An unexpected opportunity for hat-makers Verna and Lynn
I expect most of you have heard of London Fashion Week. But I wonder how many of you knew there was a London Hat Week? I certainly didn’t. There’s a reason I found out about it when I came across Verna (66) and Lynn (70) in Louise Pocock’s beautiful millinery shop in Chipping Campden. But I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what that was. I’ll leave that to Verna and Lynn.
Lynn “I started making hats about the time I retired ten years ago. I used to work in a university in a very formal, academic role and I was looking for something creative to do.
I was developing, designing and redesigning vintage hats, not making them at all, but then I met Lou, the woman who runs this shop, and I thought I’d like to make them.”
Verna “I also worked in education - as a humanities advisory teacher - and then became a freelance museum and education worker. Like Lynn I also decided I wanted to do something creative when I stopped being a wage slave.
I’d done quite a lot of creative things over the years, but didn’t want to go back to something I’d done before. I’d always worn and liked hats so I thought it’d be interesting to find out how they’re made. I found a 4-day introductory course at the WI College, that’s where Lynn and I met each other, and through that I met Lou and started to do some training here.
Lynn and I started meeting up occasionally and working together on our kitchen tables, buying goods in partnership to spread the cost.
Then we started to come to Lou for informal workshops to learn various techniques and when she set up a micro-centre here to teach City and Guilds, we signed up to do the Level 2 course.”
What’s great about making hats is the variety of other kinds of crafts involved
Lynn “The formal qualification wasn’t what was important to us. A long while ago I said I’d never do exams again and there are no exams involved, it’s all about the work you make and the product of your imagination. Although it was nice to get the certificate as an acknowledgement of the achievement
What’s great about making hats is the variety and the potential to include all kinds of other crafts. There’s drawing, ribbon working and, from Verna I’ve learnt beading. Then there’s colour theory - the combination and blending of different materials.”
Verna “One of the nice disciplines of doing a structured course, and particularly when there’s a design element to it, is that you have to identify your sources of inspiration. The ones I’m doing for my Level 3 are all inspired by a visit I made to Russia. I’m doing one inspired by St Basil’s Cathedral, and one inspired by the scientific discoveries I saw in a museum about the Russian space project.
I’m making one inspired by the Russian space project
As with anything to do with design and technology, you’ve got to be prepared to be adaptable. You might start a hat with a plan of how it’s going to look, but you make adjustments as you’re going along, because it never goes entirely according to plan!”
Lynn “When it comes to materials I don’t like straw because it’s hard to stitch, but I especially like working with wool felt and fur felt which are more traditional hat making materials. You can do a lot with felt and all the colours give you a lot of scope.
You can turn a hat out very quickly, but I don’t. I spend a lot of time over most of mine. Some you agonise over and you may spend months perfecting and completing. I always have several projects on the go at once. It’s not like having a commission and a deadline as you would if it were a business. We’ve had careers already so its not something we’re doing for income generation. If we cover our costs that’s great.”
Verna “I either sell my hats or give them away as gifts. I’ve just done a wedding hair piece for a neighbour. I’m not doing this to be commercial. I like making things for friends and family.”
Lynn “It’s lovely seeing someone wear one of your creations, especially if it suits them and they look good!
You can be better somehow when you’ve got a hat on
I find it interesting to see how wearing a hat can change someone. I know myself that I can put on a hat and it can give me…what’s the right word? Not front… but it can change the way you appear. You can be better, lighter somehow, when you’ve got a hat on.”
Verna “I was thrilled to see my sister in law wearing the hat I made her for my niece’s wedding. She has very particular taste and because I was able to make her the hat, she was able to have exactly what she wanted, and I knew how much that meant to her.
We do have something especially exciting coming up. Last March we went to London Hat Week, which follows on from London Fashion Week, and there’s always a big international exhibition as part of the event, with hats from makers all over the world. Looking round it we we thought maybe we should enter something next year.
So we did and we’ve both had 3 hats selected!”
Lynn “The theme this year is The World Garden and my projects are all inspired by the cultural and ethnic influences of the regions of the Silk Road”
Verna “Our hats will be on show at the at the Menieure Gallery in London. The exhibition opens to the public on April 3rd and goes on until the 12th.”
Here’s all the information about London Hat Week. I’ll be going to see Lynn and Verna’s creations on show. Maybe see you there!
Other posts you’ll enjoy if you’re a hat lover (and if you’re not yet, read these to find out why you should be!)