Friday, February 28, 2014

INDIGO- maybe the most gorgeous of the blues

I have always loved the word INDIGO. In fact, I think that is would be wonderful to be called Indigo. Alas, that is not to be. There is something warm, with an old world charm, about indigo.

Indigo is an ancient color, a natural dye extracted from a plant of the same name, and the only true blue dye in nature. It's been found in ancient Egyptian mummy wrappings and was so valued by the Romans as a luxury product, the story goes, that the only people who knew how to dye with indigo were hidden away in the forest.

indigo the plant
 I was recently visited the mountainous area of SAPA in NORTHERN VIETNAM, where the local HUNG tribe, although living in abject poverty, use locally grown wild indigo to dye the most beautiful fabrics.

Winter indigo plants in Sapa.

Who knew that such a weedy looking plant could profuse such beautiful blue dyes.
man made ladder stairs from a solid tree trunk and bamboo water pipes
wooden shingled roof

corn drying from the house ceiling 

interiors are cold and dark

But when you see the beautiful work that these ladies do, hanging from outside the houses, it is just gorgeous.
The patterns are painted before the dyeing with bees wax. The wax is removed after the dyeing process to reveal the original background color.

an artist happy at her work
The initial color, when removed from the dye vat is teal but the fabric turns to classic indigo as it dries in the air. I suggest that you boil the fabric with white vinegar to "set" the color. Do not wash which light colors. 

Now for a bit of a science lesson: In order for indigo to release its dye molecule, and attach itself to fibers and bond, excess oxygen must be removed from the molecule; this particular vat uses the chemical reaction between a mineral alkali and a natural reducing agent to do so (a process called reduction). Based on recipes used in Morocco, India, and Provence, and Northern Vietnam,  this vat recipe uses natural agents such as dried and fresh fruits, minerals, and flavonoids (the natural pigments in plants).

a pot of Indigo dye

So if you can't make it to SAPA and you want to try this at home, here is a a great recepi that I picked up from

DIY Indigo Dye

  • 1 part natural indigo in powder form (100 grams of Organic Indigo is $19.50 from Botanical Colors)
  • 2 parts calcium hydroxide, also known as pickling lime, cal, calx. (250 grams of Calcium Hydroxide is $7 from Botanical Colors)
  • 3 parts fructose crystals (250 grams of Fruit Sugar Fructose Powder is $8 from Botanical Colors)
  • 2-quart Mason jar or heat safe container (or larger if you are making a larger vat)
  • A non-reactive cooking pot for your vat 
  • Natural fabric (wool, silk, cotton, etc. work best)
  • Rubber bands OR bees wax for your designs.
(If you're interested in one-stop shopping, an Indigo Shibori Kit with all of the necessary ingredients to get started on your own indigo vat is $49.95 from Botanical Colors.)
Part I: Mixing an Indigo Stock
Decide how much indigo to use based on the shade of color you want to achieve. For reference: 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of powdered indigo will make a vat that will dye around 2 pounds of fabric a light to medium shade of blue; 4 tablespoons (50 grams) of powdered indigo will make a vat that dyes the same amount of fabric a medium to dark shade of blue; 8 tablespoons (100 grams) yields a dark blue, with enough leftover indigo to dye a few other pieces of fabric a lighter shade. After you've decided on the amount of indigo, you can calculate how much you'll need of the calcium hydroxide and fructose crystals. 
Next, create a stock in your Mason jar. Pour your indigo powder into the jar (we used 8 tablespoons), and add a bit of warm water to create a gritty paste. Add about 2 cups of hot water (heated to about 120 degrees) and stir; the solution should be dark blue. Add the fructose crystals and stir well. Slowly add the calcium hydroxide and stir so it is well incorporated. You want to get out the lumps without beating too fast, to avoid adding air to the solution.
Top off the jar with additional hot water after the calcium hydroxide is incorporated. The mixture should look greenish and murky. Let it settle for an hour, giving it a stir every 15 minutes. The chemical reaction works best if the solution is warm, so feel free to place the glass jar in a pot of hot water. The stock at the top might look yellow-green or brownish red—this is normal. After 45 minutes, give the solution one more stir and let it settle for 15 minutes. 
When a layer of copper colored scum develops at the surface, you know your stock is ready. At this stage, you'll notice the liquid in the jar has divided into two sections: a layer of sludge at the bottom and a thin liquid layer on top (similar to when you mix oil and vinegar). Your stock will look yellowish green or brown. 
Part II: Preparing an Indigo Vat
After you've got your stock, you are ready to make your indigo vat. Fill a non-reactive dye pot about 2/3 full of hot water (heated to approximately 120 degrees). Carefully pour all the stock (including sludge) into the pot and stir gently. Allow the vat to turn a yellowish green color (this takes usually from 15 to 30 minutes). After the vat has a yellowish and coppery scum on top, it is balanced and ready for dipping. Keep it over a low heat to maintain the temperature. 
Part III: Preparing and Dyeing Fabric
Meanwhile, prepare the fabric. Fabric should be thoroughly soaked in warm water before folding and dipping. There are many different techniques to create different patterns. One we like: fold fabric like a paper fan into 1- or 2-inch increments, and then tie it with a rubber band or string.  You can dip fibers for from 30 seconds to three minutes; after you remove the fabric, let it drip into a container (later you'll pour the liquid  back into the vat). Continue to dip until the fabric is two shades darker than you want it to be—after you rinse it, it will lose some of its color. 
This next step is where the magic begins. When you take your fabric out of the vat, dip it in cold water. Then, undo the folds and the ties. Let it air for at least 30 minutes. You will want to rinse your fabric out a few times with cold water; you should wash it separately, so that its color does not stain other garments.
After the vat turns from yellowish-green to blue, you will need to reheat and add a generous spoonful of fructose crystals. This is called rebalancing the vat. Wait for from 15 to 30 minutes for the vat to turn greenish yellow again; if it doesn't, add a level spoonful of calcium hydroxide and wait. You may need to repeat this process.
You can keep an indigo vat active for up to six months, as long as you rebalance each time you reheat it (always to 120 degrees). You may also need to replenish the vat when you're ready to use it again, if it's lost a lot of its color potency.  To replenish the vat, create a new jar of stock and add it to existing vat. Store your vat in an airtight container with a lid.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


The fashionestas are certainly shying away from the ubiquitous small brimmed fedoras that are now the derrière cri of yesteryear. The head of the class is now a BIG AND BOLD LOOKING CROWN.
It started with Louis Vuitton over-sized clocked styles from 2012.

Le baton was handed to PHARREL, when he wore his Vivienne Westwood,  Arby INSPIRED BIG CROWN.

And at Milan fashion week the torch has been passed to EMPORIO ARMANI, who put his models in over sized bowler looking hats, which looked delightfully elegant, when accessories with his gorgeous tailored suits.

How do you say "sexy" in Italian? BELLISIMO

We even see the return of BIG RUSSIAN  FUR TOQUES


Even the hat brims are starting to become over-sized.



Thursday, February 20, 2014


New York and London Fashion Weeks–Designers are pulling blankets, throws and even carpets into their designs this season. With a mix of graphic prints, abstract plaids and literal Santa Fe and Moroccan-inspired motifs, the look is easy, comfy and casual.

This will be such an easy DIY look. Ladies just grab that "thow" from your couch and work it!!

I am know to snuggle in this one from time to time.

LV223 AND LV318

A raw cut edged hat is the perfect look to enhance this gaucho blanket trend, in rich burgundy, emerald and tan colors.
This American Eagle style (no it is not real, which would be illegal) side feather trim, is so apropos for the blanket trend. This felt is hard to find. The mottled look is achieved by mixing 2 colors in the felting process.
The frayed finish on the grosgrain ribbon also elands itself to the tasseled poncho look.

Hat pics by koitz.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


New York and London Fashion Weeks–Did designers load up on Red Velvet cupcakes while planning their lines. Head-to-toe sexy, rich and luxurious, red ensembles are showing up all over the runways, but they look particularly fresh when covered in velvet accents. From velvet burnout to solid configuration, this rich, royal material is making a major comeback, capturing both a regal feel and more bohemian gypsy ideas.


At CALLANAN MILLINERY we have your velvet trimmed crown, in the waiting for milady.

LV333 AND 334
Grosgrain ribbon accented in velvet.

LV332 AND 338
Gorgeous luxurious black satin and coq feathered trimmed cloches would look divine with any red velvet coat.
Or for a more sporty look with a touch of velvet and red felt, may we suggest.

LV328 AND 331

Hat pictures by koitz

Friday, February 14, 2014

HATtitude ArtsWestchester, White Plains, NY

Exhibit Cops a Positive “HATtitude” Toward Headwear

Volendam mask hat by Jasmin Zorlu
White Plains, NY—For aficionadas, you can’t get enough of them, much less walk out your door without one on—hats that is.
But for those who say “I just can’t find a hat for me,” then it’s time to visit “HATtitude: The Milliner in Culture & Couture,”  an exhibition at ArtsWestchester that opens Tuesday, featuring more than 160 hats from 40 contemporary milliners and private collections.
Hats are Art with a capital “A” as demonstrated by the selections picked out by ArtsWestchester. “The exhibition will prove what the Duchess of Cambridge and Lady Gaga already know–that hats are more than mere accessories, they’re the crowning glory of any fashion statement,” says Kathleen Reckling, gallery director.
HATtitude consists of functional hats, whimsical hats, hats from bygone eras and from different global cultures, providing context for contemporary designs while examining the hat’s enduring social significance.

‘Stand Out in a Crowd, Wear a Hat’

“According to an old saying,” says ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam, ‘If you want to get ahead, wear a hat.’ That’s particularly true in today’s day and age as hats are becoming more like works of art and fewer people are wearing them. So to stand out in the crowd, wear a hat.” A well-designed hat is as much a statement about its maker as is it about its wearer.
“John Deere” by Joanne Mooney
In addition, the exhibition contains a mini-exhibition-within-the-larger show, namely “One Block, Many Milliners.” Here, the 40 different hats on display in this area were all formed from the same basic hat shape. The collection emphasizes the creativity of milliners, who see endless artistic possibilities in a simple form. “One Block, Many Milliners” is organized by members of the Milliners Guild, an organization of small millinery business owners and milliners who specialize in the design, production and promotion of handmade headwear.
“HATtitude: The Milliner in Culture & Couture” is curated by Kathleen Reckling, MA; Judith Schwartz, PhD; and Thomas VanBuren, PhD, and is presented thanks to support from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York Council for the Humanities.
Additional hats on loan from the collections of: Ballet Folklórico Acuarelas del Perú, Sana Musasama, Judith Schwartz, and Louise Green.
HATtitude opens Tuesday and runs through April 12. Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 12 to 5 p.m. at ArtsWestchester, 31 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, NY. Check for additional information and the schedule for lectures by fashion and art historians as well as hands-on workshops lead by exhibiting milliners.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


New York Fashion Week–Designers are going mad for plaid this season, and not just your basic, traditional tartan, either.
 Black-and-blue shades factor in prominently, while red is being done in new ways.

 From apparel to accessories, from grungy to glam, this is a hot print to watch.
CALLANAN MILLINERY has you covered with this delightful highland cloche


Or for a more sporty look try

We also have some tartan look in our scala collection.

Friday, February 7, 2014


I love Paris, I love to eat in Paris. Eating is one of the things that I miss about Paris. During my past 2 visits, I had begun to notice a marked decline in the food being served. I was convinced that it was all "sous vide"(the cooking of various ingredients in a plastic pouch) and not made fresh. Dare I say that, it had begun to taste like bad English food from the 1980's, mais non!!
I sheepishly mentioned it to a few Parisian friends who admitted that it was not as good as before but shrugged off that it was "that bad".
"Alors", as we say in French, I have been vindicated, by none other than the New York Times, that bastion of culinary insights. J'adore les New York Times.

France is renowned as a world capital of gastronomy. But these days, odds have grown that a delicious-looking dish or dessert may have been at least partly prepared by an industrial food giant, frozen, then reheated in a kitchen. Alexandre Castagnet, owner of Le Petit Paris, prides himself on only serving dishes prepared with fresh ingredients. Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
PARIS — Sit down at a cute Parisian bistro and the chances are the onion soup, the paté and the boudin blanc set before you weren’t prepared from fresh ingredients delivered that morning.
Even though France is renowned as a world capital of gastronomy, these days, odds have grown that a savory-looking entree or dessert — especially at establishments near tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame or Montmartre — may have been at least partly prepared by an industrial food giant, frozen, then reheated in a kitchen. Even the bread, the French bread, may have been made in an industrial bakery.
While this practice is taken for granted in the rest of the industrialized world, to many French it is an astonishing affront to their very culture.
The solution is just as French: Lawmakers are expected to approve this month a consumer protection law requiring restaurants to designate fresh dishes with a “fait maison,” or “homemade” logo. If a dish is unlabeled, some or all of it is presumed to come from an assembly line.
“The use of industrial foods in restaurants is a growing global phenomenon,” said Daniel Fasquelle, a National Assembly lawmaker among those pushing for the label. “But for France, we’re talking about our heritage. If we don’t do anything, in 10 years, real restaurants will be the exception.”
As is often the case in France, however, resolving the issue is not so simple. Restaurant owners behind a fresh-food movement say the government has not gone far enough. They want menus to note every frozen item, citing the right for consumers to know after a European food scandal last year in which frozen beef products were found to contain horse meat.
Pushing back is an influential coterie of agro-food companies. Although the quality of frozen foods has vastly improved, they are concerned that singling them out on a menu could cut into a lucrative business that is expanding as dining habits shift and restaurants seek to improve margins as labor and food costs rise.
The stars of French cuisine like Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon are offering their own “Restaurant de Qualité” seal for establishments that meet higher standards for cuisine and atmosphere. Only 10 percent of France’s 100,000 restaurants would qualify, since most “only do industrial cooking,” Mr. Ducasse said while unveiling it last year.
The rest of the world may think the French are gastronomes, but about a third of French restaurants acknowledged using ready-made meals in a recent anonymous survey conducted by Synhorcat, the French hotel, restaurant and cafe operators union. But Xavier Denamur, a leader of the fresh-food faction who owns five restaurants in the Marais, estimates the figure is closer to 70 percent when ingredients like frozen fish are part of an otherwise homemade dish.
On a recent morning at Le Petit Paris, a cozy bistro in the touristy Marais quarter, Alexandre Castagnet wrote out the day’s lunch specials on a blackboard: cauliflower velouté, country ham and other dishes made only with fresh ingredients delivered that morning.
But before he and a partner took ownership, the bistro was serving very different fare. “The previous owners used factory-made foods, stored in two huge freezers,” Mr. Castagnet recalled. “When people ordered, they would pull out a bag of frozen lasagna, blanquette de veau or whatever was on the menu, pop it in the microwave and serve it on a plate,” he said.
“It was disturbing,” Mr. Castagnet added. “Tourists and other patrons had no idea that the French meal they were eating was actually industrially made.”
French patisseries won’t fall under the labeling law, but they are part of the trend. At least half of their tarts, pastries, cakes and other viennoiseries are made in a centralized plant and heated up on site. Up to 80 percent of croissants are made that way, said Philippe Godard, a spokesman for the French bakery and patisserie business federation.
“Businesses are making an economic choice,” said Hubert Jan, a representative of the French restaurant and hotel union UMIH. Labor costs including taxes have increased 40 percent since 2000, accounting for about 45 percent of a restaurant’s costs, while raw materials prices are rising. “So kitchens don’t have as many employees,” he said. In addition, “there is a dearth of skilled kitchen workers and people aren’t willing anymore to rise at 2 a.m. to make bread or pastries.”
The modern French diner is more pressed for time: Most have cut back to two sit-down meals a day, from three. And last year, for the first time, more money was spent in fast-food chains than traditional restaurants, 54 percent of the 34 billion euro French market.
For restaurants eager to maintain a competitive edge, padding a menu with ready-made dishes is economically attractive — even if no one dares to admit it, Mr. Jan said.
One of the biggest telltale signs is a menu with a large range of choices. “If the menu is gigantic, the kitchen would need to be as big as the restaurant for all the food to really be fresh,” Mr. Jan said.
“I have no interest in talking about it,” said Bernard Grateloup, who runs the Café de la Poste in Carmaux, in southern France. He was one of several owners who refused to speak after earlier telling French media that they bought frozen meats, vegetables or other dishes because the quality was good. Lower costs helped them improve tight margins and offer reasonably priced meals to patrons.
The biggest players in industrial food see a growing market. They include Davigel, one of Europe’s largest food providers, owned by the Swiss giant Nestlé; the Brakes Group, owned by the private equity firm Bain Capital; Bonduell, the world’s largest purveyor of prepared vegetables and the German wholesale giant, Metro.
Mr. Castagnet said representatives of almost all the companies had visited his bistro and others, bearing glossy catalogs and profit calculations for items. He said a Brakes salesman recounted how a 50-cent factory-made molten chocolate cake was made to “look homemade,” and could be microwaved and sold for 6 euros. If enough menu items were replaced, he was told, he could even save on the cost of an employee. A spokesman for Brakes declined to comment.

That may be so — but only if restaurants can charge higher prices. At Mr. Denamur’s nearby flagship restaurant, Les Philosophes, the higher cost of workers preparing meals from scratch is passed on to consumers willing to pay more for quality. Duck confit is 25 euros ($34), compared with about 16 euros at a corner cafe, which is lower than restaurants in France’s strict hierarchy of eating establishments.
Mr. Castagnet rebuffed the arguments. “If you run your kitchen right, it is just as cost-effective to use fresh products,” he said.
Nearly 60 percent of Davigel’s 783 million euros in sales in 2012, the latest figures available, came from independent restaurants in France, where it has 66,000 accounts. The Brakes Group had annual sales of 630 million euros in 2012, up 6 percent from 2011.
The companies employ chefs to craft alluring offers — Brake, for instance, has a partnership with Mr. Ducasse to enhance quality and create new recipes. Its lush catalog includes 3,500 items like frozen foie gras with caramelized apples or a precooked kit for gourmet beef stew with sous-vide meat, vegetables and broth.
Mr. Denamur, the activist, is concerned that many such dishes contain additives not found in fresh foods. One morning at Les Philosophes, he brandished an empty container that had held salt cod purée, which he said he had found in a rival restaurant’s trash bin. The ticket was stamped “like homemade,” but it also listed chemical preservatives. “This is why we need transparency,” he said.
But the argument isn’t really about preservatives; it’s about origins. “If a chef uses frozen onions to save time and costs, does that really need to be pointed out?” said Didier Chenet, the president of Synhorcat.
For the industry, the answer is no. “When you identify something as frozen, you put it in the head of the consumer that it might be less good,” said Ignace de Villepin, the marketing director of Davigel, said. “That is wrong, but they may be less inclined to choose it,” he said.
Davigel fought legislation requiring labels for frozen items, and Mr. deVillepin said he doubted that the fresh-foods lobby would succeed in reviving it. The most important thing, he said, was for diners is to know the origin of the food and to feel “that what is on my plate looks and tastes good, that I’m enjoying my experience in the restaurant, and I want to come back.”
Cordelia Dolan, 25, on a recent visit from London with five friends, was skeptical. As they paid the bill at Les Philosophes, they said they favored labels for frozen items — and would probably avoid them.
“You don’t want to eat something that you can buy in a shop,” she said. “That’s not why you go to restaurants.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Paper Braid Hats

Do you know the differences between different paper braids that are used to make hats? It is not as simple as it would seem as first. So here is a little background: To make the paper strands that will be woven into the brands, huge rolls of soft colored paper are sliced into thin rolls. Then the thin rolls are unrolled and the flat paper is twisted into strings. The strings are then braided. OK, now that you know the general plan, here are some details: The original idea for making paper braids (Toyo) came from Japan, but now the experts are in Taiwan with the Chinese close behind. There are several different thicknesses of paper that can be used for hats. The lightest is 18 pounds, more common is 22 pounds. 20 pound paper is also possible. In China 18 pound is not currently generally used (it is in Taiwan). The lighter the paper, obviously, the lighter the braid. The heaviness of the braid can also be affected by how wide are the strips that the paper is cut into before they are twisted into twine. it is not unusual for the strips to be 0.7cm to 1.2cm, though some machines can be adjusted to cut strips as thin as 0.6cm. For most hats 0.7 or 0.8 centimeters is common. In addition to the weight of the hat you should be aware of the material going into the braids. The machines that braid the paper usually hold from 9 strands of paper plus 4 strands of thread to 13 strands of paper plus 6 of thread. Some machines that are very rare in China will make a thinner braid of 7 strands of paper and 4 of thread. The thread is cotton or polyester, or it can be a clear monofilament like used for fishing line. The monofilament made from polypropylene (sometimes just called PP). Since it is clear it picks up the color of the paper in the hat, so the thread itself seems to change color. Currently most braid makers are using 22 pound paper and about half the time they use polypropylene for the thread. They say the stiffness of the heavier paper helps the bigger hats keep their shape. (Also in bigger hats for easy shape adjustment the hat maker will run a metal or plastic wire around the edge of the brim.) Some of the more fine hats, including the Rainbow Sombreros we carry are made with very light weight paper and no PP. We use 18 weight paper cut to 0.6cm and only 7 strands of paper and 4 of cotton in our Sombreros. That is why the cost is a little higher than for the run of the mill paper hat!
the paper begins as large paper rolls
the paper is shredded in long strips 

The paper strips are twisted together to form what looks like twine and are then fed through machine to weave hat bodies.

the genisis of a woven paper hat

Here we see a willow stripe being added.

It is quite amazing to see these machines weave hats
Traditional rush roof work area.
Workers trimming the brim edges.