• Couture Millinery Fascinator Class in LA

    Fascinator by Lee Duncan

    I also want to let you know about another great class available in Los Angeles on October 15th from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM! I have taken classes from Lee and she's so much fun. Plus, whether you're a beginner or advanced milliner, Lee will teach you new skills and techniques that you will use over and over. Here's the download on her class:

    More than a simple fascinator class, this class will teach frame making and covering; millinery trim, including feather work, and more. Various demonstrations using popular millinery materials (jinsin, crinoline, sinamay, etc.) will be given in class. Learn skills that apply to all couture millinery. All fascinator supplies are included in class fee. Please bring scissors, pins, thread, measuring tape, and needles. 

    Although you will complete a buckram frame (wiring, stitching, etc.), finished frames will be provided so that you may cover and trim an additional hat(s), depending on your skill set and time. 

    • A fee discount applies to blog members--$180 members, $225 non-members). Registration fee now due. 
    • A non-refundable fee of $40 will apply should you cancel the class within eight (8) days of the class start date. 
    • For those registering from 1 to 8 days of the class and decide to cancel, the $40 non-refundable fee will also apply. 

    Please contact Lee at for additional information. Feel free to make payment through PayPal.

    In 8 days

    Torrance Cultural Arts Center
    330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance, CA 90503
  • Steampunk Hat Class | Clockwork Couture in Burbank

    Steampunk Hat Class for Halloween

    There's a very cool steampunk store called Clockwork Couture located in Burbank, California that sells hats designed by my teacher, Jill Pfieffer, and another brilliant designer, Shurie Southcott. They are  offering a hat trimming class with Jill on October 16th! You can bring a hat you want to rework or purchase a top hat or bowler made by Jill to trim. They'll be serving tea and scones. Plus, you're bound to meet some other cool people while you're there!

    Please note - due to circumstances the class has been rescheduled. Please check the Clockwork Couture website for updates.

    October 16th 1-4pm

    Clockwork Couture
    617 South Main Street
    Burbank, CA 91506
  • Wedding Hats | Steampunk

    Katie and Mikaela
    photography by John Ciotti
    Last month I had an opportunity to build my first wedding hat. It was a simple round piece of buckram covered in fabric and trimmed with a cockade (Thank you, Truly!) and a veil. My teacher, Jill, made a matching top hat for the ceremony.

    I just wanted to share some pictures that were taken at the wedding by an awesome photographer, John Ciotti! Aren't they a gorgeous couple?

    Katie and Mikaela
    photography by John Ciotti

    Cockade & Veil
    Katie - Fascinator with cockade and Veil
    photography by John Ciotti
    Mikaela - Top hat with Veil
    photography by John Ciotti
    Wedding Party
    photography by John Ciotti
  • Millinery Resources | LA & Other Places

    I grew up in Texas where I learned what some consider a very bad habit - telling everyone where you bought something! Here's an example of what I mean:

         Friend: Hey, that's a really cool skirt you have on!
         Me: Really?! I bought it at Target for only $15 and they have other colors!

    I've noticed that many designers don't like to share their resources for obvious reasons. But since I am really a hobbyist I don't have a problem telling you  where I have found awesome fabrics, ribbons or hat bodies. Below is a list of where I go to spend my money.

    Ribbons & Trims

    Michaels (MJ Designs)
    For decorative trims like bows, cockades and hat bands.

    For decorative trims like bows, cockades and hat bands.

    F & S Fabrics
    For silk, grosgrain, double sided, velvet, brocade, metallic and one-of-a-kind ribbons.

    International Silks & Woolens
    Silk, velvet, brocade and one-of-a-kind ribbon.

    Inexpensive ribbon on bolts

    Renaissance Ribbons 

    Gorgeous brocades, metallics...etc. But they sell wholesale in large quantities. Sometimes I can see something on this site and find it somewhere else by the yard.

    French General
    This beautiful store is run by a multi-talented woman who travels to France at least once a year (and other places) to dig through vintage supplies. The she stocks her store full of rare finds like hat bodies, antique appliques, vintage ribbons and hat frames. You can read more on her blog.

    Millinery Grosgrain Ribbon (Petersham)

    This ribbon should be cotton or a rayon/cotton blend so it will shrink when wet. (Make sure there is cotton!) It also has an edge with semi-circle bumps that allows it to curve more easily inside the hat without puckering.

    California Millinery
    This is not really a store for online shopping but rather an in-shop experience. There is a wall of grosgrain to choose from. Plus, tons of inventory to dig through.

    Hats by Leko

    Judith M


    Michael Levine
    Michael Levine has a scrap department above their store that sells upholstery fabric. You can find great scraps or even bolts of material they sell by the pound. Plus, they often have thread, trim other odds and ends.

    F & S Fabrics
    For silk, grosgrain, double sided, velvet, brocade, metallic and one-of-a-kind ribbons.

    International Silks & Woolens
    Silk, velvet, brocade and one-of-a-kind ribbon.

    They have left over fabric on huge bolts at $1 a yard.


    Hollywood Fancy Feather
    This store is located in a warehouse in the Valley that smells like moth balls. But, if you have the courage to go there you will be rewarded with a large selection and the ability to pick out the feathers you want.

    Mother Plucker Feather
    Located in downtown Los Angeles this store has as much selection as Hollywood Fancy Feather. I suggest you call in advance for an appointment. Great prices for bulk.

    Sport Chalet or local sport store fishing Department 
    The best price for tails and pads. If you're looking for one long feather or pads with lot's of feathers you can get amazing finds in the price range of $3-$15.

    Kit Kraft
    This is one of those rare local stores that offers a variety of craft supplies. I drop in there if I need just one or two dyed ostrich feathers.

    Michaels (MJ Designs)
    look in the floral department for pre-arranged feathers

    Millinery Tools & Basic Supplies

    California Millinery
    This is not really a store for online shopping but rather an in-shop experience. There is a wall of grosgrain to choose from. Plus, tons of inventory to dig through.

    Hats by Leko
    Most comprehensive online supplier of millinery materials, sizing and tools.

    Judith M
    Excellent selection of hoods, straw and flat felt materials.

    Dedicated to many nearly forgotten arts, Lacis offer's unusual and hard to find tools.

    Michaels (MJ Designs) For glue (I use Fabri-Tac only), foam (8 inch ball for carving a round hat block...etc.) and other miscellaneous items for trim.

    How 2 Hats
    This website is a great resource. They list suppliers, teachers, classes, and events all over the world. I would highly recommend digging through their site for unusual material supplier lists, how-to books and inspiration.

    Guy Morse-Brown Hat Blocks
    My favorite hat block supplier. If you don't carve it yourself you can't beat these beautiful blocks.

    Wayne Wicher - 
    Hat Block Resource
    Wayne has a blog that offers lots of great ideas on where to purchase hat blocks.

    Search for items under "hat blocks" - "millinery hat blocks" - "millinery supplies" ...etc.
    Great for all kinds of supplies and inspiration.

    Let me know of your favorite places to shop.

  • Blocking Felt on a Round Styrofoam Block

    Behida Dohlic on Etsy

    Last post I showed you how to carve a round hat block. I carved this block out of Stryofoam so that I could easily fold and pin shapes into the felt. Above and below are some professional milliner's inspirational photos where this technique could have been used.

    Since this would be my first attempt at folding and pinning the felt, I chose a $5 hat I bought from Goodwill. After I removed the headband, feather and glue that was stuck to it, I had a lovely brown felt hood to block. (TIP: Rubbing alcohol on a QTip will remove glue)

    Here's a complete list of the materials you will need to block:
    • Felt hood
    • Round Hat Block (styrofoam)
    • Straight Pins
    • Plastic bag
      (I use the ones from vegetable aisle or a leftover dry cleaner bag
    • Rubber band
    • Felt Stiffener spray

    STEP 1
    Get some hot water - enough to immerse your hood in. I used a steamer without the lid this time but often I just use hot water from the sink. I placed the hood into a bowl, added water and made sure all the felt was soaked.

    Soaking the Hood
    Step 2
    Once the felt is wet you can let the extra water drip off and place it on your block. My hood already had the shape of a tight crown and brim. But after soaking it just slipped right onto my 23 inch round block.

    Where's the Stryofoam block?
    Step 3
    Get creative! The felt is loose and you can finger press any shapes you like into the crown or brim. I decided I would create a pair of creases from the tip to the brim. Once I decided on the placement I placed pins deep into the crease so they would dry that way.

    Creating the Shape
    TIP: the closer the pin is to the crease, the less likely you are to see pin holes. But if that occurs, brush your felt with a wire or felt brush to smooth out.

    Step 4
    Let your hood dry for approximately 24 hours. You can see I finger pressed the brim into some shape,as well. And one of the benefits of using a recycled hat is that the brim was already finished with three rings of stitching so nothing else was needed.

    Drying on the Block
    Step 6
    When your hat is dry you can either spray it with felt stiffener (see millinery supply) to set the shape or wet  and block again. I have sometimes used an acrylic art spray in the inside of the creases to add extra strength. 

    Once you're happy with the shape you can trim however you like. My trimming isn't complete but here's a preview.

    Left Side
    Right Side


  • How to Carve a Hat Block - Part Four | Bowlers or Round Blocks

    Lena Olin in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

    The bowler was created in 1849 by London milliners Thomas and William Bowler for the hat shop Lock & Co. In those days most men would wore a top hats. But this proved to be a problem when riding horses...etc because they could be easily blown or knocked off. (I actually like my teacher's story about how they called them bowlers because they are shaped like a bowl.) So, the Bowler was born and has remained popular on the heads of performers (Charlie Chaplin, Marlena Dietrich), business men, art (Magritte's paintings) and some very sexy ladies, like Lena Olin.

    Lock and Company
    You can carve a round block from styrofoam easily. And this block can be used to shape a variety of styles including a bowler. All you need is the following:

    • 8" inch round styrofoam ball
      (measure around to be sure you have at least 24 inches)
    • Knife  - with a straight edge
    • Empty can - like a coffee can
    • Callus tool - for smoothing 
      Step 1
      Measure you ball to see how wide it is. You want to choose either a 21, 22, 23 inch width for your block. I usually use 23 because that's the size of my head. And if I need to reduce the size I make the headband smaller to fit the wearer.

      Carve off a flat bottom for your block
      Step 2
      Decide on where you want the bottom of your block to be and carve the end to create a flat surface. No more than 3/4 an inch is needed to be removed.

      Try to press with even pressure
      Step 3
      Place the bottom of the ball on top of your can and apply pressure as evenly as possible.

      Crooked! Press again!
       You can flip the ball over to look at the can and see where you need to press in order to even it out.

      Step 4
      Begin to shave the sides of your ball straight down all on every side. Use your hands to feel out any areas that may be bumpy but don't worry too much about that. You have to apply your "Artist" and focus on creating a perfectly round side at the inch size you need. DO NOT ALTER THE TOP OF YOUR BALL! It is already round and therefore providing your shape. Shave until you reach the size you want.

      23 inches with rough edges

      Step 5
      Once you've reached the width you want stop carving and switch to the callus tool. This will allow you the ablity to smooth out any bumps.


      Next, I will show you how you can use a round block to make several shapes - and finally, I'll block something.


    • Wedding Veils - Royal!

      I have been happily anticipating the British Royal Wedding of Prince William and Brilliant Katie! After watching hours of Royal Wedding Specials on PBS, BBC America and Lifetime, I learned that the length of the veil - or train - record currently belongs to Princess Diana at 25 feet.

      So, she had to have a pretty awesome veil to compliment the the train and, of course, the crown!

      All of this got me thinking about veils and how they can really enhance a hat design...
      John French. London, UK, 1950
      Or sometimes, it becomes the hat.

      Philip Treacy for Valentino Couture
      There are lots of creative ways to create veils out of a variety of materials including lace as you can see above. Ribbon is another material that can be used to structure a veil.

      Camille Roman, Tour de Force

      Do you like wearing veils?

    • How to Carve a Hat Block - Part Three | Shaping the Styrofoam

      Okay, so far I have shown just a few basic tips on how to carve the foam but I promise you they make a HUGE difference. Styrofoam is not too easy to deal with and it's easy to make mistakes and break off piece or carve too deeply by mistake.

      My next project required a little finesse. I had seen a small hat block form the 40s which sold on eBay for over $80. I really like the shape but couldn't afford the price so I took my idea to my teacher Jill and here's how she walked me through the process.

      40s Style

      Step 1: I took the bottom piece of my cone shape that I cut into three pieces and measure to where I wanted to stop carving the base. I also drew a shape on the top of the block in the shape I wanted it to be.

      The lines help you remember where to carve and where to stop.
      Step 2: I made a small groove cut along the line around the crown to make sure I wouldn't carve into that area as I worked on shaping the top area.

      Step 3: Next I began to carve from the circle on top of the crown down to the line where I just cut the groove.

      Slicing the foam off in one stroke down.
      Make sure you carve slice off with your knife in one direction. Don't saw back and forth or you will be more like to have uneven areas.

      Step 4: When I was satisfied with the basic shape, I took a callus pedicure tool and added a more delicate shape while I smoothed the top of the crown.

      The Final Product ~ turned out even nicer than the block I saw on eBay which had a heart shaped top. Too cutesy for me.

      Front of Block

      Side of Block

      One Final Note - if you're looking to buy blocks I recommend checking out the Guy Morse Brown multi-purpose blocks. I bought this basic set and love them so much. You get a lot of basic shapes by mixing the brims, crowns and extenders. Here's one of the hats I made with them.

      Guy Morse Brown Customer Creations

      Let me know if you know any other cool ways to make hat blocks yourself!
    • How to Carve a Hat Block - Part Two | Top Hats and Bowlers

      Sometimes you don't have to carve. Sometimes you can put pieces of Styrofoam together to make the block you want. My awesome teacher, Jill, was commissioned to make a large number of small top hats and bowlers that would be worn by Steam punk fans. Here's some photos of what she made.

      Mini Bowlers and Top Hats

      Black Buckram Top Hats


      • Semi-circle piece of foam (size of a tennis ball cut in half)
      • Round disc of foam same width as the semi-circle
      • 2 Wooden shish-kabob stakes
      • Clippers

      Making a bowler shape (or top hat) is very easy. I went to a store with floral supplies (like JoAnns or Michael's) and purchased a half ball shape and a round, flat shape that fit the bottom of the half ball.

      Step 1: Take your semi-circle of foam and place it on top of the round disc so it looks like this.

      Step 2: Take your first wooden shish-kebab stick and insert it straight through the top of the semi-circle until you reach the bottom of the round disc.

      Step 3: Take the second wooden shish-kebab stick and insert it sideways through the bottom round disc of foam.

      Step 3: Once you can feel the tip of the shish-kebabs barely break the other side of the foam stop. Use your clippers (or heavy scissors) to cut off the ends that still protrude.

      And, voila! You have a mini-bowler hat block. Lots of people like to block these using a layers of felt (or any material), buckram and then lining all at the same time. Just wet with hot water, stretch and pin until it dries.

      Another tip is that you use an empty can to mount the block on. This will make it sturdy and give you room to pull your material and pin under the edge, if you wish.

      Coming Soon Part Three - More Carving Tools & Tips

    • How to Carve a Hat Block - Part One | Styrofoam

      Have you ever seen a hat, especially a vintage hat, and thought "I wish I could make that..." but you don't have the block? Buying blocks can be very expensive and finding someone to build you one from scratch is almost impossible. If your a hobbyist, like me, you may also not really want a block that would last forever. So, one of the solutions I have learned is how to carve a block shape from styrofoam and here's where I started.

      I saw this hat in Hats! by Sarah Cant
      An excellent book.
      I took my book and piece of foam to my awesome teacher Jill Pfieffer and here's what she instructed us to do. ("Us" is my partner-in-crime Colleen who graciously posed in several of the photos to come.)

      Foam Shapes


      Step 1: Measure the foam to make sure you're getting the right height. You can make your shape higher and then block different lengths down the side, if you prefer. I measured my stryofoam cone into three pieces.

      My cone after I cut it into three pieces.
      Step 2: Draw a line around the foam where you want to cut it.

      Measured and line drawn. Ready to carve!
      Step 3: Place the knife on the line and roll around make a small cut along the line.

      Don't pull the knife back and forth - just roll and let the cut deepen each time you pass back over your line.


      Step 4: Eventually you will crack through the stryofoam. Next you carve! This shape was easy because the cone shape all ready gave me a wider base so I just used my knife to carve a slant.

      Final Product
       1. Don't use a serrated knife. Use a chef's knife with a flat edge.

      2. When you block always cover the foam with plastic to protect your felt or straw and preserve the block.

      3. I chose white foam because it was already in a cone shape. Some green floral foams are very soft so you can chose to cover your block with buckram or another product called Rigid Wrap, which you can find at craft stores like Michael's.
      Block with Rigid Wrap
      Rigid Wrap

      Part 2 Coming Soon - More Foam Block Ideas and Carving Tools