Thursday, March 21, 2013


Lace is never out of fashion but sometimes it is really in fashion. The continued popularity of Downton Abby has definitely put lace back in the forefront of fashion and we are seeing a variety of design houses using it, from Cavalli to Burberry to Jason Wu.
Lace was on view at the oscars from Adele's black sheer lace to Amanda Seyfried white Alexander McQueens white lace dress.
Valentino puts a modern spin with a camo lace dress.

Although lace often represents the feminine, softness and innocence of the wearer, it was not always so.

The Victoria and Albert museum have just opened an exhibition, Treasures of the royal courts, where lace ruffs, collars and cuffs, are shown as a symbol of money, as lace was expensive, handmade and very labor intensive.
Lace can also be aggressive when worn with leather or even rubberized.
What I like about lace is that is is not trendy but stylish, so over time the high cost is well worth it.

ALENCON; is a french needlepoint lace favored by the French 2nd empire 1852-1870,  that features bouquets of flowers, leaves and ferns designs on a sheer reseau mesh background. Sometimes up to 10 specialists worked on the dame piece of lace.

It is often embellished with beads or sequins.

BATTENBURG AKA RENAISSANCE; is a heavy 19th-century lace made by shaping linen braid or tape into patterns with thread connections to hold the pattern together.

Shelly Segal Battenburg dress.

CARRICKMACROSS AKA PRINCESS LACE; maybe the fairest of them all, is a delicate Irish lace used in christening robes and wedding veils.

Carrickmacross lace used on the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress.

Portions of the fabric are cut way and reinforced with embroidery. Nowadays, the net is made by machine and the patterns are applied by hand with a needle.

CHANTILLY; a favorite of the French court, is made on a soft mesh and uses patterns of flowers, branches and ribbons on a plain background.

Used as trim on  a hat.
And made into a famous song by the BIG BOOPER.

CLUNY AKA RIBBON; this lace is make from course linen threads on looms or jacquard machines. Often used as table or bed linen. This is very strong lace and manufactured on a large scale today.

 Top trimmed with Cluny lace.

DUCHESS LACE aka Brussels (needle lace) or Bruges (bobbin lace);  is a lace with raised floral designed on a spaced net background. Sometimes inserts of needle lace, called ROSE POINTS, were frequently combined with Brussels duchess bobbin lace. Do not expect to find lace factories in either cities as they do not exist.
Duchess lace is manufactured on a cushion on which a paper pattern is pinned. The lace maker will use on average 22 bobbins and up too 200 for an intricate design. The corner of a handkerchief can take 2-3 days to make.

GROS POINT DE VENISE AKA GUIPURE aka Point de France; this is a heavy needlepoint lace made with buttonhole stitches. The lace is raised with a pattern that looks like carved ivory. Thick cordonnets outline the heavy scrolling flowers. Similar lace was made in Ireland, Belgium, and Italy.

Used as trim on a retro fifties hat.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Hats Off to the Second Annual Mad Hatter Hatmaking Competition

mila kunisJoppatowne, MD–Here’s a contest to tip your cap to!
Experienced and amateur milliners from around the world are invited to submit hat designs for the second annual Mad Hatters Society Hatmaker Competition.
Any material and style are acceptable as long as the hat is made from scratch by the entrant(s) themselves. Outrageous, surreal, ironic, inventive and unusual materials and designs are encouraged for those entrants looking to think outside the box (entries from the previous year included hats for pets and a hat for the sidewalk outside a front door).
· Teams of no more than two may collaborate on a hat and more than one hat may be entered.
· It must be made between National Hat Day (Jan. 15) and the contest entry deadline, April 1.
· The hat must be worn by someone (not necessarily the hat maker) in a public place and photographed.
· Each entrant must join the Mad Hatters Society on Facebook to enter the contest. Click here for the link.
To enter, upload at least three photographs (required: front and inside of the hat and someone wearing the hat in public) to the MHS photo album on Facebook with a caption stating it’s your official MHS Hatmaking Contest entry.
Also send all photographs to Brenda Grantland at so they can be posted to a special album on Hatatorium Emporium, a new web marketplace for high-end vintage and handcrafted hats and fashion accessories.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What is a SINAMAY hat

When we think SINAMAY HATS, we think of royal weddings, mint tulips and the Kentucky Derby.
The hats start life off as lowly fibers on a tree and when you see how much work it takes to make them into the crowning glories we see them as, you will wonder why they do not cost thousands instead of hundreds of dollars.
Sinamay is made from ABACA fibers which are harvested from the trucks of Musa Textilis trees. These trees look like wild banana trees and are native to the Philippines.

Weaving the sheets of sinamay is tedious work.

There are different qualities of sinamay. The cheapest is made into a pulp to make teabags and paper money. Woven sinamay comes in sheets/plies. The cheap tissue like hat you buy at a low end store is made of 1 ply and will feel very flimsy. Better hats like SCALA hats use multi plies to profuse hight quality hats.
Here are some photos from a sinamay hat factory which I recently visited.
Millinery love using sinamay because is is light and can be dyes into beautiful fashion colors.

dyed sheets waiting to be made into hats

Sheets with animal print.
Here are some navy sheets drying after being lacquered.
Similar to all hat blocking. The sinamay sheets are steamed and blocked into the desired shapes.

 We call a blocked untrimmed sinamay hat a FRAME. The block above will make a base for a fascinator, something like this.

Then the ladies will attach it to a headband.

They will hot glue some sinamay bows and feathers.

 Maybe add a curly quill
To make these beautiful creations.

 The asymmetric crown block on the right was used to make this hat.

 This mold made this unfinished frame.
Next step is to finished the edge with wire and cut the hole for the head.

Or instead of making room for the head just attached it to a headband and wear it perched on top of the head.

 This mold is used to make a shallow crown with a large picture brim.

These sinamay sheets have been blocked into a cloche crown.

These asymmetric brims will have an under brim of pleated netting.

The netting is sewn to the upper edge.
And then pleated into the head size area.

Add a few flowers and off to the races.

Self bows are oven used as trim on sinamay hats. The sinamay is cut into strips, the edges ironed.

Printed animal sinamay used as trim.
 Sinamay is also made into leaves as trim

Feathers are often used as trim and can make a hat quite expensive. A person who make feather trims is caller a plumier.
Coq feathers are very popular for hat trims but they are expensive.

Duck or chicken feathers are used on cheaper hats. Coq feathers flutter in the wind and make the hat flirtatious while duck feathers are still and lifeless.

There is a difference between the American and British sinamay market. American ladies tend to shy away from indented crowns and also eat/west brims. They seem to have a had time with the stiffness of a classic sinamay.
They seem to prefer a softer crown like this style.

This 3 layered fascinator on a headband is also popular for the Derby.

Note the curled by hand finished edges. This a long with the luxurious coq feathers makes this headdress expensive.