Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Flying Colours

Late spring has been been beautiful chez nous. For Mothers' Day the cats (fur children) gave me a floral shopping spree. I filled the back planter with colourful annuals. Le voila:

That was so much fun I followed with a vertical herb garden. The indispensable Scott installed some lattice above the planter and I made wire holders for little terra cotta pots, comme ├ža:

Lunches just got more delicious.

The lilac and lily of the valley scented the air beyond all repair for their brief season. It's my nose's favourite time of year.

The back yard has been visited by baby squirrels and even some baby raccoons. All in all, delightful distractions from millinery pursuits abound.

I prefer to think that my creative juices are being replenished by these sensual onslaughts. I've been re-energized for making things to order and for the collection.

Melissa is taking this one to a wedding in Scotland this summer:

She's promised to send photos from the event, and I promise to share them when she does.

Lucie asked for a similar design to wear to an afternoon tea shower, where fascinators were mandatory. Custom dyeing produced the fabulous aubergine shade required.

Here's the finished piece:

And since the Queen's Plate is just around the corner, I made a hat that would be right at home at Hats and Horseshoes:

I've finally selected my own Queen's Plate outfit, and must get back to making the headpiece to top it off. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

What's New

It's May! I'm in the pink.

With spring comes a fresh wave of enquiries for headwear for upcoming events, and visitors to my workroom.

Ada (right) and her bridesmaid Cheryln came by recently. I’m working on Ada’s fascinator for her restaurant wedding this summer. She’s chosen a delicious palette and a beautiful dress. I’m looking forward to showing you more after Ada sends me photos of the big event.

I love the restaurant wedding thing. It’s a relaxed, intimate alternative that embraces more personalization and colour, especially on brides.

The very same day, I got a message from Mandisa, who needed a fascinator for a baby shower the following weekend. Turns out she’s a neighbour, and lives just down my street! Good thing my little workroom was still visitor-tidy. Mandisa and her two adorable kidlets popped over and played a bit of dress-up. I was able to customize a piece already made with some new red feathers and drop it off to her. Mandisa kindly sent along a photo of her dressed-up self. Thanks, Mandisa!

Melissa needs a fascinator to wear to a wedding in Scotland. She’s never worn one before. She brought along her cousin-in-law Aileen to our meeting on the weekend.

It’s great to bring a friend with you when you’re meeting someone like me, to have a custom piece made. The moral support is reassuring, of course, and it’s just more fun.*

Melissa likes my latest fascinator design.

But our meeting lit a spark and she's bursting with ideas. Our collaboration is off to an exuberant start!

Speaking of exuberant, a fit of spring-inspired such inspired these two pieces:

They’re sitting on a shelf, waiting for a home.

Switching brain sides: When I was doing some dyeing recently, I used up the last of the soda ash, or sodium carbonate, which is used as a fixative. Then I learned by happenstance that it’s possible to make it yourself at home, just with baking soda! Who knew a mere civilian could do such a thing? Here’s me with the before and after, and a little costuming for dramatic effect:

Saves some money and a trip downtown.

Ta-ta for now!

* Especially when Aileen was telling us about a family connection to Tom Patterson, the founder of the Stratford Festival. His wife, Patricia Scott Patterson, was a costumer and business partner of Barbara Matera, renowned on Broadway and beyond. She dressed Mick Jagger (who sat in her kitchen in Toronto, drinking tea, waiting for his pants to be finished) and made Hillary Clinton's first inauguration ball gown.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016


I've been doing more tambour embroidery.

The can-do spirit of supporting my frame between two tables (or table/windowsill/desk/rolling rack) had lost its charm. I tried to buy a frame stand that Robert Haven (tambour teacher par excellence) designed and makes, but his teaching schedule was keeping him too busy to sell me one. Instead, he very kindly shared the plans with me. So I made my own, with help from the indispensable Scott.

(Cut wood. Power tools. Love!)

Every time I opened my studio door, that smell of freshly sawn wood wafted out invitingly, beckoning me. The scent lasted for ages. Now that I could sit and embroider for hours at a time in comfort and olfactory self-indulgence, I did.

The fruit of this labour of love is my latest bridal collection.

Every bride is unique, of course, and will inspire a unique piece if she would like to incorporate tambour elements in her wedding millinery.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

So Vicky

The first client of last year was the last one I heard from. Our story took about a year to unfold.

Vicky was the first bride-to-be who came to see me last January. She was getting married in July. (Oodles of lead time - my favourite!) She and her sweetie had decided that a city hall wedding was what they truly wanted, and artisan suppliers who they felt a connection with. She remembered me from one encounter, more than a year before, at my St. Lawrence Market stall. Vicky is ebullient, warm, funny and quirky. I loved her energy, and I knew I was going to love working with her.

Playing with my Queen's Plate hat.

Vicky had chosen a lovely dress, and she would be wearing an exquisite necklace - an heirloom traditionally worn by all new brides of her fiance's family.


And to shake things up, a pair of wicked Fluevog shoes.
A party on her feet!

We did what we do here, played with samples and elements until we had a kinda/sorta plan for what she wanted to wear on her head on her wedding day.


The heirloom necklace was so enchanting to me that I wanted her peau de soir rose to complement it, and her dress.

Her shoes would march to their own drummer.

I stretched my repertoire making elements that satisfied Vicky's vision. Her polite determination (and reluctance to wear leaves that reminded her of claws) challenged my skills, which ultimately rose to the occasion. Because I hate to disappoint.

Vicky picked up her completed piece in May. Her wedding was in July. I could certainly wait that long to see the photos she so kindly promised me. That's just par for the course.

But not so fast. It seems her wedding photographer was having some computer trouble and the photos were long overdue. At least she hadn't forgotten about me.

Fast forward to the new year. I opened my email recently to find Vicky's wedding photos, at long last! "...I finally got the pictures. You are actually the first one to see them..."

The pictures, by AnniaVee Photo are gorgeous. Worth the wait. I hope you'll agree.

In a cold January, what a delight to be reminded of summer, and love, and fun, and new beginnings. And why I love making bridal millinery. Thanks, Vicky!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Sarah's Wedding

Sarah and Tristan had set the date! The plans for their intimate bistro wedding were underway.

Sarah found me through a web search looking for fascinators, as so many of my clients do. She gave me several weeks' lead time, which is ideal, and very much appreciated.

Her hair was short, and the fascinator was going to play the part of her 'do. I got a sense of Sarah's taste before we met, so our time together was spent playing with elements she knew she liked. Together we concocted a combination of rose, filigree, leaves and feathers that was uniquely hers. "This is way more fun than choosing my wedding dress," she shared. What a great thing to hear!

Millinery decisions made, Sarah could turn her attention back to the other preparations for her wedding. I went shopping, then got down to work.

I chose three different shades of peau de soie in blush tones to give her rose focal point subtle depth and nuance. Crystals and beads added the bling.

Sinamay elements and feathers contributed rhythm, movement and texture. It was working for me! But Sarah's opinion was the one that counts. Thus the nail-biting wait for the verdict began.

She liked it! The milliner exhaled. A teeny tweak and it was done. Sarah came to collect her fascinator and make sure she could clip it in. Indeed she could! Another millinery exhalation.

Sarah told me she loved the process of working with me on the most "bridal" element of her contemporary wedding look. She kindly promised photos to share with you (all wedding photos by Connie Tsang), and she was as good as her word. Thanks so much, Sarah! It's been a pleasure!

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Hat Lady and Arni

Arni found me through Catherine Curtis, where I have some promotional postcards. Catherine was making a dress and jacket for his wife, Sheila, to wear at a family wedding in St. Martin. Sheila needed a hat to go with it.

Arni and Sheila, warm, friendly and charming, came to meet me at my studio. Sheila gazed at the hats on the shelves and called them my babies. "That's what I call mine," she explained. It's quite the nursery she's got going, too - about three hundred hats! No wonder they call her the Hat Lady!

Catherine had given them some fabric cuttings from the dress she was making. Sheila knew she wanted something like a cloche, in white straw to go with the white background of her dress, embellished with the fabric. We talked and laughed and played dress-up, as I took notes. One sample in particular made Sheila smile, and I knew that would be The One. Arni wasn't so sure, preferring another, more traditional sample under consideration. Sheila pointed out that her choice was distinctive and unique. Arni had to agree and Sheila's choice carried the day.

Sheila really enjoyed the creative process of seeing her hat come into being. She had a clear vision of how her hat should be, and I worked to realize that vision. Many hugs accompanied her thanks when she came to collect it.

And Arni had to admit that he really liked it, after all.

The Hat Lady and her husband left with more than what they had commissioned. The "babies" at home welcomed a bunch of new siblings that day.

Just as well they don't need to be fed. Just loved.