A Milliners London Lockdown

May 5, 2020

Right now I’m sat in my conservatory, after having rotated between here, the kitchen, my bedroom, the garden, several times over – to try to change up my day. I’m sure you’ve been doing the same. I have been feeling extremely lucky to have a sunny conservatory and a garden during this time, two fantastically creative flatmates and four equally creative neighbours over the fences, (photographers, musicians, writers, a ceramicist, a leatherworker and a sculptor – and that’s not even counting the kids.)

How have you been spending quarantine? I know a lot of people have been gardening or potting house plants – I’ve managed to kill my plants every year thus far, will this year be any different? The retired (but still very active) neighbours to the left had the bright idea to take down part of the fence at the bottom of the garden for easy access into our garden. Why? Because they decided to use our wasteland to plant vegetables and create a little ‘community garden’, so every morning I’ve been waking up to see Karl digging away. Something tells me he won’t let me kill my plants this year. 

As well as a tinsy bit of digging, I’ve been pretty productive. With the cancellation of Ascot and ‘Hat Season’ the orders aren’t exactly flooding in. So, I’ve been investing my time into the future, with three main tasks; 

  1. Rewriting the content of my website – this is very long and boring as I have to research all the words people type into Google to find various hats (keywords) and get them into my content.
  2. Making new hats and experimenting with new materials. This is my playtime! I’ve been using bird wings (all birds died naturally), leather, sequins, and I’ve been having loads of fun creating for creation’s sake – without the restriction of ‘who will buy this and where would someone wear this?’. Of course, I have other restrictions – namely a very reduced studio at home and breaking our home kettle for lack of a millinery steamer (yes, I blew the house electrics because I was using it so much), but all in all, it’s been fun. 
  3. Live streaming / creating video content. This is something I’ve long wanted to do more of, and in line with my purpose / future vision. I love celebrating and sharing creativity – whether that is a fun project which I discover and share, or a creative person who deserves to be seen by the world. My aim is to leave people inspired and joyful – whether that has come from witnessing or partaking in creativity. You might think that my main love in life is hats, but actually what I really love, is finding, and showcasing creative talent. My dream is ‘The Sahar Show’ – a show where I find, present, and celebrate various creative pursuits around the world, whether that be traditional crafts or cutting edge talent. I did my first IGTV the other day, and interviewed my flatmate Rosie, the leatherworker, showing a particular garment she is currently working on. You can see the episode here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B_sgNDVpmYa/ 

I’ve been cycling into the studio once every couple of week to pick up supplies, and taking advantage to stop for selfies new, eerily quiet London:

Here’s a sneak preview to some new work and work in progress:

Leather percher hat with bird wings:

The leather here is blocked in much the same way we block felt, although needs a backing fabric as it’s not strong enough to hold up, and you need to block the leather at least a couple of times. I chose the 50’s style percher base, and I’m using three different wing sizes. I envisage this hat sitting at the centre front of the head. Here are a couple of selfies showing two different sizes and placements, and a few of the wings I intend to use. It was a funny moment when I tried the bigger wings and looked like my favourite childhood TV show Dumbo, and then when i tried the smaller wings out and looked like (and hilariously pretty much wearing the costume of) my favourite childhood comic – Asterix and Obelix!  

Leather Teardrop shape with sequins:

This is is a really tough shape to block as it’s got quite a point, so trying to get a flat piece of fabric to wrap around this is very hard! I wasn’t quite able to do it so it’s got a couple of pleats in there. It takes about three goes blocking, leaving to dry, then wetting again and blocking. I’ve gone a bit mad with sequins here, ordering large colourful ones, and making my own. Hours of hand sewing in front of my favourite programmes (Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Sex Education, and Killing Eve, if you were wondering).

Halo Bird Wing Hat:

This is a wire under-frame, painted with gold resin, then overlaid with gold leaf, and decorated with little yellow budgie wings (again, all died naturally). 

Red Leather pointy hat with tassels: 

I’ll be honest this one has gone wrong. After 2 layers of buckrum, wiring, blocking and re-blocking the leather, a school-girl error of leaving the blocked hat over the kettle for a few seconds too long and essentially I melted the whole hat (I was just trying to get out one tiny bump and you can see from the photo now it’s full of bumps). Two days of work down the drain. But, I can see the design is awesome and I’ll redo it, this time using a felt base instead of buckram! 

Comment below and let me know what you’re up to, what you’ve been creating, gardening, doing with the kids, or something else!

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