Monday, January 31, 2011

Ribbon cockades class in May!!!

Yes - I now have proof that I occasionally DO plan ahead. (Mostly only when there's no other way to do something, but I clearly CAN do it. )

Proof: On May 12th and 13th - I am all signed up to take a vintage ribbon cockades class from this lady: (click the classes and lectures link to see some examples of her work.)

I saw sample boards of some of these in Izzie's studio, and began to salivate and beg her to teach me how. Izzie told me about the class where she learned those techniques, that the teacher is here in Seattle once a year, and that the classes fill up quickly.i'm happy to say that here I am, all signed up and paid, four months ahead of time!!

Yay, Me!

I can't wait to see what I'll make! I will definitely take photos (though I'm rotten at that, too) and share the pretties with you all.


Friday, January 28, 2011


I'm taking a millinery class! It meets at the teacher's studio in West Seattle on Thursday nights for four weeks. I've been to two so far. This is the teacher's website:

Check out her work, it's beautiful! I took one look and decided that I definitely had stuff to learn from her.

Although 90% of what we are learning is a total refresher course from the grad school buckram hat segment, I've still gleaned some great tips, which I have either forgotten from before, or which are contrary to what I was taught. That's always a really interesting thing - when, for example, one professional says "ALWAYS straighten the wire out before you use it!" and another says "Never totally straighten the wire unless you are wiring something totally flat in all dimensions; work with the curve that is naturally in the coil of wire."

This lady didn't mention straightening the wire at all. (Ain't that fascinating?) but she really stressed HOW you use the bias, and not just WHAT bias does. This was new info to me, and totally worked. (Or - as previously mentioned, perhaps I forgot that from before, but I don't think so.)

There are some serious advantages to taking this course:
  • It has gotten me out of my "I can't go anywhere but work, home, Zach's school, Drs and the grocery store" funk.
  • It is more than a little empowering to navigate a new bus route to get to and from where you want to go. "Hmm....that worked great. Where ELSE do I want to go?"
  • I have made an excellent contact in the hatting world, and one who is willing to share sources, information, and years of experience. There is always something you can learn from skilled artisans.
  • It is always interesting to walk around in a life you might have chosen. Custom hats are this lady's full-time job, and I'm enjoying thinking about what grass is green and which parts of my own lawn I prefer.
  • I'm making a hat - that I don't need, or need to sell. It is absolute, joyous art - just for the sake of it. I'm making a teensy little perchy green top hat.
  • I'm interested to see how the quality of my finished product compares to the other members of the class's work. It would be affirming to find my buckram work to be acceptable to me after many years of not doing any.
  • I've gotten wind (from Ms Izzie Lewis) of a vintage embellishments class that I MUST sign up for in Seattle. (I wouldn't have found it otherwise.) New cockades for the Trulyhats!! These things are not in any book I have found, and I WANTNEED to know how to do them.
  • Apparently there are other classes that I can take from her, again not in any course catalog. I can't wait to take her felt class - I wonder what fabulous improvements in process and/or quality I'll glean from that!
All in all - a big win.

Also-I've started an actual supplies source list - no longer content to go by this big cardboard box in my shop full of catalogs, business cards, and swatches. It's a sortable excell sheet (of course). It's remarkable that it has taken so long for me to get to this point. I kept thinking - why do I need three different suppliers for millinery wire? Shouldn't I just find the least expensive one and order from there?  The trouble is - supply shops seem to be closing down in droves. I lost Greenberg and Hammer this year, and I've no idea where I'm going to get reasonably priced corset steels, for example.  If I'd had this sheet, I'd have my second choice place all lined up, and could add to it when I'm browsing for sources. (which seems to be my favorite passtime.)

In other news - I think the perfect record of "nobody has ever not paid me" might have just been scrapped. I'll re-send the invoice and see what transpires.

Cheers, all!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Website Store Update!

I'm so very proud of myself.

The old joke "Dear god, Jim, I'm a milliner, not a web designer!" may get old, but it never gets any less true.

But, through several evenings' work (I sent my husband to two movies while I worked over the weekend)
I've redesigned the store page a bit. It's still not uber-flashy but it is a definite improvement, and actually contains images of the flatcaps!

The old numbering system was pretty cumbersome, so I've got fancy lookin' product codes and numbers now (i.e. FHXL 3) , which actually simplify things for me. I still have a few more XL felt hat images to post, and I need to do a bunch of descriptions, but the really important thing is - the tables loaded, look like I wanted them to, and contain pictures! The links even go clicky, and I fixed the main links page.

Though I deserve ice cream, I'll settle for a self satisfied sigh, and this little public gloat.
 Every time I do this web design Dreamweaver thing, it does get easier.

There is hope for me yet.

Now - I need to get a real photography set up (white box, lights, a tripod and digicam that can actually take clear closeups of stitching and trim details, etc.) so that the pictures are consistent and good, and THAT will feel like a great next step.

It's a new year - ANYthing could happen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

12th Night 2011 success!!

It was awesome. Really excellent. I had tons of stock - lots of colors, sizes and styles. I think that the display worked really well - better than any other time, actually. It was super minimalistic (four boxes and two shelves on a regular 8 foot banquet table could hold 30 felt hats.

The two upright spinning racks held 30 more, and my little corner of bookshelves held all the extra feathers, sewing supplies, etc that I could need. Also hid the ugly stuff like plastic lunch containers, seen in my lap in the image below:

I was so tickled that I actually made myself a hat that went with my dress, and din't sell it! That may be another first! I had told Tim that I felt guilty making myself a hat when I could have made more stock, but it seems that my worry there was as stupid as it sounded to him. I got tons of joy out of looking all put-together.

 My merchanting neighbor Ken (Cloaked in Time) was just delightful, and I saw ZERO merchanting drama amongst the others. Not always the case - and a total win.

Sales-wise I sold 26 of the 64 hats that I brought (that counts linen coifs as whole entire hats. I sold two of those, but as I only took four and dumped my coffee all over the last one, rendering it unsellable till it is bleached and re-starched, that ain't bad, folks.) 26 hats sold is a fabulous number, and is more than I sold last year. I saw LOTS of last year's hats on happy heads, and saw several people who had made their hats whole entire outfits!! (That really warms my heart). Also had several folks rush the table right at the first and buy two hats at a time - saying "last year MY hat sold to someone else before I could buy it. I'm not letting that happen again."

THAT is why I do this, folks.

The blue cocky beaver hat was the hot item du-jour-of-the-day. There were three or four ladies oggling it - one of whom bought it instantly. The rest of the ladies hissed at her for the rest of the event, and she has joked about needing hatyguards to follow her around to protect her (it). I had no idea that would be such a hot ticket item. Tim says he knew (smarty pants.) Perhaps one or two higher priced "over the top" pieces would be in order for whenever next time is.

My prices were a little bit higher than last year, which is really good because I had just run last years numbers and the hat business has not remotely even paid for itself in 2010. Hopefully the small increase will help.

All custom ordered deliveries went well, and everyone who I sent away with a hat to go get their checkbook or to paypal me from their hotel room, did so - keeping the happy 100% track record of "Nobody has Ever Not Paid me." I will need to cash all checks soon to see if the "Ive never gotten a bad check" track record stays awesome as well, but I think all will be fine.

So - there are lots and lots of pretty hats left, to be photographed and put on the actual online store page.
I think some of the Cavalier hats would have sold if they had been just a little bigger, but my bigger block was busy with Thore's custom hat collection, and was therefore unavailable. They are all really pretty - they will sell, I think. Thy just need their people to find them.

stuff I should have brought:
  • More blue hats. I'm totally out of blue blanks right now, so this is a resupply issue
  • More hats trimmed in forest green or in blue. I had olive green, which is not what folks were wearing. It's always something.
  • More Mary Stewart hoods. I think...I think they have started to catch on. I really must get the paper all done, and maybe get working on the kit I hope to have.
  • Hat blanks - to use to show people how the hats start off. Some folks think that I buy the hats and just decorate them (I am awesome-er than that) and others think that I make my own felt. (I am not that awesome)
  • Felt swatches for custom cav hat orders. I was very blonde to leave these at home. Fortunately, Melusine understood. :)
  • Really need a custom order form. Must make that this year.
Glad I didn't bring feathers to sell. Two other merchants had them, and it's better not to duplicate.

And - that's enough for now.  I also could have used a full-timeish hatshop helper. Tim did some for me, but he was watching Zach, and I need someone I can dress up in Elizabethan stuff and put a hat on. Viking boy was less convincing than he would have been in a nice doublet and a ruff.

Ruffs! Yes - the ruffs were an excellent first experiment. The huge goldwork De Medici ruff sold, making the Renaissance Tailor a very happy Marquesa. We also figured out that we should have only put ONE ruff on a display form, and just place the rest on the table ready to be tried on. I think more might have sold if folks had been easily able to try them on without feeling like there were dissassembling my hat display. Hopefully, we'll do that experiment again.

Right - really done this time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

12th Night 2011...tomorrow!!

Hello hat lovers.
here are some quick, terrible photos of what is going to be for sale at An Tir 12th Night, which is tomorrow. (Aaaaargh!!!)
There are 28 here:

There are two more felt hats on top of these racks, and six Cavalier hats on the top rungs.
There will be 24 finished flatcaps, many of which are shown here, and the last four will be finished in the car tomorrow. (bringing the total to 24, which perfectly fills the racks. I am very pleased. I've even got SIZE labels in them all this time.)
 Here are the four custom ordered Cavalier hats all finished and boxed up and ready for their new homes. I really should have gotten photos of some of these, but chose to make more hats instead.

 Here  is the bag of 1000 custom labels!! I thought they were too big when they arrived, but they have grown on me. They didn't make it into all the hats, but I can work on that during slow booth times.
New for 12th Night!: I actually have finally, after many many false starts and frustrated sourcing, made some jewelled hatpins which I like and which are functional! Finally found really strong hatpin blanks, and got the half-drilled beads I needed for the ends. I think they will be $10 each.
 closeup of one. I need a new camera.
I have not packed or ironed my clothes, or my husband's clothes, or my child's clothes,  and haven't printed a price sheet or loaded the trailer, etc .....but hey,  I've got a total of (does quick math...) 64 hats for my booth!!! That is about 14 more than I've ever hat at one time!

Now - just need to GET them there and all set up.