I am absolutely over the moon to share the incredible news that I have been selected to exhibit at The Great Hat Exhibition during London Hat Week in March 2018.
Inspired by “The Great Exhibition” of London in 1851, the event will feature magnificent hat designs from countries across the world.
Not only will I be joining the event in March, my hat has also been selected as one of just thirty hats to appear at the Press Preview Day in February.
Entries are inspired by a piece of history or culture, or crafted with a unique technique or craft from their chosen country.
The tagline of Sue Wood Millinery is “Beautifully British” and as such, my chosen country was Britain. The Industrial Revolution is a key part of our history and Britain underwent change in all aspects of life.
Before the Industrial Revolution, weaving was a cottage industry craft carried out by women with handlooms like the Spinning Jenny. It is a craft that has been performed by generations of women and girls across the world.
The invention of the power loom by Edmund Cartwright and Richard Roberts set the mechanisation of the weaving industry in motion and weaving became a semi-skilled profession. The Industrial Revolutions helped to give rise to movements for women’s rights.
Much like millinery, weaving has been kept alive by a few skilled artisans. My hat has been directly inspired by these women, as well as the craft of weaving both before and after the Industrial Revolution.
I recently made a visit to SIL Holdings; a historic mill in Bradford which is still in use today where they had some of the old looms on display. I was able to watch as a woman used an industrial loom to spin fleece into bundles of wool.
Whilst I was there, the mill was giving away waste wool material, which was deemed unsuitable for use. Upcycling is one of my passions, so I could not resist taking the yarn which was made using the machines found in mills during the Industrial Revolution.
Inspired by the techniques I saw at the mill, I took the yarn and made it into balls of wool and then used a circular hand loom to create the woven cover for the hat as well as the centrepiece. The circular centrepiece at the front of the hat is reminiscent of the water wheel used to drive the mechanical processes in the mill.
The style of the hat is a traditional flat cap, inspired by the working-class men of the period, who would also have worked at the mills. The ram’s horns which wind across the top of the headpiece acknowledge the origin of the wool. They are made with upcycled household materials including tin foil, tissue, used paper and gardening twine and finished off with spray paint and antique gold.
Finally, the earthy and muted colours have been inspired by the damp, humid atmosphere often found in the north of England, which made it the perfect location for weaving.
But for now, I am going to keep the pictures of the hat a surprise, so I’ll be keeping you on your toes a while longer!