By accidentally, I mean I set myself up for failure by bringing cash to a warehouse sale in Oakland.  But who can pass up some styling old blocks for super cheap? I now own a fedora block (finally!).  It’s a bit on the femme side, sorry boys.  But it does fit up to a 22 1/2″ head, which means that I can stretch it to fit at least a 22 3/4″, so that’s good news.  I am also pleased to announce that I now own a 22 3/4″ derby block! wow! At least, I think it’s a derby block.  I guess I won’t know for sure until I test something out on it.  You never know with the old blocks.  I also bought a totally adorable little girly hat that I don’t have a name for, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something soon.  The down side?  They’re old school industrial metal blocks, and they are HEAVY.   Fortunately I had my burly significant other to help me shift them, but I just kept thinking “you’re moving in three months.  You’re supposed to be getting rid of things, not collecting 150lbs of hat blocks”.




For Chiara, I wanted to compliment the color and the spirit of her handbag. We found a lovely antique gold-colored felt which we both agreed looked the best, as far as we could tell by our computer monitors.

Since this particular cloche shape is an old friend, blocking the felt was a breeze.  Once the hat was blocked it was my task to find the perfect trimmings to bring out that classic look.  I loved the sporty leather and gold trim on Chiara’s hand bag, so I wanted to emphasize that.  I hoped to find some real leather trim, but that turned out to be a wild goose chase. Instead, I found a pretty convincing faux leather bias binding in chocolate brown and a guimpe trim with faux suede laced through it.  The guimpe made a great band.  I used the faux leather to bind the brim, which worked so well that I immediately went out and bought more! It really adds a modern, chic look to classic hat shapes!

Next, I wanted to exhibit some of my handwork, so I made a cockade by cutting a strip of the binding and pleating it around a circle. Happily, I found a scrap of the leopard print beaver felt leftover from my earlier cloche (this is why I save all scraps). It was just enough to make a sweet little button for the center of my cockade. I trimmed it with a real leather cord and finished it off with two tails cut from that faux leather binding. Perfect! Attach it at just the right sassy angle, and voila! The cloche is ready to send to Italy. (Yep, just like that. No sweat.)

The finished cloche.

If only we could all look so stylish and lovely while eating ice cream (or is that gelato?)

Chiara working it for the camera!

The lovely Chiara in her brand new hat, on location in Italy!

So what about that design issue, anyhow?

Despite my flippant remarks earlier, the design process is pretty fun too. Sometimes I even design a hat before I pick out materials. In this case, I asked my intrepid volunteers to go to my web shop and to my Flickr page and pick out a style of hat they’d be most excited to wear. Shayna zoomed right in on Oakley, my red fedora, while Chiara fell in love with the leopard-print cloche from my archives. Rae prefered my draped skull caps, and Becca had long been hankering for a royal purple fedora. Swenyu was indecisive, but we both agreed that the best thing for her was a cute, classic, but practical winter hat to keep her ears warm in Denmark’s long winter months.

After the shape was settled, I worked with the ladies on color and general aesthetic. Sporty or dressy, wild or sedate, etc. I asked them to show me a color inspiration, or at least to describe what their overall style is.

I offered to make Shayna a brand new fedora slick enough for L.A. She requested a “bright, but classic” red, and said she would wear it with everything from jeans to dress-up.

Chiara took her inspiration from this lovely handbag of hers and thought the leopard print cloche would be the perfect match.

Rae, on the other hand, left the design entirely up to me. After some discussion about what kind of style she’s rocking these days (since we have not seen each other since shortly after high school) and color preferences, I decided the best shape for her would be a close-fitting, draped turban-style cloche. Since she approved, I went ahead with the design and found that lovely cotton velveteen I mentioned earlier. Inspired by the gorgeous pattern, I decided some Jacobean embroidery needed to happen, along with some very jazzy stick pins.

I figured I was pretty satisfied with all the designs, so all that was left was to get to work.

A chance meeting in Redwood City on Monday reminded me that I have this blog thing that I’ve been neglecting.  Whoops! But here’s why: It’s been a good year for trunk shows and (here’s the Big One) I’ve decided to go back to school this fall!  At long last, I’m biting the bullet and pursuing my dream of studying design.  It all started with someone suggesting I look up this milliner in Redwood City and take a class at his studio.  Fantastic! Except that Redwood City is not close to Oakland, and oh yeah I’m broke.  But imagine my delight when I realized he teaches at the Junior College there, too!  This led to me thinking that I might as well take some other classes while I’m at it.  Huh.  So instead of trying to finagle a way to keep my job and squeeze in a class or two in the evenings, I finally realized that if I just dive in and go back to school full time, I can hammer out the whole program in two years.  This way I can really round out some skills I’ve been missing and maybe come out being able to support myself with hats full time.  Radical!

Anyway I’ve been up to my elbows in making hats and filling out student loan paperwork.  One of those was more fun than the other, I’ll let you guess which one.  So I’ve got some new hats to share with you, particularly from this WorldShayna's Fedora Traveling Hats project, but then some other stuff as well.  Here’s a preview of World Traveling Hat #1: Shayna’s Fedora.

And because in my next posts I’ll get back to the World Traveling Hats project, here are some photos of the new series of hats I’ve been making.  Check out my etsy site for more!

I’ve been really into the idea of handwork on hats, and of course anyone who knows me has noticed my obsession with bugs lately.  So in that light I present you my green pill box with stumpwork beetle!  The beetle was tons of fun to make, and I can’t wait to have a chance to make more.  I love the idea of putting them on hats, but I also want to make a bunch of stumpwork pins that folks could use as hat accessories or as brooches.  The wings are silk taffeta, wired so that they can be dimensional, spread just a bit to show the sparkle of the layers of green sequins stitched underneath.  The body and head are outlined with real gold wire and the face is made from painted kid leather salvaged from a wrecked old pair of gloves.  Pretty clever, I thought.

Green Pill Box

That’s it for now! In the next post, getting back to the hat project: “How do you decide what it looks like?”

Where have I been?

Making HATS!

So my hat experiment got sidetracked by October. Since I’ve been back from the wedding, I’ve been hunkered down in my room making as many hats as I can for these two shows. I blocked 12 (TWELVE) hats last week and discovered a new and fascinating thing about hatmaking: six hats in one night is my limit. I found myself, at 1am, staring at a soaking wet bit of yellow felt wondering what to do with it, and realizing

I really was working on all these at the same time.

I’d been sitting in that exact position and wondering that same thing for the past 5 minutes without blinking. “Ok, then: time for bed.” Good to know. Anyhow, I knocked out a few things for the Last Minute Halloween Costume Sale (yes, that is a Smurf hat you see), revisited some old hats that needed

I now officially have more hats than I have places to put them.

improvements, and threw in a couple new versions of old familiar designs

which I’m pretty excited about (for instance, after watching it sit on my pile of felt for two years, I FINALLY got to use that wonderful cow-print beaver hood).

Oh, and I had to make a rodeo clown costume for my boyfriend. Oh, and am I dressing up for Halloween too? Gosh..

Anyway my apologies both for the sparseness of my posts and the tardiness of the last two Hat Experiment Hats (sorry, Swenyu and Rae). I’ll get back to those this weekend. Up next: the debut of Chiara’s hat.

You and what army?

First things first, I guess… I took a moment to introduce you to my Lovely Army. Check out their bio page under “Meet the Cast”. More updates to that as I get the rest of the photos/bios.

October began with a frenzy and looks to continue that way. On the 1st I set up a table at Oakland’s Art Murmur, where I met some lovely people, sold a hat or two, and had an all-around great time. Then it was off to Illinois, where I saw my cousin get married and spent the weekend kicking around with my nephew and twin nieces. It was a whirlwind, as always. Got a little side tracked prepping for the vacation (had to show up with a snazzy new hat of course, not to mention something cocktail-ish to go with my dress–pictures of my creations soon!) but now that I’m back in the Bay Area it’s time for me to get back to work.

On the docket for the month: Finish two more world traveling hats, then sink my hands into some mens hats and bust out a bunch of vintage numbers for my upcoming trunk shows at the end of October/ beginning of November.


A bee, one of the first in my Bug Hats line.


Also I thought I might do a Halloween costume featuring one of those Bug Hats I’ve become so fond of. I hope to keep it minimal, but so far the plan is to turn myself into a big ol’ pansy and stick a bee in my hair. I’ll let you know how that goes…


Does it sometimes sound like I’m only halfway speaking English?  Check out my new page, Hat Terms and Tools, for some key words that might help put things in context.  I’ll keep adding to the list as I think of things.  Feel free to make suggestions by commenting on the page.

Coming soon:

“You and whose army?”-an introduction of my fashion-savvy friends.

“On Design” -I work with the ladies to decide on shape, color, and overall attitude of their custom built hat.

And I start actually making hats!

Pretty Things

Felt, Fur, and Straw Hat Bodies

So one of my favorite things to do is pick out materials. Felt, straw, horsehair, luxurious velvet, rhinestones and feathers: what more could a girl want from life? Of course it’s always best to pick things out in person, but when I can’t, the internet is a great place.

Two of my favorite sites are Leko http://hatsupply.com and Mannys http://shop.mannys-millinery.com . Hard as it is to struggle with texture and color choices over a fickle computer monitor, the great thing about mail-order is that it’s like Christmas when packages start showing up. Like this lovely box full of felts and straws I bought for my little experiment.

All the trimmings

But of course the best source for inspiration is right here in my own studio with my massive collection of feathers, rhinestones, and ribbons, and sundries.

The bins

More often than not, I’ll find myself designing a hat around a gorgeous ribbon or button rather than the other way around.

Sounds backwards, but I also tend to pick my outfits to match a hat I want to make. Call it single-minded.

Finally, when I just cannot find the perfect thing in any of my secret stashes, it’s off to the fabric store. Luckily for me I work in one. Also there is an inexplicably high occurrence of fabric stores per capita in the Bay Area.

Suprise find: affordable velveteen

This helps keep prices down and increases the variety of materials to purchase, such as this lovely cotton velveteen and silk/cotton voile.

Once the materials have got my blood flowing and my inspiration working, its time to set down to the dirty business of working up a hat. Never let anyone fool you: Making things yourself is *not* easier than buying it. But more on that later. It’s time for me to stop writing about hats and just go make them.

ta ta for now,


An Army of Fashionistas

Well here I am, a small-time hat maker in Oakland with a sore need for getting the word out there. After all the studying and training, investments both financial and other, hours of labor to build up an inventory I am satisfied with, and much mulling over decisions about aesthetics and price points, I find myself lacking one crucial thing: a market. If no one sees your stuff, no one will buy it, right? What’s a girl to do?

Go viral.

About a month ago, I frivolously declared that I would like to hire an army of fashionistas to roam the cities of the world while wearing my hats and promoting my business. But who has money for that? So I challenged my friends, world travelers that they are: I will send you a custom hat at cost, a complimentary disposable camera, and a stack of business cards. In exchange, you will make a concentrated effort to wear the hat as frequently as possible, network with potential clients, and hand out my cards to everyone who is interested. Oh, and document the whole thing.

The Milliner At Work

Then, with my small army of intrepid volunteers waiting, I hunkered down to build some fabulous hats and send them out into the world. I call it my Hatter’s Experiment.