Forest Flame Millinery

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I don't want to turn back the clock.

Unlike my friend, Jane from Projects By Jane, I do not want the clock to stop.

But like her, I want to have more time to prepare for the Christmas Bazaar that both of us have signed up at Vivo City. The rental has gone up for Dec and on top of that, both of us have to pay commission from our sales. So I do not want to lose money due to lack of stocks. Both of us designed and hand-made our products and that takes time. If we design and pay someone to sew for us, then it's different, I can churned out lots. But millinery is not something that you can just teach someone for a couple of hours and they can master it. After doing this for more than 2 years and with sewing background, I find that there's so much more to learn.

I don't want the clock to stop because I had a shitty October, as least for the first part. I want my year-end holidays to start, once I finished my invigilation duty for GCE O level. Someone at work been really nasty and I finally putting up for 2 years, I told her off. She decides to ignore me which to me is like, YES! I can handle that very well, thank you very much. Should have done that earlier...:}

My laptop was stolen from the staffroom and i had to pay for it because I did not secure it that day. Yeah, and you think TEACHERS are morally upright who impart values? My daughter asked for a new laptop for school too, so I want to make sure that I sell enough to make some money for Christmas.

I know my headbands sell well, even though that's not an area that I am keen, they bring in the money. Yes, I made 100! I also made small fascinator-hats catered to Singaporean's taste. I don't like them very much but the ladies like small dainty things. Nope, they won't be sold at my website, these are what I classified as Bazaar Stocks. One-off. No more.

My new website is nearly done. It's a NEW NAME! Still keeping Forest Flame for a while - and may retain the address for the more affordable hats that are under S$100.  Have made up my mind yet, though.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I haven't been blogging

1. I forgot my password to this blog!

2. I 've been busy making headbands for Christmas.

So, what have you been up to?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Making vintage and larger hats

When I had that dreadful feeling on the eve of every bazaars, I knew that this was the end. Selling at bazaars and craft fairs has become a chore of which I dread.

This feeling came about because I have no time to make new pieces for sale. Even if I have the time to make new pieces, I just made small pillboxes because they are more affordable and more acceptable to Singaporean buyers. It is depressing that I am already under selling - my price is a mere one-third of what similar products are selling in UK and USA. At the same time, I have to handle shoppers who mishandled my hats. Making the decision to stop selling at bazaars come easy and I feel so relieve now that I don't have to make new hats simply for bazaars. It's no fun sleeping past midnight and wake up at 5+a.m. to get ready to go to school. If you don't live in Singapore, you may want to know that school in Singapore starts at about 7.25am and as teachers, I like to be in school by 7am for my cuppa. We start with singing national anthem, school song and reciting the pledge before students return to their classroom for lessons.

I will still attend bazaars but probably only during school holidays.

So now I get more time to hone my skills as a beginner milliner. A lot of my millinery skills are picked up from books and asking lots of questions from other experienced milliners AND lots of practice.

I hope to save enough by end of this year to take a trip to Ireland for some sightseeing and to learn from Lina Stein whose hats I adore. There are so many things to learn and picking new skills is important.

On my own, I will practise making bigger hats like these since I have acquired several new/used hat blocks:

The large brimmed hat block is my latest 'want'. I have just ordered it from a hat block maker since I can't seem to find any used one for sale.  I also ordered a larger saucer hat block which I know I shouldn' since I already have 3. The other 3 are all about 300 - 320 mm diameter and I want a large one. I like saucer hat and I started making them before the Royal Wedding. At that time, Guy Morse Brown only had 2 types of Saucer hat block but now they have quite a selection after several prominent members of the British Ryal family were seen in them.

Stay tune till I complete my hats.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Gearing for Christmas 2012

I didn't travel out of Singapore during June Holidays. I seemed fine on the first week as I was working on my work studio and clearing the mess and dirt carpenters had left behind after removing some partition built by the previous owner. By second week, I started to feel 'hollow' and weak whenever I saw people with luggage waiting for taxi and when I saw Bus service 858 (that is the express bus to the airport). So many times have I wavered and checked flights to go to BKK and  HKG. End of the story is I sticked to my plan and did not go on a holiday.

If you can't figure what's the big deal, you need to know the type of person I am. I work 5 months (24/7 and up to 10 hours a day) without taking any leave just so that I can have at least 2 week of vacation overseas. I seized every opportunity to get out of Singapore - to refresh, to recharge.

I used the money saved for vacation to order stocks. So far, I have bought 4 new and 1 pre-owned hat blocks, ordered bales of veiling, sinamay fabrics from England and alencon lace and vintage millinery flowers from USA. I am now only short of petersham ribbon and snow white sinamay which is out of stock.

These are what I have bought.

Velvet Millinery Roses

Peacock feathers that are bleached and dyed

Pastel and printed sinamay fabric
Sinamay fiber comes from the abaca plant, native to the Phillipines, which is a variety of the banana plant and abaca fiber is extracted from this. When woven the material makes a gauzy lightweight natural material with a strawlike appearance. The UK company that sells these Sinamay fabrics sourced the hand-woven fabric from plantations and villages that benefits directly from the sales of these fabrics. Colours are dyed in UK.    

Large box of arrow quills and dyed pheasant feathers.

Love the colours!
All these is to get ready for Christmas. What? So early? I teach full-time, and since school starts this week, I have not done any sewing. I have a class test coming up and a common test to be submitted for vetting on 1 August. Then theory and practical exam to be set by early September. I am down as time keeper/holding officer for oral exam and I dread the numerous meetings coming up to discuss the school holistic health report. There are more tasks to be done but I don't want to think about it. If I do not start making hats, I will not have enough stocks to do a long week of bazaar. I want to save more money as I am planning to take no-pay leave in July-August next year.

I am happy that the Garden by the Bay is ready. The person who designed this is pure genius. Singapore has been building new structures, 2 casino, universal studio theme park but none as awe-inspiring yet so beautiful as the Garden by the Bay. I can't wait to see it myself when the weather is cooler. Here some pictures I got from dailymail many week ago. I leave them to you to see and if you are planning a visit to Singapore, this is not to be missed. 

These man-made trees are fitted with solar panels, hanging gardens and rainwater catches and will be used to display plants from across the globe

My favourite photo

On the left is Marina Bay Sands, it's a deluxe hotel with a casino. The boat structure on the top floor is the sky garden. Another awesome place to visit - I mean the sky garden, not casino

Monday, June 18, 2012

Duchess of cambridge Diamond Jubilee Hats

Many readers read my previous blog on Kate's hats.

I love this pillbox by UK Milliner, Jane Taylor but I can never afford the £790 (S$1580) price-tag.

With the Diamond Jubilee celebration just over, I am adding the new hats she wore recently. Tomorrow is the start of Royal Ascot and I will post more Kate's hat when the time comes. I am looking forward to seeing if she will wear something new. 'New' as in like something that is not saucer-style. She wore several Jane Corbett Hats but the styles are similar, and it's getting boring.

Jane Corbett's hat

Similar style of hat on Kate, also by Jane Corbett. But all three look pretty good with their 'co-ordinated' outfit. Cam wears Treacy's hat but I forgot who is the milliner for Sophie.
I like this red piece better than the red maple leaves piece she wore to Canada. I think this is a Sylvia Fletcher's hat. Correct me if I am wrong.

This was worn last year, so I'll skip.

My favourite (as you know by now) was the nude, beaded cocktail one with silk tulle and organza discs finished with smoked quartz and veiling worn for the service at St Paul’s.

Source: Jane Taylor Millinery

This hat on its own does not seem spectacular to you, but it matched kate's outfit perfectly. 

With Ascot's new rules on dressing and hats, I am looking forward to see what the Duchess will wear at Royal Ascot.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Starting Again

I was unable to sleep the last couple of days but finally the body was worn out and I slept properly last night without depending on medication.

My work studio is finally ready. 90% of my things are now in cupboard and shelves. Previously they were all over the living rooms and especially on the floor.

You probably think it is still a mess but hey, this is a working studio. I like the fact that my hat blocks are in one spot and not in boxes on the floor. The 1.8 metres table from my brother comes in useful as I can work on different hats. The area that I partitioned off is also near the window and so there's plenty of natural light. I cannot believe how I had been blocking and sewing my hats sitting on the sofa for the last 2 years! The only things left to do now are to bring the ironing board nearer and set up my portable steamer.

After a lot of practice, I must say that I am getting quite handy-dandy with the Russian Veiling.  See how it forms like a inverted bowl in this picture. This is essential as there must be enough space between the wearer's eyes, nose and the veil and it must get narrower at the bottom for aesthetic reason.   Some people simply gather the edges but that's very ugly because it looks like wearing a flare skirt on your head.

I made 3 roses from black silk but somehow they look a tad heavy. I want to show the black white polka dots mini hat and the roses seem to be a little too much.

While I was out yesterday, the Postie came with my parcel. So I had to go to the Post Office today to pick it up. In the past, with Speedpost (a more expensive shipping method), we can request redelivery. To cut cost, this service is scrapped and if no one is at home, the parcel goes straight to our local Post Office. I only buy small blocks because I hardly make big hat. My double brim block from UK has not been used yet. Here's another pointed hat block from USA. I was lucky (yes, again!) and got this 'cheap' at ebay and it's brand new.

I have recently acquired a new beret block from Boon and Lane. I am waiting for my gold parasisal straw from New York and then I will block the hat. This is a much larger beret than the one above but my daughter picked it without realising that this is a shape that is so 'Kate'. My fashionista-daughter has good taste.  

Got to get back to sewing hats....ciao.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We heart Patiphan

Patiphan passed away over the weekend in Bangkok.

I would never be able to forget this smile.

I always thought that he would recover but then I should never have pretended that he would be well after chemo and joined the school at Sec 5. It is very difficult for me today and there was so many regrets that I have.

I should have given him a call to find out how he was. I should have sent him another email when he didn't reply. There are many 'should have' and all is too late now.

Patiphan was my student and I taught him when he was in Sec 1 and 2. He was unlike other students. He was respectful to teachers and a well-mannered boy. In my school, students pretended that they do not know teachers once we do not teach them. But Patiphan at Sec 3 and 4, continued to greet me and had meals with me during recess and lunch break. We talked about our love for Thailand and Thai foods all the time. He asked me which was my favourite Thai food and was rather surprised when I said Kanom Jeem. He said that Singaporeans only know Phad Thai and Tom Yum Goong and asked why I liked Kanom Jeem. I told him that I like the simplicity of the dish and the fact that everyone shares and helps themselves to the salted vegetables, raw long beans, raw bitter gourd, raw beansprouts and the herbs on the table. He missed and loved to eat Laap Moo but did not have the chance to eat as his guardian would not allowed him to cook and his guardian only cooked Thai-Chinese foods at home. So I promised him that I would make for him after I bought my ingredients from Little Thailand. But I never did.

The Patiphan I know was always smiling even when he knew he had leukemia. He will be sadly missed by all who have known him.

Rest in peace, Patiphan.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My 'simple' button cocktail hat

There are some tutorial at youtube where they teach you how to make a quick and simple cocktail hat using lots lots of hot glue and a plastic disposable bowl. Hey, to each his own. If you want to do that for yourself, by all means go ahead but don't expect anyone will pay for that. But this is how we, milliners, go about to make hats. It took me the whole of today to get this done.

My friend, Nancy [Nancy Wu Millinery] from Hong Kong gave me this beautiful cranberry red velvet fabric. It was thicker and better quality than the one I bought in London. I chose the smallest button block in my collection and it was one that I bought online while in Singapore and had it sent to my London address last year.

Hat blocks are the basis of all blocked hats. Milliners make shape from wooden hat block. I've covered them with cling wrap to protect the surface. Since I started making hats, I am slowly building up my collection of hat blocks. It's not something you should rush as hat blocks (new or vintage) are VERY expensive. Mine range from S$40 to $400 and some of the expensive ones are used and vintage stock. Button shapes are less expensive and I have many sizes in this round shapes and these shapes are more popular with Asians who have smaller faces and they either don't like or dare not wear anything medium to large size.

So after I made the round shape out of buckram (cotton canvas fabric), I covered with the red velvet that Nancy had given me.

Using the same fabric, I cut different petals. Some petals are stiffened with wire and bondaweb.

Forming a bud with stamens and I stitched one petal and a time to form a flower. I also made a few sprig of veiling and stitched onto the button hat.

Look, I don't use hot glue gun. I hand-stitched everything and I can say proudly that I am very neat in my stitching and always strive to achieve that no-stitch look. Meaning? You can look under the petals and you can't see any visible stitching. What's left now is the lining. I will have to line the underside before I sew on the elastic and/or add wire tooth hair comb.

This shape is my latest acquisition to my hat block collection.  I made a bridal hat in this shape using sinamay (banana fibre) and sew lace and pearls BUT after I finished, I cannot remember where I have put it.  How can that be? So I blocked again but this time on buckram because I want to do à la Jane Taylor piece where she use beaded fabric on many of her hats. This is in buckram and I had iron interfacing to protect the beaded fabric that I am going to use. Alas, it didn't work because there is an indent in this shape and the stretchy fabric refused to conform to the shape.


I think I will cover with silk and sew little lace applique on the dented area to hold the shape.

In the meantime, I will make another red button cocktail hat. The first one is always trial and error. I have found an easier way to do the flower petals and will make another one. As for the first one, I usually keep as reference. One day when I have accumulated many of such pieces, I may sell them at a reduced price.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Butterfly brings luck, happiness and riches

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.

That's Irish blessing for you. My daughter is half-irish, so besides making soda bread and all things potato for the family, I know a few irish blessing (and quite a few types of cursing too).

When I saw this sculpture by Manolo Valdez (1942 Spain), what comes to mind was Philip Treacy's Butterfly hat for Alexander McQueen.

Manolo Valdez 1942 Spain

Philip Treacy's hat for Alexander McQueen

Seriously, this was never going to be a wearable hat. But Treacy is such a master in his creations. He is more than a milliner, he is a master sculptor too. I can never figure out how he attached the butterflies such that they looked like they were perched on the model's head. Here's another two Treacy's butterfly-hats which I find kind-of wearable.

Princess B wore this during Royal Ascot many years ago, before her pretzel hat. This gal is definitely very adventurous when it comes to hats. 

In case you are not familiar with Philip Treacy, here's a pic. He is one of the most famous milliner in UK (most say he is the most famous, but I think Stephen Jones is just as famous). And it's true that half the guests who attended the Royal Weddings wore his hats. He made hats mainly for royalty (not just UK alone) and celebrities. Mortals like me cannot never afford a hat that cost 2000-3000 pounds.

Victoria's hat to the Royal wedding was a Phlilp Treacy. I really like this hat and at one time, was about to order the hat block. But I did not because I wanted a saucer block more. 

 I may have digressed. Back to butterflies. Look at SJ Parker's hat. It's a PT's and see how the butterflies were made to look like they were flying instead of being attached. By the way, it is this picture that got me really interested in hats. And the catalyst is the video of the famous union jack top hat video from Stephen Jones Millinery that pushed me out of my comfort zone and travelled all the way from Singapore to London to learn millinery.

Milliners (not just PTreacy) have been using butterflies in their hats. Just google search and you can see hundreds of hat designs with butterflies. No milliners has monopoly over the use of butterflies. That was why I could not understand why someone passed a comment at MAAD that my hat is just like so-and-so. Was he implying that I copy? I was sewing butterflies on a saucer hat while manning my stall at Red Dot Museum and this gentleman told his lady friend that I am making a hat just like ABC's hat. I didn't hear the name of the person for if I have, I can google search the hat and see it for myself. 

If you look at Valdez's sculpture and PTreacy's hat for McQueen, you see some similarities too. PT may have gotten his inspiration from Valdez. As for me, my butterfly hat ideas come after a visit to The Orchid Garden at Botanical Garden. It was two monarch butterflies perched on an orchid plant and I had a photo of them. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to post the picture and I promise never to upload to internet. Nothing mysterious about it. I did teacher work attachment at The Orchid Garden and had access to new hybrids that have not been named or published or shown to public. These hybrids are grown and taken care of at NPark until celebrities or famous people visit Singapore. A new hybrid will be named after them. Just recently Elton John had a new hybrid named after him - 'The Doritaenopsis Sir Elton John'.

I have decided to stop attending craft market and bazaar until September. I have now 2 bridal hats to do and one is for a friend. Another will be a challenge because it was free form and I don't know if I can twist the crin and make a similar velvet flower in another colour. Check back if you want to see my hats with butterflies. I hope my butterflies hat will bring me more luck.