From admiring millinery at the races to becoming a hat-maker

FOR years Tockwith mum-of-two Kirsty Burnell marvelled at the colourful array of hats that were always sumptuously displayed at Wetherby Races.

Her passion for stunning headwear was cemented and in her spare time she began making striking hats before quickly discovering she had a real talent for it.

"It started out as a hobby making hats for myself to wear to the races but people kept asking me where I got my hat from," she said.

"So I decided to enrol on a two year part-time HNC Millinery course at Leeds College of Art and Design.

"The course has given me a recognised professional qualification in millinary and is one of the few colleges in the north to offer this specialist course," she said.

And Kirsty has never looked back and just last month she was commissioned to make two hats for Wetherby Ladies' Day at the racecourse.

The headpieces were entered into the best dressed and best hat competitions on the day and they were later modelled at a millinery fashion show held in the racecourse's Life and Style marquee alongside champagne and canapes.

Shrewd Kirsty also took the opportunity to launch her new Tockwith-based business, Hats By Me, which she will run from an old tack room on the farm she shares with her husband.

"Ladies' Day was a really big day for me and it was quite apt that I should launch my business at the races where my passion began," she said.

"I also ran a raffle in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer on the day which was supported by many local businesses including Michael Pearson Hairdressing, Townsend Jewellers, Mint Couture and Just For You Treatments. It raised 505 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer which I chose to support as a very dear friend of mine lost her fight against breast cancer earlier this year."

She plans to sell hats from her home and has set up a website which she will administrate in between being a mum.

"Making hats is something I really love doing," she said. "I worked in interiors in Manchester so I love style and design and I want to make hats that are really special for people around here."