One of my Goals in my Vision for 2017 is making a Roaring 20's hat to wear to the "Hat's off" event which benefits Girl's Inc. With this in mind, I set out to talk to an expert, and the first person I thought of was the organizer of the Bay Area Sewist meet-up Group that I attend. In addition to facilitating our meet-up group she also runs the blog CSews and is a guest blogger for Britex Fabrics. She always wears such fabulous hats and I know that she makes some of them.
And as a special bonus, Chuleenan has given us a Black Ostrich feather Pom Pom to give away to one of our lucky readers. Comment on this post to qualify for this Week's Giveaway!
Below is our conversation. I hope you find it as gripping as I did!
Jennifer: How old were you when you first started sewing?
Chuleenan: You, know, I don’t really know. I don’t have a distinct memory of when it was. My mom probably taught us on our sewing machine when I was in 5th or 6th grade.
Jennifer: Who were your first teachers?
Chuleenan: My mom taught me how to use the machine. In junior high we took a Home EC class; everyone had to take it. All the girls and all the boys. Everyone had to take Shop and everyone had to take a Home EC class. My mom showed me how to thread a needle but not how to get the bobbin thread to come up through the top. I learned that in Home EC class. We did a little cooking, a little baking and a little sewing. I made a stuffed animal. We got to pick a project from a catalogue. I made a whale. It had a mouth that opened, eyes on both sides of it’s head, a tail. It came with stuffing and I learned how sew fake fur.
Jennifer: In many of your posts and photos you always look so “Finished” and mostly it seems because you are wearing a hat. What first inspired you to start making and wearing hats?
Chuleenan: Well, I’ve been collecting hats for a really long time. Maybe even in Junior High or High school I liked hats. I lived on the east coast (where it was cold). I bought them whenever I could. Once I was with my older sister at the mall and I saw a hat that I liked but I didn’t have enough money and begged her to buy it for me. She must of gotten tired of me (begging) and just bought it for me.
When I was in College, there was a great vintage store that sold hats and that’s when I really started collecting. I found some really cool hats from thrift stores. There was a hat with ostrich feather pom poms. I still wear that hat. I’ve had it for something like 20 years. (see photo of Chuleenan in her hat at the top of the blog)
Maybe around 2002, I started wearing more of my hats to work. Two years later when I was working for a legal magazine – not the most exciting publication, I started wearing them every single day. Every day, for like 11 years, I wore a hat; except for maybe only one day.
Jennifer: What did people think of this?
Chuleenan: People would comment on how many hats I have. I didn’t wear a different one every day. I would repeat hats. People got used to it eventually and then didn’t really say anything about it.
It was kind of a fun part of my day each day to pick out which hat I was going to wear. Part of it was that I just had a large collection of hats and they were all hats I could wear.
Jennifer: I’m planning on making a Roaring 20’s hat for the “Hats off to Strong, Smart & Bold women who Dare” Fundraiser for Girls Inc. I’m going to start with an existing hat, change the brim shape and trim it. Do you have any recommendations for trimming my hat? For reinforcing the wool brim edge after I cut it?
Chuleenan: Let’s see - You could either throw on some millinery wire. I wouldn’t cut the brim to the width. Add seam allowance then fold the edge over the wire. Ask someone at Lacis whether to do it over or under. To connect the ends, you can either overlap it or use crimps that connect the ends. You can buy it all from Lacis. Or you could bind the edge with Petersham for a contrasting color
Trimming - You could Trim with Feathers. Or an ornament. What shape is it going to be?
Jennifer: My mom bought a wool hat from Old Navy and it was ½ off. It’s a floppy brim with a shaped crown. I’m going for cloche style so I’ll need to put the crown on a block and steam/block the shaping out of it.
Chuleenan: You could actually fold the brim in the front and then play with it on you. In the 20’s, sometimes they would fold the brim over in the front.
Jennifer: yes! And, to do it while it’s on me is a great idea! Who did you take your millinery classes from:
Chuleenan: There were two people I took classes from at Lacis in Berkeley - Jan Wutkowski (www.hatshatshats.com & www.aMuseartisinalfinery.com) and then two classes from Lynn McMasters - one on embellishing hats and one on Feather Ornaments.
Jennifer: I think I need ribbon, fasteners and maybe some feathers. What about places to buy materials? Where should I go?
CHuleenan: Lacis locally, has all the stuff from millinery wire, to hat frames, wool hoods and supplies for making fascinators they are really the place to go. They even have hat blocks that people can rent & Lacis has a lot of lace for bridal as well. They also have a lot of unusual hat frames because people don’t really sell them anymore.
- online JudithM.com has lots of supplies / Britex has a very large ribbon selection.
Jennifer: You make a lot of your own clothing. Do you have a favorite pattern/pattern company? Why?
Chuleenan: I would have to say that I’ve made one skirt several times - The Chardon Skirt by Deer & Doe (French) but they sell them at Stone mountain and daughter.
The patterns are aimed at people who have more of an hourglass figure. I didn’t have to do anything to the pattern. It fit great.. The first two I made the actual length. The 3rd one I made in linen with a contrast band at the bottom.
I have a really great African wax print (from Britex) with a really long print and made a maxi skirt out of it using the same pattern.
Jennifer: Let's talk about your sewing blog. When did you start blogging about sewing? What topics do you find most interesting?
Chuleenan: Started in November 2011 - On 11/11/11 is when CSews went live. I wrote about 4 posts prior to that date so I would have more than one blog post to read.
Topics - Hmm It’s more wide ranging, I suppose. I've written posts on stuff that I’ve made and how I’ve made them or problems I’ve encountered and how I’ve dealt with them. There was a cardigan I made for my husband and it needed a lot of fitting. It took me 3 times to get it right. I wanted to let others know how to deal with different body types.
I also like talking with other people. What got them interested in sewing. I like hearing other people’s stories. I interviewed Christine Haynes before she got really big, in 2012 or so. I bought her first book and made a few things and then blogged about it and then interviewed her for my blog. It was right about the time when she launched her patterns.
Jennifer: I’ve seen many wonderful photos of you in your clothing on Pinterest. You always have the most picturesque backgrounds like a beautiful wall or an old building. I’m very curious, do you travel or have you found these locations locally? And who takes the photos?
Chuleenan: They are all local within walking distance. It’s just me,my camera and tripod. I walk to a location, set up my tripod and take a photo, using the timer on my camera.. It’s all in Berkeley. I just keep my eyes out for good looking walls. I found a great orange wall and then I made the Pilvi Coat from the Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style book. It was made in blue fabric and I thought it would make a good contrast. Exposure is always a problem. I have to remember when I’m wearing black not to find a background that’s too light. And I try to do it when there is very little traffic so I don’t get distracted.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for giving this interview and for generous giva-way for our readers! Finding out more about you and hearing all your sage advice (regarding my hat) has been priceless!