Monday, July 14, 2014

Taking a Breath

Today I did something I have been dreaming of doing for months. I hung the closed sign up in my brain. I have been filling non stop orders and I finally got to the end of a list. These hats were part of a 62 hat order heading out to Beauchapeau Hat Shop in Niagara on the Lake. This was my fourth large order in a row, with etsy orders coming in between, selling from my shop and doing the Halifax and Lunenburg Farmers Markets. I'd like to say I did it all with Grace, sort of Jacqueline Kennedy style, but I'm afraid I turned into a pretty impressive basket case by the end of it. I put my back out for a week, came down with a cough that sounded like I had the Plague and was generally grumpy. That's not the word that came to mind, but I'm keeping it family style.
So, as I was making a few of my new Suitcase Sarah travel hats, it occurred to me that for someone who makes a whole lot of packable hats, I don't actually go anywhere.
I need to show you the folded version before I go on with my tale.
One excuse for not going anywhere is that I really love being at home. Especially on these glorious days of summer where I can just take my sewing out in the yard, but what tends to happen when you stick around the homestead is you notice that pile of laundry that hasn't been folded in months, or the dog hair on the floor that is turning itself into a second dog, so I resolved to get the heck out of town.
I took the bike out of the shed, pumped air in the tire, (this is significant information) looked at the rain and decided I was tough enough to handle it. I hit the back harbour trail and then onto Second Peninsula. I did get soaked, but I was so damn happy.
It took me about an hour and a quarter to reach my destination of Bachman's Beach. As you can see by my bicycle, speed is not my priority. One of the most amazing thing about living in Nova Scotia is that you can be all alone at a beautiful beach. I sat down, had a picnic and then ...
I collected a bag of seaweed to use as mulch in my garden. Sometimes, I need a sort of fake work goal to justify some time off. Anyways, it did the trick. I got back on my bike and began the ride home.
I'm always struck by what you see when you slow down. We drive this road quite often and I never would have noticed the Lilly pads.
Or this guy. I was at my absolute happiest when, you guessed it, I got a flat tire. It's been on my mind that I should really learn how to fix a flat, but that's as far as that thought got. I did bring my cell phone with me, so I called my knight in Shining Armour. His first question was whether I had tried standing on the side of the road and crying. I told him that was plan B. Tony came to the rescue and here I am... relaxed, happy, and ready to tackle the next round of orders. Well, almost.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Customer Appreciation Day

I'm having one of those female highly emotional days. Ya, you know what I mean. I'm just sitting here blubbering and thinking about how much I love my customers. I have also been crying over dog food commercials, but still, the feeling is real. The thing is, sometimes I get these great little pats on the back from some lucky newspaper feature or video and it's wonderful when it happens and sometimes I run into various brick walls and it's not so wonderful, but in the end the only thing that matters are these beautiful women of all ages that come and buy my hats. They are the ones that have made me one of the lucky craftspeople that actually gets to do this for a living. They are women from all walks of life and they all have stories and I love to hear them. Oh, good lord, I'm blubbering again. I'll get on with it. These three ladies didn't actually know each other, but you see the kind of love that hats inspire. Pictured here are Randi on the left (professor extraordinaire), Ruthie on the right and Judy in the middle.
One of my most colourful customers, Regina is a public service. In a town like Halifax where one discusses what shade of grey the sky is today, a woman who makes it her mission to dress as creatively and colourfully as she does is a site for sore eyes.
This is Evgenia. Really she is the daughter part of a mother and daughter hat team. Gali, the mom is just as beautiful and there are also two mini hat junkies in the group.
Anne is one of those inspiring ladies that always sees the bright side. Women like that are a beacon for me. I'm definitely a glass half empty kind of girl and when you meet ladies like Anne that are committed to milking every last bit of joy out of this life it puts the little things into perspective.
And then there are the countless women like Judy who I have never actually met, but have sold hats to over the internet or through a boutique that carries my hats and by way of back and forth messages and photos, our lives briefly cross. Judy contacted me because she works in her son's butcher shop in Ottawa and needs to keep her hair covered. You have to love a woman that wants to add a touch of beauty to the walk in fridge. I have just hit the bottom of my box of hat labels and by these calculations I have sold about 5000 hats in my Hat Junkie life, so to all those inspiring and beautiful women out there who have supported me over these last 20 year...I love you. This post has been brought to you by a serious hormonal imbalance and fueled by a pint of cookie dough ice cream.

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.