Veronica Main MBE - Hat Plaiter and Hat industry historian | Products | Traditional Straw boater hat |
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About Veronica Main MBE - Hat Plaiter and Hat industry historian

Although I am an expert maker of many types of straw work, my specialism and passion is the Straw Hat Industry. For more than forty years I have researched the industry and learned the traditional straw plaiting techniques. My research has taken me to the USA and to many countries in Europe where as well as undertaking research, I have taught and lectured. From 2007 until my retirement in 2015, I was a curator in charge of the Hat Industry and Headwear collection at Culture Trust Luton. Over the years I have appeared on TV, radio and film either as a specialist contributor, as a maker or by providing props. Hat Plaiting has now been recognised as a Critically Endangered Craft on the HC Red List. The need for me to pass on my wealth of knowledge has now become vitally important and it is my mission to share knowledge so more people learn these disappearing skills. For this reason I have started the process of developing an educational website: and Instagram @hat.plait  My long awaited book, Straw Plaiting Heritage Techniques for Hats, Trimmings, Bags and Baskets will be published by Herbert Press (Bloomsbury Publishing) in the UK and Europe on 17 August. North American publication date is 17 October and in Australia 28 November 2023. For the first time instructions for making more than 50 traditional hat plaits are included. There are also comprehensive and fascinating history chapters. I have also published, Swiss Straw Work, Techniques of a Fashion Industry which is a comprehensive instruction book covering techniques used in the Swiss hat materials manufacturing industry. It is published in Switzerland as Zauberhaftes Stroh. I am also co-author of an instructional book for making Corn Dollies, A Handful of Straw and have written several ethnographic research papers detailing the history of working with straw. I am very proud to be a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship holder (QEST) and Founder Member of the British Hat Guild. I am a member of subject specialist groups: Straw Craftsmen in the UK, the National Association of Wheat Weavers (NAWW) and regional group California Straw Arts Group (CSAG) in the USA.

Further Info

Specialised in
Straw hat plaiting for the hat industry, Swiss straw work techniques, Straw marquetry, Straw embroidery, Decorative straw work including straw figures. Traditional Harvest Tokens/Corn Dollies. Independent Researcher and Hat Industry Historian.  
Open to the Public?
Provides Course / Training
Available for Craft Fairs
Available for educational events only

Traditional Straw boater hat

Making the 25 yards (23 metres) of straw plait required was only part of a much longer hat making process.

The plaiting straws were prepared into short, evenly matched straws from three sheaves of wheat straw. Then the bundles of plaiting straws were taken to Luton, Bedfordshire where they were bleached and dyed. Next I began work to produce the traditional pattern of Rustic plait. Once completed the plait was machine-stitched together, stiffened, blocked and trimmed at the Olney Headwear factory in Luton.  The whole process took nearly three weeks of work.

This boater has a double brim to provide extra strength during wear. The black and white rustic boaters were popular men’s fashion wear in the first half of the 20th century. Public school boaters made from black and white rustic plait were still be made by Olney Headwear until the early 1980s.