Hats and How I Make Them: A talk by Susan Widlake of Mill House Millinery 

Ever been interested in how hats are made?


Susan Widlake had a passion for hats from a young age, dressing up in fancy hats belonging to her grandmother and aunts. A taster course at the V&A Museum got her hooked on making her own. Travelling a lot for her work, Susan was inspired by the many places she visited and used that inspiration as the basis for many of her hat designs. In 2018 Susan turned her passion into a business and makes hats at her studio, Mill House Millinery.


In her fascinating talk, Susan will talk about some of the many millinery materials that are used to make hats, including felt, silk, leather and sinamay, a fibre similar to palm. She will explain how different styles are made and will demonstrate some equipment and techniques including making a sinamay flower.


Susan says:

I’m an linguist and  IT auditor by training, and worked in that area for 20 years.  I was really fortunate to be able to travel the world with my job, and visit places I never would have thought possible.. Since discovering hat making, I packed a sewing kit along with my business attire. I’ve made felt hats on Eurostar, silk flowers in Zagreb, and folded ribbon rosettes on a plane, sitting next to the voice of Spongebob Squarepants. I got lost in Shanghai trying to find ‘ribbon street’, and ended up using sign language in Latvia trying to find the Hat Museum in Riga.   I’d always wear a hat to work, and when working in Switzerland, became known as ‘The English Lady in a Hat’ by the people living in my apartment block.

My hats are named after places and locations that have captured my imagination.  I love to incorporate local silk, woven in Sudbury in Suffolk in my designs, and my millinery wire comes from Great Dunmow in EssexSo, if you’ve ever wondered what a hat inspired by the Sydney Opera House looks like and think you could identify Barcelona, do come along and look.



Ticket price £6.50 and includes entry to the Hold On To Your Hat! exhibition.




14th September 2022


Ely Museum, The Old Gaol, Market Street, Ely, CB7 4LS,