Tag Archives: hat

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!

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Filed under crafts, France, millinery, Sewing, 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

Creativity at Chateau Dumas

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry,

and see a fine picture every day of his life,

in order that worldly cares may not obliterate

the sense of the beautiful

which God has implanted in the human soul.
                                                             ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

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

looking upward

Discovering  Chateau Dumas in the tiny village of Auty, France is a study in creativity, beauty and inspiration. My travels to Chateau awakens my slumbering senses with panoramic views of the French countryside and villages. The colors, fragrances and rustic beauty of this Mediterarean region are mesmorizing. It is hard to take it all in.

chateau northeast side fav

Arrival at the 18th-century chateau feels as if I am tranformed into a French Impressionistic painting. My spirit is renewed with the expansive vistas, tranquil gardens and the country elegance of Chateau Dumas. How I wish I could linger long into the night in the gardens.

Everywhere there is a vignette, art or indoor and outdoor beauty that makes me pause and catch my breath. This journey to Chateau Dumas is what is needed for reflection and the rediscovery of creativity that has grown fallow.

Even the 300-year-old marble stairs to the second floor are amazing. I leave my sandals off at the bottom of the stairs and feel the cool, time-worn marble underneath my feet as I climb to the second floor. I wonder if horses raced up the stairs during the upheaval of the French Revolution or the Napoleonic Wars.

main with shoes3FAV

main with shoes fav

The elegant second floor hallway is stunning and is accentuated with several examples of neo-classical trompe l’oeil–a style of painting that gives an illusion of reality. I look several times above the doorway as the corbels appear nearly realistic and three-dimensional. Wait. Do the doors appear as if they are paneled? It is amazing how the contrasts of light and dark create an illusion of something that is not.

Contrasts in shape and texture abound on the second floor. The gorgeous striped French linen ticking frames the double French doors at one end of the hall and  luxurious, elegant red silk drapes the paned windows on the east side. Subtle nuances of pattern continuance mingle throughout the hall–the highly polished antique terra cotta floor tile laid on the diagonal, the illusionary diamond-shaped panel inserts on the doors and the antique flax linen heart with red embroidery set on a diagonally-placed terra cotta marble plant stand. Brilliant. The hall so creatively reflects balance and order that it feels quite tranquil.

second floor hallway FAV

tile floor second floor FAV

hallwayfav2

above door second floorFAV

linen heart on marble table FAV

There are four guest rooms on this section of the second floor–each unique and beautifully appointed. My breath is taken away by the beauty of these rooms. The guest room that I have is superb with a dramatic black chandelier, black marble fireplace, cameo-inspired border, gorgeous khaki green silk drapery–like a fine lady’s ball gown–that  frames the extravagant views of the French countryside in the valley below. A lovely antique French chair in the corner is tailored with finely-crafted handspun flax linen. There is a tasteful white French writing desk in the other corner. I think I shall become a permanent guest in this room–at least for the remainder of the summer…then into fall…or perhaps, until Christmas. Dream.

handle and key2

 bedroom view FAV

writing desk bedroom 1

writing desk bedroom 2

Bedroom Window FAV

bedroom window and view fav

An ensuite bath is the perfect ending to the day with the deep-soaking claw foot tub set on a golden marble floor. Windows to the east let in the early morning sun, and the customized chandelier designed to look like rain drops provides subtle lighting in the evening. What more could a woman want?

Bathtub FAV

Bathroom chandelier FAV

curtain finial FAV

Bathroom window FAV

Additional guest rooms are to the north on the second floor, too. The circular stairs to the third floor leading to more individually appointed guest rooms is exquisite. The wood banister amazing. I wonder what kind of wood was used on the banister.

Third floor stairs FAV

third floor stairs close FAV

millinery atelier

Across the manicured gardens is the Chateau’s expansive coach house–the second floor of the west wing is the dedicated millinery studio. The north lower level of the carriage house features a lovely little Chateau shop filled with vintage French linens, white-on-white embroidered sheets, pieces of machine and handmade lace, antique fine cotton night dresses/slips and rustic linen shirts, aged-silver and many other vintage French items. Local artisans’ jewelry, lavender sachets made with vintage ticking and linen, and fine French bath products are beautifully displayed throughout.

Carriage House FAV

carriage house climbing roses

carriage house shop FAV

Exterior wall hugging stairs provides one entrance to the millinery atelier. Under the portico is another example of neo-classical trompe l’oeil opposite the teak garden bench. Clever.

carriage house north wing FAV

carriage house window FAV

west entry to carriage house

carriage house through portico to east carriages FAV

portico with teak bench FAV

portico trompe l'oleil

potico trompe l'oleil FAV 2

southeast carriage house stairs FAV

I sneak a peak at the upstairs studio to catch a glimpse of what is to come in days ahead as we learn under the expert tutoring of Dillon Wallwork–a Royal Milliner– in a millinery masterclass (hatmaking). My anticipation for the masterclass grows–there are inspiring sample hats on display on four to five foot high antique carved wood hat stands, black and white striped hat boxes for our creations, sewing machines old and new, wood hat molds for crowns and brims and hatmaking supplies.

green hat

straw hat

studio hats

 cupboard with hat box FAV

Frister Sewing Machine FAV

Fister Sewing Machine Close FAV

Singer Treadle FAV

Hat molds FAV

Hat brims FAV

Hat molds and feathers FAV

straw hats materials FAV

Off to the right on a display table is a brochure about the International summer straw hat festival held in nearby Septfonds–Estivales du Chapeau. Tomorrow. Septfonds is the heart of French straw hat making.

Hat Festival Ad FAV

More about the millinery masterclass, one of the world’s great Estivales du Chapeau, a visit to a 1824 French hat factory and other sights of  a 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.

Today I am hooked on everything French. Find out what other people are hooked on.

Visit The Inspired Room for others’ inspirations about creating a beautiful life.

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Filed under France, Gardening, Sewing, Travel, Vintage