Friday, 2 November 2012

Cloche Hats; practical, warm and beautiful!

Black wool cloche hat. Image by Cristina Carra Caso.
Every winter I am faced with a similar dilemma; how to look stylish whilst being battered by the wind, rain and snow in Scotland. In fact, hang the need to look stylish, sometimes I'd just settle for presentable. 
The combination of my red wellies, bright pink wind and waterproof jacket with mismatched hat, gloves and scarf, just didn' t cut it for me. Every year we go through the same weather, but it seemed like I kept failing to look 'presentable', let alone stylish. I was gradually developing some serious frustration at being cold, wet and basically at the mercy of the Scottish weather.
Any excuse to feature a highland cow in the snow.
Looks familiar.
 Being a designer specialising in Millinery, I decided I would start solving this 'impractical clothing' issue from my head and work downwards. I wanted to create an item of millinery that would complement a number of different outfits so I could dress it up or down; a winter hat must be wearable. So, I decided on a cloche hat; a simple yet effective design. Fundamentally though, it still had to fulfil the requirement to keep me warm!
The design itself was inspired by the cloche hats worn by Angelina Jolie in The Changeling. When watching the film, I spent most of the time working out how I would adjust the design to suit my idea for keeping warm and cosy.

Once the wooden hat block had been designed and made, it was then onto making the actual hat. I went for 100% wool to make up the body of the hat. Wool is a great, natural product with some brilliant qualities that make it a great choice; it's not just a great temperature regulator with amazing insulating qualities but it's also environmentally sustainable, hypo-allergenic and long lasting.
I also decided to fully line the interior of the hat with sturdy silks and satins to give an extra insulating layer, but also to make the inside of the hat look as gorgeous as the outside. In fact, this year, all my hats are lined in the gorgeous embossed satin. The weight of the fabric is perfect for lining the hat and adding even more warmth.
 The beautiful embossed satin in French navy that our
 Autumn Winter 2012 cloche hats are lined in.
Et voila! A sturdy, warm piece of millinery. All of our hats are finished with sumptuous yet practical trims such as velvet, petersham ribbon or crystal accents. Most of this year's ready to wear collection is made up of hats trimmed with beautiful velvet ribbon and velvet bows. I'm not sure you can beat velvet as the ultimate trim for a winter hat. Our ready-to-wear hats can be purchased through our online shop and at Lady JoJo's Boutique in Edinburgh.

To make sure our customers have the best range of choice at their finger tips, we have set up a 'Create Your Own Cloche Hat' service on our website. This easy to use feature on our online shop allows you to select the colour of wool cloche hat and velvet trim you would most like. Alternatively, customers can contact us directly to access our commission service, which allows our clients to fully customise their headwear in terms of other colours and trims.

Our 'Create Your Own Cloche Hat' service on our online shop at

To make sure our cloche hats feel like an extra special purchase (not solely a practical purchase to save your head from a bleak winter), they all come presented in a chic, black box packed with tissue paper and tied with ribbon. They are a great treat as well as a Christmas gift idea. We even offer a gift wrapping service to really take the hassle out of Christmas shopping.

And, just to round up the 'practical clothing' issue, I would also totally recommend these boots. I've had these over a year now and they are amazing; they are waterproof, keep my feet warm down to
-32C plus they are so comfy, it's like wearing trainers. They are called 'Joan of Arctic' and are made by Sorel, who are a reputable outdoor wear manufacturer. So, that's me sorted this winter!

For more information on our cloche hats, please visit our website at, email us at or telephone on 077 2521 7526.
Left: double petersham and crystal bow cloche hat in black,
Right: Poppy red cloche hat with petersham trim a 'frog' clasp. Image by Lee Howell.
Leopard print cloche hat. A limited edition design, which has now sold out
but can be recreated on a commission basis. Image by Loraine Ross.
Here are a few more images of our cloche hats ...
Our beautiful cloche hats come in chic black boxes tied
with ribbon and packed with tissue paper.
Hunter Green Cloche hat with black velvet trim.

Winter Blue Cloche Hat with Grey-Blue Velvet trim.

Black Wool Cloche Hat with double peterhsam ribbon trim
and crystal encrusted bow.



Tuesday, 2 October 2012

When Mairi Brunning met Betty Spoke ...

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday evening, Mairi Brunning Millinery HQ was delighted to have a visit from the beautiful and talented Betty Spoke.

Betty Spoke is a truly gifted clothing designer with impeccable, high standards, ensuring all her customers receive both fabulous service and products.

Betty came to us with a very specific request; a headpiece to accompany her to Glasgow's Harris Tweed Bike Ride. Already created from scratch by Betty were tweed, thigh-high legwarmers, a tweed jacked with cowl neck collar and twill shorts. A truly fabulous outfit!

To complement the existing garments, we took one of our bespoke headpieces that we originally designed for the Young Fresians photoshoot. This headpiece is a particularly special design, incorporating pheasant feathers prepared by hand by my Granny. My Granny is fabulous at turning her hand to anything practical or crafty!

... link to the photoshoot and full credits here:

Betty had a range of offcuts of both Harris and Borders tweed, so we chose a tweed with both gold and cranberry threads through it. This not only complemented the rest of the outfit, but it also brought out the gold tone of the hat base and all the flecks of colour in the pheasant feathers.

A couple of hours of perfecting the pattern for the tweed border, lots of hand-sewing the tweed into place and several cups of tea later, here are the results of my hard work!

And here is Betty all dressed up on the actual day of the bike ride:
Like what you see? Betty offers a commission service, as well as ready to wear items (like gorgeous snoods to keep you cosy this Winter!). In addition, her commission service will allow you to choose options to make up your dream garment, incorporating as much or as little tweed as you like!
In Betty's own words; 'B. Fabulous, B. Spoke!'
The final piece of the story is that in return for her headpiece, Betty Spoke sent me a treat in the post ... an a amazing snood in yellow and black dogtooth check. It looks amazing with my leather jacket and Mairi Brunning Millinery black cloche hat. Cloche hats and snoods available to purchase now!
To find out more about Betty Spoke email her at ,
 her website can be viewed here, or to find out more about Mairi Brunning Millinery, visit or

Friday, 14 September 2012

I am frequently asked how I came to be a Milliner, and although the contents of my CV may not make for the most exciting of blogs, I find the inspiration behind why I became a Milliner far more interesting. This is one story of how my family came to influence my life.

Before the 1920s, the family on my Mum's side moved from the Outer Hebrides to a croft in Fernilea, Portnalong on the Isle of Skye. Here they built their own house from scratch, a house that still stands today. In fact, not only does the house still stand today but my Aunty Dolly and Aunty Morag live there.  Incidentally, if you happen to be in Skye in the summer you may wish to pop by as they run a Bed and Breakfast from the house and do a roaring trade in fresh scones baked daily by Aunty Dolly. She really does make the best scones!

I grew up with the story of my Great Granny who, in the 1920s, started her own tweed manufacturing business from this croft in Skye.  It wasn’t just a simple process of weaving the tweed, but involved gathering the wool from the sheep that lived on the common pasture behind the croft.  She would then prepare the wool and dye it by hand prior to weaving it into beautiful tweed. She would work in the byre, which still stands to this day. One half of the byre housed the cattle, whilst the other half had an open fire, which was used to dye the wool.  It is quite something to picture her working alongside the cows! Her business became so successful that not only did a local photographer take pictures of her at work, but she also sold several items to the Duke and Duchess of York.

Great Granny became quite a legend for me. We used to visit museums in Skye where her picture would be on a wall depicting the process for making tweed; or we would be going past a tourist shop, and there would be her image on a postcard. On top of that, the connection with the Duke and Duchess of York fascinated me. I sometimes wonder if there are bolts of her cloth, or garments made with her tweed, lurking in a grand castle or house somewhere in the British Isles.

As a child my brother and I often visited Skye. When we were there we used to spend most of the time playing with our cousins Tina and Norman. We would run in and out of the byre and sheds, exploring the house and croft and through those adventures we used to discover spinning wheels, looms for weaving tweed, and all sorts of remnants from the days of our Great Granny’s business, not to mention all the scary looking crofting equipment like scythes and tractors. All those things have now been disposed of, which makes me sad because as children we did not understand the significance of these items. I felt that the evidence of what had influenced me to jump into the deep end with my own business creating hand crafted products had been lost.

However, on my 30th birthday my Mum and Dad gave me two photos; the two pictures that had been taken by the photographer back in the 1920s of my Great Granny at work. One shows her dyeing the wool in the byre whilst the other shows her sitting outside the byre spinning wool. Not only do I have lovely pictures of my amazing Granny, but I would also like to point out her amazing sense of style; I just love the print on her overalls and the pretty little shoes!

I love Skye. It feels like home and one day I hope to move there to carry on my Great Granny’s legacy and that of the other inspiring women in my family. I think it also goes to show that artisans can find inspiration from many varied sources and sometimes those influences creep up on us in the most unexpected ways.