Category Archives: Uncategorized

Module 4 Chapter 1

Media research

Examples of media

Image 1 shows a collage made of items of media related to the post.  I hadn’t realised what a variety of patterns manufacturers use in the lining of ‘secretive’ envelopes.  It’s very difficult to find postage stamps in use in Australia these days – largely because so much personal communication is electronic but also because commercial entities tend to use franking machines.  Australia Post’s stamp designs were never as attractive as the Royal Mail.  The predominant colours in this collection are the gold of the kraft paper envelope and the blue of the envelope linings and these do appeal so  I’ll go with them for my colour scheme – perhaps a more Prussian blue, as well as the neutral colour of the brown paper and corrugated cardboard, and maybe some metallic gold.



Here is another example of an envelope lining (image 2) – I never dreamed until I took one apart that Tax Office envelopes contained what I take to be a representation of the Rainbow Serpent – a sacred ancestral being for many Aboriginal nations and language groups.  What a pity the cultural appropriation has extended to chopping windows through the serpent’s head!



Items of stationery

Image 3 shows a photograph of some items of stationery I collected.  Items which might bear further exploration in the context of this module include the concertina file in which I keep interesting papers; the portfolio thingy on the right of the photograph; the box of pens which is a repurposed soap box; the box of notelets next to the sticky tape and the folder of notelets on the left.  Between the box and folder of notelets is a book with a woven spine I made in a workshop with Glenys Mann.  I’m interested in book binding so am looking forward to exploring book forms later in this module.  Image 4 shows some further ideas – magazine boxes holding textile magazines, and lever arch files where I store my completed module notes and printed feedback, and web resources which are useful enough to print and file (mostly from





Lettering research

I made a couple of collages showing examples of different types and styles of lettering (images 5 and 6) – the first is composed predominantly of text from packaging (paper bags, labels, soap and food packaging) and the second, from cuttings from magazines and newspapers.  What I found on the whole was that the styles of typography used tended to be more conservative than I was expecting.  I suppose the designers are aiming primarily for legibility, in the context of whatever character or image they are aiming for for their particular product.  The bookshop packaging, then tends to appear cultured and literate (serif fonts – I like Berkelouw’s B an W bookends); David Jones aims for a stylish vibe; Reid Cycles uses an italic sans font to convey speed and the City to Surf fun run is – well, about fun.  I think the Jackman & McRoss, ‘artisan goods’, Annie Sloan and ‘amazing experiences’ probably have the greatest promise in terms of pattern and rhythm.





In the early 1970s, when my mother was in her mid-40s, she went to Sydney ‘Tech’ College for three years to retrain as a Showcard and Ticket Writer – a vocation which, sadly, has passed into history.  When we were clearing out her house recently, we found an exercise book in which she had done a very similar exercise.  I’ve reproduced a few of the pages in image 7.



I don’t know whether Mum was using different sources to the ones I referred to but on the whole I’d have to say that the 1970s examples are more flamboyant, more varied, more exuberant, more … wacky.  It’s evidence, I suppose, of the way that text for advertising and editorial purposes is as much a fashion item as any other design element.

On the subject of packaging, I’ve collected a lot of tissue paper used in packing mainly clothing and fragile purchases and collaged them, just for fun (image 8).  No lettering but an interesting variety of colours.



The beauty of different scripts most certainly is more obvious in scripts one cannot read.  Image 9 shows some antique Japanese papers from Wafu Works in Tasmania which I bought for collages.  I gather these are from account books and similarly quotidian sources – I shouldn’t be amazed just how stylistically different each of the examples is – the free and flowing script, the careful hand printing …



Also apparent are the differences between the various typefaces used in these cuttings from a Nepalese newspaper (image 10).  The letter forms are very beautiful – my favourites are the ones which I suppose would be stylistically analogous to our serif fonts (especially the second one up from the bottom), with thick and thin letter elements



The letter shapes in the example in image 11 are also beautiful – Hebrew alphabet, as one might imagine, but not Hebrew text – it’s a translation of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky into Yiddish.



Images 12 and 13 show sections of old maps which have been reproduced as gift wrapping paper.  I love the way the lettering has been integrated with the graphical elements of the maps to form a whole which is far greater than the sum of its parts.





The large-format postcard in image 14 is another item rescued from Mum’s house.  It has special significance for me because it’s where I come from originally, but it’s also a really fine example of the beauty of the letter forms used and the way in which the text and the graphics have been integrated.



One of the things I found when I started to think about this chapter is the way in which designers have adapted ‘vintage’ style lettering and images for packaging.  The paper bags in image 15 are good examples.


Scan0065  Scan0067

And, as images 16 and 17 show, the lettering is sometimes inseparable from one’s perception of the institution it represents.





Another really interesting thing we found at Mum’s (which promises to be useful for this Module) is her 1965 vintage Speedball Textbook (and a cache of Speedball nibs and pen holders and a steel brush which I will try out in Chapter 2).  Images 18 to 21 show a selection of double page spreads which I think are particularly beautiful – both the alphabets presented and the examples of calligraphy: the early musical notation, sonnet and particularly the Arabic text from the Quran and the Italian illuminated manuscript.









Finally, and apropos the comments I made about text-as-fashion, I bought a beautiful book a while ago called Greetings from Retro Design which is a history of graphic design through the twentieth century.  Images 22 to 24, from that book, show three rather remarkable examples of lettering used as a principal element in graphic design – first, from  1928 (by Paul Renner), then from 1967 (by Wes Wilson) and lastly, from 1979 but referencing an earlier style (by Paula Scher).








Module 3 – Record Logs

evaluation of a fashion accessory

The completed embroidered assessment piece for Module three is a cocktail hat based on the design topic of spirals.

How do you feel about the resulting conclusion?

I am very pleased with the resulting conclusion.  The assessment piece certainly functions as a cocktail hat (although it does look a bit odd on me because I’ve such a chaotic-looking head).  It feels a bit top-heavy on, perhaps because of the positioning of the 3-D spirals, but has not yet threatened to fall off while being worn (although I haven’t tried it in a stiff breeze).  When I compared the finished hat with the sketches I made for Chapter 10 Part 2 I was amazed just how similar to the sketch the final item turned out to be.  I’m grateful to Siân for the motivation to do more sampling after I posted Chapter 10 Part 1 – I feel the strong resemblance between the sketches and the hat suggests that the design work was resolved to the extent I needed it to be, although when I came to make the hat I did need to make some revisions to the order of making because it would have been very awkward, for example, to sew on the millinery ribbon trim had the 3-D spirals already been attached, or to stitch the trim around the base of the hat had the sinamay part been stitched on to the top of the base.  I like the fact that the hat combines different aspects of the two types of spirals I have been working with: the spiralling circle segment expressed in the hat base (which is mostly hidden now the sinamay section is stitched on), the shape of the sinamay section and the shape of the uncurled 3-D spiral elements; and the helix shape of the free-motion embroidery over the sinamay and the beaded extensions to the 3-D shapes.  I like the way the beaded extensions look like the embroidered helices leaping off the hat.

Is it fit for its purpose? Give reasons.

I do believe it is fit for its purpose.  It looks like a cocktail hat and, because of the Alice band which slots firmly into the base of the hat, it does stay firmly on one’s head, and it perches in the right place for a cocktail hat.  It certainly expresses the design ideas of the spiral that I have been working with during the latter stages of Module 3.

If you were asked to make it again, what changes would you make to the way you designed it and the way you made it?

I’m happy with the design process in that I think I explored the design options as thoroughly as I reasonably could expect to have done.  If I made the hat again, I would scale up the sinamay section of the hat (the upper part) and make it into a full-sized hat (circumference 58 cm) so that I could wear it without looking mildly absurd.  Of course, I’d have to revisit the substructure of the hat – perhaps a moulded sinamay dome of some sort.  Sad but true – I’ve discovered as a result of making my fashion accessory that I can get away with wearing a full-sized hat on my oversized head but not a little cocktail hat or a fascinator.

References consulted for module 3

Beaney, J. and Littlejohn, J. 1991, A Complete Gide to Creative Embroidery: Designs, Textures, Stitches, B.T. Batsford, London

Campbell-Harding, V. and Grey, M. 2006, Stitch Dissolve Distort with Machine Embroidery, B.T. Batsford, London

Caprara, J. 2008, Exploring Colour: Experimental approaches to colour and stitch, D4Daisy Books Ltd.

Deighan, H. 2001, Dyeing in Plastic Bags, Crossways Patch, Hindhead

Holmes, V. 2003, The Encyclopedia of Machine Embroidery, B.T. Batsford, London

Issett, R. 2013, A Passion for Colour: Exploring colour through paper, print, fabric, thread and stitch, Search Press, Tunbridge Wells

Mitrofanis, E. 1995, Decorative Tassels & Cords, Kangaroo Press, Sydney

Mitrofanis, E. 2009, Threadwork: Silks, stitches, beads & cords, Sally Milner Publishing, Sydney

Watts, P. 2003, Beginner’s Guide to Machine Embroidery, Search Press, Tunbridge Wells

Time Log

Here is my time log for Module 3, based upon diary notes and timesheets:

Chapter Dates Time in hours
Chapter 1 2/10/15 – 5/10/15 10
Chapter 2a 11/10/15 – 21/1/16 15
Chapter 2b 2/10/15 – 7/10/15 3
Chapter 3 10/1/16 – 13/1/16 22
Chapter 4 14/1/16 – 28/3/16 42
Chapter 5 29/3/16 – 5/6/16 16
Chapter 6 6/4/16 – 3/7/16 7
Chapter 7 12/5/16 – 14/4/17 15
Chapter 8 23/12/16 – 11/3/18 25
Chapter 9 9/8/17 – 17/9/17 43
Chapter 10 20/9/17 – 12/3/18 28
Chapter 11 17/3/18 – 27/5/18 28
Chapter 12 4/8/17 – 6/8/17 7

Costing of materials

The costing of materials for the design work and making of the fashion accessory for Module 3 appears in the table below.





Cost of item

Amount used

Cost estimate

A3 cartridge pad

Stock (originally Gallery 126)


0.2 pad


A4 bond paper


1.25c/ sheet

20 sheets






3 sheets


Corrugated card

Stock (originally Lincraft)


2 sheets




Hatters Millinery

50 cm

20 cm




Hatters Millinery

18.5/ m

1.6 m


20/9/17 Millinery wire Hatters millinery 10.95/5 m 2 m 4.38


Milliner’s Petersham ribbon

Hatters Millinery


2 m


14/3/18 Fabric covered headband Hatters Millinery 5.50 each 1 5.50


Silk jersey

Tessuti Fabrics




20/3/17 Silk chiffon Kraftkolour 9.00/m 0.01 m 0.09


Marker pens


6.95 ea




Acrylic ink

Stock (originally Gallery 126)

13.90 ea



Procion MX dye

Stock (originally Kraftkolour)




Synthrapol detergent

Stock (originally The Thread Studio)




Soda ash

Stock (originally The Thread Studio)




Various dates

Gutermann machine thread





3/9/17 Gutermann metallic thread Spotlight $5.99/spool 1 5.99


Colourstreams silk threads – Ophir

The Crewel Gobelin




Various dates

Colourstreams silk threads – Exotic Lights

The Crewel Gobelin

6.90 each 3 20.70

Various dates

Pearl cotton, size 5

The Crewel Gobelin

4.20 each 2


12/10/17 Pearl cotton, size 8 The Crewel Gobelin 5.50 each 1 5.50


Stock (originally from Chris Hussey)





Mill Hill beads

The Crewel Gobelin


0.5 pk


Cake wire

Stock (originally Spotlight)






The total cost of $177.39 equates to £101.02 at today’s exchange rate.

work health and safety

Work health and safety considerations which I have observed which are relevant to this module include:

Painting, dyeing and printing on paper and fabric:
  • If using solvent-based paints or inks, work in a well ventilated area and, if necessary, use a respirator;
  • Ensure that work surfaces and all other surfaces prone to splashes and spillages are covered with an impermeable protective material (I use a PVC sheet to cover my work surface.  Because I do not have a wet studio I use the kitchen and am careful to remove any food-related utensils from my work area and cover anything which might become contaminated with chemicals);
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when making up dyes and other products;
  • Wear protective clothing, including to cover arms, and wear latex or vinyl gloves to protect hands from paints and inks;
  • Ensure that paints and inks are kept out of reach of vulnerable people such as children and use non-toxic products whenever possible;
  • Keep paints, inks and dyes (and other chemicals) in a cool, dark place;
  • Wear a mask when mixing dyes and ancillary ingredients such as soda ash to avoid breathing powder;
  • Keep a set of utensils specifically for dyeing – never use any utensil which has been used for painting or dyeing for food preparation;
  • Wash all equipment as soon as practicable after use, preferably not in a sink used for food preparation (I use the laundry tub, then clean it well afterwards);
Cutting paper and fabric
  • Cut paper and card on a proper cutting mat using a sharp knife or rotary cutter (because blunt knives are more likely to slip and cause injury), being conscious to keep fingers out of the way, and cut away from the body whenever possible;
  • Always retract the rotary cutter blade when not in use;
  • Cap and put sharp utensils away immediately after use.  I keep the point of my sharp embroidery scissors driven into a cork to avoid accidents;
  • Take care when holding the steel rule for cutting straight lines;
  • Cut only in good light and on a stable surface to avoid errors or injury.
Using any electrical equipment: irons, sewing machines
  • Ensure cords are tucked away to avoid entanglement or trip hazard;
  • Ensure cords are not frayed and that equipment, including cords and plugs, is not damaged in any way;
  • Only ever use electrical equipment on a circuit protected by a residual current device or safety switch;
  • Always switch equipment off at the power point and remove the cord using the plug.
Hand and machine sewing
  • Ensure the lighting is good, that there is adequate task lighting, and that the set-up of one’s chair and sewing table are ergonomically sound;
  • When embroidering, use a foot at all times (including use of a darning foot if free-motion embroidering) and be conscious of keeping fingers out of the way (and best not to stitch when very tired or in a rush);
  • Take regular rest breaks to re-focus eyes, stretch and walk around;
  • Keep track of pins and needles – if one is lost, look for it immediately;
  • Keep a lidded container to hand as a receptacle for broken pins, damaged or blunted needles, blunted stencil knife blades and other unwanted sharp objects;
  • Never go barefoot in the studio (not in mine, anyway, as it is carpeted, thus making it more difficult to see dropped pins and needles).
Using the iron
  • Ensure the temperature is set at the correct level for the fabric used;
  • Protect the iron and ironing board when using vliesofix or other fusibles with silicone-coated baking paper and/or a teflon ironing cloth;
  • Watch fingers, especially holding fiddly bits of fabric when using steam settings.  Better still, when ironing pieced fabrics with closely-spaced narrow seams, avoid the risk of scalding fingers by not using  the steam setting or by holding with tweezers with an insulated handle.

storage of completed work, materials and equipment

Materials for work in progress are stored in baskets on my work table or in a stack of basket-drawers on wheels which sits next to my work table.  My sewing machine sits out on its own cabinet (covered when not in use) and the iron is accessible on the ironing board at all times; other materials and equipment are stored in labelled, stacking boxes in the built-in wardrobe in my studio.  At the moment:

  • threads are stored in a drawer with colour families sorted into trays;
  • millinery materials are stored together in a clean, capacious paper bag: sinamay is loosely rolled and stored upright; the fosshape is folded as it came; the millinery wire is loosely coiled and tied;
  • fabrics are loosely folded and hung from skirt hangers in the wardrobe;
  • paints and inks are stored in labelled plastic boxes in the wardrobe, away from light and heat;
  • brushes are stored in the old, hard plastic Aero knitting needle boxes, bristles up, to protect them from damage;
  • electrical equipment (except the iron and the sewing machine) is stored in the original boxes with the flex carefully wrapped;
  • paper and cardboard are stored flat on shelves in the wardrobe.

Work in progress is generally spread out on my work surface – I have the luxury of not having to clear it away, and anything likely to fade is covered.  Fabrics in use are kept in a basket on my work table, and threads in another basket, out of sunlight but readily to hand.  I have been placing completed samples in a sketchbook – paper samples and multi-layered fabric samples are stuck in with removable mounting tape but I wouldn’t want to do this with a single fabric layer because of the risk of staining.  Three-dimensional samples and models are kept in a sturdy, lidded box.

My hat has its own hat box – I can remove the Alice band to store it.


Module 3 Chapter 12

zandra rhodes – fashion designer

Dame Zandra Rhodes, born in Chatham, Kent in 1940, is one of the world’s best loved and most admired fashion designers.  Her designs are instantly recognisable and Dame Zandra is, herself, a work of art of her own making.  There is such a wealth of information available about her work, including thousands of images, that it is difficult to know where to begin so I have focussed the images in this chapter mainly towards the themes of Module 3, including beading, spirals and ornamentation.

Zandra Rhodes’s annual collections are based on a single, unifying theme which reflects a particular travel or visual interest – over the decades these have included Manhattan, Uluru, Mexico, India, mediæval, ethnic costumes, stars, shells and many, many more  influences.  When designing a collection, Zandra begins with the print, which is likely to originate from her sketchbook where she makes a visual record of  her travels, including architectural details and nature.  In the case of Uluru, for example, Zandra made many sketches of the rock and its surroundings, then isolated and abstracted a print design from her sketches of spinifex grass which formed the basis for her Dragon dress (see image 1).

1. Dragon dress (detail) showing beaded wiggly line detail abstracted from spinifex grass sketch © Zandra Rhodes


Once a print design is finalised it is hand painted on to kodatrace (a form of tracing paper made of frosted acetate film) using a photo-opaque medium and exposed on to silk screens coated with light-sensitive emulsion.  The fabric is then printed in up to four colours.  Zandra says: “I start with the theme of the print because I decide what I’m particularly drawn to”, and the form of the garment takes shape from the structure of the print.   Often, designs involve hand embroidery and beading, and the hand work is perfectly integrated with the print and with the cut of the garment, as images 3 and 4 show. 

2. Detail of an evening ensemble with the silk chiffon jacket screen printed and embroidered, from the Mediæval collection, autumn-winter 1983


3. Detail of a tunic in purple silk chiffon wit hand beading and embroidery from the  Magic Carpet collection, autumn-winter 1984


Designs for each collection are recorded in a Style Bible, and these themselves are gorgeous works of art, as images 4 and 5 show.

4. Designs for accessories matched to the Images of Woman collection from spring-summer 1985


5. Dress and jacket designs from the Zandra goes to Hollywood collection from spring-summer 1990


I chose this particular page to illustrate Zandra’s use of spirals.  Images 6 and 7 show examples of garments from this collection, with spirals highlighted with satin stitch embroidery, beads and sequins.

6. Evening jacket from the Zandra goes to Hollywood collection from spring-summer 1990


7. Silk chiffon and silk satin full-length dress; screen printed, embroidered and beaded, from the Zandra goes to Hollywood collection


A scan of the Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection photographic database on the Visual Arts Data Service site, which is the source of most of these  images, indicate that Zandra has made extensive use of  analogous and monochromatic colour schemes over the years, as with the examples in images 8 and 9, although there is tremendous variety in the  colour schemes selected.(,

8. Silk chiffon embroidered and beaded evening dress, from the Temples and Lotuses collection, autumn-winter 1990


9. Silk chiffon evening dress with braid and beading, from the Queen of Hearts collection, autumn-winter 1989


Image 10 provides an example of stunning use of a complementary colour scheme, again ornamented with beading. 

10. Silk chiffon evening dress with screen printing and hand beading from the Mexican collection, 1976


Zandra continues active work in fashion design but has also diversified into costume and set design for opera.  The signature aspects which make her fashion design instantly recognisable and supremely desirable – the perfectly judged combination of often diaphanous fabrics, contrasting textures, screen prints, cut and drape, embroidery and beading and the impeccable construction and finishing – are also very much evident in her design for stage.  Hers is a consistent and coherent, although never predictable, body of work.

Dame Zandra sees her design as art: in an interview reproduced on her web page, she expresses the hope that when her clients are not wearing their dresses they will hang them on the wall “as a picture in themselves – they’re a living work of art”.  In the same interview she said: “I don’t think there’s a right or wrong to technique provided that as a designer you do the best that you can for each technique …”.  This is an opinion I, as a student, find very useful and encouraging.


Zandra Rhodes Archive II, retrieved 4th August 2017 from

UCA and JISC, The Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection, retrieved 4th August 2017 from

VADS: The online resource for visual arts, The Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection, retrieved 4th August 2017 from

Deirdre Hawken – hat maker

Deirdre Hawken uses the traditional millinery body of knowledge and techniques to inform her design and making of unique sculptural couture headwear, jewellery and theatrical costumes.   Born in Reading in 1945, Deirdre is  represented in several prestigious public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, The Costume Institute, Kyoto, Japan, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA and the Hat Museum in the UK.  Her hats are meticulously made, playful and surprising.  Many are food-themed; their resolution is so realistic (perhaps surreal would be a better word in some cases) that, finding a photograph of her sardine tin hat (image 11) online, my unthinking, split-second reaction was ‘it can’t be very pleasant to wear something on one’s head that smells of fish’, before I remembered that, of course, no fish were harmed in the making of the hat.

11. Sardines headpiece – all photographs in this section © Deirdre Hawken


Deirdre uses hand-stitching techniques and traditional materials in her headpieces and jewellery.  Fabrics such as organza and taffeta are hand-dyed and manipulated to achieve highly realistic effects, as images 12, 13 and 14 illustrate.  Headpieces are held in place with traditional fixings such as combs and headbands.

12. Cauliflower headpiece – note the crumpled, hand-dyed organza and the perfectly observed massing of the beading to create the curd


13. Liquorice allsorts headpiece – the materials precisely evoke the colours and textures of the sweets


14. The summer pudding headpiece – with beaded berries and currants



Images 15 and 16 show examples of headwear which, though perhaps not quite so instantly recognisable, in that they are not inspired by food, are equally exuberant and certainly anything but conventional.

15. Pink glove headpiece – one fashion accessory masquerading as another?


16. Peacock feather headpiece – another beautifully executed sculptural form


As well as the hats and headpieces for which she is famous, Deirdre Hawken also makes jewellery and undertakes theatrical, media and corporate commissions such as those shown in images 15 and 16.

15. Mediæval head for renowned jewellery and luxury goods retailer Asprey


16. Mask for English National Ballet


Deirdre Hawken was awarded a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust in 1999 which allowed her to study couture millinery with Rose Cory, who had been the Queen Mothers milliner; to undertake a work placement with Stephen Jones; and to study the millinery collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and New York’s Metropolitan Museum.  She is a Fellow of The Society of Designer Craftsmen, a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts and is represented in the Crafts Council Photostore of Selected Makers.

Deirdre’s work appeals to me because of its whimsicality.  I am in awe of her ability to conceive of her designs and represent real-world objects so realistically as to prompt the viewer to do a double take, and then admire the craftsmanship.  From the specific perspective of Module 3, the meticulous standard of conception, design, construction and finishing is certainly something to aspire to in making one’s fashion accessory.


Deirdre Hawken Milliner/Designer, retrieved 5th August 2017 from

Saatchi Art: Deirdre Hawken page, retrieved 5th August 2017 from

Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust: Deirdre Hawken page, retrieved 5th August 2017 from

Diana Springall Embroidery Collection: Deirdre Hawken page, retrieved 5th August 2017 from

Effie Mitrofanis – embroiderer and tutor

For my third artist I have selected Effie Mitrofanis, an Australian embroiderer, researcher, tutor and author.  Effie’s work is founded in a deep and wide-ranging knowledge of traditional hand embroidery techniques including various forms of counted thread linen embroidery such as drawn and pulled thread work, traditional techniques such as Casalguidi and Ruskin linen embroidery, and surface stitches.  She uses traditional techniques as a starting point for the development of contemporary designs which incorporate her favourite surface stitches, cords, tassels and bobbles.  Effie is known for her use of richly varied colour schemes, often with mixtures of highly saturated analogous and complementary colours.  She has taught workshops for guilds and groups across Australia, published several books (please see the reference list below) and has contributed commissioned articles to the World of Embroidery magazine (as was) and to Stitch magazine, as well as to various Australian magazines.

The first of Effie’s books I encountered was Casalguidi Style Linen Embroidery, and images 17 to 19, from that book, show her adaptive approach to traditional techniques.

17. Traditional style Casalguidi bag with gryphon motif – all photographs in this section  © Effie Mitrofanis


18. Barrier Reef bag – traditional form and technique adapted by innovative use of colour and ornamentation, irregular pulled thread-work background with varying thread weight used for four-sided stitch and liberal use of fringing, cords and tassels


19.  A step further in adapting traditional Casalguidi embroidery: detail from ‘Medusa’ triptych combining drawn thread and four-sided stitch with padded buttonhole, couched gold threads and sculpted, painted wood


Regardless of the original technique, Effie’s work is frequently embellished with surface stitches (often bullion knots, eyelets and buttonhole), cords, tassels, fringes, wrapped threads and beading in any combination, and these elements are always fully integrated into the work.  Images 20 and 21 (from Casalguidi and Threadworks, respectively, show some of her tassels and beaded cords.  Images 22 to 25, from Threadworks, to my mind resonate with some of the themes from Module 3 in their use of these decorative elements.

20.  Complex and highly decorative tassels from the Casalguidi book


21. Beaded tassels and wrapped, beaded and knotted cords – I borrowed this technique in Chapter 6


22. Concertina stitch book: collaged silk and appliqué with cords, beading , couching and surface stitch


23. Mosaic: silk over muslin, beading and surface stitches


24. Aphrodite: collaged silk, couched metal threads and bullion stitches


25.Waves and diamonds: collaged silk, continuous cords, running stitch (including spirals)


The first workshop I ever attended at the Embroiderers’ Guild NSW was a needle lace workshop taught by Effie.  I would probably never have had the confidence to attempt City and Guilds without her early influence – she taught me not to be afraid of experimentation with colour, as well as a few more fundamental lessons about art and life: “Don’t unpick, don’t worry about the back, don’t be precious – it’s for fun” and “There isn’t a right way or a wrong way, there’s only your way”.

Effie has an Associate Diploma of Fine Art and a Master of Visual and Performing Arts, for which she researched the origins and evolution of needle lace and produced a series of large-scale, contemporary major works in this technique.  She has studied embroidery in the UK, Italy, Greece, China and India, and exhibits in Australia and internationally.


Mitrofanis, E. 1995, Decorative Tassels & Cords, Kangaroo Press, Sydney

Mitrofanis, E. 1996, Casalguidi Style Linen Embroidery, Kangaroo Press, Sydney

Mitrofanis, E. 2005, Needleweaving and Embroidery: Embellished Treasures, Sally Milner Publishing, Bowral

Mitrofanis, E. 2009, Threadworks: Silks, stitches, beads & cords, Sally Milner Publishing, Binda

Module 3 Chapter 11

Making my fashion accessory

Sinamay shapes and embroidery

At last – here is how I made my hat.  There were a few changes to the sequence of making I identified at the end of my Chapter 10 post but generally the process went smoothly.  I made a pattern for the hat layers by enlarging the spiral element of the circle (see Chapter 10) on the photocopier.  Since there were to be three layers, I cut with the grain on each layer at 60 degrees to the previous layer.  I then embroidered the loopy spirals as shown on the diagrams in Chapter 10, using silk threads of various weights.  I did use some purple on the middle layer, to provide added texture.  As some of the later images show, when light passes through the hat these are visible and create an interesting contrast.  Images 1 to 4 show the stitched hat layers (layer 2 has bobbin work top and bottom as I wanted it to show through both sides).









The ends of the thread fluff out a bit – I started by trimming them off then realised that I quite like them so have encouraged them to fluff.  They look like tiny tassels.

Making up the top

Image 4 also shows the fold line of the hat marked in white chalk.  The next step was to tack the three layers together along this line, with a gap for the slot where the pointy end is to pass through, as shown in images 5 and 6.





It was necessary to cut some width into the slot – just a couple of millimetres.  Then, I made a shape from milliner’s Petersham ribbon to bind the slot (ends mitred) and stitched it in place, and pressed it (images 7 and 8).  The end passed through comfortably (image 9).







I had cut the three layers slightly over size because it seemed likely that the sinamay would distort a little with stitching (in the end, there was very little distortion) so I pinned the pattern piece back onto the triple-layered hat shape and trimmed the stack back to the correct shape and size (image 10).



It seemed like a good idea to shape the hat with steam from the iron before binding the edge as the layers were quite likely to move relative to each other.  I realised that I wouldn’t be able to bind the edge if the 3-D spiral shapes were already attached to their respective layers so I left this task for the time being.  Image 11 shows me tacking Petersham ribbon around the trimmed edge of the shaped hat form (looking a bit vacuous – but thanks to Cliff for taking the photo for authentication purposes).



I thought it would be possible to sew a little pocket into the end of the ribbon and then fit it over the point of the hat but the ribbon was so stiff I couldn’t turn it, even after I trimmed off the corner and wet it, so I just stitched it over the other end as neatly as I could (image 12).



Image 13 shows the ribbon trim machined on,  with the end inserted through the slot and being caught in place at the edges.



I really wanted a smooth curve rather than a sharp fold along the bend line so added some further shape to the hat by steaming it then holding it over the edge of my hand while it cooled (images 14 and 15).  Sinamay takes shape very well indeed but is very unpleasant to handle until the edges are bound – the raw edges catch on everything; especially woollen jumpers and, sometimes, hands.





Image 16 shows the top part of the hat complete except for the 3-D spirals.  It’s possible to see in this image the effect of the stitching with the translucency of the layers.



The next step was to bead the tails of the 3-D spirals then curl them up around a pen (images 17 and 18).





Now to the base

I realised that it would be difficult if not impossible to attach the sinamay form to the top layer and then assemble the outer layer and lining with a bound edge because I would not be able to get the edge of the base under the foot of the machine so I assembled the base completely before attaching the sinamay form.  First, I machined the outer layer and the lining together around the edge (image 19).



It was then necessary to decide whether to have the purple or lime showing at the front of the hat, because the next step was to bind the edge in jersey in either colour.  Images 20 and 21 show the options (I went for the purple).





I cut a strip of purple jersey and joined the ends, then pinned and stitched it to the edge, then turned it inside, folded it and carefully machined it around the seam line so that it would be almost invisible (images 22 and 23).





Putting it all together

Then, I hand-stitched the top of the hat to the base with small stitches in purple thread, mostly concealed in the seam line on the base (image 24).



Image 25 shows the underside of the hat with the top stitched in place and the Alice band inserted in its sleeve.  It’s just the right colour – surprising what millinery suppliers have in stock!



The final step was to hand-stitch the 3-D spirals in place as invisibly as possible, as shown in images 26 and 27.





The finished hat

The following images show the hat mounted on a foam head.  Images 28 and 29 show views from the front (looking straight on, then from an elevated position) …





… and images 30 and 31, from the right hand side …





… and image 32, from the rear (I like the lime on the base from this view) …



… and images 33 and 34, different views from the left side of the hat.





The light kept changing as I took these photographs and, consequently, the colours are a bit variable.  Image 29 is most realistic in terms of colour.

I thought I’d better add one photograph with the hat on a human head so here am I with my hat perched on my oversized and rather untidy looking head, just for fun (image 35).  It actually sits on my head quite well and barely moved with it made contact with a low-hanging lampshade (oops!).



I’m very pleased with the result – it’s exactly as I envisaged it, and surprisingly like the coloured sketches towards the end of my Chapter 10 post.  I was very careful with the finishing and the construction results are generally OK (the underside of the hat base is a little wobbly in places and there was a bit of unpicking involved on a couple of occasions) – I suspect ‘proper’ milliners have secret ninja powers in this regard.  It doesn’t really suit my head so well but I’m sure there is somebody out there who could rock up to the Melbourne Cup wearing it and not look completely out of place.

The composite sheet

And last but not least, my composite sheet for this module is shown in image 36.



Module 3 Chapter 10 – Part 3

Stitch samples

After my previous post, Siân suggested that I experiment with samples to try out my speculations on the advantages and disadvantages of hand and machine stitching on the sinamay, and how to arrange it on the three layers of the hat.  Siân’s recommendation that I return to the stitch samples in Chapter 4 was very helpful; the first set of images, looking at different styles of hand and machine stitching, are all based on these in one way or another.

Hand stitch spirals

Image 1 shows spirals worked in straight stitch on three layers of sinamay.  It’s a hybrid between the radial stitch and running stitch samples in the first Chapter 10 post (image 26) and looks a bit like fireworks.  The colours are more vibrant in ‘real life’ – my scanner always flattens them a bit.  In image 2, I’ve stacked the three samples – layer 1 shows clearly, of course, and layer 2 is visible; layer 3 just hints at its existence but the forms of the spirals can be discerned.  It does convey an impression of depth.





Sprinkled shapes

Siân suggested that I try some spiral sprinklings of bonded fabric – image 3 shows some of the chiffon I dyed, chopped and bonded, as a starting point. 



I am reluctant to put this on an outer layer of the final hat because I’m nervous about the long-term stickability of the Vliesofix (although it does seem pretty well-stuck at the moment) .  There are various samples further down this post with the bonded fabric paired with other methods of decoration.  Image 4 shows the bonded fabric overlaid with some hand-stitched spirals (stitch on top, and chopped fabric on top).  It definitely works better with the stitch on top – the bonded fabric completely deadens the impact of the stitching underneath.



Machine stitch spirals

The next step was to try some overlapping free-motion machine stitched spirals.  Image 5 shows two single-layer samples superimposed.  The top layer has lime and purple stitching; the second layer, only lime, but in various thread weights.  One of the keys to keeping this interesting appears to be varying the weight of thread.  I do like the effect of superimposing the spirals in the different layers.



In image 6, the layers are reversed.  The purple stitching tends to disappear and the lime becomes a bit shadowy in the second layer.  I think that if there is purple stitching to be done, it has to be in the top layer to make its presence felt.  At this stage, though, I’m still thinking about whether it would be preferable just to use the lime thread.



If I then layer the stitched spirals with the fused, chopped fabrics, the layered samples in image 7 result.



I do prefer stitching in the top layer, fused fabric in the second.  The sample with the lime and purple stitching looks more interesting to me.  The one thing that occurs to me with this style of stitching, though, is that it tends to give more of an all-over effect, and may not be so suitable for use of greater density of stitch in a particular area to emphasise the 3-D form of the hat.

I returned to my Chapter 4 samples at this point and found this one, which has  overlapping lines of spirals like the old-fashioned telephone curly cord (image 8).



It occurred to me that these continuous, looping spirals have more in common with the 3-D spirals intended to go on the highest part of the hat.  I had flagged the possibility in my mind that I might need some sort of intermediate form of the spiral to link the flat stitched spirals with the more helical/cylindrical form of the 3-D wired spirals – perhaps this is the answer.  Image 9 shows further samples of all-over machine-stitched unidirectional spiralling lines and image 10, two sets of lime spirals on the one layer, stitched at an angle to each other.





Superimposed, these samples are as shown in image 11.




Of these, I think the one in image 10 is the most successful.  Putting purple stitching in the top layer and lime behind it really deadens the ‘zingy’ appeal of the lime.  Put the purple behind the lime and it becomes quite shadowy – I do like it to the extent that it would add texture to the hat but I think there may be better solutions.

At this point I was wondering what would happen if I stitched shorter sections of ‘curly cord’ spirals more randomly as I wasn’t sure that the regularity of the longer, straight lines was what I was after.  There are quite a few of these because as I was making them I began to get the feeling that they were converging on something quite interesting.  Image 12 shows the first single layers and image 13, these layers superimposed (lime on top works better, again).





At this point, what we have is:

  • stitched spirals which bear more of a visual relationship to the curved 3-D spirals;
  • a more logical way of varying the density of the spirals on the fabric – by using different thread weights, changing the direction of the spiral lines, superimposing stitched spirals in a single layer and in multiple layers, making the individual spirals larger or smaller, and by arranging spirals more densely or more sparsely to suit;
  • the ability to use direction of the spiral lines to emphasise the 3-D form of the hat – for example, by placing the spirals randomly in the depths and then align them as they climb the hat towards the 3-D spirals.

At this point I decided to concentrate on lime stitching and see where it would take me, feeling that the purple stitching wasn’t giving me enough visual contrast from the sinamay.  The three photographs in image 14 (this time running ‘across the page’ to illustrate how they might build to form the front of the hat) show layers stitched according to the logic of the dot points – layer 1, with stitching aligned and climbing at the left hand end towards the top of the hat; layer 2 stitched with some pearl thread bobbin work on the front and some on the back as the fainter middle layer; and layer 3 with the stitching mostly showing on the inside of the hat form.  Generally, the stitching is with a finer bobbin thread (pearl 8 instead of pearl 5) and the spirals are smaller towards the top of the hat.



Image 15, then, shows the three layers stacked.



I do like the way the stitching appears in the three layers (the third layer is not really visible from the top but the shadowy second layer works well).  The grain of the sinamay won’t be aligned in the final hat; instead, the grain in each layer will be at 60 degrees to each other layer so the effect will be slightly different.

One last sample, to answer the question: ‘how do these spirals work with the bonded chopped chiffon?’ appears in image 16.  I think I prefer the layered stitched spirals.



Time to take stock

At this point, I’m realising that the stitching I like best as stitching isn’t necessarily the stitching which is going to work best in the context of the hat.  The two approaches I’ll ditch at this pint are the bonded chopped fabric spirals and the long, straight ‘curly cords’.  This leaves the hand-stitched zigzag spirals (Option 1), the large, flat overlapping free machined spirals (Option 2) and the short, loopy lengths (Option 3).  I should mention that I’ve used various threads for these samples – some rather gorgeous silk threads in the hand-stitched spirals and then, when I realised how much bobbin thread I was chewing through, mostly less expensive (and less gorgeous) pearl cotton later on.  For the final hat it will be back to the silk, for the purpose of lustre, vibrancy of colour and general gorgeousness.

Option 1 – advantages and disadvantages

I really like the form of the hand-stitching in this option; they look like fireworks.

Advantages are: I can vary the density of the placement of the spirals and the density of stitching in the individual spirals; they can be placed to suit the logic of ‘density in the depths’; they can sensibly be made to ‘climb’ towards the 3-D spirals towards the top of the hat.

Disadvantages are: they don’t relate so well visually to the more linear form of the curled 3-D spirals; they do look more formal; and they can only sensibly be overlapped on the different layers, not on the same layer.

Option 2 – advantages and disadvantages

I like the free form of these ones.

Advantages are: because these spirals are so loose and free it’s easy to over lap them both on the same and on different layers; they’re informal and I can vary the weight of the thread.

Disadvantages: again, they don’t relate so well to the form of the curled 3-D spirals; because they are quite large it won’t be so straightforward to work out the placement in the layers of the hat to vary the density and I don’t think they suit the logic of the form of the hat as it is developing quite so well.

Option 3 – advantages and disadvantages

The detached loopy spirals work much better, I think, than the continuous ‘curly cord’ spirals if the final decision is to go for a more linear type of spiral.

Advantages are: these spirals relate much better to the form of the 3-D applied spirals, especially since these are now going to have beaded spiral wires coming from the points; the stitching works better with the logic of the hat form in that it can transition from something dense and directionally random to short spiralling lines aligned with the 3-D spirals towards the top of the hat; it is easier (than with Option 2) to make stitching into the 3 layers of the hat work logically to produce the illusion of depth possible with the translucency of the sinamay.

Disadvantages?  In practical terms, really only the need to stop stitching after each spiral to deal with the slightly annoying way my Bernina treats thread ends – a very minor issue.

One other thing: looking back at image 13, I might incorporate some purple thread spirals in layer 2, but not in the same area as in image 14 – further down in the depths of the hat, just to make the texture appear richer on the surface in the lower parts of the hat.  Hmmm.

But what will it look like?

So now to make some sketches of how it might all work.  At this stage I’m planning, on the basis of the advantages and disadvantages, to keep working with options 1 and 3

Option 1

The coloured sketches in image 17 show how the hat might appear (in order, from top to bottom) from the front, right hand side of the wearer, back, left hand side, then looking down onto the left hand side of the wearer’s head.  The spirals stitched on the middle layer of sinamay appear fainter and discontinuous.  Strange to say, the colours are far more realistic on the scans of the sketches than on the scans of the samples.



I do like these spirals – although they don’t have so much in common visually with the 3-D applied spirals they do echo the spiral form of the hat overall and they appear lively and somehow decisive.  If I were to go with this option the placement of spirals would be as shown on the pattern outline in image 18.  Layer 1 is the layer facing out from the ‘brim’ of the hat (it doesn’t really have a brim or a crown so much) ; layer 3 faces inwards, if that makes sense.  The pattern sketch sows the curved bend line where the hat is attached to the base, the slot where the pointed end passes through, and the lines where the 3-D applied spirals are attached.  The dotted spirals are showing through from layer 2 which has stitching strategically placed on both sides so the thicker bobbin thread shows through to best effect.



Option 2

The coloured sketches in image 19 are arranged as per Option 1.


These sketches show how the loopy lines transition from densely stitched and random towards the base of the hat to more sparsely stitched and aligned with both the hat form and the applied 3-D spirals towards the top.  As much as I like the hand-stitched spirals in option1, option 3 seems to me to be more coherent and logical, if a hat can indeed be logical, so I’m tending towards option 3. I could conceivably stitch a combination of the hand-stitched shapes form option1 and the loopy lines from option 3 but I think it would be rather chaotic.  If I chose option 3 the placement of spirals would be as shown on the pattern outline in image 20.  Again, the dotted spirals are showing through from layer 2.



sequence of making

The elements of the hat base are already made.  I can’t join them together until the main part of the hat is made.  The 3-D applied shapes are also made but I need to bead and shape the spiral wires.  The sequence of making will be:

  • Cut out the three sinamay shapes for the main part of the hat;
  • Work the embroidery;
  • Place the three layers together.  Bind the edges with milliner’s petersham ribbon, and also bind the edges of the slot.  It will be necessary to cut a bit of width into the slot to accommodate the three layers of sinamay and the petersham ribbon;
  • Attach the wired 3-D spiral shapes to the main part of the hat;
  • Pass the point of the hat through the slot and stitch in place;
  • Fix the final shape of the 3-D form of the hat using steam;
  • Stitch the main part of the hat to the top of the hat base;
  • Stitch the top of the hat base to the bottom and bind the edge of the base with petersham ribbon.

Module 3 Chapter 10 – Part 2

The next thinking stage

I knew at the time I posted the first part of Chapter 10 that the thinking around placement of yellow spiral shapes on the hat form (both 2-D and 3-D shapes) was underdone and I’m grateful to Siân for some wise advice about thoughts to try out.

The larger, 3-D spirals

Siân suggested that the composition works best where the spirals echo the rhythm and direction of the purple spiral.  I realised when I was playing with yellow-green corrugated spiral shapes that I had my spirals running in the wrong direction to make this work properly (counter-clockwise rather than clockwise) and that, if I cut them the other way, I could arrange them so the curved edge of the curled-up spiral would be parallel to the large curve on the purple form.  In the photographs in the next section it is possible to see how this arrangement works – with fewer spirals, arranged so the curved edges are parallel and so that the ends of the spirals themselves are stepped to echo the curvature of the back edge of the purple hat shape.  There are four on the front surface of the hat and two on the back surface at the moment – I’m reserving judgment as to how many I end up with until I’m working with the ‘real life’ hat.  I’ve also added wire spirals to the pointy ends of the curled corrugated shapes to replace the beaded wires running from the pointy purple bit in the previous iteration of the design – these will be beaded on the ‘real life’ hat.

The 2-d stitched spirals

During my first pass through Chapter 10, I was tending towards using radial straight stitches for the stitched spirals (see the top sample, image 1, reproduced from the previous post).



The thinking was that the spirals would be stitched either on the outside or the inside of the hat form but would not appear on both sides.  It’s likely that the purple form will be built from three layers of sinamay – it is possible to see stitching on the first layer from the other side of the third layer if three pieces of sinamay are stacked together.  I’m now tending to do for the middle sample for two reasons:  first, I think, having represented the spirals with paper cut-outs on the cardboard mock-ups in the images which follow, it might be preferable not to have the spirals so densely stitched and second, it is far easier to get a neat result on the back of the stitching with the running stitch spirals than with the radial straight stitches and, if the spirals are going to show through, they need to be tidy.

Siân suggested that I consider some options for placement of the stitched spirals: to accentuate the larger, purple form by placing the stitched spirals along the edges; to cluster them in the depths, becoming sparser as they move towards the edges and points, or other ideas.  Having played with the painted paper cut-outs which are standing in for the stitched spirals on the model, one thing I decided was that the stitching would not be an all-over design but strategically placed on the higher parts of the form, on the outer curve of the hat, and running up towards the highest, curved part of the purple spiral where the 3-D spirals are.

Stitched spirals: first thoughts

Images 2 to 7 show the purple cardboard form with 3-D spirals placed on the curve, and ‘stitched’ spirals towards the lower parts of the hat form.

2. Front view


3. Front again, from a higher vantage point


4. Right hand side


5. From the rear


6. Left hand side, looking down


7. Left hand side again, showing outside of hat


The 3-D spirals were unfurling a bit by the time I got to the last photograph.

Stitched spirals: second thoughts

These stitched spirals are too big!  The next set of images show a further attempt at stitched-spirals-in-the-depths but with smaller spirals, more size variation, and smaller spirals further away from the base of the hat.

8. From the front


9. Right hand side (3-D spirals unfurling again – grrr!)


10.  The back, with the stitched spirals climbing up towards the 3-D ones


11. The right hand side, with the stitched spirals spiralling upwards


I was much happier with this version and thought that placement of the spirals made more sense in echoing the large purple spiral.

Stitched spirals: third thoughts

The next set of images show the spirals defining the edges of the purple form.  Again, there’s some size variation; this time, with smaller spirals further from the edge.

12. From the front


13. An elevated front view



14. Right hand side


15. The back


16. From the back again, but showing the 3-D spirals (sorry it’s a bit gloomy)


16. From the left – that’s a lot of uninterrupted purple!


Decision time

For me, I think it’s the second version with smaller spirals mainly in the depths; variation in spiral size, and spirals climbing from the depths towards the 3-D spirals.  I’m still not sure at this stage whether the stitched spirals will be expressed on both sides of the 3-layer purple spiral form – this will require a bit of experimentation once I get to the sinamay.  One thing I am planning to do, though, is to smooth out the re-entrant angle near the 3D spirals – image 17.  That will make the grosgrain ribbon binding work better, too.



Module 3 Chapter 10

design an accessory

Select a design idea to develop

As I foreshadowed in Chapter 9, I thought it might be fun to revisit the corrugated cardboard sample from Chapter 2 (shown in image 1)



This is simply a 3 dimensional, curled-up version of the basic spiral in image 2, which divides a circle into six equal-sized spiralling sectors using the smallest (and most curvaceous) French curve.



Possible accessories which immediately spring to mind are a cocktail hat and a brooch.  There is a huge number of photographs of cocktail hats bearing spirals on the web and only a slightly smaller proliferation of brooches – some examples appear in images 3 and 4, respectively.


18740063_2009558279267712_3295867312677702178_nSJ329Balenciage_SpiralHat_V&AAlisha hat Sheriff

Clockwise from top left: hats by Claire HedleyBalenciaga (in the V&A collection), Lilly Lewis,   Kirsten Fletcher, Vivien Sheriff and Susie Kenna.


dscn7598il_570xN.1089738623_5x7j turn-turn-broochCool Jewel Ruffle Brooch

Brooches by Alex Hall, Barbara Spence, Elise Winters and Shelly Shen.

I think there may well be more scope with the hat idea so will work on it for a while and see where it takes me.  I’m wondering whether I might be able to combine the 2-D spiral in image 2 with the 3-D shapes in image 1 to create an interesting design.

We had a trip to Sydney during which I went shopping (!) just at the beginning of the spring racing season.  David Jones, our premium department store, has a wonderful collection of hats so I dropped in to the accessories department to inspect some of their cocktail hats and fascinators to borrow some ideas about construction methods.  Many of the hats were constructed from sinamay, generally from two or three layers with the grain aligned at varying angles (not parallel).  I learned that pretty much all the DJ’s cocktail hats are constructed with an Alice band to secure them to the wearer’s head.  Some of these were covered with fabric; others were plain black plastic.  There were a number of different ways of attaching these to the hats: the neatest, I thought, was to pass the band through a short sleeve sewn onto the underside of the hat in the same material as the hat itself.  I also went to a millinery supplies shop, Hatters Millinery, at Rozelle, to see whether I, as a complete millinery novice, might co-opt some traditional millinery materials for my design.  I came away with a bag of interesting goodies to experiment with – some Fosshape, a metre of purple sinamay, grosgrain ribbon, covered millinery wire which I am told I can colour with a Sharpie pen, some veiling and a couple of plain, inexpensive cocktail hat bases, one of which is a very small, round, flat one with a comb attached.

The questions I am asking myself after my shopping expedition are:

  • Can I stitch into the sinamay to decorate the material with spirals?
  • If I do so, would I still be able to shape it using steam/water/heat in any combination to reproduce one of the spiral shapes I have in mind?
  • Will I make a base out of sinamay to build my hat on or will I use the smaller, purchased base and perhaps cover it with some of my dyed silk jersey?  Or make a base out of the Fosshape and cover that?  I might be able to use my tailor’s ham in place of a hat block.
  • If I decide to do cover the purchased base can I make a spiralling shape using the purple and green together?  Can I arrange the hat so that it shows? Does it really matter if it shows or not if I know it is there (a hat with a secret feature)?
  • Alice band or comb? (Hint: Go with the majority opinion in DJ’s hat department)
  • How can I make my 2D shapes (image 2) into 3D shapes which will be different from the original 3D shapes (image 1) so that I can use them as the structure of the hat and use the original 3D shapes as decoration? Am I confused yet?
  • Would the 3D shape in image 1 work better as a hat decoration if the spirals are rolled in different directions (i.e. break the 6 curled shapes apart and rearrange them)?
  • Do I want to make these shapes from the same material as the hat structure or shall I do something completely different – such as free-motion embroidery on soluble fabric, possibly wired and rolled?
  • Can I add some thin, self-supporting spirals, perhaps in beaded wire or wired cords?
  • To veil or not to veil?
  • What other ways might I add some beading or further embellishment to the hat, and really push the boat out?
Development of design idea

Since I wrote the first section of this post design development has proceeded on a number of fronts: essentially, experimentation and decision-making about the base of the hat, the form of the main part of the hat which will sit on the base, and decoration of the hat.  Contrary to what the form of this blog post might suggest, this has not been a linear process – I’ve been working on all three at once and there has been a lot of cross-fertilisation of design thinking as experimentation for each of the three elements has fed into the other two.

Base of the hat

Having looked at the purchased bases I bought from Hatter’s, I decided that although either would do the job, it might be more interesting (and more fun) to try working with the Fosshape 600.  This is a thermo-plastic, heat-activated moulding material which is used extensively by milliners, costumiers and makers of theatrical props.  In its raw state it looks like thick, slightly loose white felt or thin, slightly dense quilt wadding.  The ready-made hat bases I bought from Hatter’s were both round but I decided to make an oval base from the Fosshape (since human heads are generally oval in plan, I figured).  I took a pattern from the top of a hat (image 5) which I know fits me (I have a large, rather chaotic-looking head)  then cut two ovals of Fosshape (one for the top of the hat form and one for the lining) which I then shaped, one end at a time, by pinning over the smaller end of my tailor’s ham and then using an iron on a Cotton setting with a Teflon cloth to prevent the iron soleplate from becoming yucky.  Images 5 to 8 show the process.









I was told that Fosshape is able to be coloured with paint or dye but decided for the purposes of experimentation during the design phase to cover mine with some of the silk jersey I dyed for Chapter 9.  The lining of the hat form was easy – I just cut an oval of jersey slightly larger than the Fosshape form, ran a gathering thread around the edge and pulled it up on the hat form so that the concave side of the form was covered.  I then machine-stitched the jersey to the form making a spiral pattern, leaving space to attach a loop for an Alice-band.  Images 9 to 12 show the process.









For the top section of the hat form I decided to go with one of the arrangements shown in image 13.



Half and half would have been easier to sew, perhaps, but since I was thinking, by this stage, about using either two or four segments of the circle for the form of the main part of the hat (see below) I decided to go for a 4:2 ratio for the base.  Also, I was trying not to make any part of the hat too symmetrical, so I offset the oval which I cut out rather than centring it on the circle (in reality, this didn’t make much difference).  I then pinned, tacked and machined the purple and lime sections of the cover together, clipped and pressed the seams flat and gathered the resulting oval over the top of the hat base, then edge-stitched through the cover and the Fosshape.   Images 14 to 16 show the process.

14. Pattern


15. Tacked, ready to machine


16. Machined; curves clipped and seams pressed


I then gathered the edge over the second Fosshape form and edge-stitched through the form (image 17).



The plan is, should I decided to use this as the base for the final hat (and at this stage I think I will), to bind the top and lining of the base together with grosgrain ribbon to neaten the edge.  I wouldn’t be able to do that, though, until the main part of the hat is attached to the top of the base as I would need to stitch it through the base without it showing on the hat base lining.

Main part of the hat

The plan is to make the main part of the hat from sinamay, and to develop the form from part of the circle shown in image 2.  I began playing with shapes (from one to five of the spiralling segments cut from the circle – see image 13)) to see how I could express these in three dimensional forms by folding, rolling and cutting.  I quickly realised that if I wished to compare the possibilities of each of these shapes as a hat I would need to have all of them the same size – not in terms of overall dimensions but by making what would be the curved base of the folded, rolled or cut form roughly the same length in each case, so I drew a line on the 4-segment shape, measured it, calculated some ratios and resorted to the photocopier.  The five shapes which resulted after some experimentation are shown, stacked, in image 18 – the photograph shows I’ve already been playing with some of these.



Each of these had a notional linear base measurement of 22 cm to be arranged and glued onto a base circle with an 8 cm diameter, as shown in images 19 to 25.

19. One curving segment


20. Two segments


21.  Three segments


22. Four segments


23. Five segments – the flying saucer version …


24. … and with a chunk cut out …


25. … and rearranged.


What do I think about these?  The one-segment shape is rather squat and looks a bit like a US Navy sailor’s hat.  Perhaps not.  The two-segment shape is one I like – the upswept pointy end is quite elegant, although it may be too tall when constructed to size.  I would like to continue the pointy end of my final hat with some beaded spirals (see below) so this could be an issue.  I think that if I wore the three-segment hat I would feel the constant urge to be shooting apples off people’s heads with an arrow, so perhaps not.  The four-segment hat has its pointy end inserted through a slit near the wide end of the shape.  I like its more complex shape, and the fact that the bottom of it naturally forms an oval rather than a circle could be useful too.  There are also some obvious locations for ornamentation.  The five-segment hat is really too close to a full circle to be useful.  I played with this one for a while and ended up cutting a slot along the length of the shape, and slicing through the wide end, so I could roll it.  The fact that this one turned into a horrid, gluey mess tends to suggest it’s not really an option.  It was a pain to arrange and looks to convoluted and fussy for my liking.  It could also be quite difficult to construct from sinamay, so I’m going to abandon it.  My favourites, then are the two- and four-segment hats, and I’m tending to favour the four-segment one.  Having got this far, I was also thinking further about how to decorate the hat.


I have made a few samples to test out some of the ideas in the ‘questions to self’ list above.  First, I wanted to see what embroidered sinamay would look like.  Image 26 shows stitch samples on the sinamay I’m planning to use for the main part of the hat.



I think hand stitching works better than the machined spirals and, of the two, I’m tending to  favour the radial stitches over the running stitch – the spirals are more emphatic and it will be easier to conceal thread beginnings and endings.  I could do both but am conscious that I don’t want to have so much going on that the hat begins to look chaotic.  Most of the sinamay hats I have seen have two or three layers of the fabric with the grain not matched, with the edge bound with grosgrain ribbon, and so if I were to make my hat this way then I could have the stitching expressed on one side only – this is worth considering when I come to planning the embroidery.

Going back to the corrugated cardboard sample in image 1, I also gave some thought to how to use elements of this form as decoration.  Image 27 shows a few experiments with paper, intended to explore whether I should use all six segments together, break the form up a but, perhaps arrange the spiralling elements in different directions.


IMG_1765 IMG_1768IMG_1766 IMG_1771IMG_1767  IMG_1770

The decision at the moment is to keep the axis of the spiralling shapes parallel but that breaking up the shape may be worth pursuing.  I then tried a couple of different approaches to recreating these in free-motion machine embroidery on soluble fabric.  Images 28 to 32 show the process, and images 33 and 34 show the resulting samples.

28. First sample – note hoop and embroidery foot


29. First sample stitched


30. Holding the samples up to the light – no unattached threads


31. Working on second sample – wiring the edge


32. Pinned to foam before washing out the Vilene 541


33. The finished samples – top side …


34. … and bottom side


The difference is that the top sample has contrasting spirals and a wired edge.  I love millinery wire!!  It’s fantastic for wiring the edges of stitched shapes and can be coloured with a pen to match (or contrast with) the stitching.  I’ll consider these further when I come to making a full-scale model of the hat design – how many? the full rosette or break it apart or both? where to put them?  My inclination at the moment is to go with the two-toned spiral (perhaps knock the purple back a bit) so that the rosette/rosette elements don’t look plonked on, since every other element of the hat will contain both colours in my colour scheme.

The third set of samples is a couple of ideas for free-standing spirals to extend the narrow end of the hat form.  The upper sample in image 35 is simply some millinery wire coloured, passed through a paper crimping gadget to texture it a bit then with beads which just pass over the wire threaded on, then the beaded wire wound around a paintbrush handle.  The lower sample is a machine made cord made from silk threads in my colour scheme, metallic thread and more milliner’s wire, this time coloured purple.  After I had made the wired cord I threaded beads on Nymo thread a couple of inches at a time, then stitched into the cord, then more beads and more stitching.  When I coiled the cord I found that the beaded sections of thread formed their own, separate spirals which I rather like.  I may use both of these ideas and add a few spirals (three or five in all – it’s the gardener coming out) which would extend from the pointy end of the shape (stitched into the grosgrain ribbon edging).



Model of the hat, to natural scale

Having painted a sheet of cardboard purple with Brusho, I now need to work out how to scale up the four-segment shape.  Image 36 shows the pattern, with the fold line marked on.



I then made cardboard models of the base and the main part of the hat.  Unfortunately, I became so carried away with making the model that I completely forgot to take a photograph of it prior to adding decoration.  The decorations are much as shown above – three-dimensional spirals cut from painted, corrugated cardboard, spiralling wired cords simulated with coloured cake decorating wire, and embroidered spirals suggested using oil pastels.  It took a while to find an arrangement of the corrugated spirals I was happy with – it does work out best if the axis of all the spirals runs in the same direction, and also if the 3-D forms are clustered in one area of the hat.  The main rosette is on the highest section of the hat form, with single elements fluttering away from it and a half-rosette on the back.  The ‘embroidery’ is located in three places on the outside of the hat form.  Images 37 to 47 show a voyage around the hat, which is sitting on the tailor’s ham, beginning at the front and working around clockwise (i.e. right hand side next).























I did ask Cliff to take some photographs of the hat model on my head – it didn’t look great (because of the head, not the hat).  I wasn’t going to publish any of these but here’s a rear view (image 48).  Cliff said it looks like a pirate hat.



Seriously, the one piece of useful information I got from the hat-on-head experiment was that the main part of the hat is not angled forward as far as I thought it would be.  I won’t know until I make the ‘real’ hat whether this is going to be a problem or not but feel pretty sure that if it is, I will be able to rectify it by adjusting the hat base with a wedge of covered Fosshape at the back.

Have I answered the questions I posed above?  Yes, all except for the ‘veil’ question.  I think at this point that a veil may be superfluous but will try it out on the final hat, just to be sure.