Forest Flame Millinery

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting catty, oops, I mean hatty

I joined a new bazaar last month and this is a rather unique bazaar. It's called PaTH (Pop and Talent Hub), a platform to promote social enterprise and talent development in Singapore. The location is at a shopping centre: Vivo City. This is a HUGE mall and the human traffic is unbelievable. Being rather reclusive, I hate shopping mall and I did feel uneasy before my first bazaar. Somehow, I managed and the mall did not appear too intimidating; and the old dear selling jewelry beside me was rather congenial and helped me look after my counter when I needed to go buy lunch and dinner. Her stall is classified as 'social' meaning that she is from an under-privilege group and selling jewelry is one way she earns some pocket money. Having gave up serious jewelry making 3 year ago, I'll be packing lots of beads and stones to give her when I see her end of the month. 

Having spent an enormous amount of time designing and making my hats, I get annoyed when people assumed that I buy my stocks and am merely a reseller. I know of at least 1 seller who does not believe that I made my hats. I didn't let this affects me, frankly, I don't give a damn to what other thinks. If I have, I would not have survived my present jobplace for 3 years. But that's another story and I probably won't whinge about that here.

Most people do not realise the amount of time spent in hat making. I wish I can churn out a few hats a day. A small cocktail hats with trimming like this took me 3 days.

It's not finished yet. There is the lining and the elastic. Looks deceptively easy but every beads and petals were assembled piece by piece and the Miyuki drop beads are stitched by hand.

This is the back of the lilac hat and the lining is waiting ti be stitched. Due to the numerous beads being sewn, the back is nothing great to look at, for the time being. I didn't bother to be neat as I was more concerned that the rim be taut and smooth, thus the numerous sewing lines.

Here are 2 sinamay pieces I am working now (above pics). The natural colour piece has not been wired yet. 

If you wonder whether I have used hot glue to stick all the lace and trimmings onto the green hat form, the answer is a big NO. I hate hot glue. All trimmings are hand-stitched. The back of this green sinamay piece is so neat because I used invisible thread. For sinamay piece, lining is not required. So, it is crucial that small stitches are used and use a thread colour as close to the sinamay.  I wasn't careful for the lilac piece because I know that my mess will be concealed within the lining.  

The 2 pics are a collection of my small perchers, fascinators and cocktail hat block. Made in wood and they form the shapes of hat. They cost me a bomb! But some pieces, I got it at a bargain at ebay.

Hat blocks are very expensive even when they are really old. Especially the one below that I got from France. The condition for this block was really bad at the ridge. 

This one (above) is a crown block. It is still 'affordable' (US$80) as I got it from ebay. I am still checking ebay to look for a 23" fedora brim. I have not yet made anything with these 2 blocks. It's probably the musty smell that turns me off. I still have a white hat which I am making for myself. Here it is - looked plain but once trimmings are added, it will look marvellous.

The wooden hat blocks are used to form shapes. Here's another sinamay blocked and it will  form the shape when dry.
Edges will be trimmed and wired. I will hand-stitch a matching bias binding because the feathers I'll be using is also of a similar shade. 

I recently saw some hats on sale at an online portal and it really gets into me when I see hats finished poorly: raw edges showing, uneven stitching, pleats and folds on places that should not be in the first place and joints and seams that are not pressed. It is important to make sure that the back of the hat looks equally professional as the front. Some hats are made solely from a hot glue gun where every trimmings, feathers are glued. It looks messy with tiny glue strands all over. I will never do that. If I want to do couture, I have to make sure that my craftsmanship is excellent. No taking short-cut for me.

This is the back of a hat that I just completed. I am doing 'extra'. After the lining, I was not happy with a section of the stitches and a section was uneven. So I sew additional grosgrain ribbon to hide thee flaws. My millinery teacher used to comment that I am very particular with my stitches. Sometimes, she would laugh and just tell me not to bother starting with a back stitch and that "just a fat knot will do". 

So my dear 'future' customers, I hope you realise that hat making is a tedious process and why mine are more expensive than those made with hot glue gun. I hope I will meet NONE of those people who know they will never wear my hats, will NEVER buy my hats. Yet will TRY on every hat that I have and walk off without a word.  And did I mention that my hats are not for babies, husbands and boyfriends? Guys, don't amuse your gals by trying my hats. Mummies, don't force my hats on babies.