Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gift Certificates

Want to give the gift of House of Nines, but unsure what to get? Don't know your giftee's hat size, or just want to surprise them? No problem. I offer gift certificates good toward the purchase of any House of Nines Design product or custom order.

The paper gift certificate is printed with the amount of your gift, and redemption instructions. There are several Etsy listings for gift certificates in various amounts; if you want a different amount, just let me know and I'll create a special listing for you. It comes wrapped inside a miniature box (4x4x4") that looks just like my full size hat / gift boxes, with a hand-decorated mini felt hat to keep, so it's more 'gifty' than just giving a slip of paper. Please let me know your choice of a mini top hat or mini fedora when you place the order.

If you'd like me to send this item directly to the giftee, please contact me with their address when you place the order. Also, I'd be happy to enclose a card or letter from you if you like, just contact me for my mailing address so I'll know to wait on sending the package until your card arrives.

Happy Holidays!

New Styles: Some Casuals

In addition to all the fancy frippery I've been concocting lately, I've created a few more casual ladies styles for everyday wear. These were all inspired by 'sport' hats popular in the 1930s and 1940s, and famously worn with flair by Golden Age Hollywood starlets. I made them using rare, hand-carved antique blocks from my collection.

Ingrid Bergman with Humphrey Bogart 

Jean Harlow

The 'Bergman', shown here in black velvety velour-finish fur felt, is shaped something like a soft, feminine fedora or porkpie. The brim is wide enough to offer sun protection, but the lush material and fancy ribbonwork make it glamorous enough to wear day or night.

I rarely leave the house without a hat on and the 'Alex' is one of my all-time go-to favorites. I've made it in a number of different versions during the last few years, but this one, in polished fur felt with a small bow and spray of feathers, feels just right. Simple, comfortable and easy to wear, but distinctive.

The 'Jean' is from my midi range (more than a mini, a little smaller than full size). I couldn't resist giving this petite, soft porkpie a bit of extra glamour by adding a big spray of silky ostrich feathers, but the feathers can be easily removed from the trim for a less frothy look. This one was made in a warm medium brown velvety velour fur felt with steel gray ribbon and feathers.

All of these hats perch slightly forward on the head at a jaunty angle and can be worn by a range of sizes. They are all now listed in my Etsy shop, but as usual, any of these hats could be made in any number of other color combinations upon request. Interested in a custom color? Just ask.

Customer Question: A Bit About Blocks

I was recently asked about my hat shapes by a customer, who noticed that my mine are different from other hats they've seen on the market. There's a good reason for that: mine are different, and here's why.

Except for a few hand-draped pieces, all of my hats are made using hat blocks. A hat block is a mold made of wood that you stretch felt over to create the shape of the hat. If you'd like a better idea of how this works, see this great video made at the Stephen Jones Millinery workshop. They are using two layers of fabric material instead of felt, but otherwise it's a very similar process to how I use my blocks.

I like this video because, although the process has been edited down from many hours to just a few minutes for illustration, in watching it you can get an idea of all the laborious hand work that goes into making a single hat.

As you can see in the video, the resulting hat is the exact size and shape of the blocks. So, except in the case of draped hats (in which the felt is sculpted by hand like clay, instead of stretched over a block for shaping), a separate block is required for each shape and size to be made. For example, in order to offer a full range of adult sizes for sized hats, as many as eight (or more) blocks are needed in different sizes but an identical shape, and that only creates that one style. More styles require further sets of blocks. In practice, most hats require two blocks for each size, one for the crown (the top of the hat), and another for the brim. As you can imagine, this adds up, and if you're inclined to collect them, blocks can easily take up a lot of storage space and tools budget. But because I want to offer my customers unique styles that cannot be purchased from other hat makers, I've made collecting carefully designed, skillfully made unique blocks a priority for my business.

Over the past few years I've amassed an extensive collection of blocks. Although most of the blocks available on the market are standard, rather generic shapes available to any hat maker, with very few exceptions, all of the block shapes I use are one-of-a-kind and not to be found elsewhere. A few of my blocks are unusual, hand-carved antiques that I've found here and there, and therefore unique because of their scarcity, but most were custom made exclusively for me by Guy Morse Brown Hat Blocks in the UK. Their ever-expanding catalog of standard styles has many interesting shapes, and their quality and craftsmanship is top-notch. Over the past few years, I've commissioned many original block designs from GMB, they do an incredible job of bringing my ideas to life, I can't recommend them highly enough to anyone interested in buying blocks from their catalog or as custom pieces.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Midi Range: The 'Marlene' Top Hat

Here is another shape for my new 'midi' size- not as small as a mini hat, but just smaller than a full size hat. While it looks closer to a full size hat when worn, it perches jauntily on the head so you can also have a hairdo, and sizing is not an issue. They're one-size-fits-all, and more flattering to most of us than the minis, which can sometimes appear to be a bit too small in proportion to the face.

As you may have noticed, I generally name my blocks (and the resulting hat shape). I also sometimes name individual styles made with those blocks, for those that have particularly distinctive trim. For example, the 'Una' style (big bow in back, ruffled hat band and curly feathers with antique silk lace veiling) is made with a 'Belle Epoch' mini top hat block, but I make other styles with the same block as well.

The following hats were made using the same midi size block, which I call the 'Marlene', after Dietrich, who often rakishly wore a top hat and lady tux.

The block is modeled on a classic 1900-era top hat shape, called a D'Orsay, that had a gently belled crown and an curly brim.

The first style I'm calling 'Viola'. Here's one in lush leopard print long-napped fur felt, with a large bow and hand-curled feathers. These Ringneck Pheasant feathers are overdyed to match the felt, leaving the feathers' natural markings and iridescence still showing through.

And here's a 'Viola' in basic black.  It could be made in lots of colors. Have an idea for a custom color? Let me know.

The 'Marlene' hats have actually been in the works for a while now, but I had an especially difficult time settling on a trim, as I wanted something that would compliment the shape of the hat without obscuring it on one hand, or being too plain on the other. After weeks and weeks of fussing, inspiration for the trim finally came unexpectedly from my hat block maker...

Guy Morse Brown Hat Blocks makes spectacular blocks. I can't say enough good things about them, or about Owen Morse Brown, the current owner and head block maker there. He's an incredibly talented woodworker, and makes fine musical instruments in addition to hat blocks. He recently sent me the following amazing photos of a viol he made for one of his instrument clients.

I especially love the scrolls on some of his other work, like this one.

See more of Owen's work as a luthier here.

The 'Viola' is now available for sale in my Etsy shop.

And here's a sneak peek at the first finished sample from a line of over-the-top hats I've been dreaming up. These will definitely fall into the 'More Is More' category, and are going to include beaded and button-covered hats, rhinestone-encrusted hats, etc. I'm even planning to make a small coral reef from manipulated fabric and ribbon... Most of them will have themes.

Made from long-napped felt shaped with the 'Marlene' block, this top hat style is inspired by and named for Maman Brigitte, a New Orleans Voodoo loa.  It's draped with several feet of distressed vintage silk veiling wound around the hat and tied into a large bow on the back; the loops of the bow are supported by long antique hat pins that stick up from the back of the hat. Two hand-curled Lady Amherst Pheasant tail feathers are tucked behind the bow. On the front, it's also got hat pins that I made specially for this style, using bone skull beads and fish vertebrae, small spotted and striped feathers, and a small horsehair whip. A spray of wispy black peacock hurl feathers, and a wishbone tied with a red ribbon bow, completes the design.

New Colors in the 'Una' Mini Top Hat

For those of you who love a mini, I've created two new color combinations for the 'Una' mini top hat.

It's made with glossy long-napped fur felt polished to a high shine, with a pleated ribbon band, a large bow in back, and hand-curled feathers. These Ringneck Pheasant feathers are overdyed to match the felt, leaving the feathers' natural markings and iridescence still showing through. The front of the brim is draped in a delicate antique silk veiling with a hexagonal pattern and a scalloped lace border. It forms a flattering birdcage veil that falls at just about the tip of the nose. I have a *very* limited supply of this extraordinary and extraordinarily rare veiling in black, navy blue, and chocolate brown (navy and brown versions of the 'Una' are on the way early next year), and when it's gone, it's gone.

Here's the 'Una' in basic black.

And here's the 'Una' in cherry red.

Both of these color combinations are now available for sale in my Etsy shop. It could be made with any other color felt you'd like to see with black, navy, or brown trim and veiling, though- purple, green, charcoal or silver gray, etc. If you would like another felt color just ask.