Monday, June 20, 2011

It is said, if a milliner leaves a pin in a hat...

... then it will return to her!

I'm back with a story and the spoils of generosity at its finest.

ONOBED is the shop that once stood proudly in Rahal Gdid square, the life of creative entrepreneur and HATMAKER Mary Debono; a creative livelyhood earned, a name secured and another reason for me to cry over the fact that I was born too late. A woman whose refined sense for detail, quality materials and style extended to encompass most aspects of her life, so much so that she seldom showed up in her shop, an extension of her house and home, without her hair and make-up in place. The shop in itself was a hub for fashion-loving locals (and by locals we really ought to include several localties) and friends who depended entirely on Mrs. Debono's hat-making skills and suggestions. Her extensive travelling related to her craft, the trips abroad in search of specific materials (plumage, flowers and the like) made her and her five daughters, for whom she also sewed clothes, a reliable point of reference in a time where Tv and Fashion magazines in Malta were all but scarce.

I came to know one of her great grand daughters, a most lovely and generous woman indeed, who happens to remember her 'granny' fondly. A while back she kindly got in touch with a most wonderful proposal.. I was at work when I recieved her call amidst cries from seven year-olds who insist on holding duels with their scissors and paint-dipped brushes.. I was as far away from the blissful weekends that followed her lovely offering of many of the remaining pieces of (even more generously, washed and dried) felt from her grandma's workshop. How could I, a hat lover and wearer and aspiring-maker say no!? In gratitude I decided to blog about this lovely woman and her progeny, post photos of some of her creations which her granddaughter kept for herself and four hats I executed in an inspired feverish weekend in her honour. I can now safely say I love making hats as much as I love making shoes and dresses.. and that is worrying indeed!

Here are two of MaryDebono's hats, a blue felt one with a crochet trim and a pink one with prettily cut and threaded leaves forming a band around the head.

A lovely heavy blanket with a crocheted trim, a suede and felt (if I remember correctly) vest in a geometric design and a leaf border matching the hat above as well as a beautifully crafted crochet over-dress.

Here's a very small part of the aforementioned donation, spools of coloured thread and shaped felt pieces in several colours. By shaped I mean steamed and head-blocked.

And following are the four hats I had promised myself and the hat gods I'd carry out; they're a tribute to the lady with so many talents as well as the best excuse to start materializing some of the 100s of designs I've carried out in the past few years.. I'd like to think that every hour spent sketching historical hats from costume and fashion encyclopedias didn't go to waste.
Here's a purple, stiff-felt hat inspired by the loose cuts and natural flow in turn-of-the-century hats often made out of textile. Purple and pearly and a serious case of pin-pricking.

A brown furry-felt cloche hat (I've been informed that Mary Debono used to refer to this material as rabbit's wool) with peacock green threaded trim, feathers and a pair of my aunt's earrings from the early 90s.

Red rabbit's wool dome of a hat with a grey trim. Inspired by the tasselled Moroccan Fez hat I had promised a friend but never ended up buying since I had spent all my pennies on streetfood.

And the fourth, a playful grey hat with a hole for those occasions when big hair simply won't fit underneath your hat. I have spent many a bus ride contemplating possible ways in which to solve this problem and consecutively how to introduce such a radical-'hole'-in-a-hat.
This hat came out of the residue left behind from casual but ongoing reading about russian constructivism from heavily illustrated books and sites.

So yes, I've been keeping uber busy, tending to old lingerie, Stephen Fry's chronicles and furry cats with a penchant for curling up in an unmovable ball on my sewing chair. Ah well, half days, glorious half days!

You may view each hat in detail on my facebook page:!/babettopolis

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