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How To Make a Fascinator – DIY Fashion Story

November 3, 2009

"Pixie" Headpiece

"Pixie" Headpiece

Since DIY has become the latest fashion trend, beads and haberdashery stores have been growing like mushrooms.


Beads and Bling caught my attention a few months ago with their extensive supply of beads, millinery supplies and other haberdashery.

My first thought was: “here is another bead store”, but I’ve since realised that this shop was rather different.

Beads and Bling’s specialty is their initiative to promote creativity in the form of an ever growing schedule of workshops in jewellery and millinery. After all, what is the point of having a collection of beads and feathers if you know nothing about their usage?

Encouraged by my first adventures in millinery I enrolled into Beads and Bling Master Fascinator Course with Gillian Hughes, the renowned millinery designer, supported by Netty, the “technical” guru and the co-owner of Beads and Bling.

To view the gallery of my fascinators and the full story…

The workshop was held in Kilternan, where the peaceful atmosphere and stunning scenery was an inspiration in itself. The course wasn’t all about contemplating the beauty of environment though. It was fast paced and professional. For two days, interrupted only by the most delicious lunches, we were working hard to reach our target of three fascinators.

I arrived in Kilternan completely clueless – as I only had experience in felt millinery – and left with three beautiful headpieces, a set of new skills and priceless advice from Gillian.

I’ve learned more than just the skills to make a fascinator. Having studied fashion design for the past two years I’ve been working so hard at perfecting the accuracy required for pattern making and sewing that I almost forgot how to indulge in creativity without inhibitions.

So there I was, with a flower in one hand, and a feather in the other, both out of my comfort zone. I was a bit lost, to say the least. To my surprise, Gillian instantly spotted the source of my frustration, took me aside, asked me to forget everything I learned and open my mind to new ideas.

One of the biggest pitfalls of designers is getting stuck in a rut and start following the same pattern which kills the creative process. “Step back”, Gillian said, “look at things from a fresh perspective and you might be able to see something pretty amazing”. And then she showed me a few simple tricks and my half finished headpiece suddenly transformed into a fabulous fascinator worth taking to the races. I took Gillian’s advice and it opened some of the doors I thought didn’t even exist.

Gillian’s insight paired with Netty’s no-nonsense practical attitude made my weekend one of the most memorable ones.

A few weeks later, I attended the Knitting and Stitching Show, where I bumped into Taye, the other owner of Beads and Bling. I was admiring the colourful sinamay flowers when I realised who they belonged to – as I’ve never seen them in the store. Taye explained that they are expanding their millinery supplies and planning to open a new shop which specializes only in millinery.

She was so enthusiastic about the new plans for Beads and Bling that I had no doubts they will go far.

After all, it’s not only about going DIY due to the recession, but also about unleashing the resourcefulness and creativity we all could do with. I hope this new fashion trend will stay strong.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2009 8:52 pm

    Wow! Impressive! I love fascinators and would have never thought of making my own. I wonder if you can just buy the bases then sort of glue a load of crap onto them? As a means of induling in creativity without inhibitions, of course – not because I’m a lazy madam!

  2. White Rabbit permalink*
    November 4, 2009 8:40 am

    Thanks Zee!

    Yes, you can absolutely do that! It is cheaper if you do your own base though, and you can decide on the shape/finishing you want.

  3. November 12, 2009 7:21 pm

    I just clicked over from the list of IFB links. I would LOVE to take a millinery course- so jealous! I have a bunch of fascinator tutes on my blog if you’re interested.

  4. November 13, 2009 9:10 am

    These are so clever!! Was in Ireland April, my Gt Grandfather was from Tarbert so did the Irish roots thing and just loved it, so much so am taking my whole family ,husbands,partners etc next year.Reason for writing:I was intrigued by the fascinators in the shops there and of course had seen them in UK fashion magazines.Had just retired from Saks 5th Ave and have a daughter who is an art major and hair stylist.You can guess what we got into.Bought sinamay etc with no idea what to do! 3 to 4 months later we are doing so well,sell out of salon and one DC market twice a month and have no plans to go back to work.Hair stylist Oribe who did October Vogue cover bought one and we have appeared in random fashion blogs and photo shoots!!! and on a TV show, the hat, not us!Have so much fun with it that everything becomes a hat!!!I am sure you know that feeling.We use vintage jewellery etc on each one ,recycle silk flowers etc and sell them as cupcakes.Best thing is my 3 daughters and I have something fun to do when we get together,
    Am putting your blog in my Favs as they are looking foward so much to Dublin and as big Fashionistas will be all about who is wearing what!!! Marilyn

  5. White Rabbit permalink*
    November 13, 2009 10:34 am

    Rachel, your website is great, will definitely check it regularly for new ideas!

    Marilyn, thank you so much for sharing your experience! I’ve only started my millinery carrier recently and hearing other people’s success stories gives a lot of strength!

    I am chuffed to be on your favourite’s list, if you need any tips with getting around Dublin, let me know 🙂

  6. November 14, 2009 3:05 am

    wow so beautiful, the Golden headpiece is my favorite…i’ll try sometime to do 1, offcourse that means I need to finish my load of ongoing projects jajaja

    • White Rabbit permalink*
      November 14, 2009 5:03 pm

      Thanks! I know what you mean M, I am constantly working on at least 5 projects too…:)

  7. November 20, 2009 3:34 pm

    ohhh, what a gorgeous hat – I would like to take a course.

  8. November 27, 2009 1:25 am

    Wow… so cool & creative! 😀

  9. Keddie permalink
    December 13, 2009 4:42 am

    White Rabbit I saw you mentioned that it is cheaper to make your own bases. What materials do you use? I am starting with no knowledge at all. How do I find the materials to start?

    • White Rabbit permalink*
      December 14, 2009 4:59 pm

      Keddie, you need material called sinamay, stiffener, pins and a dolly head (the one I have on the images). You wet your sinamay, shape and stretch it on the head to get the the nice curve, fasten it with pins and apply stiffener. After it is dry, take it off, cut the shape you want, wire and saw biasbinding on it! Then decorate! All the materials can be purchased in millinery supply shops or online.If you don’t have any knowledge at all you might want take part in a workshop as I am not sure how clear my explanation is..

      Best of luck!

  10. chloe liggins permalink
    May 3, 2010 7:44 pm

    Can anyone help me. I want to make my own sinamay base, but not surehow to sew the material around the edges, can anyone give me a clue on how to make my own base??? thanks a bunch


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