www.silverhillcreative.com

www.silverhillcreative.com will be coming soon! Until then, please enjoy my blog or visit my Etsy shop.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day, "Slow Fashion" and the Maker Movement

Happy Labor Day!

If you're anything like I am, you were raised that Labor Day was just a day off. If you work (or go to school), here's an extra day off to reward you. Have a picnic! Shop some sales! Stop wearing white!

Today, I am working. Like many makers, I'm a one-woman show. I source my own supplies. I make everything by hand myself. I take the photos. I do my own bookkeeping and marketing. When someone buys one of my hats, I pack it up myself and take it to the post office. ... And I'm very lucky.

freeform tan cloche
This handmade cloche will be shipping out tomorrow.

Labor Day is an important day to the fashion industry. The origin and purpose of Labor Day is to acknowledge the achievements of the labor movement.

More than one hundred years ago, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire killed 146 people, mostly young women. Since then, the U.S. has instituted many reforms that make workplaces safer.

Union members demonstrating after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.


That's the good news. The bad news is that, in recent years, more and more fashion companies have moved their manufacturing out of the U.S. — and into countries with more lax regulations. Not only has this caused the sad decline of New York City's Garment District, but more significantly, it has resulted in tragedies such as the collapse of a garment factory complex in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people in 2014. ... 2014!

What a lot of people don't realize is that all clothes are handmade.

Yep. That $15 pair of jeans wasn't made by a machine. They were made by a person sitting at a sewing machine and using their hands.

And avoiding clothing made by exploited workers is so hard. It's more expensive. It requires research. It requires time and effort and labor.

I'm guilty of it, too. I stay away from cheaply produced clothes that are churned out en masse and designed to last a season (or less) before they're replaced by the next trendy item. But I bought a new packet of underwear the other day and didn't look at where they were made. I checked just now. ... Bangladesh.

If I hadn't bought that underwear, I wouldn't be driving the company out of business. If a whole bunch of us boycott Forever 21, there will still be plenty of people buying their clothes. And nobody is going to trade buying a $20 dress from H&M for buying a handmade hat from me.

But instead of having a day off or a picnic this Labor Day, I am using it as a reminder to stop and think about where my clothing comes from.

Here's a great piece from The Atlantic about why it's good to invest more money in pieces of clothing.

Take a look around for "slow fashion." Sustainable or ethically produced clothing. Fair trade items. If it seems like the handmade piece you love is over-priced, it's not (necessarily) because it was made by a pretentious hipster in Brooklyn. It's because you're comparing it to the distorted, inappropriately low prices of "fast fashion."

Here are some neat resources:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why Giving Up On My Dream Actually Feels Pretty Damn Good

This is a very personal post, but I wanted to open up...

Several years ago, I quit smoking. The thing that finally made the difference for me, after multiple "tries" was making up my mind 100%. Before, when I "tried" to quit, I always knew in the back of my mind that I'd smoke again. The only question was when the cravings would be "bad enough" for me to give in. Once I absolutely decided to quit, I still had cravings ... but my mind was no longer at war with itself. I didn't have to debate or make decisions because I'd already made it.

All my life, I've had one great passion: theatre. And my greatest fantasy has always been to star in a Broadway musical (or play). But to quote from Follies, "heck, I'd even play the maid..."

But even though I never truly pursued a theatre career, I kept telling myself that I would some day. It's one thing to not actively chase your dream. It's another thing to admit to yourself "I will never achieve this." It's a grieving process.

Me as Grace Farrell in Annie — wearing a vintage hat
that influenced my desire to be a milliner.

I found a journal of mine from late 2007, in which I constantly wrote about how much I wanted to be a professional actor ... or do something else creative. But I didn't know what that was. Since then, I discovered hat-making. And everything just clicked.

I love millinery. Do I love it as much as theatre? Almost. Not quite, but almost. And one nice thing about millinery is that it doesn't have to be separate from theatre. I've made hats for The Pirates of Penzance and Born Yesterday. I love the millinery I see on stage and in movies/TV.

Sure, if I had a magic wand, I'd still choose to be a Broadway actress. But I'd rather be doing shows in community theatre than not performing at all because I'm being rejected from professional gigs. I've also realized that my personality isn't suited to the competitiveness and constant rejection of a professional actor's life.

Plus, there's this:
"Rachel's childhood ambition was to become an actress and this developed into a keen interest in theatre costume. It is from this sense of the dramatic ... that Rachel's passion for millinery has evolved."
I found that while reading the web site of Rachel Trevor-Morgan, one of Britain's most successful milliners (whose creations have been worn by the Queen, among others). I could do worse than to follow in her footsteps!

A 1940s-inspired fedora that allowed me to fulfill
my love of vintage styles. (This piece already sold.)

I am currently taking a break from even the community theatre productions that swallow my time so that I can really focus on my business. It feels good to have made the decision. I feel a new-found sense of peace. I am no longer a wannabe actor; I am an actual milliner.

So, on the whole, I'd say giving up on my dream feels pretty damn good. (Oh, and do I now dream about my hats appearing on Broadway or TV/movies? Hell yes!)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Philosophy of Style

For lots of people, wearing a hat can be scary. I wrote before about how to wear a hat. It takes confidence. It also takes having a sense of your own style ... which is frankly, kind of hard to do.

My ideal style is a mixture of eclectic and classic. Vintage inspired with a touch of quirkiness.

But in reality, what I wear tends toward warm and comfortable. So I throw on a sweater and a pair of jeans. Let's face it: I live in Vermont where, (a) it's often cold, and I run about 10-20 degrees colder than most people and (b) ... well, not that many people care about fashion. (People regularly wear jeans and sneakers to expensive restaurants.)

One day I was searching #vermontstyle on Instagram. Surprise! There's not much there! But it did lead me to discover Stasia of Thrift Me Pretty. Her philosophy of style so resonated with me. 

I love sequins. I've loved them since I was 4 years old, when I would collect them from the floor at shopping stores and save them in a treasure box. As I grew older and became an "outdoorsy" gal, I broke up with sequins. I didn't think they fit my outdoor-vibe. It wasn't until I was almost 40 that I realized I could LOVE the mountains AND sequins!!! Seems silly, doesn't it? But I hear this kind of stuff ALL THE TIME!! "I can't wear THAT because I'm THIS kind of gal living in THIS community." To heck with that you guys! It's made up and it's pretend. IT'S NOT TRUE. So right now, tell me one thing that you LOVED when you were little that you broke-up with as you grew older?? How does it make you feel to think about that thing? Giddy with excitement? Weak at the knees? Yea, then do it!! Wear it!! BE IT! Shine on, girl!! Don't let any boxes hold you back!! ✨❤️✨❤️✨
A photo posted by Stasia • Stasia's Style School (@stasiasavasuk) on

Stasia is a style coach who focuses a lot on thrift-shop finds. (Hooray for not contributing to "fast fashion"!) But more importantly, she talks a lot about finding a style that's authentic to you. When she posted the above photo, I was saying "YES! This!"

Even on my laziest days, I always throw on a cute hat to finish off the outfit. Sure, you're not going to wear some bejeweled, beplumed extravagant concoction to the mall. But a fedora or cloche or beret goes with almost everything. Even in Vermont, where people "don't have anywhere to wear a hat."

Stasia in a cloche by
Silverhill Creative Millinery.
After I commented on her post, Stasia contacted me about a collaboration. I sent her some hats on loan. This was my first collaboration with a style blogger or style coach. I was a little nervous and a lot excited.

It was a thrilling success. By that, I don't mean that I sold hats to every one of her followers. I didn't. But I did get exactly what I wanted: Someone whose style philosophy compliments mine perfectly demonstrating how a hat can be a casual accessory that adds just the right amount of sass.

She took photos in them and talked about how to wear a hat on her own blog. Look how easily a simple cloche pairs with a denim jacket and a casual dress and boots. It doesn't even look out of place in a snowy Vermont field! (Oh, and extra benefit of cloches: They keep the tips of your ears warm.)

A photo posted by Stasia • Stasia's Style School (@stasiasavasuk) on


I didn't realize until I read her blog post that Stasia was a little intimidated by the fedora ... because the message she sent me said: "In LOVE with the fedora! I've never worn one before, and girl, I've been missing out!!"

I have a sneaking suspicion that if more people gave hats a try, they would discover that they, too, are missing out. ;)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Theatre Hats (aka Where I Disappeared To)

I've been slacking on the social media front lately. (Exception: My blog post "The C-Word" on the site Mr. X Stitch where I'm now a monthly guest blogger.)

So where the hell have I been? Where I usually am when I'm not working on hats: working on theatre. This time it was the musical Curtains, which is one part murder mystery, one part pastiche of Oklahoma! and overall a hilarious love letter to musical theatre. 

The show-within-a-show is a Western, which means cowboy hats. The theatre was a community theatre, which means hats that have been used and abused for who knows how many shows. Theatre is rough on hats! They're battered on stage and often stored in less-than-ideal, cramped conditions. One of our male leads had this hat:

Poor, beaten-up costume hat.

I couldn't let this pathetic thing appear on stage. There was no other hat he could use, since this was the only one that fit him. I wasn't the costumer; it wasn't technically my job. But this stained, misshapen cowboy hat was an affront to my senses as a milliner. So I took it home to fix it.

The hat in the show.

First, I tried to spot clean it ... and it developed weird peach blotches (I'm guessing from someone previously using bleach to try to clean it). There were also odd mint green blotches. Oops! That's what happens with an old hat of indeterminate fiber content (assuming wool, though), years of sweat, and previous cleaning attempts. But I was able to get the worst of the staining out.

"After"
Next, I added sizing to the the inside of the crown and portions of the brim. I don't have blocks for this shape/size, so I steamed it and reshaped it by hand. It looked much better.

Finally, I used dye lightly brushed on to even out the tone and cover the worst of the pale splotches. The overall effect was a mottled look, but it still looked pretty good.

I removed the narrow trim and replaced it with brown grosgrain and a small pheasant feather.

Sadly, I didn't get a really great photo of the hat in natural lighting. The "after" photo is an iPhone snapshot in the weird lighting of the greenroom — and after the hat had been battered about and sweated on for 12 rehearsals and shows.

When I brought the hat to the first dress rehearsal, no one could believe it was the same hat. That was my goal. I didn't get any pay or credit in the program for rehabilitating the cowboy hat, but it was worth it anyway. My work was pretty good for a crappy hat and the wrong blocks.

Oh, and I wore it in the show, too! My character stole it a few times in a dance and wore it for a few seconds. (Unfortunately, I had put it on backwards in this one instance that was photographed.)

"Thataway" from Curtains. (Photo by Adam Silverman Photography.)




Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Periscope! Lessons Learned

I have just recently discovered the world of Periscope. For those of you who don't know, it's a broadcasting app. "Scopes" can be watched live or replayed for 24 hours. 

Some people just talk to the camera. Some people might sing or play an instrument. And some are just plain boring.

What's neat about it is that people who are watching live can ask questions or post comments. You can also give hearts (both live and on replay) throughout the broadcast. (And unlike FB or Instagram, you can give more than one heart.)

I took the plunge the other day, choosing to broadcast my blocking of a hat. Here it is:

video

A couple things: If you notice me staring at the screen oddly, that's me reading comments that pop up on the screen (but they don't show up in this saved video). And I was trying to figure out whether it was better for sound to have the door closed (which was echoey) or leave it open and have the air conditioner noise.

I think I was too ambitious! It was difficult to keep talking and keep it entertaining while struggling with a stubborn felt. So I cut it short rather than keep fumbling publicly. It only took a short while to then get the actual felt blocked. 

So then I did this (much, much shorter) Periscope to redeem myself:

video

I think Periscope is an awesomely fun, interactive time. Even if you don't want to broadcast yourself, it's a fun place to watch, learn and more. I am @SilverhillHats on Periscope. If you follow my account, you can watch the next time I do a broadcast.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"Hat of the Week," Periscope, Procrastination and More



It's the hat of the week ... only not anymore. That's right, it sold! But I thought I'd at least talk about it briefly and oh, yeah, the previous week's hat of the week.


So this is why I didn't blog about last week's "Hat of the Week." I was on vacation in Maine. Every year for the past several years we have gone to Ogunquit and Portland. The ocean is the most beautiful, relaxing and inspiring sight to me. I wish I could afford a house on the coast. *sigh*

This was that week's Hat of the Week:

 1950s-inspired, vintage-style bridal cap
1950s-inspired, vintage-style bridal cap

Lots of beads! So many beads! I probably should have tracked how long it took me, but I didn't. But that's what I have Netflix for. It's a great way for me to stay entertained while doing detail work. And, of course, my favorite things to watch are period pieces: Downton Abbey, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, etc.

It's ecru silk over a buckram base. Hundreds of seed beads, plus flower sequins, freshwater pearls and Swarovski crystals. It's still available in my Etsy shop (though no longer at the promotional price).

And this week's "Hat of the Week," which will be sent off to Canada.

So I'm going to talk about supplies again with this hat. I bought this ribbon ages ago. I made a large cockade from it (now sold). I almost used it several times on hats, but the project was never quite right. That happens to me a lot, especially with vintage ribbons. I buy supplies with no specific project in mind, and it might be a long time before I actually use them.

I got a whole spool of this ribbon. It's vintage. I'm not sure what the content is, but it's very soft and supple. Even with the soft drapiness, the bow was initially straight. I wanted it to be droopy, so I gave it a shot of steam.

The felt is unusual. I bought it from another milliner's "destashing" shop. It's much thicker than other fur felts. It's also pre-sized (pre-stiffened), especially at the bottom.

Oh, and I'll be using this same type of felt to block a cloche shape today on my first ever Periscope! Happening in about an hour from now (at 3 p.m. EDT). I'm @SilverhillHats on Periscope. Join me if you'd like to see a glimpse into how a hat is made.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

So Much To Do!

Creatives are messy people. It just happens. But I've gotten to my breaking point. Whew! And I'm trying to save money, so I don't want to buy a bunch of expensive storage containers to put my expanding collection of supplies in. That means I need to get down to the work of getting organized.

Here is my studio recently. Hat blocks strewn about. Veiling that I pulled out to test out using on a wedding hat — and decided not to use ... and then didn't put away. Yep that's me.


In the background you can see the mannequin head I use to shoot photos of my hats, the canvas I painted to avoid the ubiquitous solid-white background and the cheap white fabric I had used as a background before that.

Exciting for me, I bought some new vinyl backdrops online! That means I'll be able to ditch the stacked books that put the mannequin head high enough. (Otherwise, the line between the canvas and the surface of the table would be smack dab in the middle of the image.) And my photos will look more spiffy and professional over all. Now I just need to get the backdrops ready to hang, and the hangers set at the right height. ... Then the big task of re-shooting all of my hats, editing the photos, etc.!

Plus, I have a custom order for two custom hats. And general organization to do. And I want to make my blog nicer looking, improve my Instagram feed, and all these other things to help build my business. (Oh, and I'm in rehearsals for two shows right now: Chess and Curtains.)

This is an exciting time for my business. I have an interesting promotion planned for August that will be happening while I work on new photos. Stay tuned!