Tuesday, 24 March 2015

1940s Story "The Pixie Hat"

Remember those lovely pixie hats that Bette Davis was wearing in Dark Victory? In the midst of my 1940s hat research (posts coming soon!), I stumbled on a short story entitled "The Pixie Hat" so I had to share it with you all!

It was in the Australian Women's Weekly (I'm a bit predictable, I know), in the 6th April 1940 edition.

"A rapier of sunlight pierced the curtains of Anne Robson's room and pricked her into wakefulness."

Our hat-loving hero, Anne, has been skipping lunch and walking to work in order to save for the Pixie Hat she has been lusting after in the window. "For Anne belonged to that gallant regiment of women who prefer to be hungry than shabby." (I can't say that I share this philosophy with Anne.)

We only get bits and pieces of description of the hat, but I think it is shown in this illustration on the left. It is red, a "pixie affair with a stumped tail", and costs three guineas. The gentleman of the piece describes it as "a silly queer toadstool affair with a diddly-what on top of it."

You can read the full short story, starting on this page.

I'm really warming to pixie hats. How about you?

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Linn Sunniva

Adelaide has now travelled to Norway to visit Linn Sunniva and been the co-star of another stunning photo shoot.

Tanith Rowan Designs Travelling Hat in Norway with Linn Sunniva

I love the way Linn just looks so serene and naturally beautiful, and the way the line of her fringe continues up through the leaves to the gathered felt at the back of the hat.

Tanith Rowan Designs Travelling Hat in Norway with Linn Sunniva

Linn was also my Vintage Secret Santa who sent me such a lovely parcel of things that arrived on Christmas Eve. You can find her on instagram.

Next, Adelaide will be returning to the UK for a few stops before she gets ready to cross the Atlantic and visit all her friends in Canada and the USA!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

"Choc Chip" Baking-Themed Whimsy

It's time for the March whimsy in the Tanith Rowan Designs Whimsy Collection!

This month's novelty theme is baking! I love to bake, especially cookies. Chocolate chip, as well as being a classic, are super-delicious.

The veil is decorated with tiny chocolate chip cookies, and a ribbon bow tied around a small wooden spoon adorns the top. I couldn't resist gingham for a kitchen-centred design!

Does anyone else get a bit funny about deception in photo shoots? I have no qualms about certain lies. I will find the one part of my kitchen that looks vaguely picturesque. I will tidy that part extra. I will move the bins, the compost bin, the plastic bags. I will wear make-up. I will wear a skirt that doesn't quite fit me unless I suck my tummy in a bit. I will wear a dress under a skirt because I don't have a top that works.

But I won't pretend to bake.

These are one of my new favourite cookie recipes. I call them "Banana (Almost) Everything Cookies". They are the "Banana Everything" cookie from "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar", but without the walnuts. And they are fabulous.

You know how you have one friend in your group who is always eating in photos? No? Well, I do. It's me.

If you are wondering why a baking-themed whimsy, apart from an excuse to make and eat cookies, it was a request from my mother in the comments of the first #bringbackthewhimsy post. It is on its way to her now!

Happy Birthday, Mum!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Vintage Magazine Snippets

In one of my vintage shopping hauls last year, I picked up a number of old magazines, mostly British Women's Weeklies. I wanted to show you some of my favourite articles, advertisements and illustrations from inside.

I love vintage refashion advice. It's great to see how they recommend completing each of the trims. No. 1 is my favourite, with the wreath design!

 This illustrated a fictional story, and shows lovely coat and cloche combinations.

This one is illustrating an article about not giving up your life when you find a man, and giving him space too. It probably helps your relationship to look this casually stylish and windswept too!

Advice for dress-up costumes for little girls from the 1920s? Yes please! Adorable. I found an newspaper article about a school performance involving my great-grandmother's aunt (after whom she was named) in the roll of fairy princess. It's interesting that an "inexpensive" costume in those days involved making it completely yourself, which I think would be seen as the seriously-dedicated option today.

Another refashion article, this time, doing up last year's frock! I wouldn't mind reading more of this "New Series".

These are ads for patterns you can send away for. I love the two directions of stripes on this sporty dress.

I'm not sure this would be flattering on many people, but it's a cute illustration.

Simple and adorable!

I love advice column sections too, especially for fashion. "We wear it on everything these days" certainly seems to be true when you look at some old 1920s photos.

I hope you enjoyed these bits and pieces!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Guide to Making a Vintage-Style Whimsy

It's Whimsy-making time!

I've decided to call this a guide rather than a tutorial, because although I will be showing you how to make one simple whimsy, I'm trying to provide number of variations and options, so that it is a more flexible and adaptable.

Our whimsy is made up of three parts: the veil, the main decoration, and the secondary decorations (optional). I'm going to take you through making a ribbon bow for the main decoration, and using chenille pompoms as the secondary decorations.

Tools & Materials

  • Sewing Needle
  • Scissors
  • Thread to match veil and decorations
  • Veil (see part 1)
  • Ribbon (or alternatives, see part 2)
  • Little chenille pompoms (or alternatives, see part 3)
  • Comb or clip for attaching the whimsy

Part 1: The veil

The main body of our whimsy is the veil. The picture below shows the kind of veil I'm working with, and here in Australia it's the easiest to find. You can often find it at Spotlight, if your local shop has some millinery supplies (sometimes only temporarily during racing season). For a bigger range, some Aussie millinery supply places are Torb & Reiner, House of Adorn, and Hatters Millinery Supplies. The only overseas supplier I have ordered from is Judith M in the USA, so that's the only one I feel comfortable recommending specifically, but I'm sure many others are excellent.

Other styles of veiling are fine too, whatever you like best! If you can find vintage, the range of veiling types is much broader. They also come in different widths. Mine here is 9 inches wide, which ends up falling to my nose.

I'm using a length of about 75 cm (29.5"). "Hats on Heads: The Art of Creative Millinery" by Mildred Anlezark recommends 1 yard (91cm) . You can get a tape measure and play with lengths around your own face and see what you think will work. I'm going to be gathering it up at the back, so keep in mind that doing so will require extra length.

Gathering at the back is a nice look, and saves having to worry about a neat join.

Cut your veiling length and trim to the diamond points (that's what I'm calling the little rectangles where the diamonds join in the veiling). We are going to join the two short (cut) ends of the veiling piece together. Thread a needle with a length of thread and knot the end. Thread through one of the diamond joins, at the bottom of one edge.

Make sure it is secure and knot more if needed. Line up your two veil ends. Sew through the diamond points, catching them from each veil edge alternately.

(Variation: if not gathering up the back, tie off your thread here. Then start a new thread to gather the top edge.)

Continue stitching around the top edge of the veil. Weave the needle through the top row of diamonds. You can also catch occasional diamond points if you like. When you have reached the back seam again, gently pull your thread to gather the veil. Adjust the gathering with your fingers to help it along.

(You may need (or prefer) to gather as you go, especially if your thread is too short.)

You should now have your basic whimsy crown shape. Tie off the thread in a secure knot.

Part 2: The Main Decoration - Ribbon Bow

There are many many options for the top decoration. I've chosen a ribbon bow. Another simple option would be artificial flowers (one or a few). I know many of you sew, and might have fabric scraps around to use, so another good option is to make a fabric bow. You could use off-cuts and make a whimsy to match an outfit you've made! There are many more possibilities. (See the bringbackthewhimsy Pinterest board or Etsy list for more ideas.)

I'm using a  4cm (1.5") wide velvet ribbon. I like the look of bows with wider ribbon, but use whatever you have. For this ribbon I have cut a longer piece at 47 cm (18.5") long and a shorter piece (the centre piece) at 10 cm (4") long.

Thread a needle and knot the end. Fold your bow as shown. Tie a few stitches to hold it in this shape.

Gather the centre of the bow a little. You can do this with a little gathering stitch or by just pinching the centre up with your fingers and sewing it in place. We aren't getting a total gather here, just a bit of shape.

 Take your bow centre piece. Fold the long edges under if it is too wide (as mine is). Wrap it around the centre of your bow, and stitch in place at the back.

Trim the ends of the ribbon into a diagonal or v-shape. Now stitch the bow to the veil, covering the bunchy gathered centre.

(Variation - For artificial flowers, simply sew in place. (Or glue if you want. I won't judge you. I love glue.))

Part 3: Secondary decorations

I'm using little chenille pompoms, because they are very easy, and also because I bought two massive mixed packs of them when I was getting materials for the Bumblebee whimsy. These packs cost about $8 (I think, I got them on sale at $4), from Spotlight. The pompoms are pretty easy to buy from craft shops and online, where you can also get just one colour.

Variations for the secondary decorations are vast. Anything you can sew or glue onto veiling! Consider the weight, though, because anything too heavy will change the way the whimsy falls. If it looks weighed down, you lose the light, floaty appearance that is so charming. Consider small beads, rhinestones, buttons, tiny flowers or smaller ribbon bows. If you are a crafter, you probably, like me, have boxes of miscellaneous bits that are bound to turn up something good!

Where it isn't ridiculously tedious or impossible, I recommend sewing on decorations like this, because the glue will show through on the inside of the whimsy. Honestly that wouldn't bother me personally, but sewing is certainly a more professional look.

Thread your needle and knot the end. Go through the chenille pompom first, because it will hide the knot in its fluff. Then through a diamond point, stitch a few times, and tie off. Repeat for each pompom.

Consider the placement of the decorations. You might want to put the whimsy on and work it out in the mirror, or use a foam head if you have one. You probably don't want anything blocking your eyes or sitting right on the centre of your nose or something.

Finishing Up

To make your whimsy ready to wear, sew on a comb. I've used a plastic one here to demonstrate, because they are so easy to find, but there are also metal combs available. Any style of clip is fine, if you have something you prefer wearing.

If using a comb, I like to run my stitches in a regular pattern like this. It makes me feel neat, which doesn't happen often.

Your whimsy is complete. Wear it with joy!

Also: Bonita has shared a fabulous tutorial for making a floral corsage brooch. I think the felt flowers and felt bow would also be a wonderful way to decorate a whimsy, if you are looking for some other creative options!

Please share anything you make with me. I'd love to see your creations! 

Don't forget to use the #bringbackthewhimsy hashtag on social media. And please just ask in the comments if you have any questions.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Miss Beta

Our travelling hat, Adelaide, has been visiting Miss Beta in Portugal!

She has now been to as many countries as I have! Oh dear.

I have been lucky to get to know many many lovely people in the vintage blogging world, and Beta is one of the loveliest. She always has a kind word of friendship and support to offer.

Beta has styled Adelaide with a Japanese vintage dress. I love the way the warm colours in the dress pair with the black and make the blue leaves really pop.

Jump on over to Miss Beta's blog to see the rest of the photos!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A Guide to Buying Vintage Whimsies

Today as part of the #bringbackthewhimsy campaign, I'll be giving you some tips for buying a genuine vintage whimsy. We'll look at what sort of hats count as whimsies, where to get them, search terms to use when looking online.

What to look for

So a whimsy is going to be primarily veiling and trims, with no hat foundation. Ring hats can also be considered whimsies, and some other wire-foundation hats.

They wouldn't have had modern "fascinator" bases, or a significant solid base of any kind. There is a difference between whimsies and hats that are just small and have a veil. (Not that I'm trying to be a whimsy-snob or anything. Wear whatever you want. I'm just telling you what my research says!)

Where to shop?

I was happy to hear in the comments last time that people are finding whimsies at vintage and second-hand shops. That seems like the best option for being able to check out the condition yourself and possibly get a bargain too.

I've been browsing them online for a while, mostly through Etsy and Ebay. I have seen some "lots" of a few whimsies together, and these are usually great value. Sometimes the individual ones are getting up to a very high price for simple designs, so be cautious. There are, however, some really fancy ones that would be worth the price tag. I've also seen quite a few with original boxes, possibly unworn, which would give you a good chance of them being in excellent condition.

I've got a list on Etsy for #bringbackthewhimsy, which has some great examples. Some of the items on there are sold already, but I've included them for inspiration purposes for those who want to make their own.

I've also got a #bringbackthewhimsy Pinterest board, with more examples, including some pattern envelopes!

Search Terms

I think we all know how fraught with difficulty searching for vintage (or anything, really) online can be. Many sellers won't know that what they have is called a whimsy. Others won't know that what they have is NOT a whimsy.

Plus, of course, the other meaning of whimsy comes up a lot, and you might get a lot of results that are just whimsical.

I think it is often easier, if you have the time, to search for vintage hats and find the ones that are clearly whimsies. Adding 1960s and/or veil to the search helped narrow it down on Pinterest. Other terms that might be helpful are "veil hat" (another proper term for whimsies), "ring hat" (if you like that style), veil, birdcage veil (a modern term but possibly used by sellers) and fascinator (likewise). I also had some luck searching using "whimsey". And I saw "snood" used a few times on whimsies!

A word on modern handmade whimsies...I rarely look at the work of other milliners online, but I wanted to see what a search on Etsy for handmade whimsies would unearth. The results? I found a few amazing handmade whimsies that are totally true to vintage style, a lot of floral headbands and modern fascinators that I think they were suggesting counted as whimsies, and a lot of hats that are apparently whimsical.

Next time, guys, I'm going to do an actual tutorial on making your own whimsy. I'm aiming to make it flexible, so that you should be able to work with materials you are likely to already have, if you craft or sew at all.

The main material you'll want to make sure you have is veiling. One book I have suggests one yard of length, but I don't find I need that much. We should be able to make something work with less. You will also want a hair comb, or some kind of clip. See you next week for the crafting!