I thought it would be nice to say a few things about the millinery for this coming year. This is going to be one of those developing posts that will evolve as the year progresses.
I focus on two types of millinery: straw plait millinery and quilted/wadded winter millinery. All of my straw pieces are hand sewn using historic techniques. I use both original bonnet and hat blocks, as well as hand carved blocks for blocking my pieces. I use two different millinery sizings. While I primarily offer straw forms, I occasionally offer fully decorated pieces. When I do, I use appropriate techniques and as accurate trimmings as possible. Given the likelihood that antique silk ribbons will shatter or fracture, I strongly prefer not to use them in pieces to be worn. I want you to be able to wear your millinery for years.
I am slowly expanding the time periods I am creating pieces from. As of January, this is a rough outline:
- 1400-1600s – Researching
- Late 1700 – Starting to look at
- Regency era – Developing hard to find shapes.
- 1820s-1830s – Dabbling. (Large brims are a challenge by hand)
- 1840s – Working off an original block.
- 1850s through 1864 – Making a variety of bonnets and hats
- Bustle era – Make an assignment hats. These are sporadic.
- Modern – Yes, modern is on this list as I plan to make a few fascinators.
I tend to make more average to small bonnets and hats because I have an average to small head. Sizing can be as challenging as it is for clothes. Keep in mind that measurements is as much a factor as how a piece was worn for a particular era. In the American Civil War era hats sat higher on the head that they do now; bonnets sat further back on the head in the latter 50s than they did in the 40s or earlier 50s, etc.
As a starting guideline, measure around your head just above your eyebrows. I am 22″ there today. Yep, I said today. I tend to vary a half inch either side depending on my hydration and hair. You may as well. When I say Smal, average and large, this is generally what I mean:
- Small is 20″- 21″
- Average is from 21.5″-22.5″
- Large is 23″-23.5″, maybe 24″
As of right now, January, the 1840s pieces blocked on the original block and the Regency capotes fit me. This means the tend to fit the average to smaller heads nicely. I hope to carve a larger capote block. But, that one is hard. I have to recarve most of the foam hat blocks as they take a beating each season. So, there will be a variety of those.
I will do my best to keep millinery pieces as affordable as possible. Please, keep in mind each piece is entirely hand crafted, that I hand sew each row of straw, and I hand select each trim used. With the current cost of straw, necessary materials and shipping, undecorated straw forms will start at $100 for bonnets and larger hats, $85 for smaller hats. Variations in straw will influence the price.
My year follows the public schools schedule here in New York. While school is in session, I will not be taking requests. I will offer “off the shelf” hats and bonnets. School is in session with exams through nearly the end of June. I will take limited requests during the summer recess. (*I have about a dozen pieces following over from last season.)
I fully admit I am much more of an artist than a business person. I get rather scatter brained. I had so many requests this last summer and inquiries into the fall, I still have several to complete. I am going to try a new process for keeping track. While my board with flags worked for a few years, I ran out of pins and flags last year.