Forest Flame Millinery

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting catty, oops, I mean hatty

I joined a new bazaar last month and this is a rather unique bazaar. It's called PaTH (Pop and Talent Hub), a platform to promote social enterprise and talent development in Singapore. The location is at a shopping centre: Vivo City. This is a HUGE mall and the human traffic is unbelievable. Being rather reclusive, I hate shopping mall and I did feel uneasy before my first bazaar. Somehow, I managed and the mall did not appear too intimidating; and the old dear selling jewelry beside me was rather congenial and helped me look after my counter when I needed to go buy lunch and dinner. Her stall is classified as 'social' meaning that she is from an under-privilege group and selling jewelry is one way she earns some pocket money. Having gave up serious jewelry making 3 year ago, I'll be packing lots of beads and stones to give her when I see her end of the month. 

Having spent an enormous amount of time designing and making my hats, I get annoyed when people assumed that I buy my stocks and am merely a reseller. I know of at least 1 seller who does not believe that I made my hats. I didn't let this affects me, frankly, I don't give a damn to what other thinks. If I have, I would not have survived my present jobplace for 3 years. But that's another story and I probably won't whinge about that here.

Most people do not realise the amount of time spent in hat making. I wish I can churn out a few hats a day. A small cocktail hats with trimming like this took me 3 days.

It's not finished yet. There is the lining and the elastic. Looks deceptively easy but every beads and petals were assembled piece by piece and the Miyuki drop beads are stitched by hand.

This is the back of the lilac hat and the lining is waiting ti be stitched. Due to the numerous beads being sewn, the back is nothing great to look at, for the time being. I didn't bother to be neat as I was more concerned that the rim be taut and smooth, thus the numerous sewing lines.

Here are 2 sinamay pieces I am working now (above pics). The natural colour piece has not been wired yet. 

If you wonder whether I have used hot glue to stick all the lace and trimmings onto the green hat form, the answer is a big NO. I hate hot glue. All trimmings are hand-stitched. The back of this green sinamay piece is so neat because I used invisible thread. For sinamay piece, lining is not required. So, it is crucial that small stitches are used and use a thread colour as close to the sinamay.  I wasn't careful for the lilac piece because I know that my mess will be concealed within the lining.  

The 2 pics are a collection of my small perchers, fascinators and cocktail hat block. Made in wood and they form the shapes of hat. They cost me a bomb! But some pieces, I got it at a bargain at ebay.

Hat blocks are very expensive even when they are really old. Especially the one below that I got from France. The condition for this block was really bad at the ridge. 

This one (above) is a crown block. It is still 'affordable' (US$80) as I got it from ebay. I am still checking ebay to look for a 23" fedora brim. I have not yet made anything with these 2 blocks. It's probably the musty smell that turns me off. I still have a white hat which I am making for myself. Here it is - looked plain but once trimmings are added, it will look marvellous.

The wooden hat blocks are used to form shapes. Here's another sinamay blocked and it will  form the shape when dry.
Edges will be trimmed and wired. I will hand-stitch a matching bias binding because the feathers I'll be using is also of a similar shade. 

I recently saw some hats on sale at an online portal and it really gets into me when I see hats finished poorly: raw edges showing, uneven stitching, pleats and folds on places that should not be in the first place and joints and seams that are not pressed. It is important to make sure that the back of the hat looks equally professional as the front. Some hats are made solely from a hot glue gun where every trimmings, feathers are glued. It looks messy with tiny glue strands all over. I will never do that. If I want to do couture, I have to make sure that my craftsmanship is excellent. No taking short-cut for me.

This is the back of a hat that I just completed. I am doing 'extra'. After the lining, I was not happy with a section of the stitches and a section was uneven. So I sew additional grosgrain ribbon to hide thee flaws. My millinery teacher used to comment that I am very particular with my stitches. Sometimes, she would laugh and just tell me not to bother starting with a back stitch and that "just a fat knot will do". 

So my dear 'future' customers, I hope you realise that hat making is a tedious process and why mine are more expensive than those made with hot glue gun. I hope I will meet NONE of those people who know they will never wear my hats, will NEVER buy my hats. Yet will TRY on every hat that I have and walk off without a word.  And did I mention that my hats are not for babies, husbands and boyfriends? Guys, don't amuse your gals by trying my hats. Mummies, don't force my hats on babies. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Think Out of Your Hat

Okay, I know Singaporean do not have a habit of wearing hats. I remain optimistic that we will pick up hats as a fashion item and not just for bad hair days.

You wear hats on your heads...I know that's obvious but hear me out. A conventional hat is made of a crown and a brim. So if you wear a 'hat' that does not fit into the majority's idea of a hat, you are subjected to ridicule. I realise this more and more so when I read of cruel remarks hurled on hat wearers and designers, simply because they were not wearing conventional hats. When it comes to hat designs, the Brits top it all. I love British hat designers and besides the maestro, Jones and Treacy, I adore Jane Taylor and Rachel Trevor-Morgan for their elegant pieces and Irish designers, Mark T Burke and Lina Stein are young milliners that I admire.

Outside UK, people are not too kind with certain British designs. Why do you not consider these hats?

I wanted to make hats like this when I laid eyes on this picture.

Reading all the comments that ridiculed this hat and SJP but my first thought was "omg I love this hat! It's so bloody amazing and how was this hat made?" The designer is none other than Philip Treacy who designed this awesome sculpture. How many times have I use 'awesome'? Guess I get a high whenever I see hats that defy law of gravity.

When Philip Treacy appeared in Project Runway with his signature hats, there were nasty comments made on his hats by people mostly from you-know-where. Of course, the single one hat that unites all people in this planet is none other than the one wore by the Princess (I can never figure which is B and which is E) at the Royal wedding. I do not have to say it, do I? You know the one that was so well-made in its execution that I wish I have that level of skills. Sorry if you hate it. I love that hat, just that the wearer could not pull off the look.

These hats got the nay from many people.

What's wrong with these hats? Nothing. 

Look at the hat that Stephen Jones and Vogue Magazine picked as the winner of a hat competition. 

This hat does not fit into the mould of a traditional hat. It's a hat. But it's not your idea of a hat.

I like saucer hats. This is one hat that many people hate. For what reasons? I don't know. Maybe the UFO conventions and those tin-foil saucer-like hats?

I like saucer hats. Because I like, I will make. And I will make many variations. For I know you will like them too, not's okay. But you will.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Have you been to Red Dot Museum?

On 12 August, I attended MAAD's (market for artists and designers) first night event. I have been setting up a stall and selling my designs at MAAD since 2009 but never have I seen such a big turnout.

Here's a look at my table or rather suitcase.

I didn't carry many items as I did not know if I have enough space. My friend came well-prepared. 

Irene (smiling broadly) sells bags using fabrics from Japan. You can catch her work here. She carries a huge selection of pretty fabrics that she source personally whenever she goes back to Japan. You can choose the fabrics and she will make the bag for you. I like her bags as they are well-structured. 

The OIC (Organisation of Illustrators Singapore) attracts a large crowd as usual. 

Two of the presidential hopeful was spotted at MAAD. Dr Tony Tan was the first to arrive. Well, he was my 'ex-boss' when he was the Minister of Education back in Kay Siang Road days. He had a bodyguard with him, and an entourage of photographers.

What do we have in common? No, not the glasses nor hair. We had the same pose - hands behind. Coincidence? {Updated on 28 August 2011: Dr Tony Tan was voted in to become Singapore's 7th President on 27 August 2011}

Later in the night, another presidential hopeful, Mr Tan Jee Say was spotted. I hardly know him but he came across as easy-going, unassuming and witty. 

What do Mr Tan Jee Say and I have in common in this photo? We have a pen each on our tops....

If you have never been to Red Dot Museum (where MAAD is), you should. The next MAAD event is on 9 Sept (Fri) 5pm to 12 midnight. It's the school holidays and I am going to be there again. It will be less stressful for me as I need not rush off from school to reach there and start setup at 3pm.

Here's a Tupperware display that I like:

If you are free on 9 Sep, do drop by at Red Dot Museum.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

MAAD 1st Art and Design Night Festival on 12 August

Market of Artists and Designers (MAAD) has undergone a change in their format. No longer opening on the 1st weekend of the month, it is now once a month and happening at night. Mark the date - 12 August 2011 (Fri), 6pm to 12 midnight.

For updates, join them at facebook.

I think it is an achievement that MAAD has 'sustained' 5 long years in Singapore. Many markets come and go and it's diFFicult especially for one which promotes only original works by independent artists and designers. Yet despite been around for five years, I still hear people referring MAAD as a flea market.  Yo dork!... , can't these people distinguish the differences between a flea market and MAAD? To set the record straight, here's what I have taken from MAAD:


MAAD is the Market of Artists And Designers. It is a monthly Friday night celebration of local creativity at the red dot design museum. It is a platform to sell, gather feedback, test market or just to create awareness on your creative endeavours. We welcome:

1. Original works such as art, design and cra f t
2. Creative services like photography, design and even architecture
3. Performance such as local bands, launch of indie albums or sneak previews of your next theatre play
4. Exhibitions such as art installation, photography, any other creative projects.


Artists, designers, architects, craft makers, illustrators photographers, performer, song writers, musicians, singer or anyone with a creative passion can participate to show your work of love.


The next MAAD is on the 12th August 2011, Friday 5 p.m. to 12 midnight.


It is held at the red dot design museum, 28 maxwell road, red dot traffic building. it is just 3 minutes walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT station.

So with this rebranding, I hope you can pop by on 12 August to join us and support Made-In-Sg.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hats at Another Royal Wedding

The royal wedding over the weekend showcased some amazing hats worn by the royalties and celebrities. One thing noticeable is that Saucer hats in different shapes and sizes are everywhere. It is also a style that I absolutely love. Here's a selection:

The Duchess' large teardrop saucer hat. It is in the classic style where the flowers are sewn on the 'inside'. 

The Countess of Wessex in a matching hat and I love the colour. I usually like the hats she wore. This is no exception.

That's a hat that suited Princess B. I am working on a similar one with feather butterflies.

Brown looks good with white.
Celebrities and their hats

After all these hats, let's not forget that it's Zara Phillips & Mike Tindall Wedding.

Which is your favorite hat?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hat Making Challenge by Milliners of Etsy

The Milliners of Etsy has organised another hat challenge and I'm mighty excited about it. More so than the last challenge where I made a saucer hat.

For the second round, the theme is Avant Garde + Sea.  The reason for my over brimming excitement is that one of the gal has gotten Richard Nylon to be the Judge. I have always find Nylon's work refreshing and cutting edge. His style is also what I like, more Brits than Aussie, at least, that's what I find it to be. Besides Stephen Jones, I like his work best.  So how can I not be excited over this challenge?

My original idea is a turban hat. The folds and pleats symbolise the waves and I will add lots of bushy stuff to represent sea grass.

But draping the turban was not as easy as it seems and I regretted not asking my African friend to teach me fold a lady turban hat before I left London. Anyway, this idea was abandoned as I google, I saw a turban hat similar to what I had envisaged earlier.

She was a 1920-30s Hollywood silent movie star - Anna May Wong. This turban is too close to what I planned and no way will I make this hat as it may seems that I have copied. One down.

My next big idea was to use wire & ribbons to make faux coral reefs and  attach them to a base.  I am running out of time and did not want to spend unnecessary time experimenting. Two down.

Then I decided to make a GIANT coral flower using silk. It was too much like a flower and not a coral. Two night sitting beside a hotplate curling silk petals .... electricity bill probably will be very high the next billing month.

With not much time left, I am still undecided what I want to do. I know most of the gals have ordered materials, drew their sketches and some have started. I have not done anything of those.

With Avant Garde theme, I do not want to make something that is silly in the end. I want the sea theme to be subtle, not explicit like sew a giant octopus and add seashells, seaweed....etc. That may be lovely to look at but will be more appropriate for costume. I want to design a wearable hat that you and I will not be afraid to wear out.

Yes, I think PT's lobster hat for Isabella Blow and Lady GaGa is visually stunning but it's not for us mere mortals.
Lady Gaga in PT's Lobster hat
PT's muse, Isabella Blow, wearing the 'famous' original Lobster Hat 

And I am not Philip Treacy. If I make a sotong (squid) hat or up one level, a geoduck {pronounced as gooey duck} hat, will I win the challenge and be famous?
Geoduck, some kind of shellfish. I can't eat it simply because I have looked at it. Eating this is vile.

So what will I do? All will be unveil in 3 weeks time. Good night.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Terrible Bazaar To be In

I joined a bazaar at United Square on 9 & 10 July 2011. It was by far the worst organized and horrible bazaar I have taken part in.

Prior to the bazaar, incredibly named Fashionista @ United Square (I shall tell you later why it's 'incredible') the organiser spammed my email account with the Dos and Don't, the rules and regulations. Spammed? Yes, for every information that the organiser conveyed, they do it TWICE.  Why, urban events?

These were part of the rules and regulation:
1. Vendors are NOT allowed to sell any COSMETICS, CHILDREN'S ITEMS an IMITATION GOODS.
2. If you want to have racks, it can only be SINGLE tier rack, not more than 1.6m in height.
3. if you want to leave you items overnight, do NOT use canvas sheet to cover your items, use a CLOTH. (if you feel insecure, you can use canvas to cover, and wrap a cloth over it). this is because the landlord management doesn't not permit the use of canvas.

At least 3 stalls sold imitation Cath Kidston bags. Yeeeee.....yak....that really cheapened the standard of the bazaar. Children toys were also sold. Vendors cannot sell children items because the shopping centre is essentially one that specialises on children goods and service. One stall sells 'Angry Bird' products, of course, IMITATION too! His stall was so disorganised and at one stage, have all his goods on the floor. People looking for cheap goods were squatting on the floor rummaging and that blocked the passageway.

Then of course, vendors selling goods ignored instructions and brought along double rack that took up much of their neighbour space. 

Canvas was used to cover up the table.

Yes, majority of the vendors disregard the rules and regulation. 

Do you know why? It's NATO by the organizer. No action, talk only.  The organizer did nothing to ensure there is enough walking space for the vendors who were positioned inside. Imagine those vendors on the outer circumference positioned their tables, rack, boxes.... such that NOBODY can enter the inner circle. Unless the customers can fly, they will not bother to come in and check out our stalls.

The organizer were too timid but they were fierce in their emails, threatening vendors that if they don't comply, they will not be allowed to set up stall. HAHAHAHAHA...what a joke. 
In the end, these 'paper soldiers' just sat at their table quietly.

That's why I find it incredible that this is called a fashionista bazaar. Cheap $10 clothes, bags, tacky imitation goods? Yes, Urban eventz is holding another 'fashionistas' bazaar at the Cathay end of the month. If you deal with cheap clothings from China and Thailand, imitation children goodies like angry birds and fake bags .... contact the organizer for the Cathay bazaar. If customers ask if your goodies are imitation, just say you have special license to sell,. That's what I heard from the sellers.  If fine and jail term does not faze you, go ahead. Yes, special license. Just don't let the customers see the poor stitching, lopsided label and designs that wasn't in the genuine collection.

As for me, I do not want to be associated with an event company with dubious reputation. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Duchess of Cambridge's cocktail hats

I hardly see Kate Middleton wear full hats, you know what I mean. Those with a crown and a full brim, like what the Queen usually wears.

The Duchess seems to favour cocktail hats. When I was in London, I had been buying Hello Magazine every week just so to oggle the hats. Kate wears many saucer hats and it has become a trend in England. My hat block suppliers have been updating me on new saucer hat block. I already have one saucer hat block (same as the pic of Kate in the grey waffle sinamay) and have made 2 for the bazaar at Novena Square next weekend.

The Duchess wears saucer-hat style quite frequently. No wonder every hat block makers  is scrambling to make them. This saucer hat is made with black window sinamay. 
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This cocktail hat in taupe parasisal. I am still thinking if I should place an order for this block. With shipping, it will cost me nearly S$300.

A simple and sweet fascinator style. It looks like sinamay again.

This is the latest hat she wore to Canada. It's parasisal with matching flower s. The leaves should be in leather. This is an interesting block with fold-back.

The black beret-style hat is simple and chic. I have the block and will add beret-style to my shop.

Another saucer-hat and this is made with waffle sinamay. Since this picture, waffle sinamay has gone out of stock. I have placed my order but they will only available in September. Fancy one made with this sinamay? Don't worry, it will not cost you 899 pounds. I had this block for several months and now this style is tremendously popular.

The Brits love to wear saucer-hat perched in front. I love the style. 

An old picture (before her marriage), and Kate middleton wore a fur felt beret. So british, Love it!
As long as the Duchess continues to wear more hats, milliners like myself is more than happy.