You know what they say … If you want to get ahead, get a hat.

With the renewed popularity in vintage style and fashion and the likes of Kate Middleton indulging in wearing hats for all sorts of occasions, the humble hat is making a comeback.

And thanks to Louise Brooks and Vikkie Brand at Hats from the Hall you can create your own, bespoke, creation for a wedding or party, or just because you’re having a bad hair day!

I love a hat. I have a collection of 1920s hats which I inherited from an elderly friend who I used to go to church with. They are all felt variations on a cloche so when Louise, who I had met through Women In Rural Enterprise WIRE, suggested I come and try one of her hat making workshops I jumped at the chance to create my very own piece.

After a lovely drive across the English countryside to arrive at Mountsorrel Hall where Louise is based, I felt a well-earned cup of tea was in order before I started on my creative journey. Louise’s hospitality is never ending and the kettle was on all day and the home made scones flowed. 

Louise and Vikkie’s style is relaxed and informal as they guided us all to choose either a cloche hat in varying styles with amazing decoration or a sinamay creation which I can only describe as being like a light weight hessian with a life of its own. While the cloche hats are sturdy and fitted the sinamay creations which create amazing fascinators seemed to ooze life and bend and weave in directions of their choosing.

Keeping in tune with my love of the 1920s (I’d have loved to have been a flapper but only if I could have a life above stairs!)  I choose a cloche hat and colours to suit my existing wardrobe. If you are planning a wedding Louise does bespoke wedding and hen party workshops so a bride and her guests can join together to create their own special head gear for the big day. What a lovely idea and something that all ages can participate in together.

The morning was filled with choosing our hat styles, colours and trims so that we were ready to block our hats from a single piece of felt or sinamay. This was done on a hat block and involved a vast amount of steam and elbow grease!

It was fascinating to see how the 100% pure wool hoods gave up their fight and took on the mould until they were stretched and moulded to fit like gloves. They were then tied in situ and taken away to a secret location - the drying room – which Louise’s husband had made especially for her workshops. Without this room each hat would take two or more days to dry out and take on its lasting shape.

While our creations were drying we got to work on our decoration. For me I chose a felted flower and having never created my own felt before I have a new admiration for this long lost art form. It requires patience and elbow grease and not an insufficient amount of water and soapy liquid to bind the 100% merino wool fibres together into a single sheet of felt.

We chose to decorate our felt with silk fibres and pulling a multi coloured bag of what looked like fallen rainbows from under the work bench Louise began to explain where each silk had come from and its former use. There was everything from Mulberry hand dyed silks to sari fabrics.

These were laid across the merino fibres so that once the felt pulled together they were an integral part of the actual felt fabric. It was miraculous how what was originally loose fibres with single strands of silk sari came together in my hands, gave up its fight and shrunk into felt.

The final task was to mould this into a flower and decorate it with a vast array of beads before trimming the hat and putting the two together. The final creation was a beautiful bespoke hat which I will wear for years and a number of firm friendships forged over the felting table.

If I’ve inspired you to create your own bespoke hat or fascinator then please get in touch with Louise. She works from home in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire but also travels to run workshops for individual groups on request.

Please contact louise@hatsfromthehall.com for further information and availability. 

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