The process of making a new millinery block begins with a quick pencil sketch. This forms the basis of a 3D computer model which can be coloured and rotated to preview how the finished fascinator or hat base should look when completed (this model can even be demonstrated on Susan’s iPad). Dimensions and profiles are taken to the workshop and a new fascinator or hat shape is born (Image 1, below).
Sinamay colours are selected and steamed over the block (2). Image 2 shows three layers of sinamay which have been steamed over one of Susan’t handmade disc blocks. This shape is then left to dry before being trimmed, edged and finished before decoration is added.
Image (3) shows buckram drying (at a very low temperature!) in the oven, simply formed over a polystyrene dress head. Not very hi-tech but it formed the base for a cute little 1940s style cap fascinator. One of many ways to form material.
If a freeform shape is preferred, offering a more relaxed, wild look, sinamay is simply shaped by hand and held in place by stitching. The large fascinator (4) has no edge other than its own rolled edge, which has been given slightly more rigidity by use of millinery stiffener. Other than that it is only stitched into place.
The fun begins! Sinamay curls, rolled-edge petals, folded edge shapes, frayed edges, sweeping curves of sinamay and even dyeing feathers to match (5) and making handmade feather butterflies (6) all have their place and all contribute to a quiet, elegant look or a wildly impressive one. Feathers can really finish the item, adding movement or creating shape, or by their absence; leaving the piece’s structure to speak for itself.