H’Atelelier22 and The Cloche Hat


Last summer my boyfriend’s stepmum, Sally, came to stay with us whilst attending a millinery course at Central St Martin’s School of Art in London.

St Martin’s has taught some of Britain’s great creative talents, from Stella McCartney and Jarvis Cocker to Paul Smith. Oh, and back in the early Nineties I had a massive crush on someone I knew who studied there. Reason enough to be enthralled by Stepmum’s foray into hat-making! I would come home from work each evening and she would come home from her day as a student, and we’d compare notes. It was wonderful to see someone so invigorated, excited and inspired by a week’s study!

Fast forward a few months, and Sally was ensconced back in her Brittany home, furiously making hats. She sent over some photos and, really… How could a girl resist? I asked her to make me a cloche hat with little direction other than, ‘Here’s a photo of Angelina Jolie wearing one in a film.’  I asked for my hat to be simple, appropriate for day wear and big enough to accommodate my huge head and big hair. (I struggle to find hats that fit.) The above photo is the result, sent over from rural France to Walthamstow just in time for Christmas.

I thought it would be great to have a little interview with Sally and allow us all to share the benefit of her experience, walking the hallowed halls of one of Britain’s great artistic teaching venues and learning all about how to make hats. I hope you enjoy the chat Sally and I had:

What inspired you to step into the field of hat making?

I have always loved and worn hats. As far as I’m concerned the bigger and more outrageous the better. As far back as I can remember I visited stores in London, such as John Lewis, Selfridges, Fenwicks and Harrods to admire, and try on, their hats! I love sewing, designing and fashion, and enjoy using my talents to produce innovative yet wearable hats. Ten years ago, when I taught Art and Design in Manchester I attended a part time course in Millinery, but other commitments prevented me from making them. I am inspired by the designs of Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones, but having been taught recently by Ian Bennett I am now being influenced by his more sculptural forms.

Could you tell us a little about the course you went on and how the experience was?

In 2010 I took a a five day full time summer school at Central St Martins in London, taught by Ian Bennett, covering the basic techniques of blocking and finishing hats in straw, sinamay and felt. There were students from the UK, France (me), Holland, Italy, Spain and the USA, taught in English (as were the comprehensive course notes). I enjoyed the atmosphere and getting to know the other students in the class. The techniques we learnt were traditional and had not, essentially, changed in the past hundreds of years.

What hints and tips would you give to anyone else wanting to try their hand at this craft?

I enjoy making model and couture design hats in felt, sinamay or straw, or a combination of these traditional materials. They can take quite a long time to make, and you need to be very patient as they are made exclusively made by hand. There are no instant results but the final outcome can be stunning! Expect to make mistakes and don’t be put off when you do. I use my ‘ideas hats’ as I call them, to try out designs and techniques. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. Since the course I have made 20 hats which I exhibit to potential clients and have received many favourable comments. I am now taking commissions for hatches, matches and dispatches and any other special events!

Do you have a favourite technique?

Not so much a favourite technique, more a favourite material. I love working with sinamay, hats of all sizes and shapes, from small cocktail hats to big brimmed wedding/races hats! I like sinamay because it’s a very flexible material. It can be blocked into crowns and brims, is available in a wide range of colours and can be used for decorative bows, loops, flowers and leaves. There are also variations which are made from silk, and have printed patterns, fluffy spots, dots and tufts. I also enjoy using crystals on my hats, either ironed on direct or incorporated on silver wire ‘feather’ decorations.

Living in France how have you found your suppliers?

No problems with suppliers. I source most of my materials through the internet and mostly from the UK as it’s much cheaper than France, but have bought antique decorations and feathers through Ebay. Etsy also is a good website for some basic materials. Most orders arrive within 3-5 working days, so I can usually plan to work on something else whilst I wait for materials to arrive. However I do keep a basic stock of materials and trimmings.

What do you have planned for the future?

Ah, The Future. I want to set up a website showing my current range of hats, which will allow my designs to reach a wider range of clients. I have some potential commissions for this year, including a Black and White Hat for a wedding in Cheshire in July and I’m currently planning to produce a hat for an international competition in March. (That’s under wraps at the moment.) I’m now registered here in France as an Auto-Entrepreneur and my company, H’ATELIER22 is up and running; Atelier means studio, and 22 is Cote d’Armor, the Departement where I live. I will be displaying my hats at various shows and craft fairs here, and aim to keep my prices reasonable, but not sacrifice the quality of the finished hat. I know we are in difficult times economically, but hey girls, we all need that special hat!

Thanks, Sally, for that lovely interview. Below is another photo of the hat with a feather addition for more formal occasions. Now I just have to cross my fingers and wait for someone to invite me to a formal occasion. I’ll have just the right head gear…

I ain’t dirty! I washed my face and hands before I come, I did.*

* Points out of ten for anyone who can name that quote.

If you’re interested in Sally making un chapeau for you, drop a note in the comments and I’ll forward your details to Brittany, France.

May Sally inspire us all to get creative! For any Londoners out there, Sally discovered a new shopping venue just off Carnaby Street – Atelier Millinery. A good venue for resources and some interesting-looking courses, too!


This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to H’Atelelier22 and The Cloche Hat

  1. tia says:

    Eliza Doolittle

  2. Karyn says:

    Very cute hat!

    (Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady!)

  3. SewOm says:

    Wow – that hat is beautiful! The color complements your skin, and the shape flatters your cheeks and eyes. Congrats to you and to Sally for inspiring each other. And us.

  4. Brenda says:

    My Fair Lady. Love, love, love the hat!!

  5. Ashley says:

    Eliza Doolittle from Pygmalion! (or My Fair Lady if you’ve seen the film). I was lucky enough to play Eliza for my A-Level drama piece. So much fun doing the accent! 🙂
    I’d love to give millinery a go, I also have trouble finding hats that fit. Your hat is so cute! 🙂
    Ashley x

  6. Jean wild says:

    Love the hat and I am looking forward to your website.
    How about a fashion show at Elizabeille’s?
    We could combine it with some readings from the Writing Group.
    I hope you do well.
    Best wishes from Jean aka Freda

  7. Jenny B says:

    Stunning hat! Well done you!!

  8. Carly says:

    I love the hat, it’s gorgeous! Thanks for posting the interview too, I found it inspiring – shows the rest of us there’s really no excuse not to just go and do it.

  9. Nancy says:

    Cute! Love it!

  10. Roobeedoo says:

    Oh gosh oh wow! That is the perfect hat for you! Cheekbones! Jawline! Gorgeous!

  11. Patricia Calderwood says:

    Great hat and well done Sally. All your talent, hard work and enthusiasm has paid off. I am sure you are going to be a great success. Good luck.

    Pat x

  12. Suzanne says:

    A wonderful interview..thanks for sharing her talent with us!

  13. Liz from Canada says:

    You look absolutely stunning in your hat…it suits your face and your colouring. Thank you for interviewing Sally; she’s very creative. I learned a few new terms and now must look them up….for future reference perhaps!?! I’m new to your blog and am enjoying it very much. May I please have the pattern information on the top you are wearing in the photo? Thank you again.

  14. melissa says:

    Gorgeous hat! Cloches are my favourite but I can never get them to fit my fat head, either. Thanks for the interview, it was really interesting.

    (and was the Angelina Jolie film that 1920s one where her son gets kidnapped and police replace him with a different kid??)

  15. sally says:

    Just to say a big Thank You to Karen for being my fist ‘Esteemed Client’ and for looking so fantastic in the hat. It travelled very well from France. Thanks also for the lovely comments. Its really nice to know my work pleases so many of you.

    love sally S

  16. Thanks for your lovely comments, everyone.

    Liz from Canada – I’m afraid there is no pattern for that coat, it’s shop bought.

    Well done all the people who guessed Eliza Doolittle correctly!

  17. Liara says:

    I love your hat! Here in the US, we don’t ever wear them, except in the winter to keep warm, and then they usually are just knitted hats. I’d be interested in knowing what Sally would charge for a hat like yours. I’d been considering just sewing one, but I know I could never do it justice!

  18. Anja says:

    I love that hat! I want one….. My head is always too big for any of these sorts of hats. The amount of times I have been in vintage shops trying on lovely 20’s hats, ramming them down on my head with little success!

  19. Lisette says:

    Beautiful hat and it is very becoming on you. You look like you could be in the series The House of Eliott!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.