July 7, 2012

Hat Designer of the Year 2012. Part 2: My hats

Did you already see my sketches? Well, these are the hats I was asked to make for the semifinal of the Hat Designer of the Year competition 2012 and that have been exhibited for the final at Première Classe in Paris:

Cristina de Prada's hats for the Hat Designer of the Year 2012 competition

Do you want to know how I made them?… Then keep on reading!


The theme for this competition was LUCK, and this hat is a positive twist on a bad luck omen, a broken mirror that traditionally means 7 years of bad luck has turned into 7 years of HAT luck, and that is very good luck indeed. Initially I wasn’t thinking of writing words with the glass shards but every time I looked at the glass shards (made of plexiglass) my brain saw letters, so in the end I decided to write HAT LUCK on the hat!

Plexiglass mirror pieces spelling HATThe plexiglas has a protective film that I kept until the very last minute, and that allowed me to write notes to know which piece was which!

(click on “more” to see the rest of the entry)


June 26, 2011

Going to the final of the Hat Designer of the Year 2011 competition: The leather bubble cap

Here is the bubble cap:

Collage bubble hat blog

Here is the sketch:


This cap design just came to my mind after seeing lots of beautiful 60’s hats on books and magazines. With all my designs for the competition I wanted to do something new, completely original, and not a copy of something I had seen. The truth is I have never liked 60’s hats. In my mind that era was the swan’s song of hats, with hats being slaves to the crazy hair-do’s of the time. But while researching to make the hats for the competition I came across many extravagant and fun designs that made me change my mind. Perhaps it has also to do with the fact that the 60’s are inspiring today’s fashion more and more and I’m on that wavelength too.

You may feel the need to remind me that the theme for the competition is La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini’s film that premiered in Italy in February 1960), and that the hats there tended more towards 50’s looks that 60’s. Well, that is up for discussion since many hats from the film were pretty adventurous and outrageous, but not only that, the competition called for 50’s and 60’s inspired hats. So there you have it. That is why I came up with this design.

I like my hats to look as good on the inside as they do on the outside, so here you can see the lining of the cap made with a gorgeous vintage kimono silk (disclaimer: no kimonos were harmed in the making of this hat, the fabric comes from an unused  vintage bolt). I interfaced the silk with heavy iron on interfacing to get that structured look also on the inside.


The first step to making this hat was creating the pattern. It is a totally new design and I didn’t know anything like this, so I had to make it from scratch and my favorite method for that is making a plasticine model of the hat (modeling clay that does not harden) and from there make the pattern pieces. It’s not the first time I’ve done this and shared it with you, you can check it out here: flat pattern out of a 3D shape

[THERE IS MORE!! This is a long post with many pictures, click on the MORE button below to see it all]


January 20, 2011

Your chance to learn millinery with Charo Iglesias


If you happen to be in Madrid, or at a flying distance, you should not miss this opportunity to polish or kickstart your millinery skills at the atelier of Charo Iglesias. Charo is an “old school” milliner (meant as a GREAT compliment), her hats are made to haute couture standards, and she has a distinguished and faithful clientele.

You can see some of her work at her website: www.charoiglesias.com

These are the courses she will be giving:

11, 12 and 13 February 2011: FASCINATORS, BASES and TRIMMMINGS

24, 25, 26 and 27 February 2011: BLOCKING HATS IN STRAW AND FELT

2, 9, 16, 23, 30 March 2011: KNOWLEDGE AND MANIPULATION OF STRAW 1



This is a unique opportunity to learn from one of the best milliners around, and to do it at her own atelier. The only knowledge required is knowing how to sew by hand.

If you want details just let me know on the comments and I will email you the info I have (schedule, description of the course and prices).

October 25, 2010

A straw hat for Eulalia

Filed under: Millinery projects,millinery techniques and cheats,Straw hat for Eulalia — Cristina de Prada @ 12:51 pm

Eulalia's new hat

Fall is here already, but better late than never, here are the details of the hat I made for my friend Eulalia.

I tried to make a hat that is very wearable, but I suspect that Eulalia thinks it still quite dressy!

You saw on my previous post the blocked crown and how I stay stitched around the headsize. After doing that all I did was cut just below the stitched line, separating crown and brim.  Here’s the picture:

Crown blocked, brim not yet

Here are some pictures of the blocking of the brim.

When starting to block it might seem that there is too much material. Do not worry, that material is on the bias and it’s easy to “shrink in”.

Also important is to keep in mind that when a brim folds upwards (like with a breton style hat) the good side of the straw must be on the underside of the hat (so that the part that folds upwards looks beautiful).

As you can see I used a wax crayon to mark the edge of the brim where I would have to cut.

Brim blocking

I decided to use “brim lock” (nylon wire) to help keep the brim in shape. I taped it first to the wood block to get the right length (the brim hat stretched a little when unblocking and getting the length from the block means that I will be able to bring it back to it’s original shape).

I used a joiner, and with an exacto knife cut the tip into a fine point to be able to enter the ends of the nylon into the joiner. As you can see the ends get squashed when cutting the nylon with scissors. Afterwards I taped the nylon to the edge of the brim and used a zigzag stitch to fix it in place.

Yes, you can do that by hand, but the result is very good done by machine and it will be covered with a bias biding.

Adding brimlock to the brim of the hat

Here is the bias binding process. I do have a bias binder maker, but it’s very easy to make them with a long pin on the ironing board as you can see. I machine stitched the binding to the outer edge and them flipped the binding inside and stitched by hand the inside part making sure that no stitches are visible on either side (the stitches on the outside come out just below the binding, invisibly).

Adding a bias binding on edge of the brim

The last steps were the grosgrain headsize ribbon (previously curled), hand stitched but because the stitches will not be visible on the outside (covered by the crown) it was ok to do long visible stitches on the outside.

Crown and brim before assembly with grosgrain ribbon hand stitched

Nothing more left to do but to hand sew the crown to the brin, and add the trimming. I hope you enjoyed it!!

July 6, 2010

Setting the crown depth on the sewing machine

I’m making a summer straw hat for my dear friend Eulalia, I’m sure she will use it often (we have no lack of sunny days here in Barcelona).

I am using a brim block that does not have a hole in the middle and because of that I’ve had to first block the crown, and then cut the straw material separating crown from brim in order to block the brim separately.

Having to cut through a straw capeline is a scary thought and it’s important to think it through before getting the scissors. I’ve finally decided to run a row of stitches all around the crown before cutting it in order to avoid the straw from fraying, and also to have a good guide for cutting.

The tricky thing here is to have an even depth all around the crown and that is why I Macgyvered a way to do it. After deciding the desired depth I taped a ruler to the front of the free arm so that when the tip of the crown was in contact with the ruler the needle fell exactly at the point where I wanted my stitches to be. As I was sewing around I kept the flat tip of my crown in contact with the ruler thus keeping the stitching at a constant crown depth.

I will let you know how the hat progresses!

May 1, 2010

The birth of a gentleman’s hat

I had a bunch of handsome gentlemen in need of a spring hat for the last Passejada amb barret, and decided to start from scratch and design and sew a stylish hat for them.

Do you remember that a while ago I sculpted a hat with plasticine and extracted a flat pattern from it? If you don’t remember or want to see it again, follow this link.

Well, for my gentleman’s hat I decided to follow the same process. I used a round block as a base in order to save on plasticine (aka Play Doh), and as you can see it starts quite messy and seems hopeless, but little by little it takes shape. I like to smooth it out really well when it’s almost finished. Once the shape is ready I cover it with cling film and ideally I use masking (painters) tape to cover the whole shape, carefully following all the curves. When I made this pattern I was out of masking tape (and it was Sunday, so no hope of finding any) so I used packing tape which is messy and does not adapt as well to the shape, but in the end it did the trick.

Then I drew lines with a felt pen where the cuts (seams) were going to be. I think this is the trickiest part of the whole process, trying to visualise where the seams should be, but it’s a process that can be repeated as many times as necessary, covering the form again if we need to, and marking different seam lines. Once happy with the tape pattern it’s time to transfer it to pattern paper and true it up with a french curve.

I believe I got really lucky because I love the resulting pattern (the crown is made from one piece of fabric), but I should point out that the finished hat is not exactly as the plasticine version… if you check it out carefully you wil see that I marked the seam to be on the top edge of the sideband, but on the finished hat the top edge is a fold and the seam sinks down. When I had the prototype sewn I saw that it had to sink down, there was no other way.

If you check all the pictures I’ve taken of the sewing process you will see that I cut the iron-on interfacing without seam allowance, then iron it to the external fabric, and then cut the fabric with the allowance. That minimizes the bulk, and serves as a guide when sewing… I’m not really sure if it’s a good idea of just a crazy one but it worked for me…

In any case, the pattern still needs some perfecting. The last version is the one being worn by Paco Peralta (my couturier friend, the one on the far left picture), and you can see how the brim curves better than on the other ones (Peter and Joaquín).



November 20, 2009

Like a wire on a bird

Filed under: Bird of Paradise hat,Millinery projects,Wiring felt bird for structure — Cristina de Prada @ 4:15 pm

Here are some pictures of how I do the inner wiring for my beautiful green bird. I have used a large brim block as a base to shape the wire. With the pattern drawn on a piece of paper I have traced a line where I want the wire to go, and that done I have placed the paper on top of the brim block and pushed small pins all along the lines where the wire is supposed to go. The bits where the wire has to bend have many pins, while there are no pins where there are straight lines. After doing that I have been able to easily measure how much wire I was going to need and cut it to size before starting. With needle nose pliers you can make little circles on the ends to avoid snags and make it easier to sew in place. I’ve sewn the wire in place by hand without getting to the other side of the felt.

I want to thank Montez for giving me the idea for the rig I’ve made to shape the wire. Check it out for yourselves, here’s where my inspiration came from: http://chapeaudujour.blogspot.com/2008/11/quills-and-spills.html

I hope you will be able to use this technique to make your hats. Needless to say this bird is my design, so please do not copy it… I’m sure you can think of something else that is as beautiful!

November 2, 2009

Mini hat is out of the block

The hat is out of the block. I used scissors to cut the edge following the string line. I like the downwards curve of the edge, which I believe works nicely with the general curviness of the hat. When I took that picture it still needed a good brush up, though.

I’ve added chemical stiffener on the inside because the hat was too soft.

Below is a picture of the inside of the hat. Whereas on the outside you cannot see any wrinkles, on the inside and with the lateral light that is hitting the hat one can see some wrinkles around the “headsize”. The grosgrain has been sewn in place using pink thread, which cannot be seen on the outside because I go in with the needle on the same place I came out (but on a different angle).

I’ve had to sand the edge a lot to get rid of irregularities which are my very own fault for doing a lousy job with the scissors. The edge also needs to be cleaned with a wet cloth to get rid of the white dust.

The trimming is the only thing missing (to tell the truth it’s finished, but you will have to be patient to see the result!)

These days I feel a need for simplicity and hang on to the old adage “less is more” (or more recently the KISS principle).

Since this blog is called “The rantings blah blah”, here goes some ranting…

I feel there are too many overloaded, heavy handed, unbalanced hats and fascinators on the market (with this tendency to add everything but a kitchen sink on the hat/fascinator), that I feel an urge to steer clear of that and to condemn it.  The simpler the hat the more difficult it is to make. A simple elegant hat is a challenge (I’m not saying my hats are elegant or simple… but one does strive for that).

Lets do this exercise: Pick up your favorite hat book, old fashion picture of hats, or vintage fashion magazine. I bet the hats you love the most are those that are striking without being overpowering, those with a simple line, those where you say “Wow, that lady looks amazing!” and not “Wow look at that hat, that cannot be comfortable, poor woman!”

Having said that, there are hats where there’s a lot going on (as an example, the wonderful butterfly hat by Philip Treacy) that work wonderfully (or so I think). I think making a complex hat look becoming and in a way “simple” is an even more difficult task.

There, I said it.  That’s what I think of the proliferation of fascinators in the market. I have nothing against the fascinator as long as it’s well made (no glue thank you) and it’s becoming. I also encourage the people that only make fascinators to branch out and learn more, because there’s so much more to learn and there is a lot of joy involved in becoming a milliner… and that is why I write this blog, to share what I know.

October 27, 2009

Sneak preview of cork block Mini Hat

For those who cannot wait until the hat is finished and want to know how the blocking of the Mini Hat is going, here is a sneak preview of the hat block in use. I have used a black furfelt cone with spikes, and as you can see there is a lot left over after blocking it.

I’ve started by spraying water based sizing on the cone, wrapping it up in a wet cloth and microwaving it for 1,5 minutes to soften the felt and get the sizing to sink in. I’ve manually stretched the tip a little bit and then I’ve started blocking. Around the collar there was a lot of excess felt, which I’ve managed to reduce by ironing with a wet cloth, pushing down (but not too much), all in an effort to encourage the felt to shrink in that area.

It has taken some time but it has worked!

Here are some more pictures of the blocked felt. First the back (and most troublesome part of the blocking process because it took a long time to get it to shrink down):

And here is a picture from an angle. As you can see I did not need to use any pins, the string that locked on the groove was enough to keep the felt in place. I do not know what I will do with the edge when I unblock it. I think that for a folded edge I should have made the groove lower down, so possibly the only option will be to cut the edge.

October 26, 2009

Mini hat block out of cork

Those who have been following me for a while might remember that I did a mini plasticine (aka Play-Doh) hat block to use it for making straw braid hats (like these ones).

I’ve been thinking for a while that this block would make a beautiful felt hat, but if I blocked felt on it, it would soon lose its shape, so today I set off to make a cork version of the block.

The result is quite close to the original, but one must keep in mind that the curves of the original block where due in great measure to the fact that plasticine is very malleable and lends itself to that kind of look. Reproducing that curviness with cork has been difficult. You can imagine how difficult it has been by looking at the pile of glued cork layers (4 centimeters each) that I started with. When I started I had my doubts it would work out, but I’m pleased that it did in the end, after hours of filing and sanding away.

Now there’s only one thing left to do, to block a felt on it!

You can see all pictures I’ve taken of the process if you follow this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/63536356@N00/sets/72157622669749288/

All pictures related to making a cork block (you might remember I also made a Homburg hat cork block) can be seen if you follow this link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/63536356@N00/sets/72157602793993432/

Will be back soon with pictures of a felt mini hat made using this block…

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