Halloween is over, not that we really had one this year, and it was on a Saturday. It has been 4 years since we had a Halloween on a Saturday and this year COVID 19 found another victim. I was working as Madame Mu Mu and dived into the Halloween mood this year making three outfits. Each look, or should I say hat, related to what Halloween is all about; black cats, pumpkins, and witches.

I made all three hats and costumes and, as I write this, I am sat here wearing my witches hat. There was even a great moment whilst playing Witchy Bitchy Bingo when my witches hat got caught on the low hanging chandeliers at Mu Mu! I felt the hat pins I had used to secure the hat in place slide against my scalp and out of my wig. I knew no one was behind me so carried on performing and when I turned to see where it had gone to my surprise, and the audience, as if by magic, my hat was suspended by a tiny thread from the chandelier. It appeared to be floating. I carried on and as I exited, picked it off as if it was part of the act. If only I had it on video!

cat ears crystal parade

One of my hats was inspired by Cat Woman, and I also wanted to play with one of my favourite styles of hat; the turban. Ever since I had my cat ear hat blocks made last year, I have wanted to create a kitty cat turban. It happened, however, to really get the shape of the hat block body, I had to make the block.

The design of the Cat Woman inspired turban was going to be covered in crystals as if she had just stolen the most expensive hat in the museum or a very wealthy hat wearers most prized position. I achieved this by using a selection of crystals from Crystal Parade, Preciosa, Stellux and a new and favourite go-to, Zodiacs.

The pink of the cat ears is studded with the Preciosa, SS16, Rose. The body of the turban I used a variety of sizes to achieve coverage that was enough to hide seams and also keep within my budget. I used the Stellux, SS40, Jet and the Preciosa, SS16, Jet to run in a sporadic fashion all over the headpiece. In real time the turban really does shimmer and because the crystals are jet they offer a sense of sleekness, just like our famous Cat Woman.

pumpkin Crystal Parade

Now I know I have gone on about my Halloween costumes when this is about hints and tips when working with crystals in the studio so here is the first tip. Generally, when it comes to a job where I am using crystals and I don’t know how many to get I always over order and then I use the storage solutions I wrote about in my previous blog post back in July, Storing Your Sparkle. If you use crystals a lot, then you will not go wrong using this method because you will be surprised at how often you will need that particular style of crystal for either another job or something last minute.

Admittedly, due to a tight budget, I didn’t over order on this occasion on the Stellux, SS40, Jet, however, what I did do before I started fixing the crystals is place five to ten crystals back in the box and one onto your own created shade card (as mentioned in my previous blog post) and these will act as spares in case through wear and tear you lose one or two or need it as a reference for future jobs.

In regards to the pattern of the crystal formation I only follow one if the design is intended that way. I do however always start with some form of a pattern and then in a sporadic fashion I work out from there until I have the whole piece covered.

In this scenario, the ears were where a pattern needed to be followed, to hide a seam, and as I worked out from them I created a sporadic formation of crystals. The magic with using crystals is they are so good at drawing the eye away from any mistakes you may have made along the way and they hide those professional techniques, that you as a designer, want covered up…and…because you are a perfectionist.

If you do want to follow a pattern I would highly recommend mapping out the pattern with some dressmaking pins. If the project, you are working on can be pieced then the dressmaking pins are thinner than a household pin and will leave a very small mark which will then be covered up in the end. As you remove the pin place a dab of your glue in its place and then add your crystals. I don’t usually work with hot fix crystals as I like the security of glue but the same principle would apply. You would load up your hot gun and as you remove the pin you would place the crystal.

The glue I use is always the trusty Gem-Tac. You seriously cannot go wrong and in all my years of doing millinery and making costumes it is the one glue that really works well. Now the amazing Crystal Parade gave me my most favourite tip and it is one that I wish I had thought of before. Using a syringe to apply your glue!!! Crystal Parade sell them via their website and I would highly recommend getting yourself one.

gem tac glue Crystal Parade

Another tip would be to not fill the barrel of the syringe too much. Once you have poured enough into the barrel and you have inserted the plunger, wait until the glue has seeped down to meet the plunger creating an air bubble so when you press the plunger you don’t waste too much glue. You can syringe the glue by inserting the needle into the bottle however I find that the glue is often too thick for this and the plunger often pops out.

If you treat the amount of glue how you would treat a length of thread you will be fine. If your thread is too long you will have more issues of tangling as it passes through the fabric of your project. This applies to the glue. We don’t want to waste the glue or most importantly, time.

Always, once you have finished, soak your syringe in soapy, hot water, and syringe some of the solution into the barrel and out again to clean the needle before the glue dries and clogs it up. If you do find it clogged up, a dressmaking pin will be thin enough to get into the needle so you can clear the blockage. By using a small amount by following the above rule of thumb you will waste less glue. A bottle of Gem-Tac goes a long way. Really good value for money.

witches hat Crystal Parade

When I first really started working with high end crystals I would use tweezers to place each one then find myself, on my knees, with my torchlight on my phone trying to locate the lost crystals in my carpet. Then along came the amazing Crystal Parade and I discovered the amazing Crystal Katana applicator. My life changed and I saved so much time. I would highly recommend getting one of these and I would look after it. After every time I use mine it goes back into the package it came in. I have had it for years and I am yet to replace the tip. If you do use it a lot, then Crystal Parade do sell the replacement tips. The other end of the applicator is so good because of the metallic tip which looks like a blunted syringe needle. It really allows you to just nudge that crystal to perfection.

Now before I go, having bored you writing about my love for crystals in the studio, with some, I hope, useful hints and tips. Myself and Poppy at Crystals Parade have joined forces and at the beginning of December, we will be posting an exciting GIVEAWAY.

This #GIVEWAYE is going to lead into next month’s blog post which is a crystal challenge. Poppy has sent me a pack of three different shaped crystals and I will be designing and then applying them to one of my signature ombre, hand-painted, halo headbands worth £180.00, which you can win for yourself!

During the month of December, we will be asking people who want to be involved in the draw to Follow, Like, Comment and Share the post in order to WIN.

The PRIZE will then be sent to our winner and we hope it will bring some joy to what has been an incredibly tough year.

Watch this space and if you want to get ahead of the game head over to our Instagram accounts:

For now, I leave you with this;
There is no right or wrong in creation

Fashion & millinery