Traditionally, a Hatter was a man making hats for men, while a Milliner would be a woman making hats for women. The former would use more heavy duty materials, industrial tools and generally more physical force in the process. A Milliner would instead use lighter materials, employ more sewing techniques and finish the hats with delicate trims.
I sit right in between the two. I love making hats for any gender. I block my fedoras all in one piece, like a Hatter would, but I also sew all the trims by hand with delicate stitching – a process that can take several hours.
The tools of the trade range from vintage, handmade wooden hat blocks, to steamers, pins, screwdrivers, pliers and other weird and wonderful looking tools that give each hat their unique shape. I source most of my tools from respected traders who have been in the industry for half a century. Some of my vintage blocks are hard to come by, and have often come from cut-throat auctions!
Making a hat is a very tactile and physical process. It all starts with the choice of materials, from sensuous velour felt to high quality panama straw, this is a stage that I really enjoy. Then it’s all about hot steam and blocking the material in the chosen shape. The hat then needs to dry and be left to settle on the block. I leave mine for at least for 3-4 hours.
Once the hat is off the block, the trimming process begins. I wire the brim to keep it in shape, and then cover it with colour-matched ribbon applied with a specific kind of stitching. This process can make or break a hat, a sharp brim really makes all the difference. As for trims, unless my client has something specific in mind, I usually choose them right at the end, once the hat has fully taken shape.
Trims can range from vintage brooches, to buttons, chains, bows or flowers. Anything can make a good trim as long as there is a balance of shapes and colour that will flatter my client’s unique face shape. I prefer to keep my designs simple and invest in high quality materials that will last for years. A hat loves a good brush before the season starts!
People often ask me how long it takes to make a hat. It’s a question that always puzzles me; I usually answer that it can take hours, days, weeks, or even months. What matters is the quality and provenance of the blocks used, the durability of the materials, how much detail went into the blocking and stitching, how sharp the design is and – more than anything else – how much you love hats!
Thanks for visiting my studio, feel free to get in touch to chat about your next hat!