Thursday, September 23, 2010

People Are Not Wearing Enough Hats...

From Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life":
Chairman:  Item six on the agenda: the meaning of life.  Now, uh, Harry, you've had some thoughts on this.

Harry:  That's right.  Yeah, I've had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and, uh, what we've come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts.  One:  people are not wearing enough hats.  Two:  matter is energy.

People are not wearing enough hats!!  I totally agree!!  All those exclamation points might lead you to believe I am passionate about hats - and you would be right.  I love hats!!  The card above is a treasure of mine from 1885 - a time when hats were as necessary to proper dressing as a pair of shoes.  It is said that the day John F. Kennedy showed up hatless on his inauguration day was the day hats stopped being cool.  But as I look around I see hats being cool again.  Have you seen the new Target commercial?  "I totally wear hats." says the shopper.  Yay!!

This month I had the wonderful experience of attending a wire frame hat class taught by Jan Wutkowski of aMuse Artisanal Finery of Wilmington, North Carolina.  The class was taught at the Spruill Art Center in Atlanta.  Jan is not only a wealth of information but makes her classes fun with an atmosphere of creativity.  You can find her website at and her blog at

Is there a current interest in hats?  Oh yes!  So much so that the class was completely full for the 2-day Saturday and Sunday session and extended for a Monday and Tuesday session.  When you see Jan's classes offered around the country, sign up quickly.  Next class will be silk flower-making with tools that are just being re-introduced to the market.  See you there!

After some introduction to the terminology, materials, supplies, and millinery suppliers, Jan had us creating our first wire frame "headband" before our second cup of coffee.  A simple head measurement, some simple math, some snips and wrapping wire and we had our first creation!  As millinery wire is only available in white or black, we learned how to wrap our wire if we were going to use an open frame or cover our frame with a shear fabric or lace.  This is my first piece wrapped in 1/4" satin ribbon.

We learned many techniques for finishing the wire frame hat using many different materials.  This frame is wrapped with 1/2" white organza ribbon weaving in and out of both sides of the frame.

Adding some satin rosebuds and organza ties makes a simple but striking headpiece.

This base could become either of these headpieces from 1867...

Now that we've had a little practice we're ready to start on something more creative.  Jan shares a vintage wire frame hat with us and explains the use of the different gauges of wire to support the shape we desire.  Some more discussion and we're off!  Although I know I will be making hats from the 1860s through the 1890s, I decide to try something more freeform and modern to test my new skills.  In preparation for a spring Garden Tea Party I create a rose-shaped hat.  Starting with the brim and crown shapes I draw my supports on paper and then cut and assemble the wire.

The rose-shaped wire frame is then wrapped in shades of 1/4" pink satin ribbon.
After many hours of wrapping the frame is finished.

There will be four hats for the spring Garden Tea Party:  this rose hat, a lavender iris hat, a yellow daffodil hat, and a white daisy hat.  They will all be open frame but some ribbons and feathers may be added once the gowns are complete.

Learning this technique has opened up a new world of Victorian hat making.  This beautiful hat from 1891 is a perfect example of the flexibility of wire frame construction and would be gorgeous covered with black lace.

Another highlight of the class was our trip to Nicholas Kniel Fine Ribbons & Embellishments.  The bees in the rose hat have mother-of-pearl wings and are a vintage piece from Nicholas Kniel's.  The shop is extraordinary!  Please visit the shop or website

Some other treasures I found at Nicholas Kniel's....

Nicholas Kniel in his fabulous shop...

It was wonderful to learn wire frame hat-making and made even more wonderful meeting the talented folks in the class!  Andre, Paula, Maggie, Shirley, Diane, and Rebecca - thank you all for making the class so enjoyable!

Thank you Jan Wutkowski for sharing your talents with us all!

With love,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let's Have Tea! - Chapter 2

"The world is round so that friendship may encircle it."
                - Teilhard de Chardin

Several years ago a friend was having a birthday and we wanted to give him a surprise party.  We could accommodate 50 people for the party but made a list of only 25 of his friends.  They were each asked to bring a friend who didn't know the guest of honor.  The evening of the birthday all the "friends" hid upstairs and the "unknowns" were in the party room.  When the guest of honor was brought to the room all the "unknowns" greeted him with "Surprise!".  As he searched the room for a familiar face the shock started to show on his face.  Several of the "unknowns" told stories that only "friends" would know and that set the shock deeper.  We finally realized our poor birthday guy was going to truly believe he had lost touch with reality and all the "friends" poured into the party room with a "Surprise!" chorus of their own.  He has always been a gracious individual but what he said that evening touched us all.  He thanked the "friends" for the party, for their friendship, and for enriching his life because as of that evening he had made 25 new friends.

Following the wonderful lesson I learned that evening I had invited 11 friends to the Tea asking each of them to bring a friend of their own knowing that by the end of the afternoon I would know 11 more wonderful ladies!

With it's beautiful grounds and rooms, Mosteller Mansion hosts many weddings and other special events.  The lady coordinating all of the activity for all events is Lee Bogle.  Lee and I worked with the Mosteller Mansion chef, Joseph LaMarca, on a menu that we felt sure would have something delicious for everyone.

As with a traditional Victorian Tea we served finger sandwiches with cucumber or ham fillings, a beautiful selection of fresh fruit, and (everyone's favorite!) chocolate-covered strawberries.  We added fresh salmon on mini bagels, cream puffs filled with chicken salad, assorted cheeses, and a warm-from-the-oven raspberry and blackberry cobbler.  Hmmmmmmm!  The featured teas were Stash Premium; Chai Spice Black, Peach Black, Chai Green, Blueberry and the two favorites:  Mango Passionfruit Herbal, and Lemon Ginger Herbal.

The ladies started to arrive, found a favorite teapot....

....and food, fun, and friendship circled the room!


Time for a little break.....

And now the Show!

Victorian Dressing From The Inside Out
"How Did They Wear All That Stuff??!!"

Victorian underpinnings can be just as beautiful as the elaborate dresses and gowns that covered them.  With the help of a vintage dressform named Victoria, I showed the ladies examples of combination undies, pantaloons and chemises, corsets, corset covers, trained bustles, lobster bustles, cage bustles, and petticoats.

Lacing a trained bustle...

Lacing a lobster bustle...

Using a present-day dressform named Vickie, the ladies were shown the layers as a Victorian lady would have dressed for a daytime stroll in the park.  Embroidered stockings and lace-up boots, underskirt, overskirt, collar and cuffs, bodice, hat and hatpin, gloves, chatelaine and reticule, fan, and parasol.

At the end of the afternoon we all agreed on two things:  First that we had had a magical time!  The world with all its challenges was furthest from our minds for these several hours.  We had stepped back in time and lived as our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had lived, enjoying each other's company and the beauty of Victoriana.  Secondly, we agreed we had to do it again!

Lee and I planned a series of Teas over the next several months.  A Mad Hatter Tea with a hands-on hat-making class, a Victorian Weddings - Traditions and Superstitions Tea, and a Victorian Christmas Tea.  Sadly, Lee left her position before our dreams came true.  But as I said before, a dream only fades if you wish it who knows what might happen.....and when!

With love,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Let's Have Tea!

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
the courage to change the one I can,
and the wisdom to know it's me.
                Author Unknown

A pilot is meticulous about a flight plan.  Checking charts, calculating times, knowing all the wheres and whens.  But for all the planning the pilot knows full well that the weather can change at a moment's notice and so the plan must change in the moment following.  The economic hurricane had changed my flight plan not only for The Perfect Touch but for my life, my family's life, and the lives of so many others.  So in the eye of the hurricane it seemed to be the perfect time to say "Let's Have Tea!".  And so we did!

Invitations were written, ribboned, and delivered.

Tea For One teapots were ordered from The English Tea Store and Distinctive Decor.  The perfect lace linens were found.  Fresh flowers arranged and the setting was ready to welcome guests.

The Tea is being held in Mosteller Mansion in the large main level room that was originally the master bedroom.  There is a wonderful chandelier, mirrors to reflect the beautiful woodwork, a seating area overlooking the gardens, an entrance onto the rear patio, and two incredible baths.  You may remember the tub with the glass surround from my previous post?  That was the bath for the lady of the house.


You have probably noticed the many different teapots.  Part of the fun was having everyone select their seating with a teapot they enjoyed.  There were no more than two of the same teapot with the intention being that it would be fun to find your "Tea Sister" - the lady with the same teapot as you -  and get to know her!

Everything is ready, let's have tea!

To Be Continued..........