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Meet the author: Gill Stratton

Gill Stratton has always loved hats, a passion passed down from her Mum and Gran, who took any opportunity to wear a hat! Gill attended night classes at the London School of Fashion at night classes to learn how to make hats. She then went on to work for Mille-Fleurs, a bespoke millinery workshop in Otford, Kent, where she continues to make occasion hats and fascinators. Gill has also started her own company, Elizabeth Rees Millinery, making bespoke children's hats. As a mother of three, she saw a gap in the market for hats that are unique and desirable. She also found that allowing her children to choose the design and fabric was the only way to get them to wear sun hats.

An Interview with Gill

Where were you born?

I was born in the Wirral, Merseyside. However, my father was a clergyman, so we moved a few times and I grew up in Surrey and then Kent. My family is originally from Pembrokeshire in West Wales so I also have Welsh roots!

What is your educational background?

I studied GSCE’s and A levels and then went on to study for a degree in Business Studies specialising in Marketing. Following a string of “business” jobs, I decided on a change of career and began a course in Millinery at the London School of Fashion.  I then went on to train under Jane Cave who runs a bespoke millinery workshop and shop called Mille Fleurs in Otford, Kent, where I continue to work. I also have my own business making and selling children’s hats called Elizabeth Rees Millinery.

What first got you interested in craft?

I have always loved hats, an addiction passed on from my Gran and Mum.  We would never pass up an opportunity to wear a hat! I was intrigued to know how they were made and so started the course at the London School of Fashion.

How long have you been crafting?

I have been working in the Millinery field for the past 9 years.

Where do you get your materials?

I get my fabrics both locally and on-line.  The World of Sewing in Tunbridge Wells has a fantastic selection of fabrics and ribbons.  On-line I use Celtic Fusion fabrics which I love – it has some gorgeous Japanese cottons.  I love any type of button, and have a vast button collection.  I have been lucky enough to have been given both my Gran’s and my husband’s Nanna’s old button box, which is such a privilege as there are lots of memories in old buttons! I also look in charity shops for old buttons and fabric. The Patchwork Dog and Basket in Lewis, East Sussex is a lovely haberdashery shop and sells some unusual buttons.  VV Rouleaux in London is brilliant for ribbons and trims.

How/Where did Search Press discover you?

I gave a bespoke sun hat as a prize in the raffle for my children’s School Fair. The chair of the PTA at the time was the lovely Inger Arthur who happens to work for Search Press. Inger passed on my web site details to Roz Dace and it went from there. Thank goodness I gave that raffle prize!

What were your first thoughts when asked to write a book?

I was very flattered and excited at the prospect of being an Author.  I was also very nervous and wondered how I was going to come up with 20 different hat designs. Has publishing a book changed your life in any way? It has been a really fun thing to do and I love being able to tell people that my name is now in print!

Any tips for beginners?

Keep practicing. Hats are great as there is always a trim to help hide a mistake!  If your triangles at the top of a cap don’t match exactly then add a button, it will hide the mistake but also look lovely!

What is your favourite craft tool?

I have just discovered a tool for making rouleau strips, it makes the process so quick and easy, perfect for a trim or chin ties.

Have you travelled for your craft?

Not yet! But any offers for book signings in New York, Paris or Rome will all be considered.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I get great inspiration from the fabrics, and I love putting together combinations of different colours and patterns of fabric. I am forever trying to think of ideas for new trims for hats, a great source of inspiration is Pintrest – I love it and find it great to look at all sorts of ideas that people have. I have discovered some great ways of making fabric flowers, the latest one I want to try is using ric-rak ribbon to create a flower effect.  My children also give me inspiration and are very specific about the shapes and fabrics they like, and what they think works in a hat.  My youngest Daniel is very much into Dinosaurs at the moment and I have found some great dinosaur fabrics and even little dino buttons. 

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Awards 2020

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