July 8, 2009

Four books about hats

Filed under: Hat book and magazine reviews,Millinery material — Cristina de Prada @ 3:20 pm

Recently I bought a few new hat books. Three of them (the French ones), I bought from Amazon France, and the Italian one I bought directly from the publisher.

Here’s what I can tell you about them:

Book 1: Créer ses chapeaux bibis et bijoux de tête

Author: Gaela Lemoine-Vallerie

Publisher: www.editions-eyrolles.com

Details: 2008, 128 pages, 28 euros (26 from Amazon.fr at the date of this post), soft cover. In French only. ISBN: 978-2-212-12335-7


  • Introduction
  • Getting to know the indispensable
  • Hair “jewels”
  • Head “jewels”
  • Hats and small hats (“bibis”)
  • Patterns

It is a well published book with beautiful pictures and how-to drawings. Explanations about the materials and tools. There are interesting instructions on how to make covered hair clips, hair combs and head bands. The projects are classified by difficulty, and are mostly devoted to small pieces and fascinators.

You will find explanations on millinery stitches, how to work with feathers, sinamay, how to prepare a small fascinator base (wired and covered). There is also an appendix with a list of suppliers in France and the UK, and a list of millinery schools.

My advice: If you have no issues with the language (it’s 100% in French although plenty of drawings and pictures) this a nice little book to have. It’s an informed book and a lot of effort has gone into it’s making. If you’re an experienced milliner there might be nothing new for you, but if you’re like me, someone who must have every decent book about hats, this is one you will want to buy.


Author: Agnès Rosenstiehl

Publisher: Editions Autrement

Details: 1996, 44 pages,  10,93 euros (from Amazon.fr at the date of this post), hard cover. In French only. ISBN: 2-86260-614-6

It’s a little book with reproductions of paintings (or sections of paintings) where hats are prominent, accompanied by literary quotes.

My advice: It’s a cute little book but little more than that. The reproductions are not accompanied by dates, there is no effort (and possibly no intention) to make it into an eassay into the history of hats. Nevertheless the pictures are nice, so I don’t really regret buying it but I could live without it.


Author: Cécile Le Faou (Musée de Bretagne)

Publisher: Ëditions Apogée

Details: 2007, 77 pages, 13.30 euros (from Amazon.fr at the date of this post), hard cover. In French only. ISBN: 978-2843982828

This book is the result of the donation made by Mr. Guy Saunier (chapellier/hat maker) to the Musée de Bretagne of the family hat making tools. The first chapter tells of the events surrounding the acquisition by the Museum of this collection and of the Museum policies, interest and processing of the collection. Really interesting if you understand French that is.

A history of the family of hat makers follows, with interesting letters and period pictures.

Then there is a chapter called “Le travail du chapelier”, the work of the hat maker, explaining general concepts about the way the business was organized, the different parts of a hat, general concepts of felt making and working with felt, the use of pedal machines, working with straw braid, trimming and renewal. Although this is not a “how-to” guide, it gives very interesting details and insight into the process.

Then there is the chapter “Notice d’outils, machines et fournitures”. This chapter is a joy, because even if you don’t understand French the images speak for themselves. These are detailed pictures of the tools of the trade with a short explanation and the corresponding French name. I love the bit about straw sewing machines, because it’s something not often found on books.

Finally there is a glossary, a very short bibliography and list of websites of interest.

My advice: I love it, any book that brings me information I didn’t have before is a book worth having, and there’s plenty of that in this little book (ok, you have to be a hat making nutter to want it, but if you’re reading this, aren’t you one?) . Having said that, it’s all in French, and it’s more oriented masculine hats than to ladies millinery.


Author: Anna Maria Nicolini

Publisher: Edizioni Polistampa (Published in conjunction with the “Museo della Paglia” – Straw museum)

Details: 2006, 136 pages,  12 euros (directly from the publisher), soft  cover. English and Italian (with small appendix in German). ISBN: 88-596-0084-7

Contents (between brackets are my comments):

  • Introduction
  • The hat,  headdresses or decorations (the anatomy and types of hats and trimmings, but the quality of the drawings is very poor)
  • The inspiration
  • The occasion (types of hats based on time of day)
  • Work instruments (list of tools very general, three pictures)
  • Birth of a form (very short explanation on how to make a papier-maché and sparterie block, followed by pictures of hatmaking materials -felt, straw, feathers, ribbon…)
  • Procedures: Men’s hat or borsalino, small velvet hat decorated, bead calot, cloth beret, straw broad-brimmed hat
  • Flower and bow headdress
  • Conservation tecnique
  • Copying techniques of the models
  • Restoration technique
  • One base and twelve models
  • Appendix
  • Glossary


This books is written by a professional milliner, and that is an important detail. The fact that it’s a bilingual book is also very appealing, because it reaches more people and enriches our millinery vocabulary.  The price is reasonable, considering, but also reflects on the publication, the poor quality of the drawings and sketches, the few pictures.

This is the text I found at the publisher’s:

Anna Nicolini admirably describes and represents millinery’s traditions. The hat, a status symbol par excellence – there is no uniform or livery that does not include one – is conveniently worn like any other article of clothing and as such it can have many different shapes. The hat can have a practical and protective function like in sport and at work, as well as in risky and dangerous activities, but the greatest satisfaction comes from wearing it for pleasure. The design of the hat shape, its use and refined decorations are typical phases of the artisan’s creation and it is exactly this collaboration between industry and artisans that allows making the most of two aspects: the distribution of a comparatively cheap and good quality product and its adaptability to fashion changes and to the demands of whoever is wearing it. This book is a small contribution which pays tribute to civilization by transferring to new generations the capacity to make things, the essence of man’s creative spirit.

My advice: Although intended (I suspect) as a hat making manual, I would say it falls short because of its overcomplicated projects, lack of pictures, poor drawings and cryptic instructions. For example, the “Small velvet hat decorated with a large tuft of feathers on veil” is made on a fancy block and makes use of sparterie (top shelf, next to the dodos). So to me the idea is not that you make a hat like that, but more that you learn how it’s made… and still, it reads like the instructions to build a model oil tanker. It is  true… knowing how to do something (which the author does) and being able to transmit that knowledge are two very different things.

Having said that, there are some techniques I didn’t know and I’m grateful to have learnt (the large tuft of feathers on veil is cool) so for that and considering the fact that it’s not an expensive book, I’m not sorry that I bought it.

PS. Yes, I know sparterie can still be bought on a lucky day, but it’s ridiculously expensive.


  1. ahhh…me encantan estos libros. Yo soy “libro-adicto”. Recibiste las fotos de sombreros que te envié?… Se me olvidó decirte que ya puse el post de nuestra visita al museo. Espero que te guste.

    Un abrazo y hasta pronto,


    Comment by paco peralta — July 8, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

  2. Must see if Google books has any of these….you never know….

    Comment by jill — July 8, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

  3. Oh, I’ve read the last one some time ago and thought exactly the same about it.

    And I also tried to order “Travailler du chapeau” some months ago, but everyone told me it wouldn’t be possible to deliver it- great to hear that it is available now, thank you so much 🙂


    Comment by Dirk — July 8, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  4. oh and by the way, did you by chance read this book (http://www.amazon.fr/Chapeaux-Estelle-Ramousse/dp/2263042806/ref=wl_it_dp?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2SNHV7AS3QGEA&colid=1ALN9QV088ACU) and can tell anything about it?


    Comment by Dirk — July 9, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  5. Oh!!! I drool.. Thanks for posting these books you always come up with the best!!

    Comment by Montez — July 10, 2009 @ 12:26 am

  6. Librooooossss, una de mis compras favoritas….

    Comment by prima — July 10, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  7. Great info, thanks Cristina. I just bought a book by Karen Henriksen the British milliner, I think its a new publication and although I’ve only flicked through it, it looks great so far. I bought it on ebay so if you don’t have it you might want to have a look.

    Comment by Cath — July 10, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  8. Thanks everyone!

    Dirk, yes, I have that book and I’m writing a review… hopefully out by tonight.

    Cath, great tip thebook by Karen Henriksen. I didn’t know about it!It goes into my wishlist!!

    Comment by cristinadeprada — July 10, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

  9. Salut Cristina,

    I also have a very nice “little” book about hats, worth buying it: Les chapeaux de Marie Mercié
    Available over Amazon France ISBN: 2263037098 for 40,00 Euros.
    Have a hatty time,


    Comment by Daniela — September 3, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  10. han publicado un nuevo volumen sobre el sombrero de paja, de la misma colección que el Arte di fare i cappelli.

    Comment by Blanca — November 28, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

  11. Hello, Hola,

    Gracias por tus commentos sobre mi libro que acabo de discubrir … ahora desde Tokio!

    Comment by Gaela — May 3, 2016 @ 7:24 am

  12. Thank you for your post about these millinery books.
    I’ll definitely look into buying those I do not have.
    The first one is also written by a professional millinery like you write about the third one.
    I did suggest to translate it into English and also later to have it translated in Japanese.
    However apparently the cost of publishing was too high considering also that the book became available online and that a similar book was published in English a year or so later.
    Kind regards.

    Comment by Gaela — July 16, 2023 @ 8:30 am

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