Author Archives: D0lphinN3rd

All about millinery felt – how is it made, how is it different to ‘normal’ felt

‘Normal’ felt is flat. If you try to use this flat felt to block a 3D shape – like a standard domed crown – it will have to have a seam.  It might also rip and get a hole in it as it is usually quite thin. And modern day craft felt is also very likely to be synthetic or have a mix of synthetic in it. It will never have the same look and feel as a hat body made specifically for millinery.

Hat making felt is sold as already in a rounded hat shape. There are quite a few different shapes you can buy from factories that make hat bodies, but as a beginner you will probably either buy it as a cone or a capeline.  When you are looking for what to buy you need to know 2 things:

  1. The shape you want to buy. The shape you will buy from a millinery materials supplier is either a cone or a capeline.  Sometimes you might hear people talk about a ‘flare’ (which is a slightly bigger cone).  See below for a picture of a capeline (needed for larger brimmed hats) and a cone (used for pillboxes / berets / short top hats and bowlers).
  2. The material you want the shape to be made in. Felt is what the material is.  It is a compressed shape of felted fibres, but the fibres can from a variety of animals. And the cost of your hat body (cone or capeline) will change depending on what animal it has been made from.  It could be wool, rabbit, hare, beaver, cashmere, mink….. and probably more that I have forgotten!  If buying vintage felts, please remember that it is very likely the felt was made using mercury.  Think about your health and safety and wear gloves when blocking it as you might otherwise absorb the chemicals through your skin.

A millinery felt cone

A millinery felt capeline

Felt is one of the oldest, if not the oldest material used for making hats.  When you think of Guy Fawkes and see those tall crowned hats, they are made from felt.  Below is a great film from the Torb and Reiner YouTube channel, where they describe some of the differences between different millinery felt hat bodies.

Some pictures of my own stock of millinery felt and what they are called if you want to buy something similar

A plain furfelt.  I bought this from Kopka in Germany.  A thinner felt than a peachbloom and a lovely matt quality.  A good option for making vintage looking hats.  I have not found a UK supplier of plain furfelt, and have been told by a large UK supplier that it doesn’t exist (not true!)  If you want even thinner felt, which is perfect for draping and flower making, then you can buy ’tissue’ felt, also from Kopka in Germany.

Plain furfelt (have not found a supplier in the UK)

A peachbloom or velour felt.  When you buy it they will normally ask if you want a single sided or double sided peachbloom. That means do you want the slightly fuzzy surface on both sides or just on the top (double sided is more expensive).  Yes, this is made from rabbit fur.  It is most likely if you buy this in the UK to come from a large felt producer in the Czech Republic called Tonak.  The rabbit fur is a by product of the meat industry.  Furfelt is much easier to block and has a softer look to blocked wool felt.

Peachbloom or velour – a furfelt

A soleil millinery felt cone, in blue and red.  It is a quality of felt half way between a melusine and a velour peachbloom.  The shiny surface shows up best on dark colours and for this reason the supplier I bought them from (Kopka in Germany) only sells them in jewel colours.

Soleil fur felt

I made this hat from nothing!  I made the felt from raw sheep’s wool whilst on a course with The School of Historical Dress taught by Rachel Frost of the company Crafty Beggars. It took 2 days, 2 days!  If you are interested in buying a hat like this, Rachel is an expert in hats that were made in the days when felt was made entirely by hand with very little machinery

Handmade felt from scratch by me

I bought this felt by mistake from Kopka and it was impossible to block.  I bought it from the men’s section of the website and it is a very thick hood that is designed to be blocked by machines in a factory.  ‘Melange’ means the way the colour is made up of different coloured fibres mixed together to create the colour, rather than a dyed flat colour.

melange felt sold for men’s hats

A melusine felt in hunter green.  These are getting to be pretty expensive these days!  You can create a nice recreation of a plush silk vintage top hat with this type of felt.  After blocking you steam, brush and polish it and you get a lovely shine.

Melusine felt

2 wool felt cones, blocked on top of each other over a rounded crown to bring up the size of the crown to my client’s headsize.  Wool felt is cheaper than furfelt, and you can buy it in a range of bright colours. There seem to be quite a few suppliers selling from Poland on Ebay, and most millinery suppliers will stock woolfelt, so shop around.

These types of hoods will not have the same finished appearance as furfelt.  They are also more likely to shrink.  When you are blocking them make sure you leave them for an extra amount of time on the block, to make sure that the felt is 100% dry before you remove them.

They are perfect to use for blocking skull caps to go under wigs or sculptural creations for carnival, showgirl, opera and pantomime. Get one in a colour that matches your creation, plus 1 meter of 1cm wide petersham to bind the edge.

Wool felt

How do they make the felt hat bodies??

I’ve been making hats for over 10 years. I knew a lot of labour went into making the hat bodies (the ‘hoods’, ‘cones’ and ‘capelines’) but seeing how much work goes into them from watching this film just blew me away.  (Also, the health and safety person inside me wishes they were all wearing dust masks!!!)

Below is a film of a modern day felt making factory.  If you compare this one to the black and white film at the bottom of this blog post you will see that the machines are pretty much the same.

Similar to the film above, here is a film of modern felt cones and capelines being made.  This one has a bit more information at certain points (like they get rid of the longer hairs in the felt, as the shorter hairs make better quality felt).  Also, I like this film because you see some great hat making processes for making the finished hat. (Look for the heavy sand bags that are lowered down on top of the hats to press down the brims).

Below is another film of a hat being made from start to finish. It is from around the 1930s I think.  At this time they probably would have still been using mercury as part of the process, something which poisoned many hatters, they had the ‘danbury shakes’ and were ‘mad as a hatter’.  Mercury was used as part of the felt making process called carroting (so called because it turned the felt fibres more orange). You can find out more in this Wikipedia article

You see at one point in the film a man working the felt with his hands.  It says 2 hours to felt 3 hoods.  That’s 2 hours of working with bare skin against some very toxic chemicals.  If you are using vintage materials, think about what has gone into making them (this also applies to buying vintage feathers).

If you compare the black and white film below with the colour more modern day film above, you will notice that the beginning bits are almost identical.  The part where the felt cones are worked by hand to compress them in the black and white film has been replaced by a machine process in the modern day film.

One of the most amazing parts for me was at around 8 minutes.  You see a Steson being hand blocked around a crown block.  The men pull out the brims by hand, a brilliant thing to watch, so skilled.



Millinery supplier – Petershams in London, UK

A couple of weeks ago (November 2017) I was at Cockpit Arts in Deptford as part of their ‘LCN’ (London Creative Network) programme. Less than 2 minutes away is the new building for ‘Petershams’, which has moved to Deptford from Elephant and Castle. So I thought I’d pop in and have a look.  It is great. Lots of veiling, crin, feathers, textured feathers, premade bases, feather spines, sinamay, combs, hairbands, some felt hat bodies and more.  The lovely lady running the shop told me they try to make themselves a one stop millinery supply shop.

I didn’t go to the Petershams in Elephant and Castle, but this one is apparently much bigger with lots of lovely light. It is a little tricky to find at first, but hopefully the pictures below will guide you to where to find it.  Also, I have ordered from their website in the past, to make the Dr Who Missy hat, and their website is very easy to navigate and prompt delivery and good communication throughout the whole ordering and delivery process.

The closest station is Deptford Bridge on the DLR (you can get this from Stratford, Bank, Tower Gateway or Lewisham).  It is also close to New Cross.  See this link on the Cockpit Arts website for buses and directions from the different stations:

It was like being in a sweet shop – I loved it!  Look at their website to find out the latest opening times and days

These pictures taken from the direction of Deptford Bridge, walking towards Petershams.  You go down a main road called Deptford Church Street and then turn right at a pub called ‘The Birds Nest’.

Big long list of all my millinery suppliers…

First of all, this idea is taken from my wonderful teacher – Jane Smith who taught me to make my first hat.  Jane has been making the most amazing hats since 1968.  And she also very generously puts her suppliers on her website, it’s in its own section, click on ‘suppliers’

So this is my version of that.  Below are my suppliers and others that have been recommended to me by fellow milliners and costume makers, let’s use them and keep them in business!


Custom laser engraved jewellery tags – based in China – selling on Etsy.  Used and recommended by milliner and designer Rafa Peinador

Great people to follow on Pinterest for hats, fashion and costume

When you are on Pinterest you sometimes find a great board.  And my advice would be to also see who these people are following themselves.  But anyway, apart from that, here are some great people on Pinterest who have gathered lovely boards and research images, and I am specifically looking at millinery and headdresses, and so inevitably also interested in fashion and costume.

Judith M millinery supply

A selection of millinery and headwear boards put together by somebody who clearly has a genuine interest in millinery and isn’t just in it to sell materials.  One of her boards is about carving hat blocks, another about crin, another about veiling, another about cut and sewn hats plus much more.


Recommended reading list – what books to read to teach yourself how to make hats and headdresses

There’s a lot to be said for teaching yourself from a good book.  I like learning with a person on an actual course because it gives you good motivation to get your project finished and sometimes you can only be corrected on certain techniques in person. But I have built my collection of books over many years, and they are a valuable resource.

Here are some of my recommended books on how to make hats and headdresses.  I’ll do a separate blog post about books that are good to use for research on past historical styles, shapes and silhouettes (but those ones don’t give you notes on how to make hats).

The HAT Magazine

In the back of every The HAT Magazine (London based magazine dedicated to the hat trade), there is a section focusing on workroom techniques.  An in depth step by step tutorial on a specific skill, written by a particular milliner.  Workroom technique tutorials in the past have included Edwina Ibbotson working with feathers, Sylvia Fletcher working with draped materials and Jane Smith working with strip straw.

Morley College in Lambeth, Waterloo have a copy of every magazine, and so does The London College of Fashion in Oxford Circus (reference only, you can not borrow them).

Upcoming Costume and Millinery Design Competitions

Here are some of the upcoming competitions that have caught my eye.  Some of them have financial prizes, some PR opportunities.  If you are thinking about entering one, think about if you can commit the time and money to do them properly.  Don’t forget about allowing budget money for things like posting the creation to the organisers.  Or allowing time to properly photograph the piece / write your accompanying biog.

I am not endorsing any of the competitions below.  It is your responsibility to decide whether to enter them and if they are worth the effort you are putting in.

I would recommend having a look at who is judging the entries, what the prizes are like and to look at the quality of the work that won if the competition ran previous years.

Parkin Fabrics (UK based, open to people all over the world)

Really great idea.  You buy a reasonably priced competition pack.  Then create a hat using the materials in the pack only and nothing else.  You don’t have to use all the materials in the pack. Deadline January 31st 2018.

Inspired by… competition

Inspired by… is an art competition and exhibition for people in adult education in the UK, celebrating and showcasing works inspired by the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collections.

Entries for Inspired By… 2018 are now open

Entries Open: October 2017
Entries Close: Friday March 2 2018
Exhibition Dates : 8-26 May 2018 at Morley Gallery
Awards Ceremony: Friday 11th May at Morley College London

Atelier Musee du Chapeau – International Hat Museum in Chazelles sur Lyon

The museum in France has a hat competition once every 2 years with generous prizes. I was part of the exhibition in 2014 (I didn’t win a prize but the hat I made did go into the exhibition and then go on to end up in the film Bridget Jones’ Baby).  I went to Chazelles for the opening of the exhibition and had the most wonderful time – milliners from all over the world gathered at the museum for the day and finished off with a shared meal on long wooden tables.

2018 should be a year that they hold the competition.  Keep an eye on their website, nothing has been announced yet. The deadline is usually about March I think.

The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers of London – Design Award

The Feltmakers competition normally runs every year, and entries have to be submitted between 1st February and 1st March.  Nothing has been announced yet for 2018, but I’m sure it will be soon!


The world premiere of this exhibition will take place at the Museum of History, located next to the Red Square in Moscow, Russia in June – August of 2019.

We seek costume designs from designers who entered their fields and created innovative work between 2000-2018. Designs of students, young professionals, independent costume or fashion designers, as well as costume interpreters and costume makers will be accepted. Designers are encouraged to submit their most boundary-breaking work that explores new ideas and/or inventive use of materials and/or explorative incorporation of technology. We are looking for costume renderings, collages, photographs, computer generated design, videos and three-dimensional costumes designed for opera, ballet, theater, cinema, and performing arts.  Innovative fashion design, devised work, wearable art, costume as an installation, and unproduced projects are also welcome.

Forums, groups and communities on the internet (and in real life) to connect with over millinery, hat making and costume

I believe the internet is a wonderful thing!  Here are a few of the online communities who love hats and costume.  And some of the websites of the ‘real life’ communities who are fans of hats, costume and fashion.  If you can recommend others then feel free to add them in the comments below.


On facebook in 2017 you have pages that you can ‘like’ and get regular news and updates.  And you also have ‘groups’.  Groups are basically forums.  Some of them are closed and you have to submit a request to join them and some of them are open.  If you have a friend on facebook you can usually click on their profile somewhere and find out what groups they are part of – a great way to discover new groups!

If you are still not sure what a facebook group is, then join one and have a look.  You can always very easily leave again.  It’s kind of a bit like being in a room with lots of people asking for help or telling you about interesting things, crossed with the old fashioned classified section at the back of the newspaper in ‘the olden times’ lol.

Some of my favourite facebook groups are:

Costume Networking Group –

Costume Networking Group – Professionals –


Milliners’ Exchange –

Vinilla Burnham Costume Group –

Milliners –

International Milliners Showcase –

Millinery Artisan Guild –

Costume People –

Mad About Hats…!! –

Some of my favourite facebook pages for costume, millinery and fashion are:

Bit of shameless self promotion here – my own facebook page – Claire Strickland – Milliner –

The John Bright Historic Costume Collection Revealed –

The Hat Magazine –

The school of historical dress –

The Costume Society –