Sinamay - My favourite hat-making material!
For those of you who have met me, you will know all about my passion for sinamay. This lightweight, straw-like material is just so versatile, lending itself to all sorts of techniques for different styles of hats and fascinators. Plant based, eco-friendly, a distinctive character and a multitude of uses; I am its number one fan!
What is sinamay?
Sinamay is a material that is woven from fibres of the abaca tree, which is a species very similar to the banana palm and is native to the Philippines.
It is three times stronger than cotton or silk, so it’s really durable and long lasting. You can get different grades of sinamay, from really finely woven material to a loose weave used for floral crafts.
When you look at a piece of sinamay you can sometimes see that the fibres aren’t completely straight, or you can see where a fibre has snapped and the next bit has been knotted on to carry on the weave. I love this about the material… It has a really organic, characterful feel to it and is perfect for a handcrafted item that is all about being unique and individual. Sinamay already has a story which you will be continuing by wearing your fascinator or hat and creating memories!
How is it made?
My go-to supplier of sinamay is Parkin Fabrics, who work directly with the weaving communities in the Philippines. The weavers work in small, co-operative groups, stripping the fibres from the trunk of the plants and hand-weaving it on wooden looms. It's often the case that three generations work alongside each other, passing on more than 500 years of Sinamay know-how, hand to hand.
Parkin Fabrics say: “When we buy Sinamay, we know for a fact that our payment for the product goes straight back into the weaving community.
This is why we offer an un-bartered price for a good, honest and trustworthy product.
As a family company ourselves, we feel this is good for both our weavers and our customers.”
How is it used?
I buy the sinamay material by the metre and it just has such a multitude of uses. Having a brand new piece of beautifully coloured material is always a treat, ready to transform it into something new! Sinamay is sensitive to heat and steam, so using a hot, steamy iron, or a handheld garment steamer it becomes soft and pliable to manipulate it into all sorts of shapes, both for hat bases and for the trimmings. Sewing millinery wire into it can give it some structure for the bigger, or more complex pieces!
If you would like to learn more about sinamay and have a go at making fascinators yourself using this amazing material, I have workshops booking in both the West Midlands and Leeds, with new dates added on a regular basis. We spend the morning having a go at various different techniques, including roses, bias strips, bows and petals/leaves and then in the afternoon you have the chance to put what you have learned to use and make your own finished design. If you find you love this material as much as me there is also the opportunity to take it further and learn more techniques at a later date.
There is also the option of having private tuition in my home studio in Kings Heath, South Birmingham.
I also have introduced kits for you to have a go at home, creating your very own fascinators with this fabulous material. There are also further kits, video tutorials and online workshops in the pipeline, so do sign up to the newsletter to be the first to hear about them!
For more information about workshops now booking:
For more information about Parkin Fabrics and their Sinamay Story: https://www.parkinfabrics.co.uk/our-sinamay-story