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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Types of Felt

This subject has come up lately, both among milliners I know and in trying to explain it to customers. So here's the basic info on the material used to make felt hats. 

Note: This is just about felt for blocked hats, not fabric or straws for other types of hats. And I know nothing about hand-felting or wet-felting. This is about the unshaped felts currently available from millinery suppliers (so it doesn't cover vintage felts, either). Fur felt — in any of its various finishes — is what you'll see used most often in high-end felt hats.

Wool — The least expensive option. Has a somewhat nubbly, uneven texture. Not as warm or as sturdy as fur felt. More animal-friendly. Decent color options.
Plain fur felt — More (2-4x) expensive than wool, but a much nicer quality. Holds its shape well and is quite warm. Made of rabbit fur (or occasionally rabbit and hare). Plain fur felt is dense and smooth. Lots of color options. Sometimes available in thicker/heavy weight or thin/tissue weight or with printed or embossed patterns.
Salome fur felt — A more rustic style fur felt with a kind of heathered color and occasional longer, spiky hairs. Dense and warm. Limited color options. 
Velour fur felt — Also known as peachbloom. A small amount more expensive than plain fur felt. Dense, but with a spongey, velvety texture on top. (This finish can be on both sides or on one side only.) Quite warm. Lots of color options. 
Long-hair fur felt — Also known as "beaver"-finish, "beaver"-style, long-nap or melousine. Not actually made from beaver fur. It is made of rabbit fur. Has long hairs on top of a dense felt. (The long hairs can be on both sides or on one side only.) The long hairs add a luxurious sheen if brushed/polished smooth. Alternately can be mussed up for a more casual style. More expensive than plain or velour fur felt. Quite warm. Good color options. Also available printed with animal patterns (leopard, cheetah, etc.) for additional cost. 
Suede fur felt — A sueded finish (not actually made of leather or suede). More expensive than plain/velour felt. Dense with a luxurious finish that looks like velvet or fine suede. Quite warm. Limited color options (generally dark/neutral). 
Cashmere — Made from hairs from a cashmere goat. A soft, spongey texture throughout. Very warm. Animal-friendly. Much more expensive than fur felt. Limited color options. 
Beaver felt — The top of the line. This is what the most expensive, luxurious hats are made out of. Especially popular for men's fedoras. Actually made from beaver fur (though there is a middle ground of felts that are a blend of beaver and rabbit or hare). The felt is thinner than fur felts and yet warmer and more supple. Holds its shape better than fur felt and is more naturally water-resistant. Dense and smooth. Limited color options. Expect a beaver felt hat to set you back at least $300 (and often more). 
L-R: wool felt, plain fur felt, salome fur felt, velour fur felt, long-hair fur felt, cashmere felt

Thursday, October 31, 2013

One Year on Etsy

I have had an Etsy shop exactly one year today!

In that time, I have made 12 sales, to average exactly one a month. It doesn't sound like a lot (considering that some Etsy sellers have hundreds of sales or more). Considering that hats are a much tougher sell than something like greeting cards, I regard it as quite an accomplishment.

Baby steps to be sure. Etsy is not a place to get found. There's just too much stuff on there to even have a good shot at showing up in searches. Most "hat" results on Etsy are crocheted beanies or scrub caps. Ugh! But it is a good place to set up and facilitate e-commerce without having to set up a standalone web site, shopping cart, etc.

For today only (Oct. 31) until around noon tomorrow (Nov. 1), I am having a huge sale to celebrate my anniversary! 25%-45% off everything in my shop, with most things 40% off. No coupon code needed; just shop at the link below:

Silverhill Creative Millinery on Etsy

Monday, October 21, 2013

Creating Hats for Theatre, Part II

I wrote before about the logic (or, maybe, just the biased enthusiastic desire) behind making hats for "Pirates of Penzance." And shared my findings on hat styles/silhouettes circa 1877.

So this post is a little about the artistic decisions and mechanical challenges of the hats.

Pirates and maidens. (Photo by Adam Silverman.)
First off, the costumes. The costumer finished the dresses well before I began any work on the hats. So the hats were specifically designed to coordinate with the dresses (as well as each actor). Picky historians will note that the dresses are not strictly historically accurate in terms of cut, colors and fabrics. They are costume-y ... and delightfully sweet and silly in the pastel color scheme. They are fabulous costumes! And for community theatre (and a community theatre budget), they are truly amazing. The style was the thing: a slightly cartoonish aesthetic that was part of the director's wonderful vision for the show.

Thus, instead of trimming the hats in a variety of colors (which might be more historically appropriate), I made monochromatic hats for each of the four maidens. I used scrap fabric leftover from the dresses. Except for the lavender hat, which was hand-shaped sewn straw base, the girls' hats were made of buckram and wire and covered in fabric. (This was a fun and challenging step outside of my comfort zone, which is primarily felt.) ... And, of course, I had to put several matching ostrich feathers on each hat!

Mabel. (Photo by Adam Silverman.)
Mabel's hat was a different matter. As a character, she is "other." She enters separately from the other girls, and her storyline is very different from theirs. So I didn't have to adhere to the same choices with her hat. She didn't have to be as monochromatic as the other girls, which is good because the green of her dress would have been too much if the hat were the same color! I used a straw base (hand-blocked/shaped) and used four different colors of green to trim it (1=the brim edge, 2=the crown ribbon, 3=a ribbon to tie behind her hair and 4=the kelly green on a ruffle/bandeau at the back and as some of the ostrich feathers on the hat). Ivory ostrich feathers were on top to keep the green ostrich feathers from looking too intense. I am please with how well the greens pull together without matching.

Mabel's hat was also able to be less secure than the other four hats.

The four maidens had to do the following in the hats: run/scamper around, jump up and down energetically, be captured by pirates and struggle to get free, a bit of choreography that knocked the hats about sometimes, faint (lavender) ... oh, and bend upside down to start to untie boots!

"A man!" (Photo by Adam Silverman.)
The photo above was taken immediately after we stood up after bending over to untie our boots. The hats are still on! The director marveled at how unheard-of it is to have hats on stage go through all that and still stay in place.

Bad blogger that I am, I neglected to take pictures of the undersides of the hats. They were not pretty! But they were functional, and that is what matters. At the front of each hat, I put a hair comb, so the hat would be secured at the front as it slid back onto the hair. Clips or horsehair loops at the sides gave a little extra insurance, but they weren't a primary securing method. At the back, stiff wire loops were able to slide down into the hair at the back of the skull. Pinning those wires to the hair was what enabled them to stay in place so well. Again, strange-looking to any layperson who might pick up one of the hats, but invisible on stage.

During the tech rehearsal, the director said to me "You're just beaming when you look at those hats!" And so I was. I am quite proud of my work. More than one person commented to me that the hats pulled the costumes together and were the icing on the cake. Combining my passions for millinery and for theatre was quite a treat.

Maidens spying on Mabel and Frederic. (Photo by Adam Silverman.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Creating Hats for Theatre

Hats on stage can be a nightmare. They shadow the face. They're another costume piece to locate, match and purchase. They can fall off at inopportune times.

For the Stowe Theatre Guild production of "The Pirates of Penzance," I couldn't bear to see the ladies go hatless. From a historical accuracy standpoint, they should have hats. Ladies outside in 1877 absolutely would have worn hats.*

The wonderful thing is that the first hat problem was immediately solvable. Hats from the bustle era were small affairs that were worn tilted forward onto the forehead. Sometimes the angle was so extreme that the hat was almost vertical. (You can see some of my research on my ca. 1877 Pinterest board.)

Four maidens. (Photo by Adam Silverman.)
As for the second obstacle, that was pretty simple, too. Finding/matching hats was no problem with a milliner in the cast. The only question was expense. I knew that the theatre couldn't afford to pay me for my work. I volunteered to create hats for the five girls in the show just for reimbursement of supplies. (And I ended up donating the cost of supplies I used from my personal stash.)

See, I also played Kate in the production, and I wanted hats, darn it!

Aside from that, I thought it would be a fun project where I could do an entirely different style of hat, get more practice working with buckram and do (gasp) theatrical millinery. In traditional/couture millinery, everything is sewn and finished off. In theatrical millinery, it's okay to use fabric glue, glue guns, even staples and to not finish the inside beautifully. It felt so strange to use glue on hats, but in the interest of time and cost, I did. And I would cringe a little to see the wonky, unfinished undersides/insides of the hats. ... But when they were on, you couldn't tell. They looked beautiful onstage.

More about the process of creating hats for theatre in Part Two ...

19th-century style hats. (Photo by Adam Silverman.)

* They probably would have had parasols, too. But I'm not a parasol-maker! Haha!

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Pirates of Penzance" Photos

I created five hats for "The Pirates of Penzance." A blog post about the process, etc. will be coming soon. For now, you can check out several photos I uploaded to my Facebook page.

"Pirates of Penzance" photos

Here's one to whet your appetite:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hats ca. 1877

The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan debuted in 1879, but "by a simple arithmetical process you'll easily discover" ... that the show is set in 1877.

Thus began my research into designing hats for the Stowe Theatre Guild production (in which I also play Kate).

This is the type of thing Pinterest is made for! Forget recipes with gorgeous food photography or home decor ideas; I'm interested in collecting historical research.

I will share photos in another posting. Until then, here is a look at my Pinterest board: ca. 1877

Here's one of the images that inspired the hats I eventually created:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Custom Hat Process

I wanted to share a photo of a custom cloche I recently finished:
Burgundy fur felt cloche

That's a 3/4 view. First we discussed basic shape (cloche), then type and color of felt (plain finish burgundy fur felt). After I blocked the overall shape, we talked about trim a bit and how the brim should be cut. 

Based on her face shape, I went with a flared, asymmetrical brim. (She has an eyebrow ring, so the brim was cut higher on that side to show it off!) I didn't want the bulk of a welted (turned under) brim, but I wanted to add some wire for structure/stability, so that's the logic behind the choice of the matching grosgrain ribbon. 

She liked the burgundy paisley silk from another hat I had done, so that's how the band was chosen. And the cockade was my idea — to suit her personality. Similar to a rosette, which she had admired on another hat of mine, but a specific type of vintage flair that I thought really suited her.

Custom cloche (right side)
Custom cloche (front)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Creative Covetousness

I want it all. There, I said it. I want all the hat blocks my little heart could desire. I want all the vintage trimmings money can buy.

I think most creative people are the same way. My husband, a photographer, lusts after better gear and expensive lenses (or "glass" to the initiated). Me? I want to load up on hat blocks and hat-making supplies.

It feels good to know that I don't generally want to spend my money on "toys" like a new iPhone or TV. I want to spend my money on things to help me create.

Here's one object of my affection that, alas!, I am not able to justify buying:

I have so many millinery things I'd like to do with this gorgeous lace. Well, it's so pretty I at least enjoy looking at it even if I can't buy it. :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Eep! I've procrastinated updating my blog for almost two months. The ironic thing is that I have many things in my head that I want to write about, so it isn't even a problem with writer's block. I've just been prioritizing making hats. :)

So I'll be trying to blog more regularly going forward. I also have to build my web site.

Lots of big and exciting stuff to do!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hat Love

I put my red fedora on sale in my Etsy shop. A huge 25% off! The sale is for Valentine's Day, so it lasts through the end of the day only.

Also, as a follow up to my earlier post, be sure to check out:
My hat-centric Etsy treasury, featuring other milliners. (Some hats have disappeared since I created the treasury.)

Hats I Like, my Pinterest board specifically dedicated to the work of other milliners.

Camaraderie, not competition

My former job centered on competition. The details of it aren't pertinent. Competitiveness, especially when it can lead to catty, back-stabbing behavior, is poisonous. And it is certainly no ally to creativity. I'm not opposed to all competition in general. But I'd much rather have a team spirit and be able to feel happiness in others' success, too.

In my blog description, I say that I blog about other milliners I admire. I haven't done much of that, but it's just because I've procrastinated writing the blogs — not because I don't have a long list of hat-makers I love and not because I don't want to feature them.

I look at it in two ways:

(1) What if I introduce someone to other hats and they like those hats better? What if they buy one of those other hats and not mine? Well, what of it? I can't stop someone else from liking another milliner's hats. And I wouldn't want to! There are more hats out there than I could possibly make. One milliner I like has a very distinct style. At some point, I might make a hat somewhat like hers. But I won't try to make her hats. And her style isn't mine. There's more than enough hat love to go around. If you want her style of hat, you'll go to her. If you want my style of hat, you won't.

(2) More people wearing hats can only be better for all hat makers. Before I was a hat maker, I was a hat-wearer. And I bought mass-produced hats. Mass-produced hats (probably) don't steal market share from couture milliners. If you buy a hat for $50 from a major or semi-major brand, it's not likely that you did that instead of buying a $200 bespoke hat. But if you love your $50 hat and wear a hat every day, then eventually you might want a higher-end hat. And the more people who wear hats, the more they are "in," and the more people who will start to wear hats. (People complaining about why hats can't come back so they can wear them ... that's a full-on rant for another day.)

A few days ago, my Facebook page (Silverhill Creative Millinery) was nearing 100 likes. At the same time, on Twitter, I found out that Greer McDonald Millinery was the same number of "likes" away. So we cheered each other on. And we liked each other's pages.

Today, I posted this tweet:

It feels good for the creative soul.
Isn't that a charming and lovely hat? ... And it's very different from my own work. :)
I linked to her Facebook page above, so you can like her too.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Gift to Myself

My mom asked me what I wanted as a holiday present, and I couldn't think of anything better to ask for than a gift certificate for millinery supplies. But, to make sure I made my holiday gift mine and not just business-related, I used it to make a hat for myself. I completely splurged on a cashmere hood and used the full yard I had bought of some vintage trim.

Here is the result:

Brown cashmere cloche, vintage Art Deco trim

I am in love with it! The supplies were too pricey for me to make a similar hat for sale without a buyer lined up, but I am happy to make a similar style to this on custom order.

I also just submitted photos of this hat for a contest that Judith M Millinery Supply is running on Facebook.

More views: 

Monday, January 14, 2013

My First Discounts

National Hat Day is tomorrow (January 15). That — plus the fact that I want to clear some space for more hats — is why I've decided to offer my first SALE!

I believe in sale prices actually being a sale, none of this save-one-dollar nonsense. So I steeply discounted four styles. Plus, I discounted shipping!

Here are the hats that are on sale:

$50 off
$5 off

$12 off
$7 off

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another Gifted Hat

I had two people I wanted to give custom hats to for the holidays. (Well, three, if you include my husband. But I don't have men's hat blocks. Alas! So I only made/gave two.) And I was finally able to give the second one. Here it is ...

blue wool cloche

I wanted to use a simple silhouette, a very 1920s' shaped hat block. But the style is very fresh and modern.

The body is 100% wool in royal blue. Inner headsize ribbon and brim edge are dark green grosgrain (rayon/cotton). The band is 100% Shetland wool (gray with threads of red, cobalt blue, burgundy and teal), which I artfully frayed around the edge. Leather button (upcycled from my stash of buttons in my sewing box).

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Fashions fade; style is eternal."

When I think of waste and unnecessary garbage, I think of plastic water bottles. It makes sense. The pollution created by plastic bottles is drilled into the heads of eco-conscious people (and starting to enter the minds of everyone else).

But clothes? Yeah.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion is a tremendously important book.

I'm happy to say that I was eschewing "cheap fashion" even before this book came out. It wasn't with any world-view, though. It was for two basic reasons: One, I don't really care much for trends and adhering to the latest fashions. Two, I've always preferred longer-lasting, higher-quality clothes.

A few years ago, working with people who were very un-like me, I was talking about how I needed new jeans. "Get them at Wal-Mart or Kmart," one girl suggested. "They're only $10! They fall apart after a month, but then you can just buy another pair for cheap." Huh? "Wait," I said. "Why would I want to buy a pair of jeans that falls apart?"

"Because they're only ten dollars!"

That seems to be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. And what a waste of $10. If I spend $50-$70 on a pair of jeans, I expect them to last a couple years at least.

Contrast this to a comment a friend made about a vintage 1920s dress that her mother had: "It's made like a tank," she said. "The seams are strong, and this thing is not coming apart." Now that's a fashion I'd like to have! (Of course, my love for '20s & '30s fashions might have a little something to do with it, too.)

Another time, I was in a shoe store and asked the woman about how long a pair of shoes would last (from a brand I didn't know). "Oh, you'll get a season out of them!"When did this become okay? Why is it okay to wear through a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes in less than a year? (It's especially inexcusable now that we all own more than 10 outfits total.)

Check out the "Fast Facts" from Elizabeth Cline's book. Among them are the fact that the average American buys 68 garments and 7 pairs of shoes a year! And don't feel good about giving your old clothes to charity. Only 20% manages to be resold. (The rest is trash.)

A while back, the soles on the heels of expensive boots I owned had worn all the way down (because I wore them every day). I took them in to a cobbler to be re-soled, and — voila! — they were like brand new. Other than the sole, the boots were in excellent shape. If they had been $30 boots, (1) the rest of the boots would be falling apart as well and (2) the cobbler would have told me I could buy a new pair for less than the cost of re-soling the old pair. I can't tell you how good it feels to invest in really quality boots and have them be worth it!

Many hat-makers offer cleaning/re-blocking services and maintenance for their hats. My hats haven't been in the world long enough for that to be an issue. Rest, assured, though, that I will take care of my customers and my hats. My hats are carefully made by hand here in the U.S. — and not mass produced in China. That makes me feel pretty proud. :)
"Fashions fade; style is eternal." — Yves Saint Laurent

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gift Hat

My friends are hat-wearers and hat-lovers, too. I don't think I could be friends with anyone who didn't like hats. ;)

So of course I knew a hat would be my gift to my BFF Becca. (And when I finally get men's hat blocks, her husband and mine can get hats, too.) Anyway, after a lot of holiday-crazy-schedule-delays, I finally gave her the hat on Monday night. So now I can share the photos ...

Purple wool cloche - angle 1 (left side)

And my thought process ...

She loves purple, so I knew it had to be purple. This is a royal (almost blue) purple wool felt. And she loves cloches. In particular, though, when she tried on the olive green free-form cloche I had made for myself, she decided that it looked cool with either edge in front, and she really loved that aspect.  So that's why I decided to go with a free-form style for her. 

I blocked it on a "balsa utility block" — basically a head shaped wood block. I added in the folds and curves by hand and cut the edge to suit the shape. I stitched the folds in place so they won't fall out or lose their shape. Inside is unlined and with a grosgrain head-size ribbon. Then I put a decoration on the side cut out of blue wool felt.

It definitely looks better on her than on my "model," but for now, here you can see the hat from different angles ...

angle 1 (front)
angle 2 (front)

angle 1 (right side)
angle 2 (right side)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Web site! ... Well, domain name.

One of my goals for 2013 is to build a web site for my hat-making business. I completed the first step toward that goal today ... the easy part. I registered the domain name. Woohoo! I am so excited! :)

Silverhill Creative Millinery

Don't bother clicking it (for now). It currently forwards to ... here. I set up the URL to redirect to my blog. The web site will be coming.

Yeah, that's the hard part. A while ago I did a bunch of research on hosting plans/companies. And I lost my work. So I don't remember the names of the 2-3 companies I was considering. Choosing a hosting plan is next, along with actually building the site. *gulp* That's a lot of work to do! But I'm excited about it. :)

Having a real web site instead of just an Etsy shop makes me feel more legit. Speaking of which...

Click here to buy hats from my Etsy shop! :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Goals for the New Year

I think New Year's resolutions are about change: lose weight, quit smoking/drinking/whatever, save money. I'm more the type to set goals for the year. 2012 saw the official launch of my business. That means in 2013 the real work begins. Here are my goals:
  1. Set up a web site.
  2. Design some bridal hats/headpieces/veils.
  3. Photograph my hats being worn by models (not just a display head).
  4. Get my hats into bricks & mortar store(s).
Plus, in general marketing, marketing, marketing. Basic building up of my business, etc.

Oh, yeah, and make a couple hats for myself instead of just making ones to be sold.

Happy 2013! :)