Recommended tutorials and films on the internet about how to make hats and work with millinery materials

Recommended tutorials and films on the internet about how to make hats and work with millinery materials

Some of the links below are to processes that you won’t be able to recreate at home, they are factory processes – but you can still learn from them.  Other links are to couture and model milliners – who show you techniques you can use in your own artisan millinery studio.

How to block a felt hat – wooden block in a factory

A 2005 film by Austrian hat company Mühlbauer (based in Vienna) showing how they block felt hats in their old traditional factory.  This is a factory setting, but the hat is made on wooden blocks, in a very traditional way.  I love the big round metal steaming case at 1 minute into the film …. and all those wooden hat blocks on their own spaces on shelves (swoon!).  I think the blocker claps his hands at the beginning of blocking because the felt is hot.  It must have been steaming in the dome for a while.


Blocking a felt hat in a factory in between 2 metal ‘pans’

This YouTube film is made by Anthony Peto.  Watch how long the felt hat body is left in the metal steam cabinet at the beginning – they get it really really saturated with hot steam.  You can still see the steam rising off it when he puts the red felt capeline onto the bottom metal pan. And if you watch until the end, you will see that the hatter sprays the black felt capeline with water before he puts it in the steam cabinet.

Look as well at how the top metal pan is being heated with gas flames – so that shape is really pressed out of the felt.

A felt hat made at Christies in the UK

Some lovely old machines that make beautiful hats.  I love the way the steam comes out of each machine at each step of the felt hat making process.  If you are making hats by hand you can also smooth off felt with different grades of sandpaper – but please make sure you wear a dust mask.  And that brim cutting machine, and the brim curling machine are top of my millinery wish list!

Dressage hats and top hats

A film about how traditional top hats and dressage hats used to be made and are still made in a few places today.  I would not recommend that you try to recreate these processes!  But it is good to know how these hats are made and why a recreated bowler hat / derby hat / dressage hat / top hat, will not look exactly like one made using old original machines and materials.

Extra info!  at 2 minutes into ‘The Art of Dressage Hat Making’ film below, you can see a really good demonstration of the antique machine used for measuring the shape of a person’s head.  It’s a french invention called the conformator, and it is used to shape hard hats (e.g. bowler hats and top hats).

and below is an old pathe film from 1951 showing top hats made by Patey Hats.  If you look inside a vintage silk top hat, you will see that very thin, very strong and sturdy material behind the silk pile.  That material is being made at the beginning of this film – it is calico soaked in shellac.

A top hat made in workroom of Stephen Jones

A beautiful model millinery top hat crafted in the workroom of Stephen Jones.


Block Makers – Boon and Lane and GMB Blocks

When you watch these films and see the skill that goes into making a hat block you understand why they cost the money they do and why as milliners we need to treat them with care and respect.

Luton based block makers Boon & Lane are the first film below.  It won’t show on my website because of security settings, but you can click through to see it on Vimeo.  Well worth a watch they are the last block makers in Luton, master crafts men and making blocks in metal and wood.

And click below to see a film of how the GMB blocks are made.  Each one hand carved in wood, it gives you an idea of how much thought and work goes into each one.  Guy Morse Brown (the GMB of GMB hat blocks) and his wife Ann retired from the business and Guy was awarded an MBE for services to millinery and skills training.  His son Owen and wife Catherine now run GMB Blocks and it is Owen who you see skillfully carving the wooden blocks.  I’ve noticed as well that each year they add more useful millinery tools to their website.

How to Make a Hat presented by Philip Ian Wright

Very useful information and knowledge – whether you make hats one by one at home or in a big volume in a factory.

“Hats are made the same way… they all have to be shaped, trimmed and sewn by hand”. In this video, milliner Philip Ian Wright provides a passionate and fascinating insight into the process of how to make a hat. No matter the shape, decade, style or fashion, the methods of hat-making are the same today as they have been for hundreds of years. You can buy one of Philip’s wonderful hats from his site [Quote taken from the YouTube page]


Stetson Europe

Making of a baker boy cap in a factory – film by Stetson Europe called ‘cut and sewn’.  This is an example of how hats can be mass produced to a high quality. See how they cut out lots of fabric at once with a machine (not recommended to try at home!). And how each shape of cap has it’s own corresponding wooden block that shapes the hat whilst it is set into shape in a steam cupboard. Real attention to detail made using quality old machinery – I love these caps.

YouTube videos – industrial machine for sewing strip straw (also known as peddle straw)

Strip straw or peddle straw comes as a skein of plaited straw. If you are making hats at home or one off hats for theatre / film, then you will have to use a domestic machine.  It takes quite a bit of practice to get the hang of positioning the straw under the row before and stitching it with the machine.

Below are some YouTube films that show the industrial strip straw machine in action.  Notice how there is a metal guide, that holds the straw in place so that the operator knows the next row is going to be in the right position.

That’s why mass produced straw hats are much cheaper than a  one off straw hat made by a bespoke milliner.  And even then, these mass produced hats still take a lot of skill!

If you are interested in making strip straw hats, then the hardest bit to make is the ‘button’ that you start off with for the middle of the hat.  Jane Smith’s ebook ‘Stitched Strip Hats’ sold by How2Hats is a great guide to teach yourself how to do it

You can see the maker below make the centre of the hat ‘the button’ at 1 minute 20 in the film below.




Torb and Reiner YouTube channel

The Torb and Reiner YouTube channel is brilliant.

The ‘how to’ films are presented by Waltraud Reiner of ‘Torb and Reiner’ – a millinery supplier in Australia.  She has very good tutorials for the beginner on how to work with lots of traditional and some newer millinery materials.

Some of the more recent films cover Waltraud’s journey around Australia, but if you scroll down towards the bottom she has YouTube demos on how to work with a wide variety of materials.

Village Hats YouTube Channel

Village hats sells a vast range of hats through its online shop.  They also have a wide range of films on their YouTube channel about how hats are made and films that are of interest to hat fans.

They seem to have 2 channels, and some content is duplicated but other film aren’t, so here they both are:

Head template to use when designing hats and headdresses

Head template to use when designing hats and headdresses

Sometimes when you just want to sketch down lots of ideas for headdress designs, you don’t want to get bogged down with trying to draw the same head over and over again, in the same sized scale.

So I have developed these 3 templates.  Please feel free to download and use them to help you with your designing.  At the moment they are free!  All I ask is that if you want to pass them onto a friend, then your friend downloads them from this website, instead of you forwarding the downloaded file onto them.

You can either

  • Print them out and draw on top of the templates
  • OR use them as a background layer in photoshop (they are A4 size)

To download the files:

  • Scroll down and choose the file you would like out of the 3 different options below
  • Right click on top of the image to save the image to your desktop (they are jpg files).


Template 1 – ‘Head template – 12 x small scale, front facing blank heads’

head templates to use in design work

12 small heads to trace

Template 2 – ‘Head Template – 5 x front facing blank heads’

5 heads to trace

5 heads to trace

Template 3 – ‘Head Template – 3 x front and side facing blank heads’

3 front and side on heads to trace

3 front and side on heads

Timesheet for artists to keep track of hours and materials on a creative project

Timesheet for artists to keep track of hours and materials on a creative project

I developed this timesheet so that I could easily keep track of time that I spend on a project and also the materials.  It would also help other artist, crafts people, milliners, prop makers, puppet makers, costume makers and designers to help keep a log of the hours and money they spend on a job.

Please feel free to download and use it too.  Don’t forget to add in things like hours spent sourcing materials, and time spent delivering an item or postage costs.

Its free! If somebody else wants to use it too, then I would really appreciate it if you ask them to download it from here rather than emailing them your own download.

Click on this link to download (it is a PDF): expenses_timesheet_template_edition1

Luxurious Embellishments at the Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibition

Luxurious Embellishments at the Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibition



Going through my archive of photos, I found some wonderful examples of embellishment techniques at the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition from 2014.  This amazing exhibition ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’, was on at the Barbican, London, from 9th April 2014 – 25th August 2014. It was packed full of beautiful clothing and was really forward thinking because you could take as many photographs as you liked – bravo!

What I also thought was brilliant was that each look had a label that not only described the materials, but in addition many of them detailed how long each piece took to make.  It’s something that made me really happy because it helps to dispel the myth that creatives are not also business people.  Jean Paul Gaultier clearly has a great business brain as well as fabulous creativity, and has a clear idea of how much it costs to produce his creations.

I was looking at the huge exhibition for several hours and one thing that struck me was just how many processes there were in the different collections.  So many materials and techniques, with each one pushed past its boundaries with imagination.

For this post I have decided to hone in on one element and concentrate on the beading, embroidery and other embellishments that I noticed in some of the pieces.

↓ Tuxedo style satin jacket; silk jersey toreador trousers with silver-thread, beads and jet embroidery ↓  ‘Calligraphy’ collection.  ‘Enluminure’ ensemble.  Haute couture spring/summer 2009.  Time needed to create 56 hours.  Ensemble worn by Arielle Dombasle in her video for ‘Porque te vas’ 2011.

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↓ Beaded skull top ↓  Sadly I did not write down the information about this one!  If anybody knows please leave it in a comment below and I will update the post.  I think it might be one of the ‘Gaulthique’ from the 1980s, as I did photograph the information about the red piece that you can just see on the right hand side of this image.

“Some pieces I designed in the 1980s were a kind of haute couture: unique, embroidered pieces for both men – my ‘Gaulthique’ sweaters for example – and women, a number of them involving a great deal of work.  Without officially doing haute couture, many designers at the time presented it in their prêt-à-porter collections: Vivienne Westwood, Thierry Mugler, Azzedine Alaïa, Claude Montana.  Such pieces were all out couture, with incredibly sophisticated finishing.”  Jean Paul Gaultier.

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Tattoo beaded silk blouse ↓  ‘Confessions of a Child of the Century’ collection.  Haute couture autumn/winter 2012-13.

gaultier_embellishment_13  gaultier_embellishment_12

↓ Cut velvet gown with cross-stitch embroidery and ribbon with glass, crystal and jet beads ↓  ‘Tribute to Russia and Ukraine’ collection. ‘Gaïna’ gown.  Haute couture autumn/winter 2005-06. Time needed to create 242 hours.  Hairstyle by Odile Gilbert.

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Long denim coat with jet beading ↓  ‘Haute couture salon atmosphere’ collection.  Haute couture spring/summer 1997.

gaultier_embellishment_8   gaultier_embellishment_10 gaultier_embellishment_9  gaultier_embellishment_11

If you would like to see more of the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition, there are many images on the web.  The corset display was divine.  One corset was made of straw – a crafted work of beauty.

Below is a link to a youtube film, filmed during the installation of ‘From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’ at the ‘Kunsthalle München’ (translates to ‘Art Museum Munich’). The work was exhibited there from 18th September 2015 – 14th February 2016.


Mohicans, mohicans, mohicans!

Mohicans, mohicans, mohicans!

Mohicans! Need I say more?!  I will let the photographs speak for themselves.  Here are some of the mohicans that caught my eye at ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’.  Barbican, London, 2014.

It’s next on at The National Gallery of Victoria, 17 October 2014 – 01 March 2015.

Catch it if you can, a real treat.

I did look for credits on who made these impressive creations, but there weren’t any.  I think they might have been made especially for the exhibition display, because they were not listed as being part of any collection or from a particular year.

If you know, please leave a reply in the comments!

I like the way the edges of the pieces have been finished off with a plait, at the point where the hair sits on the mannequin head.