Last weekend I attended a workshop at my home away from home – the V&A. Intended to celebrate the opening of the new European Galleries (which incidentally I thought were beautiful!), the one day workshop started with Marie Antoinette as fashion inspiration but quickly spiraled off into pure, over the top, puffball fun!
The workshop was led by the founder of Pearls and Swine Millinery, Bink (check out her work here), and we were each given a sinamay teardrop shaped base with a large sailing ship cheerfully glued onto it. From there we were free to choose from a large array of flowers, rubber cakes, birds, feathers, fluffballs, and other wacky pieces. With Bink there to guide and advise on placement, balance, and colour combinations, everyone in the workshop turned out a truly unique piece of headgear. Bink has a lovely, warm energy and was very generous in sharing what she has learned over the years of creating incredible hats.
The other participants on the workshop were also really friendly and willing to talk about other people’s ideas, offering gems of wisdom from their own experience. One lady started millinery 15 years ago, and is now 75! She created a beautiful hat, and said she was there to push her boundaries as a hat maker, and try something new. How inspiring – I hope I am still pushing myself artistically at 75!
Some of the top tips I picked up?
Invisible thread is your friend! Although it is very hard to use single strand, so use a double thread. This helps to prevent the thread constantly slipping out of the eye of the needle. Sadly it doesn’t prevent your thread getting caught up in your ship’s rigging!
We stitched a row of fake leaves all around the edge of the hat base, which gave a lovely finish to the hat. Although you don’t see the leaves really, what they do is prevent you seeing the ugly sinamay edge, without having to balance elements precariously on the edge of your hat.
Stitch fake flowers together first, then stitch them to the hat. Creating bunches of elements off the hat is easier than trying to stitch individual elements.
To wear a large hat without it ending up on the dance floor, twist some of your hair into a small clip and anchor the hat comb into the tied back hair. This gives more stability than pushing the comb into loose hair.
I would say the ONLY part of this workshop that I didn’t like was at the end when we went to have our pictures taken in the new gallery. If I was wearing a ship as part of a fabulous outfit I would go anywhere, but walking for 10 minutes through a crowded museum in blue jeans with a ship and a load of flowers on my head was rather embarrassing!
The new European galleries themselves are beautiful! I particularly like the way elements of fashion, home decor, art and everyday objects are placed together in the displays. It gives me a real sense of the feel of the period, as opposed to seeing clothing in one location, furniture in another etc.
Pearls and Swine are planning to offer additional workshops like this, and not just in the capital so be sure to keep an eye on their FB page for more details. It is certainly a must do!