Kristin Silverman designs and makes hats under the label Silverhill…
Several months back, I wrote about how to learn millinery and mentioned two of my favorite millinery books. In October, a new millinery book was released. Millinery: The Art of Hat-Making by Sarah Lomax & Rachel Skinner of Lomax & Skinner Bespoke Millinery.
I like to collect millinery books because they often have useful tips, even for experienced milliners. I decided to review it for this month’s Millinery Operations. (Note: I paid for my copy and have no affiliation with the authors, so this is entirely unbiased.)
Quick take: This is an outstanding book — especially for beginners.
My personal favorite millinery book is still Hats! by Sarah Cant. But this book has one huge advantage for beginners: It requires little in the way of equipment to make all 12 of the hats included. Other millinery books have projects that use multiple styles of brim and crown blocks. In other words, very expensive! This book requires only two blocks to make all of the hats: a simple dome crown block and a pillbox/fascinator block. (Hint: a wooden bowl can be a good substitute for a dedicated hat block in this shape.)
At first I thought this was an odd way to teach how to make a trilby. I have never done a flat-pattern brim on a felt hat. Then when I read the intro page, I saw that this was intentional and for a very good reason:
We are aware that not every home milliner has access to blocks so we have created this classic trilby shape using just a standard dome block and a flat pattern for its brim.
Most of the fascinators involve bending wire to fit your own head, or using alternative materials, such as a foam “block.” This is one of the not-so-secret secrets among milliners: We will use anything that can be made to suit our purposes. You wouldn’t want to use a foam ball with a project involving heat and steam. But it works just fine for a one-time project using sinamay.
And what if you’re not a newbie? Well, there’s nothing earth-shaking in here. Most of the techniques I was already familiar with. But it’s still nice to have another resource, another look at how to do things. In particular, the photos are excellent! (The last millinery book I bought had poor photos and poor print quality.) Some books geared toward novices are a waste: cheesy projects that use glue, or only sewn hats or only fascinators, with no real grounding in millinery techniques. This book can be a good starter if you’ve never made a hat before, but it treats you as though you’re serious about millinery and interested in learning how to do it the right way.
There are sections devoted to supplies and equipment and how to do specific stitches. The projects cover a wide range of techniques and materials, from blocking felt, to working with feathers and veiling, to making a cut-and-sew leather newsboy.
I’ve seen books by other milliners that include amateurish-looking projects, and you know they are holding out, not wanting to share how they make quality pieces. Not so here. Probably the most difficult project in the book is the “chic pillbox.” It requires blocking and sewing straw, making a lining, trimming with blocked lace and covering a headband (alice band). This isn’t a hokey headpiece using short-cut techniques. You can see other photos of this hat on their web site. Clearly, they are not ashamed of this piece.
Summary: This would be my top recommendation if you’re brand-new to millinery. There are diverse projects with excellent photos and minimal demands in terms of equipment. If you have some experience with millinery, you’ll still find some good tips in here, and it could be a valuable addition to your library (if you already have Hats! and From the Neck Up). If you’re a very experienced milliner, there’s probably nothing you could get out of here, though you might like it for the photos or as a teaching resource.
Kristin Silverman designs and makes hats under the label Silverhill Creative Millinery. She specializes in vintage-inspired hats for everyday modern wear. Kristin is also a singer and actor.