April 26, 2010

Teaching how to make a sinamay fascinator

I was approached recently by Castelltort to give a few classes on how to make a fascinator. Castelltort is a  Spanish wholesaler that has just recently started carrying material to make fascinators (sinamay bases, sinamay by the meter, some feathers, veil and horsehair). The classes are aimed at customers (owners of shops) who want to get an idea of what can be done with the material being sold, and who are interested in selling it in their shops.

Today I gave the first class, 3 hour long , in which the ladies attending learnt to make a fascinator. They were supplied with a kit bag containing instructions, templates and the material needed to make the fascinator that I designed for the occasion. This is the table just before the class stared:

Here’s a picture of the ladies that have attended the course with their fascinators on (I’m there in the center):

It has been a very interesting experience and I’m really happy with the results, and really lucky I met such wonderful ladies!

October 7, 2009

Up for a little Sunday shopping?

Filed under: Millinery material,Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 4:33 pm

Better late than never, here goes my advice for next Sunday.

Pack your bags and go on a little excursion to Brühl , Germany, for this years special KOPKA sales day!

Sunday, 11 October 2009: 9h a.m. until 4h p.m.

Those who have been following my blog for a while might remember my visit to Kopka last year for the Special Sale, and might have already seen the pictures of my loot (above, picture on the left) and of the shop (pictures on the right, the bottom right picture is of the shelves with the items on offer with color coded tags, each color being a different price).

If you also decide to buy something from the current collection you will get a discount, but only if you pay cash, so remember to take money with you as the offer items must be paid in cash, and if you want a discount also.

I wish I could be going this year, but I wont be able. I hope one of you goes and tells me all about it.

Happy shopping and sorry for my delay in letting you know about it!

May 26, 2009

New Head – my beautiful Poupée

Filed under: Millinery material,Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 1:11 am

Peter and Joaquín got me this wonderful Poupée (a milliners working head, also known as a marotte) for my birthday. A Poupée is a stylized representation of a head . It’s made out of papier-maché and covered in canvas. A head like this is wonderful to do hand modeled hats, draped turbans and generally to get a feel of how a hat is going to look on a person. The canvas (calico) covering allows you to pin as you work along.

These heads get treasured for generations and never get thrown away. Milliners use them even if they’re all worn and weathered, that only adds to their personality, and they still do their job wonderfully.

In an interview in 2007, extraordinary milliner Stephen Jones said, when asked what he thought to be an essential gadget: “The thing I use every day is a poupée, a fabric head. I build shapes on it, using any material at all; it can be a piece of velvet or a tissue – anything can look great as a hat”. He has also designed a poupée inspired hat with beautiful black felt eyes and red mouth as part of the collection of hats to be sold at the V&A shop inspired by the exhibition.

You can still find one of these heads, if you’re lucky, second hand. Nina has a gorgeous vintage one (pictures left).

If you cannot (like I couldn’t) find an old one, there are fortunately still a couple of manufacturers that make them new, following the old methods and using old molds, so they look exactly the same as the old ones (ok, almost the same… new ones are cleaner). Mine is made by Siegel Stockman (same as Nina’s), a french manufacturer of forms and mannequins that started business in the 19th century.

The difference between these heads and the wig canvas blocks that are easy to find on the internet is the fact that the poupée has a chin (and nose!) while the wig blocks do not have them.

When you buy a new head it it comes “blank”, cream canvas, no eyes, no mouth. Traditionally these poupées got their eyes and mouth hand painted (like the one Nina bought), and sometimes even glued in felt, although there are people who prefer to keep them “plain”.

I would like my poupée to have features, and the day I got her I took a pair of scissors, some black cardboard and I cut out for her a couple of 50’s eyes and a little mouth, just to see how it would look. Here cardboard features are temporarily pinned in place which gives her a kind of voodoo look I’m afraid, but it must be said that she looks gorgeous with features on!!! … Painting permanent features would be great, but one false move with the brush and… I don’t even want to think about it!

Let me know what you think about my new friend, and also let me know if you have any suggestions concerning the features and how to paint them.

Have you got your own poupée? If so it would be great if you could share a picture, I would love to meet her!

Update 28 May: I have created a Flickr group called Millinery Heads so everyone can join and share the pictures of their poupées, mannequin heads or even hat stands! Join in:  http://www.flickr.com/groups/millinery_heads/

October 28, 2008

KOPKA – A little piece of (hat) heaven

Filed under: Millinery material,Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 5:56 pm

Pigeon holes with wonderful felt cones A short while ago my friend Nina and I took off to Germany  in order to be there for Kopka‘s special Sunday sale (I believe they do this twice a year).

Kopka is a wonderful supplier of straw and felt hat bodies. They have a wide range of felt and straw finishes and what I love the most, they have a huge array of luscious colours available.

Their special sale day was the perfect excuse for a trip there, and as a result we bought some wonderful stuff at very good prices, as well as some stuff from the current collection because the colours were simply irresistible and had a 10% discount if paid in cash.

We were the first ones at the door on Sunday, some ten minutes before the opening time which was 9am, but they invited us in, offered us a cup of coffee and showed us some wonderful hospitality.

They were delighted that we had boarded a plane just to visit them!

The shop/warehouse is very welcoming, and for the occasion they had set up a long table with coffee, tea, chocolates (mmmhhhh…), cake, and later on the day also quiche. That meant that we had no trouble spending 3 hours there shopping to our hearts (and bellies) content. Note the fun flower and felt arrangement on the background.


Table ready with drinks and snacks for us shoppers!

The special sale products were on the inner part of the shop, neatly stacked and colour coded. The stuff I bought from the sale ranged from 4,95 to 25 Euros. The stuff that was not on sale had a 10% discount, which made it also very attractive.

Material on offer

Here below is my loot piled up on the grass. My favourite item is the green cone, it’s from the current collection and it’s gorgeous:

My Kopka loot

I totally lost it by buying two beaver fur capelines at 58 euros each, I hear they make the ultimate hat for a gentleman because they are extremely light and very sturdy. Kopka only recently started carrying them again and they only come in black and grey (I bought one of each). The top quality gentleman and cowboy hats back in their heyday, were made of beaver fur. Here is a picture of the beaver fur felts I bought:

Beaver capelines - just the best!

I don’t really know how I will go about working with them… possibly I will try to work them without stiffener, if they end up too soft I will add some afterwards.

The current collection of straws and felts is in a special room, very beautifully displayed:

Straw cones displayed in baskets  Straw capelines from the current collection.Felt capelines from the current collection

Not all colours change with the season, Kopka has seasonal colours and standard colours that are different depending on the material (fur felt, peach bloom, wool, etc.). Most of the colours cards can be seen on their website, although it’s only an approximation to the real colour as it depends very much on the monitor displaying it.

If you decide to pay them a visit, or to buy something from them because you saw it here, please let them know! I had an interesting conversation with Wolfram Kopka  (the owner) about how some professionals choose to share what they know, and some prefer to keep what they know a secret… he reckons success will be for those who share. Let’s hope so!

August 16, 2008

Beehive hat “crossroads” – another hat with the new block

Beehive hat crossroads version

Here are some pictures of the block and of the process of making this hat (click on any of the pictures for an enlarged view).

This is the seagrass cone used for this hat. People not familiar with the hatmaking process will be interested in seeing this (often people don’t understand how the whole thing works!):

Seagrass cone

And this is the new block, that I love, bought at Van der Broek block makers in the Netherlands. Their website is in Dutch, but soon they will have an English version:

Hat block - beehive


I’ve simply sprayed the cone with water and blocked the top (it’s an easy shape to block). the headsize opening sinks into the block, so I’ve used a sort of brace to get a neat finish. I made the brace following a tutorial from the incredible and highly recommended The Hat Magazine. It’s from one of the early issues, and I had not found a use for it until now!

Blocked seagrass cone  Underside of the block  Headsize brace

Below are pictures of me, pinning the brace in place with my wonderful new tool, the pin pusher. I discovered the tool through HATalk e-magazine. It was one of their monthly giveaways, and when I contacted them about it they said I could buy it directly from them. Two pin pushers (one for me and one for Nina!) cost £19.85 including shipping (from UK to Spain), which I find very reasonable.

I’m in love with my new tool. You insert a pin which is held in place (inside a shaft) by a magnet. Then you just push the pin in place (it has a spring). Soooo easy, no more fussing with hammers! In order not to push the pin too deep I have used a collar that came with a drill bit I bought some time ago and that is fixed in place with a little screw.

Inserting the brace on the headsize opening My new pin pusher! Love it! Close up of the pin in place

…There’s much more… click where it says “more” to see the rest.


August 10, 2008

Beehive hat – new hat block

Filed under: Hats made with new beehive block,Millinery projects,Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 11:01 pm

New beehive hatI call this shape a beehive because I can effectively wear my hair up and put this hat on. I really love it!

The block is beautiful and it must be said that buying a block (unless you’ve had the chance to try it first) is an act of faith because you can imagine the kind of hat that you will get, but you don’t really know for a fact!

This wonderful block comes from a Dutch block maker called Van der Broek that has an astounding array of block shapes for sale. Their website is in Dutch, but I’ve been told they will have an English version soon.

The material of the hat is a twisted seagrass hood that I bought ages ago at Manny’s in New York city (now sadly going out of business), and it was very easy to block by simply spraying the cone wet and stretching it over the block.

I used straw stiffener (3 layers because the material was quite soft) to help it keep its shape.

The red double silk cording (no idea if it’s called like that or not) that I’ve used for the trimming, is a vintage treasure that I got from my friend Nina. I back stitched the whole length by making long stitches underneath and  tiny ones on top.

Because the material frays easily I have machine stitched the headsize ribbon.

Here are two more pictures of the hat (Mimi modeling the hat with great style):

Back view of the hatClose up of the hat

I have made another hat with this block and will post pictures of the process and of the block. If you cannot wait and want to take a peak just go and take a look at my Flickr pictures

November 29, 2007

Thinking of getting myself a sewing machine

Filed under: daily life,Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 10:53 am

I know it might be hard to believe, but I do not have a sewing machine. What I know about sewing by hand I’ve taught myself, and my mom taught me to sew on her mom’s (my grandmother’s) pedal Singer. I love that machine and if one day it makes it’s way to me I will cherish it, but the fact will remain that it can only do a straight stitch.

So, I was thinking on getting myself a brand new sewing machine.

I know what I do not want:

1. I don’t want a machine with a plastic body. No, no, no… I hate those (and that immediately rules many brands)

2. I do not want a fancy electronic embroidery machine. I want it simple, basic.

3. I do not want a second hand one and I don’t want a bargain that will break on day two.

These self imposed restrictions have led me to the following machine (that unfortunately does not sell in Spain), a Janome 419s. It’s a Japanese brand, and this particular model has an all metal body and can do 18 stitches and a one step button hole. It also has a free arm and the feed can be dropped.

Picture of Janome 419s

It looks like a strong machine that will be able to sew through felt and whatnot. This french website has lots of pictures of the little details.

The strange thing is that, if I buy this machine in Holland (I’m going there soon for a few days) it will cost me 399 Euros. If I buy it in the UK it will cost me 232 Euros (including shipping to Spain) and they even drop in a set of scissors worth 65 Euros. It’s a no brainer really, but I’m amazed there can be such a huge difference in price. The official Janome price is simply half in the UK…

Well, this is it. I’ve kind of made up my mind, but I will try to test one while I’m in Amsterdam, to get a feel for the machine.

 So… if any one has any objection against this machine or brand, please speak now (soon) or forever hold your peace… 🙂

October 5, 2007

Rain protector for hats (hat covers)

Filed under: Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 3:16 pm

Hatcover on, ready for a rainy dayI won a bunch of “Hat Covers” recently after entering the competition of the HATalk electronic magazine (read my review here), and I’ve been wanting to show them to you ever since.

Ok. So when you’re wearing that on top of your hat you don’t look at all glamorous, but it beats the hell out of putting a used supermarket bag or a newspaper on top of your hat to avoid a total meltdown. Rain and hats don’t go well together.

So, about this neat product. It takes very little space and is easy to fold back flat. It’s folded in a concertina shape that makes the whole thing easy to pull out and store back, and has satin ribbons to tie up under the shin.

Folded Hat Cover

Taking very little space in a purse or evening bag, if you love your hat and are expecting rain (or want to be on the safe side), I would say it’s worth it to leave the house with one. (more…)

July 27, 2007

People are strange … the Mokuba (bad) experience

Filed under: Coarse straw braid preshaped hat,daily life,Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 11:37 pm


Mokuba Barcelona shop window


There you have it, the Mokuba Barcelona shop window. What you might be surprised to find out is that, not only I was not allowed to take pictures inside (apparently it didn’t matter if I spoke to the Pope himself, nobody was going to approve my taking pictures), but when I said that I would take pictures of the window from the outside, I was told NO, I could not take pictures from the street, and was told that I could be sued by the company because that is private property. The lady did not care that I wanted to say good things about Mokuba in my blog, probably didn’t know what a blog is, who knows!

So I ask… WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE?! I just wanted to write a nice article about Mokuba, tell you guys what a nice place it is and what beautiful ribbons they have, but instead here I am, letting you know how upset I am about their silly (and honestly counterproductive) attitude.

I was unfazed by all that silliness and decided to take a couple of pictures from the outside. Unfortunately nobody inside saw me, but I will make sure to send them a link to the blog. So if you don’t hear from me for a while it’s because the police have come for me.Mokuba purchase of grosgrain ribbon

Oh, and I did buy some grosgrain for the sweatband of my straw hat (that was before I asked if I could take pictures otherwise I would have bought nothing). It’s a nice golden color. As you can see they pack it really nice with a heart shaped lollypop. The logo of the shop is a rocking horse, not surprising since Mokuba means rocking horse in Japanese.

The price, 5.49 euros for 65 centimeters of grosgrain… very steep! But of course, if you buy a full spool then it becomes much more reasonable.

P.S. I just found a Spanish blogger that went to Mokuba early this month and was allowed by friendly employees to take pictures (inside and out) for her blog! See the posting here.

July 26, 2007

Tomorrow I will pay a visit to MOKUBA for some ribbons

Filed under: daily life,Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 10:16 pm

Mokuba ribbon color 9, type 8000My straw hat is blocked and sitting on my table waiting to be finished off. The green veil I was talking about is quite damaged, so perhaps I will just put it around the crown, but not use it as a proper veil. But underneath I would like to put a nice headband, so that’s why I will be visiting Mokuba. Mokuba is a japanese ribbon maker, unfortunately as far as I know they have no website, but this japanese site has the colour cards scanned, check this beautiful grosgrain ribbon in solid colors. I know what you will say, it’s polyester!, I know, it’s polyester, but it’s ribbed so it curves beautifully to adapt to the inside of the hat and feels really nice, so I have no problems using it for the sweatband… although I admit, cotton must be better at absorbing sweat, but I just love the colors and I will stick to it. And we are very happy to have our very own Mokuba shop in Barcelona.

I hope to take some pictures (if they let me) of the shop so you can drule at home!

P.S. If you google it (Mokuba I mean) you will find a lot of rocking horses, because that’s precisely what Mokuba means in Japanese!

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