Millinery trimmings – techniques with straw with Veronica Main

Ref: S3D33623

Location: West Dean
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Places available

About this course

During this course you will use various types of straws used in the hat trade to make a range of millinery trimmings. The skills and techniques learned will cover Swiss straw work as well as traditional straw plaiting. After the course you will have the ability to use these techniques to develop your own headwear designs.

Course Description

The course will begin with a brief contextual introduction to the Swiss and British straw hat industries and feature many of the long forgotten techniques and millinery trimmings. You will learn about the different types of straws used in the hat industry and how to select and prepare natural wheat/rye straws for successful working. The course will be an opportunity to rediscover popular techniques and designs used in the hat trade. You will learn how to split straws, how to spin them into threads and then different ways to use them.

Progressing through a structured development you will make a range of millinery decorations.

By the end of the course you will have the ability to use these techniques to develop your own designs for trimmings and headpieces.

On the first evening there will be a welcome meeting with a health and safety briefing, an introduction to the straw hat industry and a PowerPoint presentation.

On the first day you will learn how to prepare the straw, make split straw motifs and learn how to assemble these into different decorations. You will also learn how to make straw sheets.

On the second day you will learn about spinning straw threads and making motifs with straw threads. You will be introduced to other types of straw and will make motifs with these including learning how to assemble them. You will also work with the straw sheets.

On the third day you will make a range of interesting plaits for millinery trimmings working with various types of straw. You will finish with a summary and review of techniques learned.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course the tutor and College will supply all of the materials including straw and straw splitters.

What students need to bring

  • Notepad/pen or pencil
  • Scissors: needlework size and medium size
  • Hand towel/absorbent tea towel
  • Box or bag for storing samples
  • Please bring glasses if required for close work. Some of the work is small and intricate.

Available to buy

  • Available from tutor:
  • The tutor will be bringing copies of her 2 published books should students wish to purchase them. Payment to be made to the tutor directly.

Additional information

You will be working with wheat straw which can be dusty. Manual dexterity is required to manipulate the straw. Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Veronica Main

Veronica Main MBE is the most experienced traditional straw hat plaiter in the UK. For more than 40 years she has researched the hat industries of the UK, Europe, and the United States, unlocking information and learning how to recreate plaits using authentic techniques by working as a forensic curator. 


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.