There are times when hobby milliners who have just started to work with millinery materials and hat blocking, have questions about the most simple things – which pins should I use for hat blocking, how to choose the right hat block, what is the difference between different stiffeners? With this post we start our series of “Hat blocking ABC”. We hope that these tips and tricks will help you make better millinery pieces, save some time (and nerves) and may be spark some creative ideas for your future projects.
Pins and thimble are the basic tools for every milliner. You can get them in most haberdashery or millinery stores, but to achieve good results and feel comfortable working with them, it is important to choose the right ones.
Best pins for hat blocking
There is a wide variety of pins that are available at stores and unless purchasing needles at a millinery store, one can get quite confused. Basically there are three characteristics that a good blocking needle has:
1) It is hard enough and does not bend easily – choose steel pins, preferably .65mm. You will quickly notice which pins are not suitable for blocking, they will be either too thin or made from too soft material.
2) It does not rust – this is very important, as you will have to work with water and other substances when blocking. If you are not sure, better test the needles – spray some water on them leave for some time.
3) It does not leave big holes in hat blocks – the first piece of advice on this topic is – do not use pins that are meant for corkboards/ bulletin boards. At the first glance they may seam very comfortable to work with (and this is true), but if you continue to work with them on a regular basis, you will damage your hat block in no time. This is especially critical for those small and cute fascinator hat blocks. They have a comparatively smaller surface for pinning and you can ruin them quickly. We will be happy to make you a new hat block any time, but we would much better like to help you grow your hat block collection with new, different shapes of hat blocks, rather than creating copies for ruined hat blocks.
Choosing a thimble for hat blocking
When I first started hat blocking I was kind of terrified of this small piece of metal, unsure how to use it and trying to avoid it whenever possible. A thimble can be some disturbing piece of metal on your finger or an irreplaceable tool. The turning point was when I went to a millinery store London and could try on different thimbles. Here is some advice how to choose a good thimble:
1) choose the correct size – I have size 15 and this is supposed to be a small size. Till that day in London I was trying to work with a thimble that is much too large for me and that was so disturbing. Just choose the right size and you will see the difference, suddenly you won’t be able to work without it.
2) choose the right shape – you can surely try working with your grandma’s thimble (if the size is right), the one with small dots, but it will be much more comfortable and safer to work with one that has ridges down the sides and a crown that will prevent blocking needles from slipping.
And another piece of advice – once found the right thimble, better purchase a couple of them. These tiny things have a tendency to get lost easily (and just at the wrong time).
Do you have any other useful advice for fellow milliners? Share it in the comment section below.
Happy hat making!