Friday, November 30, 2012

Lydia Fast Regency Bonnet Workshop

I recently took a bonnet workshop taught by a nice lady called Lydia Fast. If you don't  know who she is , well she just happens to be the queen of regency bonnets. Lydia makes fantastic hats and bonnets and has a very devoted following of people who will literally buy then off her as fast as she can make them. These bonnets are not cheap but she puts an insane amount of work into each and every one, and they are all unique.

Lydia Fast bonnet lady extraordinaire!

Once a year Lydia teaches a workshop where she initiates others into the secrets of millinary. These workshops like her bonnets themselves have a devoted following of people who will take them ever year and make a different bonnet at each. They are limited to 12 people and fill up very quickly, I signed up for it all the way back in August! People come from all over the place to the small town of Perrysburg Ohio to lean from the master. I've been making hats myself for about 3 years and have always wanted to find out how those Lydia bonnets turn out looking so picture perfect. So when my friend Julie mentioned to me at Jane Fest  that Lydia does workshops I knew I had to go to one in order to learn  all her little secrets.   Unfortunately the workshop wasn't cheap and convincing my husband that I needed to drop $200 and go to Ohio for 3 days just to lean how to make hats ( when I already knew how t make hats to begin with) wasn't an easy feat, but thankfully my Mom was a chap and gave me the money for it as a birthday present, and after telling Bryan that I could charge more money for my hats if I took this class, he relented.
I had a really hard time deciding what bonnet to pick. Lydia sent an email with pictures of the bonnet styles available and I spent forever mulling over what I wanted.

 Pictures form Lydia's Bonnet Style sheet, Copyright Lydia Fast.

 I didn't want an easy hat since i figured if I'm dropping the big bucks for this class I better learn something. I wanted the biggest bang for my buck so I finally decided on a tall puff top poke bonnet. pretty much the biggest hat Lydia's repertoire. I also really liked the bucket poke style as well, but since it's an easier hat to make I did not want to waste any precious learning time on a simple bonnet, but since I liked the shape so much I ordered an additional bonnet  kit for that hat. I'll be making my bucket poke sometime in the spring I think. but now on to my adventures in period  bonnet making.
My awesome friend Julie , who took the workshop as well, lives in Defiance Ohio, about 40 minutes by car from where the workshop was being held. She was nice enough to to take me in for the 3 days of the workshop so I would not have to deal with the extra expense of a hotel.  besides who wants to stay at a hotel if you can stay in Julie's awesome arts and crafts style home and get to look at all the pretty things in her stash! Thank you Julie you rock!

The Awesome Julie Rockhold rocking her new turban, turban made by yours truly!

So as I said this was a 3 day class it started Friday evening and went till Sunday afternoon.
I drove up to Perrysburg from Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon, it took about 4 hours and got to the classroom in the nick of time, ready to start some bonnet making magic!

The classroom al set up with everyone's sewing machines and supplies.

  Lydia gave me big tote bag with my supplies, this included the pre cut buckram pieces for both of the bonnets i ordered, cotton mulling to pad the buckram with, millinary wire, fuseable interfacing to stiffen the buckram for the hat 's crown, crinoline tape to cover the wire with, a small instruction booklet and a set of millinary needles.

The buckram pattern pieces to my  bucket poke bonnet laid out on my floor.

I provided the fashion fabrics and trim for my bonnet. I chose a powder blue silk that I got on clearance at Jo Ann's as the outer fabric and a really neat plaid silk with blue cream and very slight pink stripes and tiny little woven diamonds  on it for the brim lining.

It turned out that I was not the only one who took advantage of that silk clearance sale at Jo Ann's as Diana another participant had the same fabric for her bonnet!
The first order of the day  was to trace the buckram pieces I was given so I could have a pattern, for the fashion fabric, and one to take home with me so I can make infinite copies of my new hat. Since Lydia had to leave for a while I decided to just go ahead and cut out my fabric, it  seemed an easy thing to do while we waited for her return. True to my ditzy self I cut out the fabric without adding a seam allowance and had to re cut it all. What a great start to the class, and here I thought it was going to be a breeze! I had just enough fabric to re cut the pieces. When Lydia returned we started work in earnest construct the buckram bonnet frame. I've worked with buckram before but not like this, Lydia has a very time consuming method that yields a perfect bonnet frame unlike the serviceable but less perfect looking things I usually produce.... I started with the brim of my hat adding wire to the edge for stability. Then I went on to constricting the crown the crown. it was around this time that I realized that somehow my bonnet pieces looked smaller than expected.... Lydia had brought some bonnets of hers for us to look at as examples,

Some of Lydia's example bonnets

The pip is not my style I think.

And neither is the Pamela really...

I think I'm a poke bonnet girl all the way! of them being the style that I had picked without the  the puff top on it that is. My bonnet pieces didn't seem as big as that hat at all. I asked Lydia and it turns out that there had been a misunderstanding. she had given me the pieces for a tall stovepipe bonnet instead of a tall poke bonnet. I think it may have been my fault using the wrong word describing the bonnet I wanted, but anyway it doesn't mater who's fault it was, I had the wrong pattern. But Lydia was really nice about it and told me she would give me the brim pattern and materials for the hat I wanted which was great, but unfortunately it meant I had to start over again. And it meant that I needed more fabric! But hey I kind of got a free pattern out of it so I wan';t upset a bit the prospect of staring over.

My wrong brim, I will make a hat out of it some day!

 We left the workshop around 10 pm or so, either of us having accomplished  very little Julie and I  headed to her house, where chatted and had a good time till the wee hours. Since class was set to start again at 9:30 am the next day we both did not get much sleep.  we weren't exactly bright eyed and bushy tailed when we dragged ourselves to the workshop the next morning. I consumed a lot of coke that day to stay awake. Upon arrival I was happy to discover that Lydia had already cut out my new buckram pieces and I was ready to start anew on my second bonnet. So I went to work re doing all the things i had done the evening before. Once the brim was ready I had issues getting the brim attached it to the crown, turns out I picked the hardest bonnet for this particular step, even Lydia struggled to get the brim attached so I felt a little better about it.Then I covered the whole contraption in cotton mulling.

Bonnet frame with untrimmed mulling attached.

 Mulling is a thin fluffy fabric used in quilts and such, It's added to the buckram frame to smooth out the bumps from the wire and  and to protect the fashion fabric from the rough surface of the buckram. There's something i didn't  know about, I had only ever covered my buckram frames with fabric without any mulling, and adding the mulling does improve the finished look and feel of the hat significantly. After adding the mulling it was time to cover the hat with the fashion fabric.

My finished bonnet form.

I already had an inkling that i didn't have enough fabric left. I had a back up fabric, a shiny silk in a lighter shade of blue but it just didn't look as pretty with the the brim lining fabric I had picked out. I noticed that Diana had a bunch of fabric left over after cutting out the fabric needed to cover her bonnet, so I asked her if I could buy some of her fabric. She wouldn't hear of me buying anything and gave it to me for free instead. How sweet her her, she's and awesome Lady!
So I cut out a new brim and set to work covering my frame. The class took a break around noon to go to a fancy ribbon shop in town called Ribbonry. It's a tiny store crammed with thousands of spools of beautiful ribbon. Super drool worthy, until you see the prices that is. Oh boy the ribbon I really liked was a vintage French ribbon and had a $43 a yard price tag, right.... I understand that the stuff is vintage and all but well it's kind of out of my budget..... So I settled for a pretty and somewhat less expensive changeable coral colored taffeta ribbon instead. I also got some other ribbons for future projects.

 All in all I spent $40 on 3 cuts of ribbon which I thought was a lot until an hour later Lydia emerged from the shop and told us she had just bought $200 wort of ribbon. Wow who knew you could  spend that kind of money on ribbon! After our ribbon buying excursion it was back to the grind stone at the workshop. By this time my finger tips had started to be sore from all the hand sewing but I soldiered on, and at the end of the night all I had a accomplished was making the frame,covering it in mulling, covering the outside of the brim and pinning on the gathered lining on. But since most people in the class where at about the same place I was I didn't feel so bad about it. We broke up around 10 pm and headed back to Julies house, this evening out friend Tonya came with us as well, we had another late night and early morning before trekking back to he workshop for the final day. I spent about 3 hours attaching the gathered brim lining by hand with a curved needle, I swear there has to be an easier method of doing this!

Bonnet with brim lining finally in place!

Finally my bonnet started looking like had envisioned it. I manged to add the puff top before we had to pack up and leave around 2pm.

This is how far I got at the workshop.

 Only 3 or 4 people actually finished their hats. Diana ad Betsy did and had even started working on their second bonnets, but they are veterans of these workshops so I will forgive them their awesomeness and ninja bonnet making skills.

Awesome Diana with her 1790's inspired Bonnet!

I forgot this lovely ladies name but she finished her hat so kudos to her!

 After 3 days of work, tired and with sore bleeding fingers( one needle prick on my ring finger actually got badly infected ad took about 2 weeks to heal!) I now entirely understood why Lydia's bonnets are so special and expensive.  I think she should probably ask more money for them considering how much work goes into these hats. I know I'm not selling mine, no one can pay me enough for all that work my work! I will however use my new skills to make better bonnet's and plan to start a luxury bonnet line in addition to my usual products. Of course I'm not allowed to use the patterns i got from Lydia  to make hats for sale, But I'm perfectly adept at making my own patterns and using the new techniques i learned so the class was totally worth it for me!
I finally got around to finishing my bonnet this week. I had some more urgent projects before I could get back to working on my Lydia bonnet.
 Really all that was left was cover the brim add trim and a dd the crown lining.
But of course the thing threw me one last hurdle. The fabric I had cut for the crown was about one inch to short and I did not have any fabric left to cut another piece! Because the fabric had come form clearance to begin with I could not buy any more of it so I had to resort to ghetto rigging the ting.
 Don't tell Lydia, she's very particular about how these hat's turn out, and she may come after me with her gun for doing this. But I had to cut up  the crown piece and add a strip of leftover fabric i dug out of my trash bin to make it long enough to fit around the crown!

My ghetto rigged bonnet crown! See the seams?

 You can't tell tough as I covered it ingeniously with a BIG ASS BOW! No one will ever know, well except for you dear readers.....
With the difficult part accomplished I could not do the fun part and trim the hell out of the bonnet! I trimmed it with a hat band made from the coral ribbon I got at Ribbonry,  a big ass bow made from leftover brim lining fabric, a little coral ribbon rosette with a cut galls ornament in the center and some faux berries. Instead of tying the bonnet ribbons under the chin I opted for a chin strap instead. It buckles on the side using a vintage art deco mother of pearl buckle, that i had in my stash.

The last thing let was to attach the crown liner. The crown lining is simply made from a tube of  fabric with a drawstring on top. I was going to just use some plain white linen for the lining but then I decided I wanted something cute.

I found a scarp of cotton fabric with tiny cherries on it in my stash and used it instead. It's cute an no one can see it when I'm wearing the hat.

Crown lining before sewing it in the bonnet.

The crown liner attached.

So here it is, my opus magnum of millinary.

 I think it turned out pretty fantastic! It's almost as nice as nice Lydia;s creations are, if you disregard the mess up hidden under the big ass bow,and I'm sure that with some more practice I will get quite good at this sort of thing! With all my false starts and issues it took me about 25 hours or so to make this bonnet. Much less if you consider all the issues I had... so i think will work on streamlining the production of these things a bit so I can produce high quality hats ( not that my others aren't but not to this extent) for my shop. I think I'll call my new luxury like Bennett's Bonnets. What do you think catchy? Bennett's Bonnet's sold at The Bohemian Belle, or to cheesy?
And if you where thinking I'm misspelling Bennett, that's not the case as my last name just happens to be Bennett with 2 t's cause sorry Jane Austen anything else is misspelled!