned out to be Sinamay, which is made in the Philippines from the Abaca plant. weaving-sinamay

Parkin work directly with the Filipinos who harvest and process the Abaca leaves to make a fine, strong yarn which is knotted together and hand woven to make sinamay. This is an incredibly laborious process, all done by hand, and is a craft which dates back centuries. It also ticks the eco-friendly box as Abaca is a renewable resource and the production process is carbon-neutral – completely fossil fuel free!

But it’s not just about sourcing materials from overseas, at Parkin their Buckram is 100% cotton and is woven, bleached and starched here in the UK, in the North West of England.

So, all in all, I got to go shopping and learn a bit more about the craft I love. Being able to label my millinery products as Made in the UK, or carbon neutral is a great bonus too!

 

 


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Learning Curve

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!

Monique Lee MillineryArt direction & Styling: Monique Lee
Hat design: Monique Lee Millinery
Photography: Olivia Grace at ShadowFlux Studio
Make up and hair: Keum Jin Hwang
Model & DJ: Fin Pompelmo

Monique Lee Millinery.Art direction & Styling: Monique Lee
Hat design: Monique Lee Millinery
Photography: Olivia Grace at ShadowFlux Studio
Make up and hair: Keum Jin Hwang
Model & DJ: Fin Pompelmo