Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raising the hat bar. And Pushiness.

I recently managed to score a visit with a couple of incredibly knowledgeable and informative hat people: Richard  from Lamode hat blocks and his wife Roni, who had her own line of really lovely dressage hats (made on her husband's blocks).  I called and asked if I could invite myself over (pushy much?) and ask them questions about how I can improve my hats. After a couple of persistent calls and emails, I received the OK to come over. I brought a bunch of my blocks, and hats in various stages or completion, and asked Roni what she thought, and how I could improve.

She began with "They look great to me." Which was lovely and encouraging, but not what I was hoping for, since her work looks much more finished and professional than mine. I gently pressed for more specific information, and the advice started to flow.

She recommended that I not trim or wire the brim untill all the sizing was finished, and that I think of the pulling as an almost preliminary step - with the "real" pull being the one that comes after the sizing has dried, in order to get the most clean shapes. (Yay - this is more like it!)

I asked how she keeps the top of her top hats so flat, since mine eventually curve up a little, even if I've sized them to death. She said that she glues an oval of foamcore board into the tip before she lines the hat. They stay perfectly flat, and very sturdy that way.  (Um - YEAH. That's a pretty FABULOUS idea! Weighs nothing and won't warp with moisture - yep. DOING that from now on - I can cover one side of the oval with fabric before I glue it in for hats I'm not planning on lining.

Which brough us to linings. She gave me her lining source - which I never would have found online. She gave me an old order form of hers so that I could see what she ordered, with notes like "leave the cards in, please." (Cards? ok - that's news. I thought hat linings were just fabric -  but hers looked beautiful:
 so - cards it is.)
Trouble with her lining source, they will probably want a large order, so for starters, I ordered a dozen or so from HatsByLeko. Also ordered "reeded"leather sweatbands from Leko- since if I'm lining them, they really need a sweatband, which they actually needed anyway.  She gave me her sweatband source too -but those things are PRICEY - so I figured I'd try this out with a few and see what I think before I order a gross of them from somewhere with my logo on it :)

I asked how she got her long-haired top hats to shine like that:
And she said "Vaseline." I blinked - that's news too. And kinda scary news. But it looked awesome, so, I'll try it.

What else did she say....She talked some about the sewing in of the leather sweatband, and how that does require a special machine, which I have since found on eBay for $2,300 for just the machine head - no table or engine. :| She said she spent several years sewing them in by hand - sounds like an excellent plan!

As I was leaving (I sensed that it was time to go) she said "Well, I doubt I was much help to you -I  hope this was worth your trip." (My trip was 12 minutes long.)  I listed off the tips she'd given me and thanked her profusely - then got out of their day.

So - I have now applied several of her tips on a long haired beaver blank (that I bought from her husband this summer - so I know it's the same kind she used), and thought I'd share the results.

Vaseline: Hm....not loving it. Although definitely shiny, it looks and feels totally like a hat that has been....smeared with Vaseline.

Except for the tip - which looks perfect.

The Leko hat lining went in very smoothly. Pretty happy with that bit.

 The leather sweatband was another story, though. The product is fine - it arrives curved, and I expected it to go smootholy into the crowns of my rather cone-shaped hats. Apparently the pitch of my blocks is a little slanty-er than  the standard pitch, so I had real trouble getting the band the right size and shape to lie smoothly. Try number one looks pretty ok for a first try:

Though I do have a bump at the back that I simply could not get rid of.

But the custom order I want to put it into (lavendar hat with white feathers - you know who you are) was too slanted for it to go into even this smoothly, and I'm not putting it in there if it isn't gonna rawk. I tried to reshape the curve just with my iron, but that didn't work as well as I'd hoped. (like - not at all)

So - and I should totally grab a picture of this - I've got the band cut and stitched together at the back, and I'm stretching it to the right shape on the block I pulled the hat on. I wetted down the leather and have stretched and pinned the bottom of the leather band to the block. I will probably try rubbing alcohol rather than water for a quicker stretch and faster dry next time.

I'm 100% positive that this will work, but MAN it adds time. Lots of it. But they LOOK so NICE with hatbands and linings in them! Right? *sigh* The bar has been raised. Nothing for it but to figure out how to make it work in the most efficient and affordable way possible.

My initial thought is that I might offer two finish levels of my hats - the current unlined, un-sweatbanded ones (to keep them affordable)- and the Top Shelf" style - with bells, whistles, linings, leather bands and a sweet little bow at the back :)



I highly reccommend doing the pushy-asking-for-help thing, for whatever it is you do, art or otherwise. Go find the experts and gently and persistently request their expertise.

 Wow - that was a big post.


Now - what EVER am I going to do with this brown vaselined beaver hat?

Monday, December 10, 2012

New super-sekrit-custom-surprise-hat

I Mean it - Mum's the word.

She's a lovely black fur felt, with a shorter-than-usual 4" crown, and my new extra sturdying trick in the tip! (Will share about that later) (Really I will)

It's a Super-sekrit-squirrel-surprise hat, though - don't tell ANYONE.
It could be that *your* sweetie bought it for YOU.

Friday, November 16, 2012

BACK in Business!

I have officially landed in Minnesota! Hat-wise, I mean. We've *lived* here since July 3rd, and it has taken till NOW to get my shop up and running. Ok - so we had major water damage and renovation to deal with, but STILL, I mean JEEZ!)

Here are the first two creations for the oh-so-patientest of customers:

I still have a stack of orders in the queue, so will be happily busy for a while yet.

I've also got a few hats started that will be available on-the-shelf. Hunter green tall hat, burgundy tall hat with larger brim than usual (looks a little later period,) cool mottled brown tall bowler, chocolate flat-topped long-hair beaver!! and plans to pull four or five more as I work on the custom orders. That chocolate beaver hat really needs to be someone's Christmas gift. Will post pics soon.

Boy I'm hoping any of you still read this. :)

It is really incredibly amazing to be BACK!! I feel like I've been gone for a long, long time and just now feel like myself again. I HATES moving. Hates it.

As soon as I find the ftp software (again) I'll update the website. Man, is that a pain. Where are web minions when you need them?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's been forever. I know, I know. Look - HATS!

I have a good excuse for my silence though. A great excuse, actually. I'm moving to Minneapolis. Yep.
My hubby got an awesome new job - the kind that you sell your house and move your child for. He'll be the MD of the Children's Theatre Company, which is a pretty humongous deal. We sure do hope to get there, get settled and STAY for a while!

I've been keeping busy prepping a house to sell, putting it on the market, showing it, keeping up with orders best I can (STILL haven't missed a deadline!) (missed a few emails....but no deadlines) and moving my husband off to Minneapolis to start the new job while the 11 yr old and I finish out the school year and keep the house (workshop included) squeaky clean.

Whaddaya think - good excuse for no blogging?

I just finished a couple of nice looking custom orders, and wanted to share a couple of shots. First, this nice fellow will be playing Raleigh at a faire, and ordered this to go with his fabulous black and pearled outfit. LOVE it! Came out so clean - I'm using a new trick or two to keep the top really really tight to the block while drying and the improvement in the shapes are undeniable!

And this fellow, who needed improved  headwear in order for his clothing to pass muster to have his merchant booth at a different faire, ordered this elegant, understated lovely:

Again - I'm thrilled with how cleanly they came out - and a HUGE thank you to the Seattle weather, which cooperated just in time for me to get this pulled and sized in the sunshine!! It was POURING outside when the order came, and there is no sizing inside the shop when I have to have it smelling all pretty for incipient  house-buyers. Yay for timely sun!

I've ordered new edge ribbon to coordinate with all the fabulous new blanks that I got last August. That order will take 3-4 weeks, so I wait for it patiently. See me be patient? Patient, patient, patient.

I also began a couple of hats for what will be a big order for Pennsic. (20 hats! largest wholesale order I've had yet!) I'm starting that now, because who knows what the future months will bring workshop-wise. Rest assured that there WILL be TrulyHats after this move. There WILL, be a functioning workshop....I just don't know how long that will take to happen. The faster the house sells, the less downtime there will be.
Wish us all the best luck!!