Starting out in millinery can be daunting as the blocks & steamers 
etc. involve a financial outlay. Of all the equipment & tools you use which one would you suggest to a beginner as the top priority to purchase?

Tags: Essential Discussions, millinery tools

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A couple of Elaine's online workshops!!! Absolutely!!!!

A decent ironing board /table (doubles as work space) and mount board, really useful for making bias strip templates. Thimble (if you can use one) and Pliers/wire cutters for pushing and pulling those needles !

Jain, Would you please elaborate on your mount board and bias strip templates, please?  It sounds interesting and like it is a time saver.  I have a huge basket full of fabric waiting to be made into bias strips and am short on time.  Would you have time to snap a photo?  My girlfriend thinks i need the little simplicity bias machine (she loves it for quilting projects), but i would rather spend the $100 on millinery supplies.  Thanks in advance.


Hi Amy: just seen your query.  I have several strips of different widths cut from lengths of the thick mount board from art shops , that I use as cutting templates for sinamay bias strips.

I am sure you  know how to do this, but will tell you how I do it.

Each one has been set at different widths for bias strips. So for instance my 1/2"  wide bias strip template is actually a 2" wide length of mount board.  I prefer to fold in half, rather than have smaller folds like traditional fabric bias strips.

So using the template I can just lay it on the sinamay and cut along the strip.

I then fold the strip in half and lightly press what becomes the center fold.The piece is then 1" wide.Then I open it back out and fold one side into the pressed centre, giving you a half inch folded edge on one side and an inch of unfolded on the other side. I press this flat.  I then repeat the fold into the centre with the other side. So my 2" of sinamay becomes 1/2" wide bias strip. Which you can then shape with steam into a round or make loops. 

I have 3/4", 1" and 1cm ones,  and if I want thinner strips I steam and pull the 1cm one  to the thinnest I can go.

I have a fabric bias tool, but haven't been able to get on with that, so tend to buy ready made !  Cant seem to get coordinated with ironing and pulling at the same time after its threaded into the metal thing I have. 

Maybe you could borrow hers!!

basically, what ever your desired width of bias, you cut the board to 4 times what you want to end up with, not sure it would work the same with fabric, as its a lot more flimsy than using sinamay.

Hope that makes sense !

Thank you Jain, it makes perfect sense.  I actually have a full sheet of mount board in my studio ready go, so will be making some tonight!  I had seen some templates made of cardboard online, where you pull the bias thru and press as you go...doing the same thing as your metal bias strip tool.  Your method seems a lot simpler, especially for sinamay.  

Yes, maybe i will borrow hers.  The new model makes bias strips and piping!  You have to buy special rolls of adhesive to adhere the cording to your fabric.  The reviews are mixed - seems people either love or hate it. Neither is hard to make, but it makes many yards per minute....i wonder if it would end up in a back cupboard like so many un-used kitchen appliances. ;)  Thanks again.

Really, really want a bias maker!!  

I use a quilters cutting sheet, ruler/guide and a rotary cutter to cut my strips.  It works with fine silks, as well as sinamay and leather.  This allows me to put my fabric on the board, using the marked inch measurements and just slice away!  Very quick and the wide ruler/guide keeps the fabric flat while you cut it.    Any width of course, and it gives a very straight cut, even on very narrow strips.  Still have to press it to make binding though :( 

We use the same folding method Jain!  

I've used it on fabric, and yes, it's very fiddly, especially silk!   A trick is to press down with the iron lightly when folding - without sliding it.  If you push the iron over the fabric, the bias will stretch.

I keep seeing posts on Pinterest about using store coupons to buy sewing tools for next to nothing...and want that bias making machine so badly!  The newer models have a setting for wool also, which would be a nice finish on certain hats...  I should stop trying to justify the purchase and just buy it! :)

Strong needles, pliers, and wire cutters will get you started.  When I began learning I did not have one block or steamer, and did not use a sewing machine.  I learned the hard way by cutting my own patterns from cardboard and making flat patterns for use with buckram.  I thought I was in heaven, when I bought my first block! Even though I own seven sewing machines, I still do almost all my stitching by hand.  A little creativity and determination, and you can find something around the house or workshop to substitute for almost every necessary millinery item. LOL

I find this thread very interesting because I am about to take the leap from Historical Costuming to Millinery.  Wanting to start out the right way is what I want.  Would be very disappointing to start a class only to find out I don't have the tools to work with. This information has been very helpful indeed. 


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