Posts by » Natalia

Workshops with Forme Millinery


Jun 15, 2013 Millinery 0 Comments

A weekend of millinery workshops with Jenny Pfanenstiel of Formé Millinery! Please note the following:

  • All workshops require a minimum of 4 people registered by September 13th to run.
  • All workshops will have a maximum of 8 people.
  • Register for all five workshops and save $150!
  • Refunds will only be offered if a workshop is cancelled.

Making a Royal Wedding Fascinator

2 day workshop
Friday, September 20th, 10:00am-12:00pm
Saturday, September 21st, 10:00am-1:00pm
$275.00 per person

Have you ever wondered how to make the hats that you see Kate Middleton or Lady Gaga wear?  In this two-day course, we will take sinamay and block it on “disk” blocks that sit atop your head.  We will then embellish them and finish with elastic or headbands.  One size fits all. Materials are included (sinamay, wire, elastic, headbands). Bring basic sewing supplies (scissors, thread, needle, pins) and glasses for close up work if needed. Also bring any embellishments you may have (broaches, feathers, flowers) to incorporate into your hat. No millinery experience required.

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Free Form Wool

1 day workshop
Friday, September 20th, 1:00pm-5:00pm
$195.00 per person

Does your style take on a more abstract look and feel?  This course takes hat making to the next level without using hat blocks. You will learn how to take straw/wool and by using a head form as a base, you will twist, turn, fold, and manipulate the material to create a beautiful abstract hat piece.  We will then finish the hat with wiring (if needed) and create a base (if needed) for your hat to sit on.  All materials are included.  Attendees need to bring a styrofoam head (or canvas wig head), water bottle, sewing kit and any embellishments. No millinery experience required.

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Straw Braid Oh My!

1 day workshop
Saturday, September 21st, 2:00pm-7:00pm
$195.00 per person

In this workshop, you will get your creative juices going by making your own straw braid!  Straw braid bases for hats do not need to be boring and basic just because it sits underneath your embellishments.  Think color and texture.  Your base should be a part of your hat and we are going to do just that!  We will start with many different types of straw, yarn, and miscellaneous materials to braid into our straw braid.  Then we will take our straw braid and hand sew it into many different types of bases.  Once completed, we will finish the hat with an assortment of embellishments.  Attendees need to bring a sewing kit, styrofoam head (or canvas wig head) and embellishments.  Straw braid kits will be provided. No millinery experience required.

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Carving Your Own Hat Block

1 day workshop
Sunday, September 22nd, 10:00am-4:00pm
$165.00 per person

Does buying $300 hat blocks break your bank?  Or are you looking for that special hat block that doesn’t exist?  Why not make your own! Each person will sketch a hat that they would like to make and/or bring pictures from magazines of hats.  From that sketch, each person will sculpt a block out of styrofoam to resemble the shape.  We will start with carving the basic shape with a knife and finish by using sandpaper to smooth down the edges to resemble blocks in the industry.  This is a great class to create that hat form you have always envisioned in your head but cannot find as a block.  Each person will need to bring a hot glue gun, glue sticks and a straight edge knife for carving.  I will supply the block making material and sand paper.

“Block”ing Party

1 day workshop
Sunday, September 22nd, 5:00pm-8:00pm

Let’s have a “block”ing party!!  Have you ever just wanted to have access to many different blocks and just BLOCK and then finish them at home?  Now is your chance.  Come mingle, have some wine and hors d’oeuvres and block away. 2 wool hoods or 2 wool capelines will be provided, all of the hat blocks galore and refreshments! Additional hoods and capelines will be available for purchase. You must know how to finish a hat on your own.

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About Formé Millinery

Jenny with lots of hats 5x5Jenny Pfanenstiel, International Award Winning Couture Milliner and Owner of Formé Millinery, makes handmade hats for women, gentlemen and children.  Her one-of-a-kind hats are created using age old techniques of steaming and blocking over hat blocks as a true Couture Milliner once did.  In addition to using age old techniques, Jenny has mastered the art of hand manipulation of traditional and nontraditional millinery materials creating “sculptures” for the head.  Jenny is a Milliner that creates hats for the modern person with an old soul.

As a Milliner, she has become known for her dedication to quality and taking once admired materials from the country roads in France, to the outback in Australia and incorporating these pieces to truly make one-of-a-kind pieces.  “As a Couture Milliner, my goal is to make a person feel sensational in my hats.  I want them to look into the mirror and feel transformed, almost as if they are one with the creation of the hat.”

You can find her collections in specialty boutiques around the world and in magazines such as Vogue, Tatler, Country Living, Vigore and Belle Armoire.  Her hats have been featured on The Oprah Show and are owned by First Lady Michelle Obama.  Jenny is a repeat guest and shows her hat collections often at The Drake Hotel, Woman’s Athletic Club and Service Club of Chicago events.  She is also a featured Milliner for the Derby showcasing her hats at Keeneland, The Kentucky Derby Museum, Galt House, Les Filles, Equus Run Vineyards and many Kentucky TV stations and magazines.

Millinery is a craft that Jenny wants to keep alive.  She teaches Couture Millinery instruction around the world in group and private workshops, including basic blocking on antique hat blocks, to sculptural hats using Jinsin.

Jenny is on the Board of Directors for the Apparel Industry Board and Fashion Group International, a member of the Milliners Guild in NY, member of the Headwear Association, a 2012 FGI Rising Star Winner, and a two time Winner of the Hatty Award (an International award given to Milliners).

Horseshoe Crabs and Migrating Shorebirds


Jun 13, 2013 Landscape, Photography, Wildlife 0 Comments

Memorial Day weekend is a great time to head to the Delaware shore for wildlife photography. Migrating shorebirds stop here to plump up on horseshoe crab eggs and other delicacies before continuing their journey north. I had never seen a live horseshoe crab “in the wild,” so my partner and I headed east in late May to check out this spectacle of nature.

Primetime for horseshoe crab spawning is late May and early June, coinciding with the evening high tide during the full or new moon (highest of the high tide). This year the full moon happened to fall on Saturday, May 25th on Memorial Day weekend so it was a perfect time to go. The Delaware Bay is actually the world’s largest spawning ground for horseshoe crabs. They are considered living fossils and have been around since before the dinosaurs!

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We stayed in Milford, DE because it was the closest town to Slaughter Beach, DE, known for its spawning horseshoe crabs.  Our B&B, the Towers, is about 250 years old and believed to have been originally devoted to millinery as a place to learn the trade!! What a funny coincidence. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places. It was a perfect place to stay as we zipped up and down the coast.


Over the course of the weekend, we hit virtually every beach and wildlife refuge in a 40 mile stretch between Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (~20 miles north of Rehoboth Beach, DE) and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (east of Dover, DE). Here are some of the places we visited.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

We mostly stayed in the northern part of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge along Prime Hook Road. This road cuts right through a marshy area that was filled with birds. We saw snowy egrets, black skimmers, great blue herons, ospreys, turkey buzzards, and many small birds we couldn’t identify. We ended up here two mornings because of the large variety of birds that you could photograph right from the road.

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Slaughter Beach

Slaughter Beach was our prime destination for seeing the horseshoe crabs. We went in the afternoon to scout it out and the beach was littered with them. It was low tide at the time so they weren’t coming out of the water. They were on the beach either already buried in the sand or had gotten flipped over and couldn’t right themselves. They have tails for this very purpose (flipping over) but apparently they can’t really do that on the beach. If they get left ashore flipped upside down after high tide, they end up drying out from the exposure to sun and air and dying. After millions of years on this earth, I would have thought they would have figured that one out! We also saw two horseshoe crabs that were tagged by the Fish and Wildlife Service so we called in the location and date. One crab was tagged a year ago 40 miles south near Ocean City. The other (female crab below) was tagged two years ago across the Delaware Bay at Kimble’s Beach in New Jersey. I love that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tells you about the crabs that you find!

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As horseshoe crabs age, their growth rate slows and they shed their shell less frequently. This allows hitchhikers to grow on their shells ranging from mollusks to snails to crustaceans. It was so interesting seeing the different dioramas on the backs of some of the crabs. Some must have been so OLD!!

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We went back to Slaughter Beach in the evening at high tide and sure enough, the shoreline was covered with the larger females trying to get up the beach to lay their eggs and smaller males attached to their back. Not long after sunset, the moonrise came as a pleasant surprise. It looked absolutely massive as it rose over the horizon. The moonrise in itself made the evening beach trip worthwhile. The horseshoe crabs seemed oblivious.


DuPont Nature Center

The DuPont Nature Center is just a bit up the road from Slaughter Beach and is well worth the stop at any time of year if you are interested in shorebirds or horseshoe crabs. The center has a small, one room exhibit but the real value is in chatting with both the staff and other visitors. While there we were able to identify all of the birds we had seen so far and also chat about the likelihood of seeing the infamous red knots. These small birds have one of the longest annual migrations, traveling 9,000 miles from Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America to the Arctic in the spring. They stop in the Delaware and New Jersey area to gorge themselves on horseshoe crab eggs before continuing their journey north. We heard that a flock of thousands of red knots had been seen in southern New Jersey but they hadn’t made their way to Delaware yet. We did see this male red winged blackbird which we were excited about, but then realized that they are absolutely everywhere so it wasn’t such a unique sighting.


Milford Neck Wildlife Area

The Milford Neck Wildlife Area is just a bit north of the DuPont Nature Center. We drove along Big Stone Beach Road to, you guessed it, Big Stone Beach. It was a pretty drive in the late afternoon light but we didn’t see as many birds as we had earlier in the day. We did see a flock of snowy egrets but they were too far away to photograph. We also caught this red winged blackbird perched on the tall grasses.


Ted Harvey Conservation Area

Continuing our trek north along the Delaware shoreline, we spent the morning hours at the Ted Harvey Conservation Area and went straight to the beach for a nice stroll. It was littered with upside down horseshoe crabs with their tails pointing vertically in the air. This time we went up to one of the crabs and nudged it with our foot. It was still alive! The tide was receding so they must have been freshly deposited on the beach. We felt bad for them so we started to flip the horseshoe crabs over. Most made a beeline (or a turtle line) for the water but some just started digging into the sand. Guess they must have been females wanting to lay their eggs. The beach was expansive. After a half hour of flipping crabs, there were still so many to rescue! We couldn’t do it all, so we turned back.  The beach we had cleared was completely emptied of horseshoe crabs. Two young women passed us with a square-shape of white tubing. I expect they were doing some kind of survey on how many horseshoe crabs are in a square meter. I guess we messed up their data! They should have got to the beach earlier.

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Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Our furthest point north was Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. It is considered Delaware’s best-known birding site and was established in 1937.  At 16,251 acres, it is one of the largest tidal salt marshes in the mid-Atlantic. There is a very convenient loop road in the most central part of the refuge that covers different habitats. We did see many birds including egrets, herons, cormorants, and geese. We also saw a well-camouflaged turtle and inconspicuous frog. We took a short walk down Parson Point Trail in hopes of getting close to some of the birds that were in the Shearness Pool. As luck would have it, there was no destination point. The trail just faded away in a mass of cattails and mud.

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Little Creek Wildlife Area

Late in the afternoon as we headed back to our B&B, we made one last stop in the Little Creek Wildlife Area. It was low tide so we figured it was our last chance to see the shorebirds scouring the flats. Sure enough we did see a decent size flock of sanderlings near some posts from an old dock. It made for a picturesque setting.


All told, it was a great weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it here. I definitely want to go back, any time of year. It would be wonderful to see the famed red knots so perhaps another Memorial Day weekend, but there are different birds in the area to see all year round.

Kentucky Derby, Part Two: The Sights


May 22, 2013 Photography, Urban 0 Comments

Kentucky, the bluegrass state. I’m not sure if I saw the famed bluegrass (maybe I did alongside the highway), but I saw many lovely parts of Kentucky in early May. I thought I would share some photos from the places that I visited (click the photos for larger versions).



Just outside of Lexington, there is a beautiful horse race track set in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Keeneland was founded in 1935 for both horse races and auctions. While the horse races may be the most public part of Keeneland, the auctions are the larger financial component. In 2011, sales totaled nearly half a billion dollars! To hold the many horses, the stables at Keeneland are extensive. One of the iconic Keeneland photographs looks down the row-upon-row of numbered stables. Whether or not there is a race or an auction, I recommend a trip to Keeneland to explore the beautiful grounds.

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Kentucky Horse Park


Not too far down the road, the Kentucky Horse Park is the world’s only park dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse. It’s massive at 1,200 acres! They have an extensive museum on the history of the horse too. I got there late in the day and missed much of the daily programming. Luckily I did catch the horse drawn trolley tour and the showing of equine legends and Kentucky Derby winners at the Hall of Champions. They showed clips of the horses in their winning races and then brought them out to the expectant audience. I was the only one with a SLR camera and it felt like I got a bit of extra time to shoot the horses as they brought them around the hall. The horse drawn trolley tour was short but quaint. The trolley was pulled by clydesdales, such strong, beautiful animals. I admit that I am partial to clydesdales. My mom had them as work horses growing up so we always stop to admire them whenever we see them. I was sad to miss the Horses of the World show earlier in the day which highlighted select horse breeds. I would have loved to seen that show. Perhaps next time!

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Yew Dell Botanical Gardens


Yew Dell Botanical Gardens is a short jaunt from Louisville and was the perfect nature escape on a beautiful spring day. The public gardens are actually quite new, only 10 years old. The property was purchased in 1941 by Theodore and Martha Lee Klein. Theodore was an avid plantsman and artisan and spent the next 60 years developing a nursery, gardens, and collecting plants. Klein passed away in 1998 and the Friends of Yew Dell came together to purchase the property. In 2002, Yew Dell opened its 33 acres to the public. Klein also built most of the buildings on the property. I particularly loved the castle which was apparently inspired by a trip to Europe. It served as the family’s pool house.

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Dawn at the Downs


Up and at ‘em early in the morning for Dawn at the Downs! I threw on a dress and hat for my first official event at Churchill Downs. The breakfast wasn’t anything to write home about (neither was the table company), but it was wonderful being there at sunrise to see the jockeys and sleek horses training on the track. It added to the excitement for the big day coming up! Plus, I got to experience the great view of the track from Millionaire’s Row. I don’t expect to be watching the Kentucky Derby from that area any time soon!

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Steamboat Race


The Great Steamboat Race was another highlight for the week. I headed to the riverfront to catch the race between the Belle of Louisville and the Belle of Cincinatti in the late afternoon light. The first steamboat race was in 1963 and various steamboats have participated over the years. The race takes place on the Ohio River between Louisville, KY and Jeffersonville, IN, a distance of 14 miles. The boats average 7 miles per hour so this is a race-line finish that is easy to call! The boats were impressive as they rounded the corner from their docks. They loomed over the shoreline spectators. Once they were off, it seemed a little antic-climatic as they slowly moved down the river. Yet they really are spectacles as the paddle wheels churned up the river water.

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While the focus of this trip was Derby and millinery, I was surprised and pleased to find time to explore Louisville and the surrounding area. And there’s still much more to discover!

Kentucky Derby, Part One: The Hats


May 15, 2013 Millinery 0 Comments

The destination was Louisville, KY. My good friend Christie and I were headed to the U.S. mecca of hats, the Kentucky Derby. I had been thinking about it for months, buying new dresses (which I hadn’t done in years) and pairing them with my own fancy hats so I would be bedecked all week. I had heard that everyone wears lots of color in Louisville so I was excited to bring more sunshine into my wardrobe!

We arrived Saturday morning (one week before Derby), got the keys to our home for the week (thanks for the connection Rachel!), and headed to Les Filles Louisville. This boutique in the SoFo district (South Fourth Street) is home to couture hats by Jenny Pfanenstiel of Formé Millinery. We had offered to help Jenny in any way she needed in the week leading up to Derby. Things were pretty quiet on Saturday morning so the first order of business was meeting all the neighbors! All the shops in SoFo had such great stuff! They were all independently owned and most featured handcrafted goods. This ended up being a recurring theme in Louisville. Entire neighborhoods full of small businesses, and no chain stores. It was amazing!


Sunday morning we headed to Churchill Downs for a Formé Millinery trunk show at the Kentucky Derby Museum. My first trip to Churchill Downs!! We helped Jenny with setup, helped customers, and generally had a good time! As an extra added bonus, there were a bunch of tastings happening. We got to try the infamous Derby Pie, a great pineapple chutney which I brought home, chocolate bourbon balls which I also brought home, and more. It was my first exposure to bourbon in Louisville, with more to come!


On Tuesday evening we had a millinery get together in the Highlands on Bardstown Road. Jan of aMuse Artisanal Finery and Diane of Hats to Di For were also in town for the Derby! Our group represented the cities of DC, Chicago, Atlanta, and Wilmington, North Carolina! It was really fantastic seeing Jan and Jenny, my primary millinery instructors, and meeting Diane for the first time. So strange and exciting for us all to meet up in Louisville, KY! After a great meal and visit, we headed down the street and I got to try Kentucky bourbon ale, which is ale aged in bourbon barrels. I highly recommend it!

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On Wednesday evening we were off to the Farmington Historic Plantation for the Pimento Cheese Social. This event took the cake as a stunning location with impeccably dressed people. Completed in 1816, Farmington was the center of a 550 acre hemp plantation with a rich history. The carriage house was the first to catch my attention. Centered with the walkway leading from the main house, my eye was immediately drawn to it. The spaced sideboards added to its character and uniqueness. But as I rounded the bend, the biggest draw for me came to sight, the Bulleit Bourbon Trailer. I had seen pictures of this cocktail bar on wheels and was so excited to see it firsthand! I happily sipped on my custom crafted Old Fashioned made on the spot! There were also vendors scattered about the property and hats were an absolute must. Jan and Diana were there with their hats, along with Tonya of Tonya Gross Millinery. There was food to be had as well, and true to the name, all options had pimento cheese incorporated in them, from the BBQ to the desserts!

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Friday was the big day! We were off to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks races! Oaks is the second-to-last race of the day for three-year-old thoroughbred fillies. The winner gets a large garland of lilies, which explains the color for the day–pink! The weather was great and we got to Churchill Downs easily. No traffic congestion at all! Once we got there, we promptly got a mint julep. “If you go to Derby, you must have a mint julep.” We were told, so we did. I enjoyed it but wished that there was less ice! The whole cup was crushed ice. Oh well.. We went to our seats which were clubhouse seats that were upgraded to being under cover. Sweet! We got a great rundown of the races by the folks who were also seated in our box. At this point it was time for the fruity vodka-based drink called the lily. Both the lily and mint julep came in commemorative glass cups too. A few drinks down and one horse race in, I was ready to bet! True to form, I had beginner’s luck on that first race and won $155! So of course I bet on the rest of the races that day too. I won some, I lost some, but I walked away with an extra $100 in my pocket at the end of the day!

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Now, you would probably think that Saturday was actually the big day, right!? That was Derby day after all! But we woke to rain and it continued all day long. It truly put a damper on our festivities. We thought that our seats for Derby were in the uncovered clubhouse section so we spent a good chunk of our morning looking for rain boots and ponchos. If we were going to sit in the rain for many hours, we wanted to be comfortable! After securing these important items we headed to Churchill Downs. Now, if you know a little about millinery, you might know that rain and hats simply do not mix. You make a hat by working with your material and water/steam. So you can imagine that rain can undo the exact process used to make a hat! Many people brought clear plastic to put over their hat so they can still wear their hat and keep it dry. We didn’t have such plastic and a black garbage bag didn’t seem like a good option, so we decided to just focus on the races and leave the hats in the car (so sad…). And that made our seating assignment that much more bitter sweet. We were also upgraded for Derby (hooray!), but we didn’t realize until we got there that our seats were actually under cover (hooray!). If only we had known ahead of time, we would have brought our hats (boo!) and arrived at the races earlier! Lesson learned. Despite the rain, the clubhouse was packed and the betting lines were so long that I couldn’t be bothered to stand in them. I could just walk straight up to the betting windows the day before! But the energy and excitement were still high and the horses were equally amazing to watch.

But what about the hats!? Yes, I was also on a scouting mission to find out what exactly do people wear (or not wear) to Oaks and Derby!? Well, the hats truly ran the full gamut, from fascinators to big brim hats! I would estimate that most women (say 90%) wore a hat of some kind and many men wore hats too. There were a lot of store bought hats but there were couture hats mixed in. The majority were big brim hats as I expected, but a fascinator would not be out of place at all. This is just judging from the clubhouse section which is an upper-middle tier of ticket (in increasing fanciness of tickets: infield, grandstand, clubhouse, skye terrace, millionaire’s row). I’m willing to bet that most of the hats in the nicer sections were couture hats, but we weren’t able to go to those areas!

I’m so very glad that I got to experience the Kentucky Derby. It was an absolute blast. But I am even happier that I went to the Kentucky Oaks as I got to experience the races in good weather and with fewer people!



Mar 26, 2013 Millinery, Other Hats 0 Comments

I just finished my contribution to the silent art auction for Spark! A Creative Fundraiser for FIGMENT DC. This cocktail hat is just one of many items that DC artists are contributing to help bring this participatory arts festival back to DC this fall. I’m really excited to participate both in the fundraiser and FIGMENT. I’m already thinking about what kind of participatory art project I will bring this fall!

Join us next Thursday, April 18th at Zeba in Columbia Heights for Spark! to help bring this arts festival to life. The silent art auction is just one of many fun things going on. There will also be a raffle, sock puppet speed dating, and live music. Wear a funky hat to this funky event!

And mark your calendar now for FIGMENT DC, Sept 28-29, 2013 at Anacostia Park!