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9 december 2009 - Coustilleres' hat factory, Septfonds, France - Old woman braiding straw. Mme. Pétronille Cantecor (1770-1846) has been attributed as the founder of the straw hat of Septfonds, and was the creator of the first hat workshop in 1796.Straw hats were made by cutting the dried stems of certain grain plants (straw) into narrow strips and braiding them to form a long plait. These plaits were then flattened and sewn together to form a hat..Septfonds is the heart of French straw hat making, due to its very ancient hatter tradition. The hat making industry had its commercial peak in the late 19th century..Coustillères is a family owned hat making factory that has been making straw hats in Septfonds for nearly 100 years. They make hats from straw, felt, and cloth as well as caps. The current owner is Jean-Claude Coustilleres. He is one of the last hat makers of the region..The straw hat making process is very labor intensive and numerous hands are involved. Nearly all of the equipment is over 100 years old, they use the original presses and tools including aluminium molds and sewing machines and dye their own straw continuing the traditional methods of manufacturing. The hat blocking and shaping, straw braids construction and dyeing are all done by hand..The company works on behalf of fashion houses and makes a variety of regional and historical hats. It produces 2 collections a year distributed by a network of salespeople and through a catalog to clients around the world. Photo credit: Benedicte Desrus