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From Storms to Garden Parties, Artistic Red Deerian Makes Hats for Every Occasion

Margaret Hall is a hat person.
Be it a wide-brimmed face-framer or a whimsical fascinator that perches jauntily on top of the head, she feels nothing finishes a dressy outfit better than a hat.
“I think you stand differently when you’re wearing a hat. It somehow makes you feel taller,” Hall explained.
The Red Deer milliner’s imaginative chapeaus go far beyond Alberta’s ubiquitous baseball caps and cowboy hats. Her Canada Day Collections, for instance, are trimmed with swirls of maple leafs in sinamay (a straw fabric), leather or silk.
Other head-toppers feature hand-made silk and felt flower petals and ribbons. She makes use of felt, buckram, sisal (a natural plant material) — and meticulous hand stitching and needle felting.
While Hall laments there aren’t enough occasions to get dressed up these days, she’s heartened some young people are taking an interest in vintage wear. She believes hats are being reclaimed for special occasions — including weddings and the races.
Some of Hall’s most fanciful creations are more about art than wearability. Her pieces Eleanor, Hector and Beast from the East are named after actual storms that hit the U.K. coastline. These head toppers “are more like sculptural forms,” she explained — as are a series of hats she made that are crawling with needle-felted and screen-printed ants.
“I like creating something three-dimensional, from a two-dimensional design,” said Hall.
She grew up in in Yorkshire in the 1950s, when decorum required men, women and children to cover their heads at church, school, even in the street.
Hall’s mother was a seamstress and hatmaker and her father was a gifted painter.
Despite this creative background, and her personal interest in the arts, Hall opted to study sciences and eventually became a physiotherapist.
Work opportunities brought her to Alberta in 1989. Over the years, she took evening and weekend art courses. Hall had more time to explore the textile arts — and make use of the hat block she inherited from her mother — after she retired. An online millinery class she took during the pandemic from an instructor in England taught her about new techniques and working with different materials.
Last year, some of Hall’s floral hats were featured at the Alberta Craft Council Gallery in Calgary. In 2022, she had a solo show of more imaginative works — including a tiered felt Christmas tree hat — at the Red Deer Arts Council’s Kiwanis Gallery.
A few of her pieces are currently in the LEAP! group show at the Kiwanis Gallery in the downtown public library, and also in the Craft and Care collective show at the Viewpoint Gallery in the City of Red Deer Culture Centre.
A near life-size and “reusable” Green Man sculpture she made of felt and textiles stands in the Kiwanis exhibit. Hall explained this creation is all about sustainability. He can be taken apart and used as mask, slippers, kaftan, and mitts.
“Art has always been something that has sustained me when work was hard,” she reflected. “I found, even when I was tired, working on something creative was rejuvenating.”

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