“Let’s get away from it all”…. on the World’s Greatest Hat Adventure! Queensland Milliner, Wendy White of Rockhampton Queensland along with her husband and 4 children dared to Venture where the rest of us fear to tread… but how we wish we could also get away from it all!! The family hit the road when the children were aged 2,5,8 and 9 years of age. Everyone thought they were ‘nuts’ and so their converted truck, that was their new home was called –“ Truck & Nuts”
Describe how you made your ‘Truck & Nuts’ vehicle your home?
For 18 months we lived in a truck which was originally a furniture removal van. Six of us lived in tight quarters, but it was great fun. We had aircon, full size shower and loo. The Children had 4 single beds on a mezzanine floor above my work area where I had two industrial sewing machines and an industrial press as well as a cutting area. We had a club lounge and table and a make shift kitchen area with running water. We had a small generator that would run the fridge and TV.
How did your passion for hats start out?
I used to sew children’s clothes for the markets and met a lady named Helen who sold Hessian Hats. I started working for Helen making her fabric hats and she would pay me $5 a hat to make them up. They would come to me cut and I would only have to sew. Later I bought her business when she retired but started making my hats in denim. Firstly, I made them from recycled fabric - from skirts and old jeans. Later I discovered I could buy end of run rolls for $1.00 m so I started using new fabric.
Where did you set up your first market stall.
My markets were in central Queensland at the start and then we would venture further out to the outback towns where they had their agricultural shows, not only around Queensland but NSW and NT. There were no race day hats back then only my fabric hats. I had about 14 different styles.
Explain the significance of your label “Bush Buddies”.
At the time I started making hats, we lived on a 580 acre property at Raglan, 45min drive from Rockhampton therefore ‘Bush’ because it was where we lived and ‘Buddies’ as my kids were my best mates.
How did this adventure with your children impact them or teach them lessons in life?
In the 1990s the Queensland government operated Schools for ‘Showies’ and it meant that at the big shows the children went to school in one class with all the various levels. I home schooled when we attended smaller shows. I am very proud of all my children who have bought their own homes and cars and we did not help them at all. We taught them how to make money and build a secure future.
What do customers love about your hats.
They love the fabric hats as they keep their shape really well and because they last way too long…LOL !
How did you improve a basic hat to make it look more stylish?
I created bows that were removeable and flower bands that could be removed and trimmed them with beaded bands.
My hats over the years have changed and I now top stitch them rather than add heavy fishing line in the brim. I have built a skill set that would allow me to take any fabric and turn it into a hat…… Right foundation/ the guts….hat sits right on the head whether sheer or heavy fabric…. not too heavy as you don’t want to give someone a headache! My fabric country hat is my favourite and even 20 years down the track I still have an old client who comes and asks me to make her a new one. I love the colours of the rainbow and offer a range of colourful hats as every person is different - each client is unique and every hat needs to be as unique as its owner.
Tell us about your move into Millinery and Fashion hats.
I attended a two day flower making workshop through the Flying Arts School with tutor Waltraud Reiner. I then bought every book written on millinery and some are real treasures that will never leave my collection
My real millinery started when I did the 2nd International Millinery Forum in Wagga Wagga and I attended a class with Sydney Milliner, Neil Grigg. I won a scholarship to go back there for Winter School and learn race wear with Neil. This changed my life and his too!
What is the busiest time for hat production?
As Central Queensland races are all year round I am always making and creating something new for my clients.
Have you won any Fashions On The Field competitions or Millinery competitions?
Oh Yes!! My list is so long. I made the final for the UK hat designer twice. Have received two awards for the Hat Life magazine in the USA. I won a section in the Hat Festival in France with my Flame piece, and it now lives in the Caussade Hat Museum.
Last year in 2022 I had four headpieces exhibited at the Russian embassy in France. So many clients make the finals or win Fashions on the Field here and overseas. I was joint winner of the Melbourne Millinery Award in 2022. I have taught millinery on several occasions and hope to continue this in the future to share all my tips and tricks.
Any final thoughts Wendy to share with up and coming milliners?
Hats will change your life and other peoples. lives too. Millinery will frustrate you, challenge you and move you outside your comfort zone… but in the end when your client rings and says she or he is a winner Oh what Joy!! and I made that… I brought that to life… great bliss…
Keep hatting Lovelies… Life is a journey. You can sit on the sidelines or you can jump in and participate.
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