Hold On To Your Hat

A series of hat making workshops
are planned at Judith M in La Grange

Milliner Hubka's 25 years of experience
makes her a master of her craft

LA GRANGE, Ky. (October 2021) – Laura Hubka is a woman of many hats – literally. Having run her own millinery business for 25 years, her fascination with hats has earned her quite a reputation as a master at her craft.
She had originally set out to be a tailor, saying, “I had an interest in couture gowns. Around that time, I received a terrible haircut and decided to try and make a hat to cover it while it grew out, and the rest is history,” she said.
Born and raised in Chicago, Hubka went to school for fashion design, studying in her hometown and New York City. After stumbling upon a milliner and taking classes, “I worked for several milliners and self taught myself the rest.”
She advises others that “you can’t be afraid to fail; there is a lot of trial and error in something as obscure as millinery. But accidents make the best hats, sometimes.”

Laura Hubka

Photo provided

Milliner Laura Hubka (above) has given hat making workshops for more than a decade.

Hubka teaches millinery, giving quite a few workshops throughout the year. She will be giving a Block Your Socks Off! Workshop on Oct. 21-23 at Judith M Millinery, 115 E. Main St. in La Grange, Ky. The first day begins at 11 a.m. and at 10 a.m. the following two days, running until 4 or 5 p.m.
This will actually be the second workshop she has given for Judith M owner Jenny Pfanenstiel. The first was the Art of Sinamay on Sept. 23-25 where participants learned about the effects of layering colors, adding inserts, rolling edges and draping.
For the Block Your Socks Off! Workshop, “experience is preferred,” said Pfanenstiel. “She’s not giving instructions on how to block; it’s more of a how to create a hat workshop.” Cost is $410 per person.
Judith M Millinery is a supply house for hat making materials. A tour of the business is given with each workshop so people can see up close the different millinery materials used to make hats from scratch and so Pfanenstiel “can showcase what’s new.”
For this workshop, “it’s up to you how many hats you want to create,” Pfanenstiel said. Students can select and purchase materials from the shop during class or bring from home. They will block their hats during the workshop and complete at home if needed.
Hubka said she met Pfanenstiel “many moons ago. It’s been a delight to watch her business flourish. She’s an amazing businesswoman and designer.”
This three-day workshop actually begins the night before class begins, said Hubka, with a “meet and greet” at the Judith M location. “Bart (Jenny’s husband), Jenny and staff do a lovely job of hosting a wine and cheese where everyone can have a chance to see the beautiful workroom and shop. Having a chance to meet each other and break the ice by encouraging everyone to wear a hat is a great way to get to know each other.”
During the blocking workshop, Hubka said students will have the chance to use “the beautiful antique hat molds the facility has. Each one is a unique shape, meaning participants can block (the art of shaping a hat) as many hats as they would like. Some people like to make hats start to finish in this workshop. Some just like to use the molds to cast the shape and then do finishing work on their own. It’s up to the individual.”

Judith M hats

Photo by Helen E. McKinney

Judith M Millinery on Main Street in
La Grange is full of
a variety of hats.

Hubka said, “Millinery is surprisingly physical.” After a year of COVID, “I’m so grateful to be back in the classroom again.” During that time, “many teachers started to teach workshops virtually. I applaud their spirit, but have had no interest in teaching that way. I need my hands right there next to the students to help guide them.”
For Hubka, making a hat is “all about the materials. I sketch all the time, but I have yet to make a hat that looks like my sketch. Once I get my hands on the materials, I just have to be still, and they will tell me what to do. It’s pretty great.”
She called her millinery career “a bit of a quilt.” In addition to teaching millinery, Hubka also has a line of ready-to-wear women’s hats that are sold at Union Handmade in Chicago, where she lives, as well as on her website www.laurahubka.com. “I also have a line of Derby and Special occasion hats, and a soft line of children’s hats named Hubcaps for your Head. And I do theatrical millinery. Every day is different.” Her work has been featured in print, film and theater, and her creations have traveled to some of the most glamorous events in the world.
The final workshop in this three part series will be Blocking Felt into a Fedora on Nov. 5-6 with Judith M owner Pfanenstiel. Class will run from 2-6 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Class is limited to 12 students and costs $375.
“I’ve had lots of requests for beginning wool classes,” said Pfanenstiel. No experience is necessary since the workshop is “mainly for people who are brand new or need a refresher course. They are walked through every step.”
Students will complete one hat from scratch, learning how to use a technique that dates back more than 100 years. They will learn the different types of felt for blocking, how to best use them, and how to mold the felt to form it over a hat block to make a shape of a hat. They will block both a crown and a brim out of felt.
Overnight the hat will dry, and on the second day, students will wire the brim, add a lining, hand sew a sweatband into crown, then finish with a grosgrain crown band and bow.

• For more information, call Judith M at (260) 499-4407 or visit www.judithm.com. Registration can be made online.

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