A New Challenge: Hat Making!

I’m afraid I’m still without a computer so I apologise for the severe lack of outfit posts so far this year. To update you, my hard drive was completely toast! Yep, when it comes to computers the worse happened, nothing was retrievable. Thankfully I do back up a lot of my stuff online or with Apple iCloud so I haven’t totally lost everything. However, there are things I’m very sad to not be able to access anymore such as a few home videos that were made before smart phones were invented.

But onwards and upwards. My brother has installed a new hard drive so I didn’t have to buy a new computer. Phew, I was so worried I was going to have to fork out for one of those. I’m very thankful he knows what he’s doing. I’m going to get the computer back this weekend, so then and only then will I know what exactly has gone. Hopefully once everything’s back in place I will be able to take some outfit photos and actually get them off my camera! In the meantime I’m afraid you have mobile snaps and photos gleaned from the internet once again.

So, onto my new challenge! Yep, sewing and crocheting isn’t enough, I’m now venturing down the rabbit hole of millinery. I mentioned it briefly in this post, but now it’s definitley happening. At the weekend I went to what can only be described as a millinery fair. It was put on by one of the UK’s top millinery suppliers, Parkins Fabrics.

For the most it was just a chance to have a look at their products up close and personal, but it also allowed you to get their goods at a knock down price. The main room had everything out on display, so rather than just viewing things online and hoping they’re the colour you’re seeing, you could pick them up, match them with other sundries and make sure you were getting exactly what you wanted.

There was also a couple of talks throughout the day but we timed it really badly and were too late for the first one and too early for the second. Ah well, it’s early days in my journey, I think I need a little experience under my belt before I can understand the things they’re talking about.

Millinery felt hoods

But I did manage to buy everything I had gone for. The main thing, and the most exciting thing, was choosing these felt hoods. This is what most cloches and other small brimmed hats start out as. The burgundy and navy ones are for me and the lime green one is for my mum. She amazingly has so much faith in me that she said I could make her a hat for a wedding she’s going to in the late summer. Blimey, no pressure then!

I could’ve bought so many more as they had so many wonderful colours. The lady we shared a lift with up to the event had just been on her first millinery course and bought one in every single colour! They were only £5.30 each but with the amount she bought she probably would’ve spent £100 on them alone.

Hat making supplies

I also bought the various paraphernalia I need to shape those hoods into something worth wearing. On my hat block is a blocking spring. What this does is helps to hold the felt hood onto the block to allow you pin it without it moving all over the place. I’ve been told this is handy to have if you don’t have an extra pair of hands available. It can also be used to help create shaping as the hood dries.

Of course, I also needed the pins so got a big box of 50 to keep me going. I’ve read that pins aren’t always the best thing to use because the pin marks can sometimes show on the felt. However, I will use them sparingly along with the blocking spring and string.

The big tub of felt stiffener was the most expensive thing at £23 but I knew this would be pricey and I saved a bit as it’s more online. This is used to help the hat keep its shape. I’ve read good and bad things about using felt stiffener but I’ll give it a go and see how I get on with it. Many people swear by making their own but as I’ve never used the stuff before I’d like to see what the real thing is like first.

Lastly, for the felt hoods, is two lots of matching petersham ribbon which I may or may not use. Some of my vintage hats have it and some don’t, so I guess it depends on the style. It’s used inside of the hat at the bottom of the crown and protects the hat from where it makes contact with your head. It’s lovingly known as a sweatband. Ewwww!

On the left of the photo is my only impulse buy. It’s a whole metre of buckram, something that’s so hard to get hold of in this country in anything other than just strips. I see it mentioned all the time in vintage hat patterns and when I spotted it at the fair I just knew I should buy some. It was only £5, so it wasn’t going to break the bank! It’s used to stiffen fabric hats and can be sewn into all sorts of shapes.

Tefal steamer

Along with my hat block, I was also given this fabulous Tefal steamer for Christmas which will come in very handy indeed. It helps to soften the felt hood and make it more pliable so you can stretch it over the hat block. A lot of people just use their irons but, as my good steam iron is used solely for dressmaking, I didn’t want to risk ruining it whilst hat making. This steamer is designed to be used on steam all of the time so will hold up to job much better.

Btw, this steamer is really good for freshening up clothes and is a dream on those precious vintage pieces you really cannot risk at the dry cleaners. I first read about it on the Norton of Morton blog and he was very positive about it so I thought it was worth a go. Now I couldn’t be without it.

So, now I’m set. I have all of the bits and pieces I need, I just need to dive in. You know I’ll feature any that are successful on the blog, so watch this space!

Tanith Rowan cloche hat

And before I go, (and still on the subject of hats!) I just want to introduce you to the most gorgeous dove grey early 1930s cloche that’s currently winging its way to me. This beautiful hat is exactly the sort of style I want to try, so I cannot wait for it to arrive and give it a good look over to glean any tips.

It was designed and made by the incredibly talented Tanith Rowan who is actually the inspiration behind this new challenge! Tanith is a milliner herself and loves vintage hats. I started following her blog in 2015 after I read about her work on another vintage blog and I was instantly hooked. She shares all sorts of millinery tips and explains her processes really well that it made me realise it’s not actually as hard as I’d thought.

I didn’t buy the hat, by the way, I won it! Tanith ran a competition on her Instagram account to win one of four hats. She asked people to nominate someone else who they thought should win a particular hat and several wonderful people picked me for this beauty. I was so shocked! Thank you so much to everyone who nominated me, you’re all stars! xx

The comment that won the hat for me was from the lovely Sarah at Porcelina’s World who said @vintagegalblog would probably create an entire matching outfit by hand using authentic vintage fabric and thread spun by virgins to compliment hat C”. 

Well, I’m not sure about the virgin spun thread but I’d definitely love to find vintage fabric to go with it! 🙂 Of course, I’m already on the hunt for something in light grey and red to make an early 1930s dress to match. I know exactly the sort of style I’m going to go for. It’s going to be youthful, fun and Flappertastic to match the hat’s spirit perfectly!


Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. A lover of all things old, especially the 1930s, seamstress, crocheter, maker of hats and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.


  1. You’re going to have such adventures with hat making, how exciting!! I can tell you’re a bit giddy with your purchases and keen to get cracking. We await the results…
    oo and I can’t wait to see a snap of you in the hat you won!!

    • I really am quite giddy about it! I’ve got so many ideas flying around in my head and I want to make them all. Bring on hats!! xx

  2. This is really exciting. I didn’t know about the felt hoods but they make sense. I’m really interested in the process and I can hardly wait to see more.

    • I only found out about felt hoods because I read it on someone else’s blog. It does make total sense and it’s such a simple idea. I thought it was all about stretching big sheets of the stuff! xx

  3. Ooh, really looking forward to seeing what you make! I’m going to a cloche-making course at Hat Works this weekend – your grey beauty has given me lots of ideas!

    • Oh that’s exciting, I can’t wait to see your progress. I loved your other hat making course photos, there were quite inspiring. I’m going much more freelance, just doing it and seeing what happens, rather than getting any real expertise. Knowing the way I work this will be the best way for me to get going. xx

  4. Welcome to millinery! If you have any questions during process , do not hesitate to ask me !!
    Parkins fabrics “on the road shows” have a best price for millinery supplies. Also for millinery ribbons and other supplies try Baxter Hart&Abraham Ltd (they’re based in Luton).
    And , HatAcademy.com has wonderful online classes (I wish they existed when I just started!).
    So , anyway enjoy your millinery adventure!

    • Oh thank you Ivana! I’m a big fan of your hats, I particularly love the Juliet cap. I’d love to make something like that. Thank you so much for your offer of help too, that’s so kind of you. xx

  5. Your mum is right to have faith in your abilities, I bet you’re going to make her a stunning hat.

    It’s good to know your computer will be winging its way back to you soon.

    • Aw, thank you Mim! I do wish I had yours and my mum’s confidence in what I’ll be able to achieve but we’ll see. If it’s successful then great but if not, then I guess it just isn’t for me. xx

  6. Congrats on the new hobby! I look forward to all the stunning creations you will be making 🙂 I also look forward to seeing how you style that new hat from Tanith..love it!

    • Thank you Liz! I’ve made a start on it over the weekend and I’m absolutely loving it! xx

  7. So many exciting new things to play with! You will be fabulous at it I am sure and I can’t wait to see the results. I love the colours of hoods you have to play with too. I’m not sure exactly what is in the felt stiffener, but do be sure to use in a well-ventilated area, like outside, because I think they are extremely toxic. I’ve stuck to water-based since I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for so many years now, and I’ll probably not ever go back.

    Also – buckram is a really good impulse buy. It is so useful for so many types of project!

    And thank you so much for your kind words. I can’t wait to see you in the hat 🙂

    • Thank you Tanith, that means a lot coming from such a talented lady. I’ve read quite a bit about the standard felt stiffener and its alternatives. I’ve seen water based stiffeners for sale but I wasn’t sure if they were suitable for felt work. However, after reading a discussion on Etsy I did find one supplier in the UK who does do one for felt so I will order some from them eventually. xx

  8. I’m sure you’ll make a success of the hat making, Cate. I’m also sure that your mum is right to have so much faith in you. Can’t wait to see the end result! As for Sarah’s (Porcelina’s) comment, I can only wholeheartedly agree with her. That dove grey cloche is absolutely gorgeous! xxx

    • Thanks Ann! That hat really is stunning, isn’t it? Tanith is so talented and I cannot wait to see it in the flesh. xx

  9. I was so pleased that you won the cloche from Tanith. It is going to look super on you. I’m excited about your hat making adventures, it is going to be so interesting to follow along. I like the colours you have chosen. Good to know about the source of buckram too, I have a few 50’s half hat style patterns that use it and I would like to give them a go.

    • Thank you Kate-Em! Yes, I was surprised that Parkins had large pieces of buckram as I’ve never seen it anywhere before. I will definitely be using it to make hats in the future. xx

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