When a high street hat purchase fell to bits before her eyes on the day of her nieces wedding, Helen Tilley decided to take matters in her own hands and learn to make hats herself! Through trial and error she has overcome each obstacle that she has encountered, constantly improving and refining her craft. Helen's designs are incredibly unique and have a way of grabbing attention in a subtle and feminine way like this gorgeous mix of burnt ostrich quills and silk pink roses. Read on to find out more about her wonderful world of millinery. 

What do you love most about Millinery?
I love creating something new with every piece I make and seeing customers delighted faces when they come to collect the hat that finishes off their outfit.
 
How did you get into Millinery?
I first got into millinery when I brought an expensive fascinator from a High Street Store for my nieces wedding, when it started to fall apart half way through the day, I decided I could do better, so I booked myself in on a millinery course. It wasn't long before people were asking me if I could make them a special piece to match their outfits.
How you would describe your designs?
All my designs are individually thought out, I love making things that are quite 'sculptural'. I also to keep up with current trends whilst still retaining my individuality.

What is your ideal customer?
My ideal customer is a lady who has an idea of the kind of thing she would like but is open to ideas too, she would also be unafraid to have something that's a bit 'different'.
 
What inspires you?
After a consultation I'm inspired by my customer and the type of event that she will be attending. From that I get a feel for the sort of character I'm making a piece for which usually inspires my designs, also current trends and colours could influence a particular piece.
 
If you could invite any milliner to tea who would it be and why?
I have met lots of different milliners in the last few years but the milliner I would love to have tea with is Siggi Hats, after doing a workshop at his Hat Shop/studio during London Hat Week. I loved the fact that his pieces were all very wearable as well as being fashionable.
 
What is your favourite material to work with?
The material I most favour working with is sinamay, as well as being a reasonably priced material I've found that it is such a pliable material it is great to create sculptural pieces. It's also easy to dye which allows a very good material for colour matching.
 
Whats your best millinery tip?
My best tip for being a milliner is to always be learning a new skill and don't be afraid to try something to see if it works. Also if something isn't going as planned leave it it for a bit, have a cup of tea then when you go back to it you can usually see where you're going wrong.
 
What has been the largest challenge you face in millinery and how do you overcome it? 
My largest challenge so far has been the stiffening of felt. It has taken me a long time to work out how to avoid the white marks, however with perseverance I have now perfected it, it still makes me happy when I look inside my felt hats and there are none.

Famous words to live by.
Be as proud of what you have created as the lady wearing it on her special day.

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