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Christmas cheer

The time has come……Christmas is all around us.
I have welcomed “Elfie” – my very own millinery workroom Elf on the shelf- to the studio, with daily updates of what she’s up to. Much like an Advent calendar if you wish.

And here is an especially sweet Christmas Ad I would like to share.

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Working spaces

My first ever headpiece was made on the kitchen table. I needed something to go to the races (my first time), couldn’t find anything in the shops. So I bought a few “ingredients” in a craft shop, got out the hot glue gun and “nailed” something together that complemented my outfit and in return got compliments by other racegoers. The rest as they say is history.

Almost instantly the millinery bug got to me. Some years earlier we built a big garage with attached guest house. Being from Europe makes one a popular holiday destination for friends and family who usually stay anything from 4 weeks to several months…it is a long way to come after all. So we wanted to provide a nice accommodation that gave both them and us privacy as well.

My initial hat making took place in a corner of the lounge part of our guest house…then on the pool table…then I moved the pool table into the entry part and made that space mine. After that I got myself a big cutting table, moved it back into the lounge corner, made this my workspace and the entry part became my showroom. The pool table was sold.

This is what it looked like a while after claiming the space, fairly crammed and  cluttered. Things were shifted around a few times:

work18 work19  work17

This is what the showroom looks like now after a paint job, new floor, a lovely vintage cabinet and a pretty chandelier:

work33 work34   work2

One corner of the showroom houses some of my hat blocks – clients always comment and are quite interested in them

As of now – the open plan living / bedroom space has been divided off and I now inhabit the whole ex living area and entry space. I accumulated a few vintage cabinets, they have a nice feel about them and provide excellent storage.
work24-001 work26-001 work27-001 work31-001 work32-001 work36-001

work11-001 work28-001 work30-001  yes, I do use all 3 sewing machines….

I am enjoying the space I have now. It’s quite spacious, I get a good amount of daylight which is so important. Most things are well organized – I doubt you will find a milliner who will ever say they have enough space . …
Am I done rearranging and shifting around? Probably not, but this will do quite nicely, for a while at least :)

p.s. there is still a guest bedroom with bathroom available for guests ;)


Melbourne and puppies

It’s been a while since my last blog, I think I suffered from a bit of blog block.
Nevertheless, things have happened, hats were made.
End of June I made it over the ditch and spent 10 days in Melbourne – mainly a “Eat – Shop – Culture” trip.

waltraud3 waltraud4waltradu5 waltraud2

It was a healthy mix of shopping malls, Yum Cha, patisseries – yes, we paid our visit to Adriano Zumbo as well, museums and we saw Wicked, which was absolutely wickedly awesome. We walked I don’t know how many kilometers ( just as well with all the food we had), but Melbourne invites you to do just that and discover all these small alleyways with their delicious cafes, restaurants and boutiques.

Of course I also took the opportunity to learn new things and was lucky enough to catch a  weekend workshop with Waltraud Reiner from Torb and Reiner…. and I filled my suitcase with supplies from their store. My daughter, who was with me and gladly wears hats but has no great interest in making them, ended up fashioning her first ever hats under Waltraud’s guidance and is now the owner of 2 beautiful fur felt hats she proudly shows off.
waltraud6 hard at work

waltraud7      listen and learn

waltraud1 Waltraud’s beautiful studio


my supply stash..filled my suitcase to the brim

The other exciting thing that happened in the meantime….our dog ( Bearded Collie) had puppies. 11 to be exact.

It’s been quite an experience and very full on, all of them have now gone to their new families and we are back to normal family life with one cute addition to the pack.


her name is Nia :)

While we were in Melbourne we got to hang out with another puppy:: Waltraud Reiner’s Dachshund puppy Mr Button, aka Monsieur Bouton – here they are, ready to go to work. Tres chic much?

I hope it won’t be too long until I make it back to Melbourne and do it all over again!


A hat called Kate

A wee while ago I got a box of materials given to me by a retired milliner. Amongst the things was a small lot of vintage fur felt hoods.

Very recently I put some newly acquired skills to the block, so to speak – and made a couple of small free shaped button hats. The first one in a lovely peacock blue colour turned out quite nicely.

Since it coincided with the Royal visit to New Zealand it made me think of how the little hat would look on the Duchess of Cambridge – I do think the colour and shape would be lovely on her – and decided to call it the “Kate”, to commemorate the occasion!

As coincidences go, I got a phone call from the local newspaper , asking if I had received many hat orders as a result of the Royal visit to the country. To which I replied: “no, I haven’t”…..but on thinking on it for a few minutes…….”funny you should ask, I just made a little hat and called it “Kate”!

Well, they thought it was a lovely story to tie in with the “Royal fashion” angled piece they wanted to publish. We talked a few minutes about the way the hat came about and 2 days later it’s been published!

here’s a link to the article:

Rabbit fur hat fit for a Duchess

It’s always nice to get a bit of publicity and I really liked the photos taken by Kelly Hodel. I’m not a natural born model by any means and don’t like photos of myself much. But she did a very good job and the hat looked pretty good too ;)

I sometimes should remind myself to talk in lay terms when talking about millinery and stop assuming everybody knows. So when I say button hat, it’s called that because it looks like an oversized button. It could also be called a cocktail hat due to it’s small size, not necessarily because it’s a popular choice at cocktail parties.

The hat is made out of fur felt ( as most of the Duchess’s felt hats are, I’m sure). My guess is that it is made from rabbit hair, though in the past beaver and nutria hair were also used to make felt – so I’m not 100% sure.  These days the rabbit hair used is shorn off the animals and felted, just like wool felt is made from sheep wool. What they did 50 years ago…the felt pieces given to me are vintage, as I said…I can not say.

It would be lovely if this very hat ended up to adorn the very pretty head of the Duchess of Cambridge. But hey…..what are the chances….one can dream though! Meanwhile I carry on as I were, make hats  to order and for the sheer enjoyment and brace myself for the admittedly slim chance that the palace might ring up, ask me to send the hat over on express courier….and brace myself for the overnight change to my business in little ole Pirongia!


Summer racing

December 14th: race day at Te Rapa – Hamilton

This is always a favourite of mine in the race day calender. Usually a  very good turnout, there are loads of corporate x mas dos …tents and gazebos everywhere. The course is packed, a buzzing atmosphere  and everybody is determined to have a great day out. They always manage to get great sponsors on board, so the Fashion in the Fields competition is popular with those who love to dress up and give it a crack on the catwalk.

As it goes it’s always a busy time for me leading up to the day ( it’s a busy time of the year anyway). Being a milliner makes going to the races a “work outing‘, but I also love the opportunity to dress up and look at the fabulous fashion fillies on the day!

Custom orders have priority and my outfit usually comes in at the last minute, even though I plan to get organized really early…every year..yeah right!

As usual after the last hat pick up the day before I began to seriously work on my hat.  The concept..or shall I say the colours were there, alas it just didn’t happen. I love the outfit which was tailor made for me and decided it’s too good to spoil it with a hat that wasn’t up to scratch. It will get an outing later in the month.

So, at the eleventh hour I decided on another dress which I had bought a couple of months ago.


I usually tend to wear fitting garments, a dress or suit with a pencil skirt, but when I spotted this dress in a shop I just fell in love with the colours. It just screams “summer”! And I must say – it was a welcome change from my usual style ( with the spanx underwear), the hot weather was certainly more bearable for someone my age…if you get my drift ;) Wearing some wedge heels also proved a good decision, walking in high heels on grass is not an easy feat with constantly trying not to sink into it. On the other hand it’s a good workout for the calves!

With the last minute change of mind came the “last minute hat” challenge. I wanted to pick up on the fuchsia in the dress, but having to be careful what colour I put against my red hair I opted to put it on a neutral, off white parisisal . The fuchsia comes in with a folded, hand dyed silk abaca floral detail. If I wanted to be extra trendy I could call the colour “Radiant Orchid” – the Pantone spring colour of 2014. Add a quill for a bit of extra. DONE!


So, off to the races ( with plenty of sunscreen slopped on). The day is always more fun with a bunch of like minded people, I knew there were a few girls on course wearing a Monika Neuhauser Millinery hat, most of them entering in the fashion competition. Meeting up with them before hand, we had time for a chat, photos taken and keeping hydrated. Champagne was flowing, but cold water was my good friend this day. Not to worry, I did have some bubbly later!

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Not long until all the fashionable ladies met at the fashion tent, each their number in hand and lined up. I was entering also, one has to lead by good example ;)

Kylie Bax was co-mcing  the event. When I looked at the lineup I counted 7 ladies wearing MNM on their heads which was quite a thrill for me. In the end 5 of them made it to the top 8 finalists. YAY!!!!


This is what I especially love about my job: I get to work with a variety of woman and different outfits. My job is to provide them with an individual design to compliment the outfit, personality, age and taste. It never gets boring, no 2 hats are exactly the same.

Imagehere is a pic (not very good) of the finalists line up on stage before the winner and runner ups are announced.

The day ended especially sweet: Elly Campbell was the big winner of the day in her white 2 piece with navy and charteuse accents. Her hat was a saucer style shape made of navy blue vintage straw braid with navy satin loops and 2 quills which formed a stylised heart shape.


Image  Elly Campbell with her gorgeous mum Anna Campbell!

Thanks to the wonderful sponsorship of “Diamond Jewellers” in Victoria Street, Hamilton she won this exquisite hand crafted 18ct yellow gold natural ruby and diamond dress ring, worth $3195! Lucky girl :)


I go to a few race meetings – or shall I say Fashion in the Fields events. Te Rapa Racecourse always puts on a fabulous day and I especially appreciate the fact that they not only acknowledge the winner(s) with great prizes, but they reward ALL the finalists with a lovely sash and a prize to take away, be it a bottle of nice perfume or a voucher. It takes a bit of effort to get a race day outfit together not to mention standing and waiting for quite some time on what can be a hot day. So to give all the finalists a token of appreciation is a wonderful gesture indeed. Some of the other event planners could perhaps take note. It’s a bit sad if you see a big line up of nicely dressed ladies, who made the effort to groom and present themselves the best they can, made it to the finals…and than there is “one winner takes it all”.

All in all – a fabulous day was had by all, not just the fashion lovers. Thousands of people had a great day out, enjoying a summers day watching the horses and socialising with family, friends and work colleagues.

On a funny note: I almost always have my race day outfits made for me. Combine the dress I bought and Murphy’s law…of course there was another lady wearing exactly the same. When we spotted each other ( which due to the colours wasn’t hard) we smiled at each other. She came up to me, turns out she is one of my facebook likers and follows my hats. We agreed that we both have exceptionally good taste! And she did look lovely in the dress . I spotted her a couple of times during the day and came to call her “my twin” :)

P.s. after the long and hot day, coming home to a lovely cool pool was the ultimate treat!

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To get a girl to the races

I’ve been attending race days for a few years now. I love the vibe of the race course on a big day AND I love the fashion that goes with it. Frocks, shoes, bags and HATS…what’s not to like? Dress up, sip champagne, put some money on the horses and enjoy the spectacle. My daughter has also been coming with me for quite some time. Her friends have watched her transform from her everyday lovely self to a styled race day filly – dress, heels, gloves and hat!

One of her best friends  – Sophie Reason ( she is a flight attendant with Air New Zealand) had said for quite a while she would love to come along one day and join in with the fun of a girls day out. So – Melbourne Cup day at Ellerslie Race Course was the perfect opportunity to plan for an outing.

Having never been to the races she asked for help to get her “race course” ready. My daughter lives close to her…so the girls went shopping. I live 2 hours away, but I came with them. Sort of.

No – I didn’t drive there – I was at my computer at home! For that particular day I became a virtual shopping buddy.

The girls went on the hunt for a suitable dress…visiting several shops – taking pictures and sending them to me. After we narrowed it down to 3 dresses ( her budget and likelihood to wear the dress again to another occasion were taken into consideration) a white peplum dress was chosen.


Next – shoes!

I had seen some nice strappy shoes  from Wildpair I really liked and pointed them in the right direction to check them out and try on. Again, budget was considered and of course – she had to like them! Here is the picture of the shoes in black, luckily they also come in white!


We decided to leave it at that – accessories would be decided upon once the girls were coming home to get ready for the day.

After trying a few hats, this was the one we decided on:


Once we had the orange as an accent colour, we found an orange clutch and a bow necklace to complement the outfit.

Melbourne Cup day came…and the weather was NOT that great. Rainy, windy and not very warm. When going to the races always dress for the day! It’s no fun to be all dolled up in a little dress and freezing cold, because you didn’t bring a jacket. My daughter had a little black and white vintage jacket in her wardrobe which went nicely with the outfit! And voila – our work was done!

Off we went…2 hours drive to Auckland to the race course. There was a fashion competition on – fashion judges walked around the course and “spotted” race goers who they thought suitably and fashionably attired for the occasion. What do you know – our group of 4 was spotted right away – names and pictures were taken….they would phone us if we were in the final selection.


Here we are – picture taken by  Natalie Slade from the New Zealand Herald 

nek minnit…both my daughter and her friend got THE call – they were finalists! Yay!!!

Meet up mid afternoon with the other finalists for the judges to have a final look – pic via Ellerslie 


– march out onto the stage in the bird cage



….drum roll…winner of the “Best Dressed Female”….Sophie Reason!!! First day ever at the races, taking away a lovely prize of a stay at the Sofitel Hotel in Auckland in a suite with all the perks of dinner and breakfast + a spa treatment for 2, value NZ$2000.00! Before the girls went out to the prize giving, they agreed to take the other in case one of them won.


Here she is with the “best dressed gentleman” Geoffrey Colquhoum  to her right , next to style  judges Mariah DeGraaf  in a beautiful digital print dress  and the very dapper Colin Mathura-Jeffree with his stylish top hat and the yellow rose associated with Melbourne Cup Day.

Totally thrilled for her having such a fantastic first day at the races…I’m sure it’s only the first of many more to come. With this win she gained automatic entry as a finalist to the Prix de Fashion on Derby day at Ellerslie, March 1st, 2014. Next time she goes shopping I might actually come along.

Oh….yes – there were horses racing as well..alas, my bets did not make me a return. Next time!

P.s. As for the rest of us: Johanna Neuhauser who loves all things vintage, chose a polka dot dress from Asos , white belt, sheer navy blue gloves, a white vintage bag, nude heels from Wildpair and a MNM sinamay headpiece with white apple blossoms.

Elizabeth Charleston wore a tailor made, vintage inspired dress with a rose pattern, black clutch and shoes and a bespoke MNM black headpiece, sculptured from parisisal straw to a rose shape.

I wore a Cue dress with a cream jacket, belt, cream clutch, statement necklace and a vintage straw braid headpiece in cream-brown-aqua tones ( which I finished the day before…as usual for my own head wear)


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