Sheffield-based bespoke millinery for all occasions

September 2019

Hat Works: Researching the Nautilus

Hat Works: Researching the Nautilus

In my first blog about my Nautilus Journey I told you how it all started…so what happened next? My next, very exciting stop was a trip to Hat Works in Stockport to start researching the nautilus!

Hat Works: Researching the Nautilus

Museums Officer Bronwen (aka Bronwen Simpson, award winning Stockport-based milliner) arranged for me to have access to museum’s research library. But first, she allowed me to see THE MOST delicious hat up close. Yes, I did get to handle it and yes, I was wearing gloves!

Made by Edward Mann in the 1950’s, this hat is just the most exquisite example of the nautilus being used to create a half hat. A hat shape that pretty much embodies the 1950s!

Edward Mann Red Half Hat 1956 - Hat Works Collection
Hat Works: Researching the Nautilus - Edward Mann Ribbon Hat 1956 - Hat Works Collection

These nautili have been painstakingly made using red petersham ribbon, an ongoing staple material in modern day millinery and something which I love working with. The first thing I noticed was the total absence of visible stitches on the outer of the hat. I thought I had been doing so well hiding my stitches in my samples. Now I had to totally rethink my approach!

Luckily, the hat is not lined so ALL the stitching is visible on the inside. This may sound unusual, however, for a milliner on a mission, this was vital information. Also, these stitches were anything but messy! Uniform, neat and very helpful in giving away a few secrets…even if they did test my phone’s macro camera setting.

Edward Mann Nautilus Hat 1956 - Hat Works Collection
Edward Mann Hat 1956 - Hat Works Collection

Realising that I still have a lot of work to do in perfecting my own technique, I decided it was time to hit the library. My goal was to find a reference, an image, anything relating to this trimming technique. So far, all I knew was that it was around in the 1950’s, but how old was it? Where did it come from? Why did it fall from favour?

Before long, it was time for a quick break.

I’m really not one for sharing photos of my meals, but I have to give Laco Café and Bistro a special mention…that was THE best cheese toastie I have EVER had the pleasure of eating. Thank you so much to Bronwen for treating me!

Laco will now be my go-to place for lunch every time I am in Stockport and if you are visiting, I urge you to check it out! 

Laco Cafe and Bistro Stockport

After lunch I knuckled back down to the books to continue my search. As the afternoon drew on, I became a little despondent.

I wasn’t really finding what I was looking for.  I wasn’t expecting to find things instantly (where would the fun be in that?) but I was completely drawing a blank.

Then, I struck gold with these three trade magazines from 1956. The first was actually published by Edward Mann, the maker of the super star hat I’d seen in the morning! The second two were industry magazines featured adverts from a whole host of long-gone millinery companies from across the UK.

However, something became very clear whilst I was flicking through these. These were manufactured hats, the types to be wholesaled to outfitters, boutiques and departments stores. These were miles away from the couture hat I had seen in the morning.

It dawned on me that I was approaching my research from totally the wrong direction.

I had been focusing on fashion trends and mainstream fashion. This was, without being snobby, aimed at the general public. The highly skilled work that I’d seen in the morning was unlikely to be made in a factory. Not necessarily because of the skill level, simply due to the time it would have taken to sew by hand. This was not a viable design for mass production!

Unfortunately, this revelation came to me at the end of the day and it was nearly time for me to get my train back to Sheffield.

However, with a brain buzzing with ideas, I did a quick pit stop via the Hat Works shop.

I’d treated myself to some super wide ribbon when I came in August…and I wanted a little top up for my own nautilus sampling.

The brand colour notebook may also have fallen into my shopping basket – well I do need to keep a record of my sampling!

I had a wonderful day at Hat Works researching the nautilus and my train journey home passed in a flash as I plotted the next stages of my research. I’ll let you know how my new plan of action goes in my next blog.

London Hat Week: Nautilus Workshop

Plum Felt Button Hat with Nautilus

Back in March last year, I attended a workshop at London Hat Week to learn how to make Nautilus trimmings. It was run by the brilliant Leanne Fredrick of Hattin Around and I was very excited to be attending.

Many moons ago, when I first started using Pinterest, I kept seeing the most amazing ribbon trims created using a pleating method. 

Very quickly I learnt that these amazing ribbon shell-shaped motifs had the very apt name of “Nautilus” after the sea creature they resemble.

Nautilus- Leanne Fredrick Hattin Around
Nautilus- Leanne Fredrick Hattin Around

Some of the images I have collected over the years show these vintage style trims used simply as decoration. However, I’ve also seen multiple nautili (Google says this is the plural!) in different shapes and sizes used to create 50’s style half hats.

For years, I’d seen these trims on Pinterest, but despite my best efforts, I simply couldn’t hunt down a “how to” guide. When I saw Leanne’s workshop being advertised, I knew I just simply had to be there!

(If you are a Pinterest hoarder too, and want to see just how bad my Pinterest habit is, check out my Ribbonwork board here!)

The workshop was immense fun and creating my first Nautilus brought with it a huge sense of achievement. It was far from being as accomplished as those created by Leanne for her workshop samples, let alone the glorious half hat she made using the technique. However, practice makes perfect.

Nautilus Workshop - Sample Progress

As soon as I got back to the studio, I settled down to try again. Needless to say, I was very eager to trial using my newly learnt skill on a hat. 

My sample from the workshop may be a little rough and ready, however the mismatched thread was a conscious decision. I knew I would need a reminder of where my stitches were supposed to be!

Naturally, on the finished nautilus my aim was make my stitches as invisible as possible.

This plum felt mini button hat was designed with the specific goal of mixing a variety of textures.

Felt is a wonderfully versatile material and this deep plum purple shade is perfect for autumn.

It features a veiling overlay, felt loops for a little height and the star of the show, a nautilus!

I confess, I still have yet to get a full set of images of this design, but as soon as I do, it will be available in my online shop!

Plum Felt Button Hat with Nautilus

Fast forward again to June 2019…when I finally got chance to revisit my practice again! It’s fair to say this learning process has been a slow burner, however, it truly has been worth the wait.

During the course of a week I experimented using different widths of ribbon, playing with the size of the pleats, altering the length of the ribbon all in the quest for the perfect nautilus. 

There were certainly a few Goldilocks moments during this process!

Nautilus Workshop - Further Sampling

However, this isn’t the end of my Nautilus journey, in fact it’s just the beginning!

In August I visited Stockport-based milliner Bronwen Simpson and we had a wonderful chat about this technique and what little we knew about its history and usage.

I should mention that Bronwen isn’t just an award-winning milliner, she also happens to be Museums Officer at Hat Works, the Museum of Hatting. Yes, she does have a pair of dream jobs!

Bronwen very kindly invited me to visit the museum for some behind the scenes access to their collection as well as the museum’s reference library. Knowing there are hats in the collection that use this technique, how could I possible refuse?

As for where this adventure of discovery went next, I’ll save that for my second blog!

End Note:

I don’t know if Leanne is running her Nautilus workshop at London Hat Week 2020 (16-22 April), but check out their website for further updates of the full workshop programme when it is published. Maybe I’ll see you there!

UPDATE: You can now find the fruits of my labours in store! Check out my new designs featuring the Nautilus technique here.

Retro Beret Chic Photoshoot

Retro Beret Chic Photoshoot

What happens when you take one Sheffield based milliner and an LA based photographer? A fabulous retro beret chic photoshoot that’s what!

Kalie from Cosmic Romantics approached me to shoot some of my berets. Her concept for the shoot was “dreamy retro ad” style images…and I think she met that brief fantastically

I adore the noiresque lighting of the images and Kalie looks simply stunning in the shots. We havent finished yet though and we do have another plan for some another shoot. Watch this space for our next retro beret chic photoshoot!

You can see more of Kalie’s work via her Instagram accounts @cosmic.romantics and @kalie_johnston

You can shop the full beret collection here, or simply click on the images to visit the featured designs.

New Berets for AW 2019

Pink Beret with Embroidery Flowers

Please welcome the new Imogen’s Imagination berets for AW 2019!

Over the years all my berets have featured bows in a range of fabrics and textures, but this year I’m exploring something new.

This year’s collection of new berets for AW 2019 features gloriously pretty embroidered flower motifs. Whether you choose from chrysanthemums, roses (or both!) these berets are the perfect seasonal accessory.

These flowers have a fabulous 3D effect as they are made with multiple embroidered layers. This gives the petals extra texture and movement when worn. The beautifully graduated colours have wonderful sheen to them, catching the light and contrasting with the wool felt of the berets.

Berets are the perfect hat for being on the go, you can roll them up and keep them in your handbag or pocket for when needed. They are cosy, chic and suit all sorts of hair styles and face shapes.

If you need a little inspiration on how to style your beret, check out my dedicated Pinterest board

These classic black berets have been given a colour injection with these beautiful coral blooms. This combination is super wearable and will add a little pumpkin spice to your Auntumn wardrobe.

It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of pink! I have sourced a brand new shade especially for this collection and I’m sure this candy pink beret will be making an appearance in future collections. 

Is there anything more classic that red roses? These red berets would look amazing with a host of functional autumn/winter colours. Teamed with black, navy, charcoal grey and these combinations will forever be on trend.

This magenta beret features purple tone flowers and these jewel tones are a perfect antidote to the gloom of the season. They would also make fab presents for those whose birthday is in February, their birthstone is amethyst!