Saturday, 16 May 2015

Off and Running

It’s racing season again. The Kentucky Derby was this month, Royal Ascot is in June, and in July we have the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine. Their Hats and Horseshoes party is the perfect excuse to dress up, top yourself in your very best, walk the red carpet for your photo op, mix and mingle, eat and drink, and the best part is that admission is free.

Last year I had a spot of luck myself at the Queen’s Plate. Out of about thirty excellent entries, I was astonished to be chosen the first place winner of their very first Millinery Design Competition, with this:

This year’s hat is not for competition, except against myself. I made it for fun, to stretch my millinery muscles, to push myself. I really like how it turned out.

If you do, too, it’s available. It can also be custom made with your preferred colours and design tweaks.

I’m told by invitees that there will be another millinery design competition again this year. If you’re planning to be there, I would love to dress your head with a bespoke hat or fascinator.

But don’t wait. Contact me soon for Queen’s Plate headwear. Please and thank you!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Alison was a recent visitor to my little home studio. We had met years ago at a holiday craft sale, where she bought a corduroy poorboy cap from me. She contacted me a few weeks ago and said "I adore the hat because it fits me perfectly and is just the thing to pop on in any kind of weather." And although she had washed it with great success, "It's getting a bit sad though from constant use," and could I make her a new one?

Alison and the first cap, the day she bought it.

Why yes, yes I could. That's just the sort of thing I do. And it's music to my millinery ears to hear that something I made has been worn out from heavy use!

I suggested Alison bring me her own fabric, so she would be sure of having something she really liked. She chose to have me make her two caps, one in light muslin for the summer, and another for spring/fall, in several different fabrics in shades of grey and taupe.

So. Cool.

Alison used to work in theatre costuming, with Livent, then Mirvish. (She knew Lori, my college millinery teacher, who had also worked that circuit. Quel small world.) Over tea as I hand-finished her caps after checking the fit, she reminisced about those days -- sewing while listening to Peter Gzowski on CBC Radio, filching cotton scraps from the knitwear studio next door when it moved, and makeup bits from the commercial photography studio nearby after product shoots. Listening to lots of stories about colleagues' cats...

Alison's collection of costume shop floor scraps became the fabric of the quilts she hand-made for each of her three children when they were little.

Full-sized quilts, hand-stitched. That's love, all right.

What a fabulous legacy! So many stories sewn into each quilt.

In a way, Alison's taupe and grey cap is like a mini-quilt. Most of the fabrics are remnants, so each has a little story of its own of what it was originally bought to make, or what it used to be. The taupe linen was trimmed from the bottom of an Armani coat. (Beautifully stitched and finished seams, I can tell you.)

Alison is still making quilts. She's also exploring, learning about architecture, and computer graphic design, and the list goes on.

It was a great pleasure to make Alison's caps and listen to her stories. Thanks again, Alison!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Picture Perfect Karen Pasieka

My friend Karen Pasieka is a talented sculptor in polymer clay. Her Subtle Details booth brightens up many local craft sales. At Heintzman House she bought one of my cozy, slouchy toques some time ago, which was wonderful of her. Now she's jazzed it up with some of her delightful blossom and ranunculus brooches.

Not only that, she made the top photo in this post her Facebook profile picture. How friendly is that?

I am thrice blessed. Karen invested in my work, she rocks it, and she made it her own with selections of her own art.

Besides making me feel so lucky and grateful, Karen's photos remind me of how many people over the years have bought my work and look so great in it. Time to create a new blog page of real people wearing Hats by Anne, by Anne Livingston, Milliner.

I'll go work on that.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

O For a Muse of Fire

I made this fiery fascinator during a big snowstorm a few weeks ago, to make myself feel warmer and to remind myself that warmer weather was on its way. And it is, you know! It's been above freezing here once or twice! This is a huge improvement at the latter end of a very long, cold winter.

A friend said it reminded her of Pentecost, all fiery tongues.

It awaits its forever home. Contact me if you think that's with you.

Saturday, 14 February 2015


Happy Valentine's Day! This lovely day is an auspicious and apposite occasion to introduce my latest collection.

A couple of years ago I took an introductory course on tambour embroidery. It was a rare opportunity to learn a heritage skill, and from Robert Haven, visiting university costume prof and a master who had himself learned at Lesage, the famed atelier in Paris where the crème de la crème of couturiers get their bead and sequin embellishments done for their haute couture collections.

Tambour embroidery is done on a frame with a hook that is like a tiny, sharp crochet hook. A lot of it is done upside down, too, including beads and sequins.

I did not find tambour embroidery to be a cakewalk to begin with. But last October Robert Haven was in town again, demonstrating his impressive skills at the Wearable Art Show, where I was working for a friend. Watching Robert was mesmerizing, and I was inspired to get my frame out again and practise until my fingers knew what they were doing. It became my new obsession over the next few months.

The result of this phase is my new bridal collection -- Etoile Brillant. I hope you like it.

Tamboured bow, alone and with ostrich

Tamboured leaves with saddle feathers

Tamboured ginko leaves alone and with white feather spray

Embellished lace alone and with white feather spray

Peau de soie rose, with white feather spray and closeup

Rose à la mode!

Each piece can be customized to complement your colours and preferences. Please contact me with your enquiries. Merci!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


Last November I entered another millinery contest. The theme was "Remembering". Although it corresponded with the 100th anniversary of World War I, the brief said it was about remembering in all its senses.

I considered a lot of options for trimming my contest hat -- words, flowers and plants associated with memory, pictures... Lots that were in fact picked up by lots of the contestants, and very nicely, too. But then I thought of ginko leaves.

Not that it led to victory! I didn't win anything, but that's okay. I enjoyed the challenge, I liked my hat, and many people were kind enough to say that they did, too. And I'm proud that at least my idea was unique among the competitors.

The best part was that an acquaintance liked it so much that she commissioned me to make her a cap version!

Carol is an artist, and it's always such a compliment to me when an artist invests in my work. And she's not afraid of colour! She began by contemplating a vibrant palette for the wool felt ginko leaves on her cap, also to be black, as is the original hat.

(Pay no attention to the colour of the sample cap.)

But after some consideration, she decided that she really preferred the palette I had used to begin with. So that's was what I did.



On its rightful home - Carol's head.

Carol brings such a happy energy with her. She's also hilarious, viz: Our cat had been making off with some decorations off the lower parts of the traditional evergreen. Carol mused, "Well, maybe he's working on his own Christmas tree."

I loved the time we spent together working on her cap, and I hope I'll get to do it again sometime. Thanks again, Carol!

Monday, 26 January 2015

"Until Further Notice"

St. Lawrence Market without craft vendors? Can you picture it? Do you want to?

St. Lawrence Market has been waiting for a redevelopment plan to begin for a few years now. The old north market, or farmers' market, is going to be taken down starting this spring. It will take some time to build the higher, bigger, multi-purpose (with underground parking) replacement building. There is a temporary structure being built on the Esplanade for the farmers on Saturdays and antique dealers on Sundays, so they can carry on their business in the meantime.

The vendors of the Market Cart program, including myself, were told some time ago that we would be found places around the temporary structure. Now, as of late December, we were told that the Market Cart program will be temporarily suspended beginning in April, until further notice.

Until further notice. Does that as ominous to you as it does to me?

They say they value us, that they want us back. But that doesn't help the vendors who make their living there, some of them selling year-round, outdoors, in all weather. That doesn't help the visitors, from near and far, who love the colourful scene the Market Cart vendors provide along with their unique crafts and wares.

It just plain does not help.

Fortunately, the Toronto Star and an online newspaper, the Bulletin, have taken an interest and have published stories about the situation today. (The display photo the Bulletin chose may look familiar.) The author of the latter piece is by David Gareau, a Market Cart vendor of long standing himself, and who will also be gone as of April if nothing changes.

But where there is a political will, there is a way. That's why there is also an online petition being circulated which needs all the signatures it can get, from everyone, everywhere. If the prospect of a craft-vendor-free St. Lawrence Market, even temporarily, saddens you, I urge you to sign it.

I don't know if anger will help. As one my best vendors buddies keeps reminding me, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. And maybe if heads are allowed to cool and a backlog of pressing problems can be solved first, maybe the Market Cart program will be given better consideration.

And maybe an onslaught of petition signatures and polite, non-blame-y pleas in your accompanying comments will make a difference. Maybe we can change the minds that matter and keep the Market Cart vendor program going during redevelopment. But without all our friends from far and wide saying that they don't want an interruption in the Market Cart program and the unique vendors that makes it what it is, we're "temporarily suspended."

Until further notice.