April 12, 2014

A hat made of a hat… or what I call a "meta-hat"

This is the hat I made for last year’s  Stroll with a Hat (Passejada amb Barret).

Whether or not to sketch before making a hat is something that is often discussed in the forums. I think it simply depends on the type of hat, and possibly on your working process. I enjoy sketching although I’m not particularly good at it, but it works for me. Many sketches don’t get to become a hat, but I often review old sketches for self-inspiration. From sketch to finished product it’s often a long process with many changes. In this case the hat started as an open hat box, and it was only later on that I decided to add the top hat:


My choice of material for the structure of the hat was “toile gommée”, a very stiff canvas that is sold in France and that is very hard to work with, but that added the stiffness required for the hat box. It’s very hard to sew through, so it’s not my material of choice. It can be blocked because the stiffener softens with steam and water, but it takes muscle!


The hat box is made of tie silk that comes in narrow bolts intended to make gentelman’s ties. I think this silk is what inspired me to make the hat because it just talks hat box to me. The “tissue paper” inside of the box is silk organza (from a leftover piece that my friend Paco Peralta gave me), and the hat is made of silk shantung to match the green cape that Paco made for me.

The most difficult part was the top hat, making sure all stitches where hidden and the fabric was nice and tight. Going “miniature” makes life very difficult, particularly with such a thick material as the toile gommée. But that stiffness of the material is what allowed me to flare the top of the hat with my hands with some water and when it dried it was rock hard.

Meta-hat1Another important moment when making a hat is deciding where and how to sew the elements that make it. I used two plastic headbands, covered with elastic cotton velvet ribbon, and I played a little with the position of the hat…


I wore this hat in Madrid for the Head over Heels event organized by Value Retail Spain at Las Rozas Outlet. Stephen Jones was the mentor of that event and we had the good fortune of getting an inspiring talk from him. I love that he praised those of us (all milliners) that were wearing a hat at the moment, if we don’t wear hats who is going to? And the big surprise? There were a few of his hats on display and one of them was a hat box with hats, how crazy is that?! Here you can see it, on the left, behind the great man himself. Could they be more different and yet spring from the same idea?:


And here I am, wearing the final product, on the day of the Stroll with a Hat, next to my good friend Nina Pawlowsky:


February 24, 2013

The making of my "cache-chignon" hat with a green bow

Filed under: Cache-chignon,Hat Designer of the Year competition 2011,Millinery projects — Cristina de Prada @ 9:54 pm


I want to share some of the details of the making of my chignonette (cache-chignon) hat with a green bow (it’s about time, I’ve had this blog entry half written for more than a year).  I’ve made several versions of this hat and I really love it. I’ve never been much of a fan of 60’s headwear, but since I did my research for the Hat Designer of the Year 2011 competition whose theme was La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini’s 1960 film), I’ve grown to enjoy ,respect and be inspired by the hats of that era.

By the way, if you feel an irresistible urge to own one of these, and you are in Los Angeles, you can buy one at The Millinery Guild boutique!

This picture is of the first cache-chignon hat I made, for the Hat Designer of the Year competition.

Chignon cover

A similar one (no veil) made it to the press (La Vanguardia), when I wore it to a 50’s themed party at the Fashion Museum of Barcelona. In the picture I’m chatting away with my dear friend and colleague Nina Pawlowsky:


I did a lot of research for the competition, because it was such a specific theme. Research is something I enjoy doing because it forces me to plunge deep as I try to understand why fashion develops a certain way at a certain time. Here are some of the images I collected during my research:

InspiracionConcursoHats(sorry for the repeated image!)

click on “more” to see the rest… (more…)

July 8, 2012

Hat Designer of the Year 2012. Part 3: Paris final


Finally, what a lot of you have been waiting for, the report and pictures of the final that took place on July 2nd 2012. As you can see there was a country theme going on with bales of hay (echoing the theme for the exhibits outside of the hall). I must say that last year the setup was better, but perhaps this year there have been more people daring to look at the hats because they were more accessible.

General view of the exhibit

There was a banner in French describing the competition and explaining the theme, which was “LUCK” but in the banner it had been rebaptized as “GET LUCKY”, not quite the same as you will agree.

Me, in front of the banner

The winner of this years competition has been Honoyo Imai, a japanese milliner. Her hats were inspired by “Omikuji”, Japanese fortunes written on pieces of paper that are bought at shrines and tied on branches of nearby trees.

(click “more” to see the rest of this post!)


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)


July 4, 2012

Hat Designer of the Year 2012. Part 1: My entry -the sketches-

Box in which my hats travelled for the competition

Last Monday was the final of the Hat Designer of the Year, a millinery competition organized by The Hat Magazine, and I was lucky to be one of the 6 finalists with three of my hats being exhibited at the Première Classe fashion trade show in Paris (30th June-3rd July 2012).

I want to give you a full report, but first I must start with a spoiler: I did not win any of the prizes… still, being there at the final, one of the lucky 6 (out of more than 60 initial entries) it was a big satisfaction.

This competition takes place every year, and those milliners who want to participate have to design 6 hats based on the theme that the organizers have set and send the corresponding sketches. Last year the theme was La Dolce Vita, and this year it was, simply, LUCK. A tricky theme! The judge was Marie-Claire Barban of the company Cheri Bibi.

There must be two model hats, to be made to a couture level; two ready-to-wear hats which could be produced in a factory; and two hats made from a flat pattern (cut-and-sewn or knitted).

Of all the entries, the judge (Marie-Claire Barban) selected 14 designers who moved on to the semi finals. These 14 designers where instructed to make specific designs (one of each category) and to send them over to the Hat Magazine. Based on the hats made six finalists where selected to have their work exhibited at Première Classe where the final took place.

I will begin by showing you the three designs out of the six that I did not have to create for the competition. The couture hat was to be a three dimensional horn of plenty in dyed pinokpok abaca (a very fine grade of sinamay) with vintage fruits pouring out of its mouth. The ready-to-wear design was a chenille braid tubular hat, simbolizing a wishing well. The flat pattern hat was a whimsical fortune cookie with an embroidered message saying “YOU’LL WEAR A HAT”.

Box in which my hats travelled for the competition

And next the designs I had to create for the semifinal, and that got me into the final.  The couture design is a chignon cover of double starbright braid in black, with broken pieces of plexiglas mirror that spell the words HAT LUCK, bringing 7 years HAT luck to the wearer, of course. The ready to wear design is a melusine fur felt in grey with fur felt swallows on either side. In france, swallows bring abundance and good luck. Finally the dice cap, made in wool with hand sewn dots in leather, refers to the luck needed in games of chance.

Sketches of the hats I had to make for the final

Strange enough, the first sketch “7 years of hat luck” was stolen from the exhibition during a lapse in surveilance, I hope whoever has it at least enjoys it and treats it well (I would like to have it back, please!)… but it boggles the mind how people have no problem taking what’s not theirs!

This is it from now. Two more posts coming, one with the actual hats I made, and some construction details, and another one with pictures of the exhibition in Paris and all the participating milliners and their hats.

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]


June 24, 2011

Going to the final of the Hat Designer of the Year 2011: Day and night hat

This is my multipurpose design, the Giorno/Sera (Day/Night) hat. It’s a hat that works as a sun hat with a wide brim, but which can be used as an evening hat by removing the brim and attaching a veil.

Here is the sketch of the hat (and yes, I sketched that not having a clue how I was going to solve the issue of the removable brim and veil!!):


Two of my projects for the competition were made with sewn straw braid. The reason is that I love the possibilities of sewing “straw” braid by machine and the wonderful final look. It helps too that I recently took at course at the Hat Museum/Atelier of Chazelles-sur-Lyon that was a real eye opener in what concerns the use of a hat braid sewing machine, with top notch teacher and wonderful person Jean-Pierre Tritz. Here is a picture of us students with the much admired Jean-Pierre Tritz (he’s 4th from the left, I’m 2nd from the left). I cannot recommend highly enough this course and this teacher: he is THE MAN.


Here is the picture of the finished hat assembled as EVENING hat (the straw used is Starbright):


The front angle on the hat was made by sewing the braid closer together on that side. Little by little the right angle is achieved.

[Lots more pictures follow, just click on the “more” button on the left!]


June 23, 2011

Going to the final of the Hat Designer of the Year 2011 competition: sketches

My friend Montez (Susan Murphy) who writes the wonderful blog Chapeau du Jour sent me an email on March 12 telling me about the Hat Magazine competition themed “La Dolce Vita” to be judged by milliner Elvis Pompilio and encouraging me to participate (I have every issue of the Hat Magazine, but I had completely missed the article about the competition!).

In order to participate on the competition I had to draw 6 designs of hats and send them off to the Hat Magazine by the end of March, so I only had two weeks to work on them, but I embraced the project and managed to finish them in time.

My life would have been much easier if I had first made the hats and then sketched them, but there was no time so I draw the hats out of my imagination (which proved to be quite a challenge later on).

Here is the announcement at The Hat Magazine of the 12 milliners who moved on to Round 2:HatDesignerCompetitionAnouncement

I was lucky to be one of the 12 milliners that made it to the Round 2, and I was instructed to make 3 specific hats out of the 6 sketches. Everything moved really fast after that because of the many things going on in my life at that time (co-organizing Barcelona’s Hat Parade -Passejada amb Barret-, giving hat making lessons, a trip abroad) and I had to work really hard again to meet the deadline for the finished hats, but it sure was fun!

The second round was judged this past June 21st by Elvis Pompilio and Sylvie Pourrat and her team (from Premiere Classe). They selected 9 milliners who will be showing hats for the final judging on September 4 (one of my hats will be there!).

These are two of the the three sketches that were selected for me to turn into actual hats (the hat that will be exhibited in Paris will remain a secret for now!!):


These are the other three sketches (I am better at making hats than at sketches, I promise you).


This is all for now. Pictures and insight into the making of two of the hats soon!!

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!

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