April 23, 2013

Book review: Fabulous Fascinators, 14 fantastic projects from simple to advanced

Filed under: Hat book and magazine reviews — Cristina de Prada @ 10:12 pm


stickerThe printed book “Fabulous Fascinators, 14 Fantastic Projects from Simple to Advanced”, by Kerry Aston, was recently released by Morse-Brown (who are also behind the www.how2hats.com ebooks). I’ve received a free copy from them so I could review it in my blog, which I am happy to do (keep them coming). I loved the presentation upon arrival, with the book wrapped in tissue paper with a big sticker that said” MAKE HATS. TURN HEADS.”

For starters, and just in case you cannot be bothered to read the whole review I will tell you that you will want to buy this book if you are a beginner wishing to learn how to make small headpieces, cocktail hats and whimseys (aka fascinators) out of sinamay. You may even want to buy this book because you need to attend a special event and you want to make a small headpiece for yourself, just that once. You may also want this book if, like me, you cannot help but buy any hat related book on the market.

THREAD AND NEEDLE are central to this book. If you want to make a small headpiece, with this how-to book you are on the right track and I recommed it. Once you get a taste you can move on to bigger things.

Having said this, I will rant for a little while and then get back to the review…



Some of you who know me well, know that I despise “the F word” (and I’m not the only one, really not). FASCINATOR is a word I rarely use. The reason is because more often than not the word Fascinator is used to describe badly made, glued up horrors composed of a bought sinamay base, a couple of feathers, some badly cut veil and a couple of buttons. All of it held up together with hot glue. That sort of “fascinator” makes me cringe (even if it looks nice from afar). Just google hot glue gun fascinator to get an idea of what I’m talking about. I’m not saying you cannot use a hot glue gun in the comfort of your home to glue up together whatever takes your fancy, what I’m saying is that doing THAT doesn’t turn you by miracle into a milliner, a craftsperson or an artist, and that portraying yourself as one and selling those products to the public only means that your are DELUDING yourself and selling a second rate product to an unsuspecting (and clueless) customer. There. I said it.

If you hate my guts for saying what I’m saying, it’s your right to do so. But if you ALSO enjoy making headpieces, cocktail hats and the likes, you should KNOW that there is so much MORE that you can learn and that you can become . You can easily start with this book and move ahead. Instead of hating my guts you should thank me for pointing this out and you should embrace a world of possibilities, because there are a great many resources out there that will allow you to reach your goal and help you become an accessories creator and if hats are your thing, a MILLINER. Bottom line: a hot glue gun is not the way. You are allowed to disagree, of course, in which case we will agree to disagree.

*RANT ENDED… back to the review*


BACK TO THE REVIEW. Fabulous Fascinators is a book written by Kerry Aston, and it includes 14 projects requiring different skills. All projects have sinamay as it’s main material and have plenty of detailed step by step pictures.

Each project has been given a name, and introduces a technique. They’ve been classified as Easy, Intermediate and Advanced. These are the projects:


  • Marcelle: working with veiling
  • Cerys: Moulding bias strip
  • Colette: Moulding bias strip II
  • Courtney: Sinamay flowers & petals
  • Naomi: Sinamay & veiling bows

Intermediate projects:

  • Sophie: Rolled edges
  • Florentina: Feather pom pom
  • Alicia: Feather mount
  • Lily: Sinamay Calla lilies
  • Mia: Working with crin
  • Henrietta: Sinamay disc

Advanced Projects:

  • Stella: Wired sinamay
  • Mirabella: Blocked fascinator
  • Catherine: Your “pièce de résistance”…


The descriptions are detailed and it has been well thought out to make the projects achievable, simplifying some processes but still achieving a good result.

The style of the projects is very much in line with the current high street fashion trends, but if that’s not your thing you can use the techniques to do other things.


On the critical side, I think more care could have been given to the materials list. I believe a more thorough explanation concerning Sinamay would have been welcome considering it’s the main “ingredient” on the proyects. There are many types of Sinamay (plain, textured…), different grades available, and although more often than not it comes pre stiffened, some times it doesn’t. Millinery wire perhaps deserved more of an explanation, since it comes in different gauges, which might cause confusion when purchasing.

Finally Petersham ribbon, is said in the book to be also known as cross-grain ribbon… I believe that is just a typographical error, since it would be gros-grain ribbon, but my concern is that the two are not always synonymous and while Petersham has a scallopped edge, gros-grain (these days) is used to describe a vaguely similar, but straight edged, ribbon that is generally not useful for the purposes of millinery. More often than not “gros-grain” is used to describe the straight edge polyester “look alike”, but it’s important to search for the right product, with scallopped edge and a composition of cotton and/or rayon.


Still on the subject of Petersham, while I believe that learning how to bleach a feather is all fine and dandy, I think it’s more important to learn how to swirl Petersham ribbon to avoid unsightly wrinkles when binding the edge of a hat. Here is where having proper Petersham (scallopped edge) will be useful, because straight edge ribbon will not curl and adapt to the edge of the hat.

Despite of my rant I believe smaller cocktail hats and whimseys are nothing new and will always exist. The ones in this book are simple to make, but they can be very elaborate, technically challenging and definitely very becoming. Sometimes the outfit and the occasion calls for smaller hats.

Let’s just stop calling them fascinators… pretty please?… with a hat on top.


  1. I dislike the F-word too. I have this book and it’s great for beginners. I did learn something though…making feather mount.

    Comment by Mandy — May 4, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

  2. Loved the review and the comments about the glue gun. I just wanted to add that I think that the definitions used for grosgrain and petersham are geographical. Here in the States I think most of us have been taught the word grosgrain (the scalloped ribbon) to represent the type of ribbon that we use to swirl. Even the millinery stores here (going back almost 30 years) still call it grosgrain. After all of these years, now I have to think twice before saying the word, as I do horsehair and crin. Thanks again.

    Comment by Lee Duncan — May 6, 2013 @ 4:30 am

  3. I cannot agree more about the F-word! I get very annoyed when people call my mini hats by it as I use the same techniques to make mini hats as i do to make full sized hats. Having said that I have been guilty of using the F-word sometimes as most people think you are a bit mad if you say you are making a ‘doll hat’!’. Great review as well.

    Comment by Rosaerona — May 8, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

  4. While I do understand the annoyance to the F-word, the usually un-hatted population does understand the word, thanks to Princess Kate and I for one am happy about that since it has brought more customers to our businesses. I have been a milliner for over 15 years and at one time would get the comment “does anyone wear a hat anymore?!” I have done everything I could, speaking at clubs, teas, races, fashion shows, you name it to bring awareness to hats and the art of millinery. When people ask me why it’s called a fascinator, I reply, “Because it fascinates the observer!” If it prompts people to buy, then a Fascinator it is! Just like there are inexpensive hats all the way to custom couture chapeaux, let’s not miss the point of our businesses, which is to put hats on people’s heads no matter what it’s called! At A Tisket A Tasket we say, “The next best thing to a hat is a halo. If you’re not wearing a halo, you’d better be wearing a hat!” Remember to wear a hat today!

    Comment by Illona Cardona — July 18, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

  5. Am getting the book, by the way! Never to late to learn and experiment with new things! bye now!

    Comment by Illona Cardona — July 18, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

  6. Cristina, So glad to see you standing up for skillful milliners (of course)! I too hate the cheaply made Fs but anything that gets ladies thinking about putting something on their heads can’t be all bad. Once in the habit we can hope they upgrade to better millinery.

    Tho’ “retired” from the business I still wear a hat every day to encourage others. Who doesn’t love a nice compliment?

    Will have a look at this interesting book. Thanks for your review.

    Comment by Kate Pernia — November 3, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

  7. YIKES!! Just looked at it on Amazon.com (US) and the price is out of sight. Will have to rely on your review. K Q:-)

    Comment by Kate Pernia — November 3, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

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