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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At the top end, a really reliable and good quality iron and perfectly flat ironing board.  If the iron can be used as a steamer as well, all the better.

At the bottom end.  Good quality scissors.  3 pairs: one only used for fine fabrics, a good strong pair for buckram and sinamay, and a small, very sharp pair for getting into tricky corners and making tiny cuts.

I agree with Greer and Bridget as far as basic tools, Ie... and also my favorite tack hammer for pinning and removing pins, my old fashioned tea pot and my heavy duty iron.  Looking back I think its far more important to focus on learning the technique, than having the perfect tools.  You are definitely at the right place as you will be learning very efficient time and cost effective ways of making hats from Elaine, plus all the other great advice from milliners around the world!

So much of what you will need you most likely already have, or can substitute. I couldn't  make hats with out my favorite lotion UDDER CREAM for my hands!  I know it sounds strange, but its A NECESSITY!  Its been used for over a hundred years by farmers wives to protect their hands from the harshness of milking cows.  Its non greasy so you can sew easily and do hand stitching and the ingredients protect your skin from all the nicks from pins and buckram, and helps heal faster from all the needle pricks!  It does not rub off on your fabric.  

Amy, I am intrigued by your comment about the tea pot?  to make tea whilst working or some cunning usage during hatting !!! pray tell more

Hi Jain.  I do enjoy a great cup of tea while blocking, but find i usually end up spilling it.  The teapot is used for blocking.  I dream of owning a wonderful jiffy steamer, but my old fashioned teapots work quite well so its hard for me justify the expense.  They aren't fancy, buy they do a great job, steam for a couple hours and my hands are free to block.  Do you use a jiffy steamer?  

I was blocking this am and took a picture to show you....but new phone, new software...cant attach the photo! Uhhggg! 

Oh, never thought of using a teapot !, as I am still relatively new to this world, most things are trial and many errors, I own nothing fancy at all.

 I did just use the steam iron, as It works well on sinamay. However I just happened to pick up a small kitchen steam cleaner (pifco thing) and have just taken my old 1980's felt hat and reblocked it using the steamer, cardboard and a lace pillow. It seemed to work well enough that I could steam out the  kinks to get a flat brim after stretching the hat over the cardboard crown and getting a wiggly brim to contend with. So I am pleased with its performance (and mine it achieving the result I think I wanted !)Now I need to decide if I am to leave a large brim or trim !!!

I dont suit cloches, so am trying to make a hat that I can wear out and about , without looking too over the top ! Hello dolly suits me so much, but a tad OTT for wearing to the day job :)

Its wonderful you found a steamer!  I've heard travel steamers work well, but mine have always leaked and spit water and ended up wreaking garments.  Oh, I've never blocked over cardboard....sounds interesting.  I'd leave the brim long, and cut it off later if you don't like it.  I have a box of old hats and ones i picked up at thrift stores that i plan to re-block.  

Cloches are one of my favorites, but my face is too round to look good in them.  Don't worry about your hat being OTT, Im sure it will be great!  

Should have said mount board: covered in white PVA glue and then Saran wrap over the top with a bit of string or elastic band, works wonders !!!. so I got a flat top to the crown instead to the existing domed shape.

Very interesting, easier to visualize now.  Have you made any blocks from carving foam and then sealing them?  I've been blocking a lot lately on household items and vintage bowls, dishes and such. I've got a great local woodworker carving me three new hat blocks.  He will be making more, but wanted to start with simple ones first.  I cant wait!  He and my boyfriend worked out a trade, new electrical wiring for his workshop and hat blocks for me!  

Great deal Amy. Make sure he is basing crown blocks on an oval. Had a young student arrive @ Qld Museum after first class with blocks grandad made = all circular and our heads are oval so there would always be this wide gap at the side. Buttons are always circular & some pillboxes that sit at the back of head.

Wood must be pinnable - on ebay someone is selling pine blocks but hopeless to pin or tack!

When I teach dolls & bears hats they are all based on circle. 

Asked my husband about udder cream as their family had a cow at Eumundi & he gave me full info on why & what it is good for ..dermatitis etc My hands are an embarrassment when I am working full on in Spring season as straw is so rough on hands & nails. Even silk fabric has dressing which drys our hands too. Will ask @ local Farmers Co-op for Udder cream.  Cheers

Good morning,

They sell it at fabric store chains her in the states, I actually picked up a tube at WalMart a few months ago!  I used to have to order it from those mail order catalogs in the "Ye Old Times" or "Old Fashioned Finds" section.  I forgot to use it yesterday before blocking buckram, and after blocking five hats I am sliced from fingertips to elbows!  I wont make that mistake again!  Hope you can easily find it in your area, it will save your hands.

Thank you for the tip on oval crowns for my new block maker.  That makes me smile just typing "my new block maker" :). He makes incredibly beautiful furniture, and is very excited about dabbling in millinery.  His mother was from England, and was an extreme hat enthusiast.  He is very excited to help bring back this lost art.  


LOL I had to laugh at the udder cream references.  As a farm girl who grew up on a dairy farm, I can attest that Udder cream is the best!  Most people who buy it today think it is a new product for moisturizing, but we used it on the cows udders.  It helped protect from drying and cracking of the cow's teets especially in the winter.  Like many farm products intended for the animals farmers both men and women found that udder cream works great for humans as well.  Udder Cream was a staple on our farm, when I was growing up.  When I was in my thirties and working in clothing retail, we received the product newly packaged for women.  One of the clerks displayed it on the bra display.  The store manager quickly changed it and informed her that it wasn't an appropriate display. LOL  I know it also used to be available at WalMart in a black and white container.


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