Tag Archives: France

Charming French Shutters

You are the ray of sunshine in my life;

Flowers bloom in my heart each time we are together. . . 

I shutter to think what I would do without you.

                                                                                         ~unknown

Oooh . . . lala! J’adore French shutters! Aren’t they simply charming?

Septfonds house FAV 3

While shutters served utilitarian purposes over the centuries — keeping out inclement weather and providing protection from the enemy — I think they add so much spaciousness and beauty to homes. Don’t you?

Septfonds house and grapevines FAV

Many of the shutters in southwest France are typically painted gorgeous shades of azure to a robin’s egg blue. Most frequently, the paint pigment used in these shutters is derived from the woad plant — a softer, earlier “sibling” to indigo.

cordes shutters FAV

cordes nd metal decoration FAV

The woad paint and dye are very durable and help protect the wood from the ravages of insects and weather. Wouldn’t it be positively charming to have shutters painted these lovely shades of blue?

Door Shutters Dumas FAV

 carriage house and shutter with window box FAV

light blue shutters FAV

Shutters Dumas 5 Hinge FAV 1

Shutters Dumas 4 FAV 2 

shutter latch dumas 1

Will you stroll with me through a few French villages in the southwest Mediterrean region? We can admire and enjoy the charming shutters together .

brown wood shutters cordes FAV

Cordes shutters and metal railing on balcony FAV

cordes and window box with pink geraniums FAV

small dark brown shutter FAV

Septfonds street FAV

Septfonds house FAV1

 

gray shutters cordes and vine FAV

old-Cordes FAV

green shutters cordes FAV

What are your favorite shutters?

stained shutters and lace curtains FAV

 Pot of salvias on window ledge FAV

You may also enjoy these other recent posts: 

French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

 Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

 Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

 Creativity at Chateau Dumas

Heavenly French Lavender

Fabulous French Hat

Bon Appetite!

French Millinery Magic

POST NOTE — Upcoming Millinery Masterclass!

 Another Millinery Masterclass is scheduled at the superb 18th-century Chateau Dumas September 26-October 3 in southwest France! Even if you have never made a hat before, the adventures of hatmaking under the expertise of former Royal Milliner Dillon Wallwork are not to be missed!

The tutor is  former Royal milliner, Dillon Wallwork who for nearly a quarter of a century designed hats for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Diana, Princess of Wales as part of the team at world famous milliners Philip Somerville.

 So whether the goal is a chic shoulder-spanning hat to turn heads or a coquettish cocktail hat with a mysterious veil, or something much more practical . . .  Toulouse is the starting point, Chateau Dumas the luxury base and Dillon the expert.  As Dillon says: “A well-chosen, stylish hat works wonders. Whether it’s men opening doors for you, getting a table at a busy restaurant or just keeping warm in winter, wearing a hat gets you noticed – people will say ‘Who’s that?’ Men just love to be with a woman in a glorious hat.”

Want more information about Chateau Dumas and

the Millinery Masterclass?

 Contact Lizzie, the Chatelaine de Dumas.

Wondering what others are adoring? Find out at Julia’s Hooked on Houses. You may want to stroll over to see some outdoor ideas at A Southern Daydreamer.

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29 Comments

Filed under France, Home, Travel

Memories of France

God gave us memories so that we might have roses in December.

~James Matthew Barrie, Scottland 1922

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas and surrounding villages. This is the last in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Thank you, my dear friends, for following along on this dream trip to southwest France.)

time to say “au revoir”

The clocks are ticking too quickly. There is still so much to see and do, but the Chateau Dumas masterclass in the little village of Auty is ending. Wouldn’t it be lovely to stay a bit longer? What a fantastic time we would have together!

clock faces FAV

What shall we do together if we have more time in this lovely French countryside? 

Would you like to enjoy another cup of café au lait at a sidewalk cafe in the sweet village of Caussade?

Cafe au lait

Sample another freshly-baked baguette or other delectable French pastry? Shall we take some bread home with us?

Pastry shop

croissant FAV

Bread bags FAV

Or travel the countryside to other quaint midieval villages?

Cordes FAV 2

Cordes FAV

Balcony FAV

13th cent house cordes FAV

 window, curtain and pot 

Meander the centuries-old cobble streets and see what adventures we may discover or people we may meet?

cobble street in cordes FAV

Do a little shopping at French boutiques and shops?

wine shop FAV 1

Wine shop FAV 2

Boutique

Relax in gorgeous gardens amongst the roses and explore beyond the garden gates?

Bench with lichen FAV

climbing roses close dumas

Pink Roses FAV

Curved Teak Dumas FAV

to south garden2

Enjoy just one more bit of a tasty French morsel?

First Course FAV

rustic apricot pie

Alas, it is 7 a.m. and the car is packed from floor to ceiling. Hat boxes are carefully held on our laps. One last whiff of the heavenly lavender as we drive on the gravel road . . . through the courtyard . . . under the portico . . . and down the tree-lined driveway.

Lavender gardens fav 1

chateau dumas 3 under portico fav

Just down the road, up the hill and around the corner in the tiny little village of Auty, Jo is waiting at the corner to wish the first small group of travelers goodbye  — she seems so French on the bike with the wicker basket. Cheerful au revoirs are quickly exchanged as we pass by.

Racing on to Toulouse . . .

la violette de toulouse

Toulouse may be la ville rose (the pink city, so named for the rosy color of its brick buildings), but its traditional flower is the highly-fragrant double violet — Toulouse’s particular strain of Parma violet, la violette ‘Parme de Toulouse’. There is much ado about the sweetly scented, gorgeous medium purple blossom grown by flower market growers just north of the city since the 1800’s. 

violet sign

I learn that celebrations are held every year in February — when everything is accentuated with violets and the allure of it’s deep fragrance fills the air — so much so that it is impossible to resist purchasing a bouquet of the little purple beauties at the market. In celebration of the violet, even amazing fresh food are created as only the French can do — such as breads, bonbons, gateaus, salad dressings and more. Well . . . all of this is at least what my driver told me when first arriving in Toulouse. Maybe, we should return in February for the festivals to enjoy it first-hand? What fun we would have!

I find a few small jars of la violette de Toulouse and violet tea to tuck into the last small corner of the suitcase.

violet sugar FAV

Violet syrup FAV

Violette tea and tea cup

Violette The FAV 1

 

Violette Products FAV 1

roses

Time to pack all the wonderful memories . . . they shall be roses . . .

Italian Rose FAV

 hats and hat boxes

Thank you all my dear friends for joining me on this lovely dreamy trip to southwest France. I am so glad we could travel together in this beautiful countryside. Let’s plan to go again, shall we? Chateau Dumas next summer?

You are never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream.

~C.S. Lewis

Follow along on the other memories of Chateau Dumas and the Millinery Masterclass at: 

 French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

 Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

 Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

 Creativity at Chateau Dumas

Heavenly French Lavender

Fabulous French Hat

Bon Appetite!

French Millinery Magic

POST NOTE — Upcoming Millinery Masterclass!

 Another Millinery Masterclass is scheduled at the superb 18th-century Chateau Dumas September 26-October 3 in southwest France! Even if you have never made a hat before, the adventures of hatmaking under the expertise of former Royal Milliner Dillon Wallwork are not to be missed!

The tutor is  former Royal milliner, Dillon Wallwork who for nearly a quarter of a century designed hats for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Diana, Princess of Wales as part of the team at world famous milliners Philip Somerville.

 So whether the goal is a chic shoulder-spanning hat to turn heads or a coquettish cocktail hat with a mysterious veil, or something much more practical . . .  Toulouse is the starting point, Chateau Dumas the luxury base and Dillon the expert.  As Dillon says: “A well-chosen, stylish hat works wonders. Whether it’s men opening doors for you, getting a table at a busy restaurant or just keeping warm in winter, wearing a hat gets you noticed – people will say ‘Who’s that?’ Men just love to be with a woman in a glorious hat.”

Want more information about a dream trip to Chateau Dumas and the Millinery Masterclass?

 Contact Lizzie, the Chatelaine de Dumas.

 

 

 

See what other’s are “hooked on” at Julia’s Hooked on Houses, and find out more about Melissa’s inspiring beauty at The Inspired Home.

Be sure to visit A Southern Daydreamer for more outdoor musings.

32 Comments

Filed under crafts, France, Gardening, millinery, Travel, Vintage

French Millinery Magic

Happiness in not in the mere possession of money;

it lies in the joy of achievement

in the thrill of creative effort.

~Franklin. D. Roosevelt

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas and surrounding villages. Please allow time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the eigth in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along?)

the studio

Chateau Dumas is spectacular. What could be more dreamy than a breathtaking “Monet-esque” 1700’s chateau overlooking the Impressionistic French countryside, meals created around superbly fresh Mediterrean bounty from local markets, lovely gardens, soothing lavender fragrances filling the air and a carriage house atelier dedicated for the millinery masterclass? Heavenly! It is the pefect foil for unleashing creativity long-dormant.

carriage house studio facing east2

Carriage House FAV

southeast carriage house stairs FAV

The second story of the 18th-century carriage house is home for the creative studio. Won’t you come up the east stairs with me to the atelier?

The millinery atelier is filled with all the paraphernalia for the masterclass — new and pristine vintage machines, solid wood hat molds, steamers, bolts of hat material, feather trimings, rolls of antique French ticking, and bits of trims, laces, mother of pearl buttons — all so inspiring. There are a few stunning straw hats beautifully displayed on antique hand-turned wooden hat stands.  I am totally smitten with the vintage sewing machine and the French ticking and trims! Simply lovely! 

Frister Rossman 2

wood brims and crowns FAV

studio hat making

 

colored petersham and osterich feathers FAV

sinnamay Color Card FAV

straw cones FAV

Hat feathers 1

willy's hat 3

the master teacher

The reason for all this swooning over this gorgeous French region and the chateau you ask? A millinery “artist-in-residence” week course taught by master milliner, Dillon Wallwork. Dillon has dazzled women with his spectacular hat creations, and has made them look gorgeous for at least 25 years. As a royal milliner to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, his creative designs have been seen on covers of magazines and newspapers around the world. Dillon was the hatmaker-in-chief to Princess Diana, and has created hats for numerous other heads-of-state. He effortlessly creates breathtaking hats — hats and hatmaking are Dillon.Whew! What a pedigree! I am pinching myself to be learning from one of the best.

Dillon is a superb designer and master teacher. His knowledge and expertise about hatmaking are beyond compare. He nimbly works millinery magic with the simpliest or the most eleborate materials. It is with a bit of trepidation that I begin the intense and intimate-sized masterclass. Soon, the concerns are allayed . . . the teacher is a master indeed! He deftly provides kind, patient and expert instruction to those who have never even seen a hat being constructed  (c’est moi!). Yet, guides those with experience to the next skill level in hatmaking.

Dillon and Gabriel FAV

the masterclass

Dillon instructs and demonstrates the step-by-step process of hatmaking. My vocabulary expands to include new terms like panning, sinamay, hoods, sisal, parasisal and blocking. I learn that hatmaking is a very labor-intensive artistic craft, and has 10-12 discrete steps before the head is crowned with a chapeau!

The first step is covering the wood crown and brim blocks with ordinary plastic wrap. Yes, the kind found in your kitchen pantry. The plastic wrap makes it easier to remove the crown and brim shapes once dry. Then a wet, sturdy netting is put over the crown to give the hat finish and stability.

wood brim and plastic FAV

netting over block

The hat material (either straw or sinamay for this masterclass) are dampened and stretched over the wood molds.

Putting Sinemay on Wood Brim block FAV

I use a lovely black straw and a fantastic natural straw that was woad-dyed the week priorIsn’t the blue naturally-dyed straw from the woad plant simply gorgeous?!  It is from a centuries-old dying process made from the woad plant soley indigenous to this French region. It is a fascinating process of how the fabric dyes yellow, turns green once taken out of the cauldren and it comes in contact with oxygen, and then becomes the loveliest of blues in moments.

Black hat on wood block FAV

woad blue strawFAV 2

 Straight pins, thumb tacks and string help hold the straw in place in order to keep the shape of the hat once dried.

 

woad blue straw 5 FAV 4

Champagne hat block FAV

After the straw has dried on the wood mold, it is “panned” — carefully ironed to give it a natural artistic sheen. It is then gently removed from the wood mold using a white plastic bone (similar to corset boning in costume design).

Panning FAV

brim off of block FAV

Stitching by hand, the crown and brim are attached to one another. A petersham ribbon is carefully hand-stitched — using a nearly invisible tiny stitch to the inside of where the crown and brim are attached. The brim of the hat is trimed or turned over and neatly stitched.

Adding Petersham to black straw FAV

Dillon instructs on making beautiful organdie roses. The edges of the organdie are effortlessly hand-rolled. Then, the organdie is magically shaped into gorgeous rosettes as if they are just picked from the garden. Dillon demonstrates the “prunning” and shaping of ostrich, duck, pheasant and other feathers to create fascinating designs to embellish hats. I love how feathers are curled — much like making curly ribbon bows for packages — with the blade of a scissors. Trimmings are added to the hat to finish it off, and making each hat truly one-of-a kind. 

Hand rolled organdie roses FAV

black hat and organdie roses FAV 1

special visitors

The millinary masterclass is thrilled to have Carol and Nigel Denford editors and publishers of The Hat Magazine out of London visit the class and learn about our progress in hatmaking. Their visit is quite lovely.

Carol (Hat Magazine) and Claudia

dreamy hats

We each make at least one complete hat. Some make more. The hats are all created uniquely, and there is a deep sense of accomplanishment. Stunning!

Claudia's Tango Hat FAV

Cathy's Hat FAV

Katie's Hat FAV

Naomi and Laurie FAV

My nights are filled with dreams of attending more millinary masterclasses to be offered in the fall and summer. A girl can hope . . .

The final lovely sights of  a once-in-lifetime dream trip to France are just around the corner.

à bientôt mes amis!

Won’t you journey with me awhile on this amazing trip in a gorgeous countryside chateau? Other adventures are at: 

 French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

 Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

 Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

 Creativity at Chateau Dumas

Heavenly French Lavender

Fabulous French Hat

Bon Appetite!

12 Comments

Filed under crafts, France, millinery, Sewing, Travel

Bon Appetit!

Find something you are passionate about and

keep tremendously interested in it.

                                                   ~ Julia Child 

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas and surrounding villages. Please allow time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the seventh in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along?)

artisan samplings

In the true Mediterrean style, dining al fresco prevails at Chateau Dumas. The polished terra cotta terrace just off the chateau’s dining room is perfect foil for leisurely watching the interplay of summer light and color as the sun quietly sets over the tapestry of the French countryside. The simplicity of the centuries-old terrace allows the dramatic beauty of this Mediterrean region to take center stage.

Terrace view

Dinner on the Terrace 2

In celebration of some of southwest France’s finest offerings, sommelier Laurent Zimmerman presents a cheese, bread and wine tasting. Ah, what can be more lovely than the bread and the freshest cheeses of the region?  The warm bread aroma is amazing.

Laurent welcomes the Chateau’s guests with warm French enthusiasm, and tells of the sampling process for the evening. The goat cheese samples are served with the white wine. The red wine is accompanied by the cheese from cow’s milk. The charming Chatelaine de Dumas effortlessly provides interpretation for those of us less fluent in French. I am quite grateful.

Laurent 2

Laurent 3

Laurent

The tasting is quite an International event amongst our tiny band of travelers. Laurent’s stories are translated from French to English by the adept Chatelaine Lizzie. Then, a generous traveler translates into Spanish, and another traveler translates into German. A five nation tasting–quite amazing! Laurent pauses and listens attentively… to English … to Spanish … to German. Travelers ask questions. The questions are translated from Spanish or German to English — then to French. Laurent responds in French . . . Yes! it is rather lively and colorful!

The regional goat cheeses are featured first. Each of the hand-crafted artisan cheeses are to be eaten in a specific order ranging from mild to more pungent. The delicious cheese variety samples are quite unique in flavor and vary in texture from one another.  Most of the cheese varieties have edible rinds, including one excellent cheese with an splendid ash rind. In particular, the Chevre du Quercy is an outstanding local artisan variety, and is a favorite of our merry band of travelers.

Laurent and Goat Cheese Sample

 Next, stories about the cheeses made from cow’s milk are presented. Some of the cheeses are both beloved and reviled for their earthy aroma. They are all outstanding. Mais, j’adore le fromage.

More cheese

Goat Cheese FAV 2

The evening’s sampling includes tastes of three speciality breads of the region–multi-grain, walnut and whole grain fig. While all are delicious, the fig bread is amazing and is made from fresh figs gathered locally. I consider how to slip a few loaves of the fig bread into my luggage for the return trip–the bread is spectacular! Alas, maybe some for breakfast tomorrow? A quest for a fig bread recipe lies ahead. Ideas?

Fig Bread FAV

 Goat Cheese and Bread Sample

sweet endings

It is nearly 9:00 p.m. — time for the evening meal following a brief intermezzo from the superb tastings on this picturesque summer eve. A plethora of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables are offered for the evening meal. Mediterrean cooking is quite wonderful — I feel so healthy.  The finale of tonight’s meal is an amazing fruit creation.

The adorable and incredibly talented MamaJo creates feasts befitting of kings and queens! This well-versed and former British university professor, prepares daily masterpieces at Chateau Dumas. Her beautiful desserts are steller using local fresh fruits. I consider whether or not she may enjoy an eager apprentice?!

MamaJo

assorted desserts

Pear gateau

rustic apricot pie

What gorgeous edible “gifts” the talented  MammaJo serves-up  to guests at Chateau Dumas each day! The little packages are almost too pretty to eat tonight. I decide to look for one of her cookbooks she authored. . .

Apple bundle dessert

everything

A beautiful evening shared with travelers from around the world is ending. As I begin to slumber, the simple — yet lovely — artwork on a wine bottle from the tastings comes to mind. It is rather intriguing. It simply says, tout ce qu’il faut” — all that is needed or necessary.

all that is needed wine FAV

My thoughts in the wee morning hours become quite contemplative . . . there is so much wisdom in the lovely little art adhered to the side of  the dark brown glass. I am so thankful for all that I have been given — it is all I need. My eyes are heavy. It is futile to resist the soothing effects of French lavender fragrances finding their way to my second story windows. Bon soir et rêves doux! [Good night and sweet dreams!]

The final lovely sights of  a once-in-lifetime dream trip to France are just around the corner.

à bientôt mes amis!

Won’t you journey with me awhile on this amazing trip in a gorgeous countryside chateau? Other adventures are at: 

 French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

 Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

 Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

 Creativity at Chateau Dumas

Heavenly French Lavender

Fabulous French Hat

See what other’s are “hooked on” at Julia’s Hooked on Houses, and find out more about Melissa’s inspiring beauty at The Inspired Home.

Read about how everyone is enjoying the outdoors at A Southern Daydreamer.

29 Comments

Filed under baking, Cooking, France, Travel

The Fabulous French Straw Hat

Be like Curious George, start with a question and

look under the yellow hat to find what’s there.

                                                                                  ~James Collins

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas and surrounding villages. Allow time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the sixth in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along?)

timeless traditions

Under an incredibly brilliant French blue sky,  Chateau Dumas grows more lovely with each new day. The colors and lighting in this plush Mediterrean region appear as if everything is in technicolor–it is breathtaking. The songbirds continue joyful merrymaking throughout the day, and the sporadic circada’s high-pitched drilling song reminds me it is midsummer. What splendor!

chateau east view FAV

It is under this warm afternoon sun that some of the travelers in a millinery masterclass make a short journey to the nearby Chapeaux Willy’s. The vast fields of golden sunflowers nod cheerfully as the car races up and down the rolling hills on the narrow French country roads to the hot afternoon’s destination. Precisely groomed vineyards, stately apple orchards and fields of hay and corn are at every hairpin turn. Pink and golden stone cottages with ancient terra cotta half-round tiles that are surrounded by lavender hedges accentuate the picture-perfect countryside. I feel as if I have stepped into an Impressionistic painting once again.

French countryside FAV

Septfonds house FAV 3

Willys Sign FAV 1

Established in 1824 in the charming village of  Septfonds, Chapeaux Willy’s is a small artisan hat factory that has been in the same family for seven generations. It is here that lovely and colorful French straw, sinemay and wool felt hats are created using timeless techniques passed down through family members.

Pananma Hat Label FAV 1

The centuries-old stone building is overflowing with shelving stacked with ribbons, silk flowers, bolts of colorful sinemay(fabric for hat making), straw hanks, and a wide variety of mystery hat making fabric rolls–some seem as if it is a very fine papyrus. 

Sinemay-the raw material for hats

Sinemay- more raw material for summer hats

Cutting Sinemay

Ribbons and such

le chapeau de paille français {the French straw hat

Each of those working at ChapeauxWilly’s bring pride, enthusiasm and artistry to their work as the centuries-old tradition of French straw hat making is demonstrated. First, hanks of woven straw braid are re-wound on a large, simple wooden “spool.”

Hat Straw on Spool

Then, the colorful straw braid is stitched together using specially-designed sewing machines. Nearly all of the equipment is over 100 years old — these are workhorses of Willy’s. Each stitch is even and perfect–it appears to be stitched together effortlessly. But then again, some have been creating hats at Chapeaux Willy’s for over 40 years. When asked how many hats are made a day, one milliner just shrugs her shoulders, laughs and with a twinkle says in French–je n’est sait pas . . . l’amour d’I juste pour faire des chapeaux ! [I don’t know…I just love to make hats!].

A preferred work horse

Sewing a Straw Hat FAV 1

Sewing a Straw Hat FAV 3

Sewing a Straw Hat FAV 5

Sewing a Straw Hat 7

 Within several moments, the straw braid is stitched together with the appearance of relative ease. A straw hat is partially completed. The edge is neatly finished with lightening-speed expertise.

Edging a pink straw

The next step is to shape the hat using metal steam-fitted hat molds. Willy’s has hundreds of hat molds in various shapes and sizes that are interchanged on the steam presses to block the hat.

Shaping a red Straw FAV 2

Shaping a red Straw FAV 1

Each straw hat is finished with lovely embellishments…ribbons, feathers, flowers or sinemay. The traditional French straw is left plain.

Working on a blue straw

Hat Embellishment FAV1

Straw hats stacked FAV 2

the quest

Off to one end of the large room with the vintage sewing machines and hat material is an enormous display table stacked with hats that span the spectrum of the rainbow. Each is unique. The three stone walls surrounding the massive display are outfitted–ceiling to floor–with five-foot deep shelving over-flowing with hats of all shapes, colors, sizes and designs. A girl just has to try them all!

Hat Display FAV 1

Red Hats FAV

Red Hat

Natural Straw

Fushia

Blue wool felt

Whilst all the hats are lovely, and there is a plethora of millinery paraphernalia  . . .  I search for a fedora . . .  actually, a Panama for a classic kind of guy. There it is! The Real McCoy–an authentic Panama made with hand-woven straw from Ecuador.

Genuine Panama Hat Label FAV 1

Panama Label and Stamp FAV 2

Panama Hat FAV 1

Soon our little troupe of millinery-minded travelers from around the world journey back to Chateau Dumas with hatmaking material overflowing in the car’s trunk and spilling over on our laps. Memories of a fascinating afternoon at Chapeaux Willy’s linger long after the sun sets over this breathtaking countryside.

Sign green willys

Fruity Tip Hat

Whenever you wear your hat, your day will be special.

                                                                                             ~Margo Nickel

More about other lovely sights of  a millinery dream trip to France in the days ahead as they unfold.

à bientôt mes amis!

Read more at French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

Read more at Creativity at Chateau Dumas

Read more at Heavenly French Lavender

POST NOTE: Thank you to Dillon Wallwork, our millinery master teacher, for graciously trying an endless stack of Panamas in order to find the perfect size 57! Merci beaucoup, Dillon — vous êtes si aimable! David feels so “GQ-esque ” in the Panama.

David and Panama FAV 3

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Filed under crafts, France, millinery, Sewing, Travel, Vintage

Heavenly French Lavender

The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs,

with fields of lavender,

and the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows…

                                                                        ~Willian Cullen Bryant, 1794-1878

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas and surrounding villages. Allow time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the fifth in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along?)

sweet dreams

 The air at Chateau Dumas is heavenly. The fragrance of blooming lavender from tens of hundreds of plants thriving behind carefully manicured hedges gently floats through the 18th-century windows up to the second floor. The magnificent aromatic sends me off to sweet dreams. 

carriage house studio facing east2

Lavender gives the illusion of feather stitches holding the Chateau garden sections together with their spectacular, billowing fronds. Indigenous to the Mediterranean region, lavender is a perennial and grows well in this perfect climate–fully enjoying the sun of the gardens and fields. The sandy, slightly alkaline soil of the Chateau’s gardens is just the environment for the lavender to thrive. I dream of having lovely gardens here in southern France…

I am mesmorized by the dreamy fragrance of the herb, and how the plant sways gently in the warm breezes. Even the bees and yellow butterflies can’t get enough of the sweet, soothing fragrance and seemingly grow dizzy from their over-indulgance in the warm, late afternoon sun. As the days progress, my muscles and bones feel soothed from the medicinal properties of the delicate, soft lavender fronds. I can not help but linger amongst the lavender each time I pass through the gardens from the Chateau to the atelier in the former carriage house. Ahh…it is simply impossible to resist rubbing the lavender between my fingers. Please,  just one more sniff of the soothing fragrance before I continue on to the studio in the carriage house. Please…

Lavender and front of Chateau  fav 1

Lavender, Bee and Chateau

lavender wands

Serendipitously, the gracious Chatelaine de Dumas arranges for her lovely friend to spend an hour or so teaching about French lavender, and the making of Victorian-era lavender wands as her mother taught her as a very young girl. Just after the morning dew dissipates, large bunches of lavender are gathered for the lavender session later in the day. The lavender is neither damp nor dry. Rub and sniff some more.

Some gathered lavender FAV 1

sweet lavender “cages”

A few of us join Chrissie Marshall in the dinning room after our lunch for a lavender intermezzo from our millinery masterclass. With her lovely Scottish brogue, Chrissie recounts how her mother and father taught her how to read at four and sew at five. Throughout her childhood, they taught her many ageless crafts and traditions–including making beautiful fragrant sachets and wands using the garden’s bountiful gifts. Her voice is as soothing as the lavender.

We are eager to learn how to make lavender wands from the newly-harvested herbs from the Chateau’s gardens. The lavender wands are only made once a year when the lavender stems are soft and pliable–it is now the perfect time of the year. The suppleness of the lavender stems and flowers is vital for ease in successful wand making.

Lavender bunches FAV 2

Lavender Bunches FAV

Chrissie tells us the lavender fragrance will last for several years in the wands. Even though the lavender will dry, the dried wands simply need to be squeezed to release their fragrant oils.

Christie - lavender master teacher FAV

The wands can be hung in a room, closet or placed in drawers to repel moths–much better than mothballs.  I think the fragrant memories of France should be everywhere after I return home! Chrissie shows three different methods of making lavender wands–all of which are lovely.

Lavender wand types FAV 2

Types of lavender wands FAV

An even number of lavender stems are collected, and the leaves are gently stripped off the stems. The stems are then gathered in a small bunch and the tops of the flowers are aligned. A small piece of thin wire–about 1-1/2 inches –is wrapped around the base of the flowers to secure the bouquet. Then a long piece (about three yards or so) of narrow 1/4 inch peach-colored satin ribbon is tied over the wire–leaving a very short end of ribbon and a long end of ribbon.

The bundle of lavender stems is turned over, and the stems are carefully bent down over the lavender blossoms–making a “cage” with the stems. A couple of the rebellious blossoms are gently encouraged back inside the cage. Each of the stems are lined up around the blossoms. The short end of the peach ribbon is tucked inside amongst the lavender.

Using a large-eyed tapestry needle, the long end of the ribbon is “threaded” and the weaving process starts going under and over–round and round–the lavender cage until it is beautifully covered. We each practice weaving, and feel so relaxed.

lavender wand and basket FAV2

Lavender weaving FAV1

keepers of memories

More lavender is selected from that harvested this morning, and additional simple lavender wands are easily assembled into small bunches and secured. Michelle generously shares some of her gorgeous, vintage robin’s egg blue ribbon discovered on a little excursion to a French hatmaker in another village. Some of the wands are embellished with this lovely little treasure. What a keepsake. This is an intermezzo that creates fragrant memories…

Lavender and Blue ribbon FAV 2

Lavender, sweet lavender; come and buy my lavender,
hide it in your trousseau, lady fair.
Let its flovely fragrance flow over you from head to toe,
lightening on your eyes, your cheek, your hair.

~Cumberkand Clark, Flower Song Book (c.1929)

More about other lovely sights of  a millinery dream trip to France in the days ahead as they unfold.

à bientôt mes amis!

Read more at French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

Read more at Creativity at Chateau Dumas

Be sure to visit A Southern Daydreamer for more outdoor musings.

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Filed under crafts, France, Gardening, Home, Travel, Vintage

Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

Grab your coat, and get your hat.

Leave your worry on the doorstep.

Just direct your feet, to the sunny side of the street.

                                                                               ~Dorothy Fields

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas and surrounding villages. Allow time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the fourth in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along?)

celebrating hat making

Down the hill from Chateau Dumas…around several hairpin curves along a narrow French county road… following  small signs directing travelers through roundabouts… lies the quintessential French village of Septfonds. 

Pot of salvias on window ledge FAV

Septfonds house FAV 2

Septfonds house and grapevines FAV

Septfonds and grapevines FAV1

Septfonds house FAV1

Septfonds street FAV

Complimenting the brillant azure blue Mediterranean sky, gaily-colored straw hats in lime green, fushia, purple and golden yellows hang from age-old balconies and say “bienvenue!” to visitors traveling to this charming village.

hats and balacony FAV

Hats on balcony 2 FAV

It is all in celebration of the 17th- annual Estivales du Chapeau–the Internationally acclaimed summer French hat festival. Septfonds is considered the “cradle of the French straw hat.” Mme. Pétronille Cantecor (1770-1846) has been attributed as the founder of the straw hat of Septfonds, and was the creator of the first hat workshop in 1796. Imagine.

Septfond’s three-day festival is filled with a wide array of merry entertainment, amazing demonstrations, local cullinary fare, millinery fashion show and hat competitions include amazing designs sent from milliners and hatters from around the world. I wonder if we will ever have time to really study it all.

The festival ad is quite clever–the original is made entirely of millinery paraphernalia used for creating the perfect summer straw hat.

Septfonds marketing FAV 1

Septfonds marketing FAV 2

vintage straw hats

Our tiny troupe of lively millinery afficionados–new and old– from around the world are eager for the festivities as sounds of French music merrily draws us closer to the center of the celebrations. The first stop is an exhibition of vintage French straw hats. Amazing. I can hardly control the urge to try on the simply gorgeous hats.

Over 600 vintage hats were bequeathed to Mme. Dany Caussinus. In French, Dany tells how her benefactor told her that she wanted her to look after the straw and velvet hats, never sell them and someday she would know what to do with them. After 20 years of intensive research,  Dany carefully restored each of these historical hats, and now makes them available for displays at special events. Dany’s vintage hat collection has now grown to over 3,000 spectacular designs. It is so difficult to decide which is my favorite…which beautiful hat would you like to wear? They are all so amazing! I think I shall like to make these in a millinery class one day. Dream…again.

Historic FAV27

Historic FAV5

Historic FAV8

(More hats on the video/slideshow below. Just select the “play” arrow button over the photo image.)

hat competition

Reluctantly, I leave for the next exhibition of competition hats. Novice and master milliners and hatters from all over the world submit their one-of-a kind creations for the event. Some of the hats follow a theme–others are a bit more elegant. Certainly, all of the hat entries are amazing. A vote for my favorite is penciled on a small rectangle piece of paper and slipped into the ballot box. I hope my favorite hat wins the competion.

sinemay and straw FAV

gray winner 3 FAV

je t'aime FAV

moi et toi FAV

Vienna FAV

straw fastenator FAV

the festivities

Down the block . . . around the corner . . .  in the village square . . .  are festive white tents filled with scores of hats from designers and milliners from around the world. My companions are off to try on the amazing styles from different sellers.

There is a wide variety of musical entertainment — musicians playing an antique hand-cranked large French street organ to a  trio of Caribbean steel drums. Cyclists riding antique bicylcles circle through the market streets. It is quite lively.

market square

bike riders two women

French woman holding bike FAV2

Father and child bikerider FAV

Caribbean Steel Drums FAV 2

Caribbean Music and Dancing FAV 2

artisan exhibitions

Many local artisans provide exhibition of timeless arts and crafts. The delicate bobbin lacemaking is breathtaking, How can the needleartists’ eyes see the ultra-fine thread and their hands manuever the bobbins into such intricate patterns? The straw broom making is quite interesting. Then, the next aisle features spinning dioramas and demonstrations, wood lathes turning out lovely hat stands of all sizes and handweaving golden braid from fresh-cut, fragrant straw.

Handmade brooms FAV

Spinning Demo FAV

straw hat making highlights

The exhibition highlight is the straw hat making. Fascinating. Men and women demonstrate the straw hat making process from beginning to end. The women stitch colorful straw braid together using specially-designed antique sewing machines. The sewing machines are powered by the women’s feet operating two treadles. The steam-fitted metal molds for the hat blocking are left to the men to attend. There are dozens of metal hat molds that are used to make the hat shapes. I am mesmorized by their skill and attentiveness to the art of straw hatmaking.

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV1

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV2

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV3

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV5

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV4

Demo Straw Hat blocking FAV1

Demo Straw Hat blocking FAV2

There is an announcement in French–the millinery fashion show is about to begin. The show highlights the designs of the International sellers at the festival. Lovely designs are modeled for nearly 45 minutes on the vintage wood runway. The colorful mistress of ceremonies is lively and humorous — the crowd frequently roars with laughter.

Milliner Fashioner Show FAV

 Colorful Fashion Show MC FAV

the perfect hat

At the end of a long row of vendors, Mme. Alexandra Marks from Liguria, Italy proudly displays her gorgeous creations. Each beautiful hat is unique and handcrafted from vintage hand-braided Italian straw. Many of the embellishments are vintage, too. Alexandra tells me that most of the straw is at least 6o-years-old. Time to find a perfect Italian hat. It is terribly warm and the hat will be cooler. It is so hard to decide…they are exquisite!

Italian Milliner-Alexandra FAV

Italian Straw Sunflower FAV

Italian Vendor Hat 1

Blue Italian Straw FAV

Italian Big StrawFAV2

Michelle, a travelling companion, discovers a small treasure off to the corner next to the church–a vendor who makes custom hat boxes. Just what I need for the large Italian vintage straw sun hot (see photo above). Mme. Estelle Fontaine makes lovely hat boxes for festival treasures. We animatedly chat back and forth about the box requirement for the new hat–mostly in French, but a bit in English. Estelle carefully measures the hat. We discuss options for the handle and trim for the box. The hat box will be ready in two hours.

Hat box sign

Hat boxes FAV large set

Hat boxes FAV1

Hat boxes small set FAV

Lovely hats are everywhere. I wish we wore them more often in the U.S. A couple of my new European friends enjoy their new hat festival finds at the end of the day. What a lovely end to an amazing day. . .!

Naomi's Festival Hat FAV

Kathy's new hat FAV

More about other lovely sights of  a millinery dream trip to France in the days ahead as they unfold.

à bientôt mes amis!

Read more at French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Creativity at Chateau Dumas

You may want to take a morning walk over at The Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday posts, or read about living a beautiful life at The Inspired Room.

I am hooked on French hats lately. Find out what others are hooked on at Hooked on Houses.

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Filed under France, millinery, Sewing, Travel, Vintage