Friday, February 21, 2014

The Making of a Wet Felted Hat

I love this hat and fortunately, I love my aunt, who I made it for even more. Making this sort of hat is a small act of insanity. There is no measuring the hours. I had to stop calculating somewhere after 3 days. Wet felting is a process I truly love and the clock just stands still while I am doing it, but how does one calculate the price of that? So, for now, I make these hats when the mood strikes and only for people I love. Thought you might like to see how this hat came into being.
I start with Merino wool roving. This is unspun wool where the fibres are combed into the same direction. I use merino because it is super soft against the face. Much of that said three days it takes to make this hat goes into fretting about the colour combination. Yup, that's just the way I am.
I make a template. I used bubble wrap, but I have used 2 pieces of oil cloth, sewn together. Has to be waterproof and bendable. I lay out four layers of whisper thin pieces of wool. The outside of the hat will be burgundy and the inside is black. I love the way some of the black will felt through to the outside.
This particular batte (the laid out wool) was humungous because I wanted to have enough felt to make pleats and a wide brim. Moving it to the kitchen counter did not go completely smoothly, but felting is very forgiving.
Did I mention that you need to make two wool battes. The second one is laid on top of the first with the template in between. Then you begin to wet it down with warm, soapy water.
This is what it looks like in its prefelt stage. Basically, I have gently rubbed both sides for about an hour at which point it is safe to remove the template. Then with one palm on the inside and one on the outside you make endless circles around each part of the hat body. Book a trip to the masseuse. I haven't done that yet, but dream of it daily. Then the hat gets kneaded like dough and eventually thrown against the counter 150 times. Great for anger management. The soap is rinsed out under hot water. At this point the hat has shrunk a whole lot. Now to block the hat.
As you can see, plenty of room for folds.
Once I'm happy with the general shape, I tie it off and let it dry for a couple of days. Wet wool likes to stay wet. All those pleats are then sewn with invisible stitches into place. I find with wet felting that it is better to let the hat tell you which way to proceed than to try to stick too closely to a plan. I trimmed the brim, wired it and covered the edge with velvet ribbon. Then comes the flower. I had planned to make a flat, petaled flower, but this hat just screamed rose, so I listened. As of today it is on its way to Montreal to live on one of my favorite heads anywhere. Hope you love it, Isa and I hope it matches your lipstick. (inside story)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Heidi's Photos

Here we are in January. Not sure how that happened. I often have things I want to share with you, but then I have to make a choice between cooking dinner, cleaning the bathroom or blogging and sometimes I just have to do the "grown up" thing. After all, next week I will be 46 years old. That's quite the grown up number. I know, I'm supposed to say how young I feel, that numbers don't mean a thing, but I'll leave that statement for the serial optimists out there. I feel every year of it and possibly a bit extra. As a present to myself I am posting some of the wonderful photos that Heidi Jirotka took of me in my hats. She always makes me feel beautiful, so I love her. I don't know how she manages to make that haggard look disappear from my face, but some things are better left unanswered.
I had so much fun making this wet felted merino wool hat. I called it hat for a Russian Princess. It now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This is my Emma rose hat in fleece with hand dyed silk velvet bows. One of my best sellers ever.
My Margaret Suffragette hat. She is practical, comfortable, strong and elegant and always votes.
Another wet felted merino wool hat. This one now lives with Randi in Halifax, Professor extraordinaire and fabulous person.
Penelope- wild and wacky. This photo is what I think Heidi does best- capture a spirit. She can do anything, but I think that's her passion and it shows in all her photographs.
Me in my little sanctuary/studio/hat shop. Hope to get back to you soon. If someone out there wants to clean my bathroom, I won't let 2 months go by before blogging again. Be sure to check out Heidi's web site. All her photos are spectacular. www.heidijirotka.ca

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Beauties at the Historic Halifax Market

Tony and I have been selling our wares at the old Historic Halifax Market. I really love it there. While the crowds are pushing each other at the Seaport market down the street, customers are leisurely shopping in the most gorgeous historic stone building. Regina ordered this fascinator from me and I wish I could take her everywhere to model it for me. That hair!
Two very beautiful women modeling my Margaret Suffragette hat. The lady on the right is Lynn Rotin. She is an amazing painter. We have set up a trade and five of her beautiful flower paintings will soon be in my possession and she will be the proud owner of one of these hats, but in grey and red.
Randi was back again this week and walked home with this hat. Randi understands that there is no such thing as too many hats. Turns out that Randi is an expert on Suffragette history and has promised to direct me to the right books, so that I can learn more.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adorable Customers

So many adorable customers. This is Jamie, sporting her Charlotte hat in the rain. A woman with style.
What more can I say. She's just perfect.
Randi is one of my favourite regular customers. It's true I have a lot of favourites, but that's because fabulous, strong women are attracted to my hats. I love that this hat lives on Randi's head. It is one of my wet felted creations and it's nice that I know where it is.
Last, but definitely not least is Anne. Anne actually bought a different hat that day, but I just had to get her photo sporting my fuzzy green fedora. Anne is another customer that makes me realize how lucky I am to do what I do.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Walk Around Lunenburg

The other day my dad e-mailed me to see if my blog site was not working. He thought it odd that the last post was from August 31st. Hint well taken. So, here I am, coming up for air after having completed a few hundred hats for wholesale orders. Thought I'd bring you along on my morning walk through Lunenburg. Even in my most chaotic of self-employed milliner/mother/negligent wife/I don't have time to clean the bathroom frame of mind, there is not a day that goes by when I'm not overwhelmed by the beauty of the town I live in. (how's that for a run on sentence) Lunenburg has a beautiful back harbour trail, which Lego the dog and I walk on every morning. The boy gets on that big yellow bus and we are off.
This is my most favourite time of year. It's the light and the colours. It's different here. So much more intense. I'm not a photographer, so I can't really do it justice, but just believe me and come see for yourself.
We come off the trail, head up the hill to Pelham st. and this is what we see. The front harbour of Lunenburg. If we make a left down the hill and then right onto Montague st. We come to....
The Lunenburg Furniture Co. Yes, that is my hubby, Tony's shop. Now we are a family of two stressed out, self employed parents. I always recommend that there be one doctor, lawyer, teacher, banker or insurance broker in the family, but I have never been good at listening to my own advice. So, what we don't have is money, but what we do have is a lot of pretty hats and very beautiful furniture, most of which is in Tony's showroom. I kid you not. We are sleeping on the floor because the beautiful bed Tony made me is in the window.
Speaking of window...I love this view through Tony's Queene Anne Chair onto Montague st.
Aside from his beautiful custom furniture, Tony has created a line of products using the labels from old Salt Cod fish boxes. I have set up an etsy shop for him. It's neglected like everything else around here, but you'll see some of it. Great Christmas presents (hint, hint) Here's the shop. Both tony and I will be at the Lunenburg Farmers Market on Thursday, so if you live around here please come see us.
Lego and I are now on our way home. This is a few doors down from Tony's shop.
Back to my own shop. This is the pretty corner.
And this is my messy work table that better describes my reality. Thanks for walking with me. Come see us soon.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Going Out with a Bang

Back to school. Bitter sweet. Bitter for Dusty and sweet for me. Just joking. It's been a wonderful summer, full of too hot days where we escaped to the lake, rain that we thought would never end, but did and then perfection, also known as August,where it's cold at night and in the morning, but slowly warms up into a summer day. We decided to end Dusty's summer vacation with a bang. We took a trip to Upper Clements Park in the Annapolis Valley. Tony and I were fully prepared to be complete martyrs about this trip, you know....what we won't do for our children, but in the words of the boy- Upper Clements Park Rocks! It's Awesome! Epic! Really, it is.
Because of this....
.....and this. While Dusty and his buddy (bringing a friend along was key to a successful day) were bombing down the giant water slide or taking their 25th ride on the roller coaster. Tony and I were enjoying our speed of rides. The park is filled with trees and places to relax, so we never turned into grumpy, parental monsters.
speaking of monsters, I did go through a veeerrry scaaary haunted house. I tried to escape a couple or ten times, but Dusty and Stuart were cruel jailers.
The highlight for the boys, both young and not so young was this wooden roller coaster. The younger boys went on it over and over and over. The older boy was pretty impressed with the fact that it was made out of wood. It really is pretty impressive.
Dusty and Stuart are two of the blurs in this photo.
It's hard to beat an amusement park where this is what you see off in the distance. The park is just outside of Annapolis Royale, which is my second favourite town in Nova Scotia. Lunenburg being the first, of course. We didn't go there this time because we knew that if we tried to do too much our perfect day could easily teeter over to the dark side, but I think next time we'll stay over night, so we can also leisurely walk through town.
Sure sign of a successful day. A bit fuzzy, but you get the picture.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hello From The Middle of Summer

Hello from the middle of summer. Tony and I had a very rare date together. This was courtesy of Dusty being at a 5 day overnight camp. There's a whole story there in itself, but I'll sum it up by saying that I'm not as tough as I pretend to be. I know the minute Dusty is home he will be driving me nuts, but I miss him like crazy and I want my boy back now. Back to my date with Tony, who has taken to calling Dusty, "what's his name" in his absence. We took the Lahave cable ferry over to Petite Riviere and then went for a beautiful bike ride to Green Bay. There are so many glorious beaches here and each one is so different than the other.
This little beach has these amazing white rocks. This one said, "Please take a nap here."
There are beautiful wild flowers everywhere. Mother Nature is such a great milliner.
We meant to then head on towards Liverpool and explore a bit, but we didn't get too far. I had heard of The Maritime Painted Saltbox, but I had never been there. The place and the owners/artists pulled me right in and by the time we got out it was time to head home. What a scene. Aside from all the amazing art, painted furniture and sculpture, the grounds are beyond belief. Flowers, flowers and more flowers and all these charming out buildings. It's really much more of an experience than a store. Your time in Nova Scotia will not be complete unless you go check it out.
Special guests can sit on this bench.
The coop had no real chicken, but so much better.
One day, Arabesque Chicken will come live at my hat shop.
We needed to head home because Thursday is The Lunenburg Farmers Market and it was time for me to pack. I have been having too much fun these days experimenting with different hat shapes.
And last, but not least, I have been bringing Tony's fabulous fish boxes to the market. Partly because they are great props for the hats and partly because they are for sale. He has a collection of old Saltcod fish boxes and he had the images screen printed by Jesse over at Home Grown Skate Boards. He's upstairs from the Lahave Bakery. Another must see, since he has a giant skateboard bowl built into the floor. One of Dusty's favourite stops. The fishboxes are beyond cool and made with Tony's usual over the top attention to detail. And now I am off to pick the boy up from camp. Either he will be full of wonderful stories or full of venom that I made him go to camp. (which, for the record, I didn't.) Well, hopefully, it's the first one. Come see me in my beautiful shop in Lunenburg.