I've been remiss in not posting sooner about my wonderful experience in last weekend's millinery workshop. A couple of my creations have already been posted here, but today I'll talk a little about the class itself and the process of making hats.
The class was taught by Wayne Wichern, who has a workshop at his home in Redwood City. Wayne has been a milliner for more than 20 years, and also teaches sewing classes at Cañada College. He's wonderfully talented and also incredibly patient and good-humored. The course is set up so that everyone can get whatever they want out of it; you can work independently and really challenge yourself, but Wayne is right there to offer advice and help whenever you need it. It was 3 full days of instruction and lab time, during which I managed to turn out 6 completed hats. When I left on the last day, I really felt like I had all the skills I need to keep going with it, which I fully intend to do.
Creating the basic shape of the hat isn't complicated so much as it is physically demanding. The first step in making a felt hat is to stretch the felt using a lot of steam and even more muscle. The hat is stretched and secured to a wooden form with the use of string and tacks, then allowed to cool and dry overnight. Once the edges are cut off and finished out with ribbon, then the real fun begins: dressing the hat. This is where you can really allow your imagination to run wild. Wayne's workshop is like a candy store of colorful ribbon, fabrics, silk flowers, feathers, and just about anything else you can think of. He has a dazzling array of different blocks to work with, from whimsical retro styles to hip, modern ones.
Hats have been a passion of mine for many years now, and I'm looking forward to doing a lot more with this new skill. My head is already buzzing with ideas for original designs, and I've got several bids going on eBay for various blocks. If everything goes according to plan, I will be launching my very own Etsy shop in the near future!