Helena Travels to Paris - Part 2

Day 2 - Millinery Workshop with Estelle Ramousse


Rise and Shine everyone....another big day awaits! 

I wore my pretty butterfly dress and bow fascinator and off I went for another day full of learning. I felt like dressing up today, most likely to make up for how tired I was feeling. I could not believe how exhausted I felt from all the new knowledge I had learnt yesterday, not to mention all that hand sewing. I was a little nervous that I would run out of time today so I spent a few hours at home last night sewing, so you guessed it, I hardly got any sleep! 

Are you excited to see the finished hat!?!?...I know I am! 

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The air was crisp, not too cold but refreshing and definitely woke me up. During my walk to the metro station I could not help but be drawn to the amazing aromas coming from the bakery. Hot coffee and delicious fresh pastries for breakfast anyone? I sure could get used to this! I grabbed a coffee and handmade quiche from the bakery and took a detour through a beautiful park, where leaves had fallen along the footpaths and the colours of the trees were breathtaking. Although I could have spent hours here, I had a train to catch! 

Estelle met me at the station as I didn't want to get lost and we walked down to her studio together. When we reached the studio we started the day with a coffee (my second one, shhhhhh) and some yummy croissants that she had bought for us. The chocolate filled ones were especially yummy! She complimented me on my dress, which made me smile; it showed she noticed the small details. 

After the morning wake me up and delicious treats we could now tackle the tasks ahead. These included covering my hat base with fabric and adding an embellishment.(Which I soon decided would be a bow of some sort; see the funny video below that Estelle took of me deciding on a bow).

Oh! And of course, the toughest task of them all, completing the lining. I had never lined a hat before so this would be interesting. I was a little nervous to say the least. 

Click HERE TO Watch the video.

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For the next few hours I felt like I was hand sewing for days! Layer after layer, it felt so repetitive. I now understand why you need to be so patient. I couldn't believe how much energy you needed for hand sewing. I was starting to get a little restless to be honest and even with a thimble my fingers were starting to hurt! Not to mention I felt like I was so slow; I was trying to be as neat as possible.

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In the background, Estelle had the French news on, although I could not understand what they were saying, I could still feel their shock and outrage from the tone in their voice. I could see the sadness in Estelle's eyes for her country watching this. I too, felt sad and disappointed in the world. Every channel was talking about Friday the 13th 2015 Paris attacks. This was such a sad time for everyone not just in Paris but also around the World. #prayforparis

It is moments like this, as painful as they are that I feel people from all around the world work together, where language is no longer a barrier and where everyone is supporting one another. If only we could do this all the time, Crisis or no crisis. I still want to have hope in the World and mankind but times like this make it hard. 

What really amazed me about French people is that even after this tragic event, they all held their heads up high and continued with their life. They did not allow fear to stop them from living. I admire them for this. 

Another amazing thing about French people is their food! As I completed my last stitch, Estelle had cooked yet another delicious lunch! Perfect timing, don't you think?

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Over lunch Estelle and I talked about travelling and all the opportunities and inspiration it brings! She asked me about my travel plans. I told her how each month I move to a new country, to learn, experience a new culture and gather inspiration. "WOW, a whole month? How amazing. Where to next, Helena?” she asked.

"ICELAND!!! I exclaimed. It will be the first time seeing snow....my first white Christmas"

Estelle shared my love for travel and we shared our experiences. She told me about her month-long vacation to Mexico, A destination I definitely have on my list! She spoke so fondly of the place, the food and the people there. You could see the spark in her eyes as she shared her experience. She loved Mexico so much that she took inspiration from the Mexican Culture to create some of the pieces that filled her beautiful shop.

We discussed how travelling was such a nice way to meet other creative people and make friends. We spoke about the chance of hopefully meeting again in a different country one day. 

"Staying at the same place is survival but travelling is living"

"Staying at the same place is survival but travelling is living"

A full tummy, another cup of coffee and a little break, it was time to tackle the lining! This was very fiddly and the smallest error meant that the lining didn't fit properly! It took us a few tries to get the pattern correct before we could move on to cutting the lining out of the actual fabric. All the pattern making skills that I had learnt from my fashion design days 5 years ago were starting to come back to me and funny enough I still found patterns frustrating!  

After some patience Estelle and I finally managed to make the pattern fit, about time I say! Making the lining did show me that no matter how many years of experience you have, everyone has days where they get stuck! 

Smooth sailing from here. A little more hand stitching (which by now I was a pro at ha-ha) and the hat was complete!

Overall I think Day 2 was a success. I managed to complete my very first pillbox hat...blocked from scratch and completely hand sewn. No glue and no pre-bought bases. Properly lined and not felted. I just could not believe my eyes. I did it....Me...Helen Maalouf had made this hat from scratch in just two days!

I was in shock really, full of adrenaline and truly fascinated. I wanted to jump and down with joy and do it all over again! Can I ???  (I am sure my fingers would not agree) My grin was huge and I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait to share my new creation with my friends, my followers, my mum and my partner. I wanted to see their reaction! This was truly nothing like I had made before.

Blocking a pillbox hat ✓ Mission accomplished. One step closer to becoming a better milliner. 

After I had time to reflect on my recent achievement I had a thought....

"There are so many different hat blocks".... Oh my.

To all the milliners out there...There is still so much I don't know about blocks and Hat blocking!

Do you invest in all the shapes?

What hat blocks should I start with? 

What blocks do you find most useful?

Do you have to buy the blocks in different sizes??

What is your favourite/most used shape?? 


Some of the things I learnt on my second day.

·       When you hand sew every detail it looks so amazing and totally worth it!!!

·       My Fashion Design background is a huge advantage when it comes to pattern construction and design.

·       That it is worth spending time on a pattern to ensure it is perfect.

·       Three Haute Couture Finishes

1.      ALWAYS use pure cotton grosgrain ribbon for the inside edge of a hat.

2.      Finish the inside with lining.

3.      Mark the front of a hat on the inside with thread. (so customers know which way is the front). How clever is that!

·       If you can’t get your hands on different coloured elastic, simply buy white and dye it the required colour. 

·       How to make a pattern for the lining of a hat

·       That couture hat making is life changing and that I love the art of Millinery even more than before.  

Click HERE TO Watch a video.


(Click on images for larger view)

I decided I wanted the top of the hat to be covered with a gold mesh fabric. This would create contrast and give the hat a more couture look. 

Step 1. Lay the mesh over the top of the hat and cut a square piece big enough to cover the whole top. Cut out the square piece of mesh.

Step 2. Tack down the square piece of mesh to hold in place with a bright coloured thread. This will be removed later on. 
"In sewing, to tack or baste is to make quick, temporary stitching intended to be removed. Tacking is used in a variety of ways: To temporarily hold a seam or trim in place until it can be permanently sewn, usually with a long running stitch made by hand or machine called a tacking stitch or basting stitch."

STEP 3 & 4 - Stitching guide.

Step 3. Now hand stitch the mesh fabric down. Stitching inside the groove and around like an egg shape. Hand stitching needs to be invisible, very small stitches and very neat. Refer to image 4 for stitching guide.

Step 4. Once you have stitched the inside line down all the way around. Repeat the step stitching a second egg shape on the very edge on the top of the hat. Refer to Image 4 for stitching guide.

Step 5. Once you have completed both rows of stitching cut excess Mesh fabric.

Step 6. Using the patterns made on Day 1 cut out the fabric for the side of the hat. Remember to always cut on the bias!

Step 7. Place your hat on the block and stretch the piece of fabric you just cut around the hat.

Step 8. Pinching the two ends together pin the excess fabric down centre back.

Step 9. Now the piece of fabric is tightly wrapped around the hat and pinned in place.

Step 10. Fold and tuck in the top edges of the fabric to create a nice edge around the top of the hat.

Step 11. When you are happy with the position of the folded edge pin in place.

Step 12. When you get to the excess fabric at the back trim down and then fold both edges inwards to create a seam down centre back. Hand stitch the two edges together. Hand stitching needs to be invisible - very small stitches and very neat.

Step 13. Hand stitch the edge of the fabric to the top of the hat. Hand stitching should be a light catch in the fabric and also invisible. Once again very small stitches.

Well done your hat is now completely covered with fabric!! 

Estelle made another amazing lunch for us! We had salad, a variety of cheeses and fried potato with bacon! YUMMMM

14. Turn over your hat and fold and pin the fabric. This will become the hem for the grosgrain ribbon and lining to attach to.

15. Stitch around the edge of the folded hem about 5mm in form the hat edge.Once this is complete you can remove the pins.

Using Grosgrain ribbon on the inside of a hat is an optional step. It is known as a Haute Couture method and is used as a finish in all high end hats. If you want to use This method follow steps 16b - 19.  If you did not want to insert grosgrain prior to the lining the elastic would be sewn in next following step 16a and skipping Steps 17-19.

16a. To insert the elastic tie a knot on either end of the desired length and stitch down in place.

16b. When using Grosgrain ribbon as a finish on the inside of a hat, first you need to iron the grosgrain so that it stretches and curves. It is important to ALWAYS use 100% cotton grosgrain ribbon.

17. Work your way around the hem and attach the grosgrain in place with pins. Place about 5mm away from the edge.

18. Once the grosgrain is pinned down in place, stitch the top edge of the grosgrain to the fabric (Hand stitching very neatly with small stitches ever second groove)

19. The top edge of the grosgrain is now attached to the hem and the hand stitching should be invisible. To insert the elastic, tie a knot on either end and thread the ends through (between the grosgrain edge where you stitched and the hat edge) so that the knot sits under the grosgrain and is hidden. Stitch each knot in place so that the elastic will not detach from the hat.

Lining time! 
20. Using the pattern pieces made earlier quickly tack the pieces together to form the lining shell prototype.

21. Place the lining shell in the hat to make sure it fits well. Make any adjustments to the lining pattern if necessary. 

22. Once you feel the lining pattern is correct undo the tacking and use the pattern pieces to cut out the proper lining pieces. (in the fabric that you will use)

23. Once you have cut out the lining pattern pieces use a sewing machine to stitch them together to create the lining shell.

24. Place the lining shell inside the hat. Lift the bottom edge of the grosgrain upwards (unsown edge). Fold the edge of the lining and attach to the fabric hem under the grosgrain ribbon. Neatly hand stitch in place and when complete push the grosgrain back down and it should cover the hand stitching. 

25. Now your hat is complete and you can add any embellishments, bows or feathers. I decided to cut out a bow from the same fabric and attach to my hat. 

26. Estelle sewing my bow together on the machine.

27. Bow pattern sewn together now to pull it inside out, iron it and tie it. Then stitch onto the hat.

HAT COMPLETE. Close up images of the finished product! 100% handmade!. 2 days of work approx 20+ hours!!! 

Nothing is complete without a selfie right? 

Tout le meilleur Estelle, thank you for teaching me to hat block and make my first very own hat from scratch!