Sunday, March 5, 2017

Making a blocked French Hood

Making a 500 year old hat with modern millinery techniques. French hoods are typically made like all buckram covered hats: cover will a mull (French fleece, flannel, very thin quilt batting). Hand sew. Cover with silk. Hand sew. Connect the pieces. Hand sew. Make billiments. Hand sew. All that hand sewing takes a long time, and if a hat takes me a long time, I have to charge people a lot more to buy it. Plus it's a bit tedious and I have a short attention span. So, when I was at Millinery Meet Up, I met Darryll Osbourne and his lovely wife Renee of Hat Blocks Australia And he has this fabulous little hat block, part of the Rebecca Share collection. It's a little crescent, and perfect for a blocked French hood. Now I know that isn't how they were made in the 1500's, but a blocked shape is a lot easier to deal with.  The cresent is only part of the hat though, for the brim/base I relied on a pattern from Tudor Tailor I had a damaged felt in a gorgeous period appropriate burgundy. Most French hoods were black or red, though I see a lot of re-enactors having them made from fabric matching their gowns. Taking a deep breath, I cut into my felt, cutting the base, which is very similar shape to the brim of the Tudor coif, and the crescent. I then steamed and blocked the crescent, careful to not pin into the fragile ends of the block. After blocking, I wired the crescent and the base. The crescent was designed to wrap around the wire nicely. I didn't add enough seam allowance to the base, and it has started warping under the weight of the crescent, so I wired and covered with a matching grosgrain. Fortunately my grosgrain is a very close color match and blends well into the final hat. Attached crescent to brim, and then the fun part: billiments!  I used what I had on hand, ouches I lurched from Truly hats.  They are lovely, but a bit heavy.  I'm planning to make my own hat jewelry for the next one.                                             Next I lined the hat in a lovely linen.  My online communities said they wouldn't expect a lining in this hat, though if it had been made of covered buckram it would need to be lined.  I may skip this step next time as it was pretty time consuming.  I used a very fine, lightweight linen, whip stitched into place.  It has a "bag" which would keep hair from touching the hood itself.   The little organza ruffle around the brim was trickier than I expected.  I have a lovely pleating board, and some lovely metallic organza silk.      Unfortunately, the pleats look too large, I think 1/4" would work better, so I end up running a gathering strip and pleating the organza that way.  The pleats aren't as tidy as I would like, definitely something I will do differently next time.  Final step!  The hood part!  Usually made from velvet, but I have silk on hand and it's a bit easier to work with and stores better.  Most people would wear a French hood a couple of times a year, not daily.   Funny moment when I got my black silk out, what happened here?  It looks like I chewed off part the last time I used it!  Sewing the hood together was pretty simple, I used the Tudor tailor pattern for that too.  Ta da!  Popular with princesses of all ages. Then my fantastic friend, Michelle Ma came and took some pictures of it! Photo by Michelle Maphoto by Michelle Ma Photo by Michelle Ma  

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Branching out - cake flowers too!

So, of course I get this awesome idea to make flowers to go on the cake. I'm thinking an ombré effect, starting with a cluster of flowers trailing down the side of the cake, getting more saturated as it goes. Of course, if I put all 5 of the colors we are using in the pallet, it will look busy.

Also, I don't want to spend another 50 hours making flowers, and they need to be simple and easy to attach to a cake. My awesome youngest sister (not the one getting married) is an accomplished cake decorator. I texted her for advice on how the heck do I get silk flowers to work on the cake. 'Toothpicks' she said. Of course! So practicle. I can put beads on the ends of toothpicks and shove the whole thing through the middle of the flower. Except pearls with holes the fit on toothpicks are huge. And have holes in the ends.

So.. Enter fimo clay. Baked on toothpicks. My sister pointed out that they resemble a slide of sperm... Lol

Yes, I used an old nasty baking pan for this, I won't be making cookies on this one anymore.


I dyed one long piece of silk with a gradient or ombré of white to purple, the cut the flowers all from that piece.
I have an antique replica flower iron that makes these adorable little forget-me-nots

Then the cake topper - at first sis wanted natural peacock feathers to match the theme.

We sent pictures and texts back and forth until we agreed ivory feathers with ivory flowers was the way to go

I used a styrofoam square to arrange and store the flowers.
And since I didn't already have enough to do, I made some cute shoe clips.
We call them the Ankle Ticklers. I'm still on the fence on these.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Branching out - making wedding flowers

When my sister told me she wanted peacock feathers for her wedding centerpieces, I saw a great opportunity to stock up on feathers and make some silk flowers that I could turn into hats after the wedding. Win-win right?

Sis is going to Hawaii for her honeymoon, so I wanted to make something tropical that also fit the peacock color pallet she was going for. On my last vacation to Hawaii, I gathered some plumeria and hibiscus flowers, pressed them and turned them into flower patterns. I sketched and gathered pictures and inspiration in a smash book - I'm not a good scrapbooker, but the smash book was a good way to capture all of it.

Purloined roadside flowers on the lanai...

So I used an orchid flower pattern I had already. I simplified it a bit, and used a combination of dying techniques for the petals. Even after simplifying the pattern and process, it still takes 2-3 hours to make each orchid. I made 50. How? Lots of help from my tolerant husband and my step son who made a little cash helping me out. Flower making sure beats weed pulling as a way to earn money!

After dying but before ironing and assembling, not that exciting looking, and the shading of the dye looks a bit like my 3 year olds' drawing...
My favorite part- seeing it come together into an amazing, one of a kind flower
Orchids waiting in a random mug.
Feed me Seymore! - Audrey

The hibiscus were much simpler to make, my biggest challenge was replicating their long stamens. I considered fimo clay, peacock hurl ( I may still try that, it would be a really neat effect) and finally found some very long antique stamens online that resembled miniature rock candy sticks. I wired the petals to make them easier to shape ironed them with my flower iron and viola! I tried both silk taffeta and silk satin for the flowers, I still haven't decided which I like better. The taffeta is nice and crinkly, but the silk satin is more glossy.

I even made a pattern for the double calyx, which I think turned out really cool. When I was in 7th grade, I had a somewhat unorthodox teacher, who spent months on study of wild flowers and botany. We spent a lot of time dissecting and drawing flowers. Who knew that would pay off? Thanks Mr. D'Augostini!

First batch - and of course I made leaf patterns from the hibiscus plant too!

Of course, hibiscus flowers come in many colors and shapes, but I took some liberties to keep within the color pallet.

A short stem wrapped in silk, sewn on the a snap barrette makes a nice hair flower. This will go to Hawaii with my sister for her honeymoon. And yes, I try on all on my hats, just like a chef always tastes to food - how else can I be sure it is just right? :)

Next I need to finish the rest of the flowers, trim the peacock feathers and arrange it all in vases. No, I'm not a florist. Hopefully the principles of hat design work for flower centerpieces too! Wish me luck!


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Adventures in Gown Construction: Tudor Tailor Kirtle

So let me first say, if you aren't familiar with Tudor Tailor, and you want to wear lovely clothes from the 1500's based on well researched, thoughtfully built and tested patterns do not stop, go to now! They have an etsy shop too, and I can't recommend their books enough. That said, they really aren't writing and creating patterns for beginners. I'm a better milliner than I am a sewer. The time it takes to create an entire gown, soup to nuts, is a little beyond my attention span. This dress took me over 4 weeks, I had to break it into small mini projects, as I only sew and make hats for 10-15 hours per week.

By the way, I did not receive any products from Tudor Tailor, or any one else. I purchased the books and patterns myself, and my opinion, is just that, my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

If you don't want to manually enlarge the patterns in the Tudor Tailor book, you can buy them enlarged and ready to use. I used the "Pattern for Women's Tudor Kirtles and Petticoats - Small Sizes by TheTudorTailor on Etsy" and there are excellent additional details in the Tudor Tailor book that really helped supplement the instructions in the pattern.

If you do want to transcribe the pattern, I like to get the large office easel paper with one inch grid and tape it together to make a larger piece if needed. Then think back to high school art class, where you copied a picture using a grid. It works well, it's just time consuming.

Here's the muslin bodice, with a canvas layer. The bones will be inserted into channels in the canvas, I used a heaven linen canvas, in fact, the whole dress is linen. It breaths, wicks moisture and is period appropriate.
The muslin became the interlining for the bodice, so no fabric wasted. I am applying the bias silk trimming before I sew all of the layers together

I got a bias tape maker to help, I have used this gadget way more than I thought I would! I use it frequently for making the bias opening for my Coif hats too. I loved this red silk taffeta so much, and it went so well with the fabric. I'll bet everyone reading this knows what happened when I threw this in the wash! Yep, I forgot to pre-wash my silk, it bled all over the dress! Don't worry, this story has a happy ending, lots of stain remover, about 6 re-washes and the bleeding was mostly gone. The red has also faded in a really nice, well worn way. But I don't recommend that approach for aging your garb!


You can very slightly see the boning through the linen. It doesn't show at all when I am wearing the dress. I took some liberties on how I assembled the bodice, deviating from the instructions in some things like the shoulder seams. By the way, I got this fantastic linen and silk from They specialize in fabrics for garb from medieval through Victorian. Bonus: they ship quickly and are great to work with, sending swatches on request and prompt email responses.

The skirt taking shape. Getting the trim lines to line up on the skirt was way harder than I planned.
And pleating. I ended up ripping out the pleats and changing them to cartridge pleats.
Putting skirt and bodice together. The skirt is fully lined with natural up dyed linen.
Oh, and of course I made a hat to go with it!
Linen on buckram. I blocked the crown in a dome shape popular in Enland in the late 1500's.
Pinning in the lining, after I put the feather trim on. Then hand sewed in the head size ribbon. I usually use black, but made an exception for this lovely peach linen.
My hair was really short, so I needed a coif to cover it.

All put together!

I tried it out at the Valhalla Renaissance Faire in South Lake Tahoe, Ca. I made my daughter a dress too, you can tell she had fun with it.