The Sewist

I sew, knit and crochet hats. (Not all at the same time. Whaddaya think I am - a machine?)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rainy Day
On Tuesday

Never Gets
Me Down

As long as it's warm and I have a hat. Yes, I enjoy sloshing in a rain shower without an umbrella if it's humid and I have something on top of my head. I'm thinking about thunderstorms because raindrops on tulips are in the forecast for Tuesday.
But I'd like to look really stylish for the watery onslaught. I frequently look like, well, I got caught offguard in the downpour. Wet hat, hair, no umbrella, and soggy pants.
So you can imagine I was enchanted when I saw these raincoats in the window at Neapolitan in Winnetka. Yet I couldn't help but think, "These coats need great hats!" The red number would be fabulous in a red and black vinyl topper, the others I just don't know. I can't think about them because the rouge coat just begs for attention like the tea kettle singing on my stove right about now. I had a fantastic close-up of that one (the coat, not the kettle), but I lost it when I was cleaning up the photos on my digital camera, which Insisted on deleting the more detailed photograph. I tried to stop the camera, but you know how gadgets have minds of their own, you know? Before you know it, my Cuisinart is going to be making dinners without me. I'll come home one day and there'll be a freshly-cute salad, all ready made for me. Actually, that's a little scary thought. Back to the photos and raincoats.
The red wrap-coat made me think of the raincoats in Singing in the Rain. Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds were covered head-to-toe in plastic. Yes, they still wore hats even though they had umbrellas, if you'll recall. A raincoat without a chapeau is very serious. Put on a hat you look like you're going to have fun. You appear to have a I-don't-know-even-mind-if-I-get-wet attitude if you even if do. You know what I mean? So if I ever get around to making a raincoat, I'm making a matching hat. (And there's some nice vinyl at Vogue Fabrics winking at me every time I scoot by, although I wonder if I should just make a jacket out of a red-and-white waterproof picnic fabric just like the ensemble on the cover of the latest issue of Readymade Magazine.) Anyhow, rain coat and hat, don't you agree?

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Striped Ribbon
Rules, Don't You

Isn't cool how the white stripes get larger as you read across, and then black does the exact same thing as you return to the left side? It reminds me of the concentric circles that get wider and wider after you toss a rock into the water. If you could translate that same reaction to a strip of fabric this ribbon would be it. I could see this ribbon wrapped around a white straw fedora. Wouldn't that be a sharp look for summer? Especially since that colorway is now popular? I could also see this ribbon looped up atop a bed of matching Russian netting - white with black chenille dots for a cute cocktail hat. The reverse would be striking for a phenomenal evening look. That's the fun of vintage ribbons you can make them the stars on a hat. What I don't like to see is more than one ribbon on a chapeau. It looks too busy. It's far better for that one beautiful strip of fabric to be the main vocalist like Aretha Franklin and the hat, the lone back-up singer. Let the ribbon belt out an American Idol-worthy song! What's great about a ribbon is how little you need to achieve a great effect. A colleague bought his wife a $30 swath of vintage Victorian ribbon at Tinsel Trading in New York last week. I can't wait to see how she uses it! If you have a penchant for old trim, how do you use it? For what it's worth, I just noticed the address on the ribbon spool. I wonder what's at 1 W. 57th St. today? I know the Fashion District has been shrinking for a while, but I'm hoping this address isn't a Duane Reade or a Starbucks.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A hat a day keeps
the physician away?

I'm am beginning to think that way since shaggy suede hat has saved the day more than once in the past few days. My luggage ran away from me as I was leaving New York; United has taken its time retrieving my baby so I've been left sitting here with no good make-up. Yes, I have blushes, potions and lotions that I no longer like sitting in my cabinet, but I can't use that stuff to Look Good, can I? I just made do slathering on the generic sunscreen from Walgreens. I feel so naked without my favorite foundation and mascara. I feel positively pale so I've hidden myself under my hat...and I somehow still got a compliment from a guy in a baseball cap. He followed me as I leaving the subway in downtown Chicago yesterday in that shy "How do I tell her she looks good?" sort of way - you know when a guy wants to say something nice to you but doesn't quite know how to approach you? Well, he finally said, "I really like your hat!" as I was about to board a bus. That made my day considering I know I wasn't looking my best.
Beep! Oh, that's United. Back in a minute. Hurrah, my suitcase is here. Praise be the Lord, and I really don't talk that way. But I do feel some Hail Marys and Our Fathers are in order here. I feel like I have my life back. Now I'll have to ensure everything is inside. I've been looking for the scarf that matches my hat. Fingers double crossed, it's inside my luggage.
Anyway, while I'm creating a laundry pile in my entryway, here's a picture from the Big Apple. The sole photo to make it home on my digital camera. It's Kashi and I at Metro Textiles. I'm wearing a shrug I made from a 1 1/4 yards of a flamestitch knit from Vogue Fabrics. Got to go find that too. Ciao for now!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why I Need to
Rename This Site
The Lazy Milliner

I did not make it to Manny's Millinery. I wanted to go. I really did, I had his address onto a Super Sticky Post-It Note, right there underneath directions for Mood Fabrics. I made it to Project Runway's favorite fabric haunt, and left with no less than six swatches of swoon-worthy swatches of textiles. Eyelet? Check. Italian pink paisley cotton print and psychedelic green flower stretch fabric? X, x, and X! I got all these tidbits because I wanted to ponder my choices. What did I feel comfortable spending $15 or more a yard? And I did do that, watching the Tuesday night finale of Dancing with the Stars in my Pod hotel shoe box, I mean, my room. Did I return to Mood to make a final decision? No, I went to Metro Textiles, which is the next street over from Mood in the Fashion District. I blew my budget out of the water into the stratosphere and onto a fast track to Mars. Really I had no intention. But there was there was the persuasive owner, Kashi, pulling out bolt after bolt of lovely fabric from the moment I rang the doorbell on his showroom door.
"You like this? How about this?" he'd say, as he pulled off these long spools of fabric of the shelf like he was dragging kids off the playground by the corner of their jackets. He'd wrestle with these bolts, which seemed to tower over him like lanky bullies. But he didn't fear these things, and he'd push them into a pile along the wall just for me. When I demurred over a heart-imprinted fabric because I don't have love in my life now, he said, "That's because they don't understand you." How right he was! I don't need a shrink - I can just visit Kashi when I need some sympathy!
Honestly, I felt a little dizzy with all the fabrics he set aside for me. Twelve, 13, 15 bolts? I couldn't possibly afford all these textiles. Never. Not now. Not in this Lifetime. Even with a great salesman who understands me. I had to be ruthless. And I figured out how much I was going to spend.
And I whittled away at the pile, so I ended up with a bluesy stretch fabric, two yards of black eyelet, a lace-trimmed black batiste, a huge black-and-white floral print, orange paisley jersey, and I must be forgetting the rest because I'm hungry.
Anyhow, Kashi just put each fabric on this metal pole and figured out the yardage measuring against the length of his arm! They don't do back at home in Illinois! At least not in the land of Jo-Ann, Vogue Fabrics, and Hancocks. He put it all in a pile on a chair as I prayed very fervently that it would not add up to Very Much. I was only $23 over my limit by the time I was done. My guardian angel was working over-time - although I know she really doesn't give a hoot about how much I spend on my hobbies.
I decided I didn't want to stuff my goods in my luggage (which, by the way, sits in North Carolina as I write) so I had it shipped home. It arrived hours after I walked in my door. The irony is that I have all the fabric I ever want to sew while I have a major Personal Grooming Accessory Deficit that rivals the United States'. Ah well, better to stitch and gripe while I'm waiting for United Airlines' telephone telling me that my stuff is on my way. I actually did turn on my sewing machine last night, but the sewing gremlins were wreaking major havoc so I decided to call it a Tuesday night, and turn out the light before any more mistakes could be made. What hobbies do you turn to when your luggage gets lost?

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

When the Dye Runs,
Do You Walk?

The reason I ask is because this eBay seller is selling this nifty 30s hat, now grey and black, formerly noire and white. I can only imagine how stunning it was in its original colors. Apparently this topper got wet and the colors decided to dance. They could have been doing a salsa number, but personally I think they were doing the tango because these dyes got really personal. They didn't recreate, but they certainly did MUTATE.
I'm glad to see that saralu54 hasn't ditched what must have been a museum-quality piece. Now she's offering it for a great deal and suggests that it might make a great pattern. I think that's a fantastic idea! Somebody has already bid on it, so I'm wondering what the lucky buyer will do with this hat once he or she get his or her hands on it. Will they put it on a mannequin? Make a duplicate as saralu54 recommended? I'd actually just as soon wear it, and I wouldn't have known the dyes bled if the seller hadn't mentioned it. But the laundry snafu made me think of why I'd do if one of my favorite chapeaux had an unfortunate meeting with water. I'm sure I'm scream, maybe even cry, and most likely try to resurrect the hat if possible. It makes me think of the lovely 1940s printed silk that I got as a gift from an elderly friend a few years ago. Well, I wetted it to stretch it prior to sewing. It made a HUGE mess all over my bath tub. I was afraid to actually stitch it because that fabric just wasn't colorfast. I didn't want to even think about what would happen to me (or my attire) if I got caught in a rainstorm.
What have you done with a hat that's gotten a little damaged?

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Shaggy Suede
Hat Goes
To The Big Apple

In the first photo you see my owner and I in front of the New York Public Library. Nice shot, eh? I swear Mary Beth wore me just about everywhere last year, although she did seem to take me off inside restaurants and bathrooms and apparently Mood Fabrics as you can see from the next photograph. I adore New York because you see lots of hats there, so I feel very at home, not like Chicago where fashionable chapeau are like stray coyotes in Subway shops. Now I only wish I could have seen my peers during Easter in New York. From what Mary Beth (who also made me by the way) sees on The Sartorialist it was quite a show.
So I'm quite excited about returning to the Big Apple. I just wish you-know-who would wash me before she escorts me to the airport. At least she's not wearing that fake tan stuff anymore. It just rubs off on ME! Ugh, I really don't like make up.
My biggest fear, though, is that my maker will befriend other hats and start wearing them more. And you know in New York City that's easy to do. Lots of hats in the windows. And Mary Beth keeps talking about visiting Manny's Millinery. One day I'm afraid she's going to say, "I'm tired of wearing my shaggy suede hat. I'm looking predictable!" I already know she's going to stop taking me on her adventures when it starts getting really warm. I mean, I've been a good friend. I've kept her head warm when it's been really cold, fought with Mr. Sun to keep his rays at bay so Mary Beth can keep her complexion blotch-free. Not only that, but all these guys walk by her and say, "Nice hat." THAT wouldn't happen if I weren't around. Am I being unreasonable or what?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My Archives...

I don't own this hat, but I now I wish I did! I tried on this beautiful (silk?) cocktail hat by Laura Whitlock at what has to be one of the last Hat nights at Brasserie Jo in 2003. I have another hat, similiar in style, also by Laura. It's made of this beautiful hand-dyed fuschia chiffon. Like the hat pictured above, it also ties underneath your hair.
I truly enjoyed the Hat Nnights that were held monthly at this popular downtown French bistro. If you wore a chapeau on that night, you got a free chocolate dessert in the shape of a picture hat. I usually spent the evening trying on hats between sips of wine and nibbles on the restaurant's famous steak frites. Even if I didn't leave with a new topper by the end of the evening, I usually had a great time talking with other women who love wearing hats as much as I do.
I went back to Brasserie Jo recently for a Knitting Night. While I enjoy stitching with other ladies who enjoy the same, it lacks the glamorous vibe of Hat Night. It was funny because this new event was held in a room decorated with vintage pictures of women wearing hats in the 1950s. Wouldn't you know it, but in the entryway were photos of women from Hat Nights past! Next time I go to this eatery, I'll wear a hat. Let's see if I can still get a complimentary dessert.
Has wearing a hat ever gotten you free scoop of ice cream, cake or pie?

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Not Quite
The Easter

...especially when I saw all the ladies and young girls not wearing chapeaux today at church. I felt heartbroken. Here I was the only female wearing an Easter bonnet (the hand-crafted strawberry cocktail hat in the above photos) in a sacred place filled with hundreds. I saw more than a few wee things dressed in springy dresses. I had t0 wonder what would it take to go one more yard and wear a hat? I know, I know: a right-minded mother who's clued into the importance of this tradition. But clearly that's not happening at this moment. So I had to carry on and show how it's done! I did bring a camera to church, but I didn't feel like taking any photographs once I discovered that my young nieces weren't there....only my youngest brother. Now I love my bro', but I was really look forward to the reaction of my older brother Doug's daughters, especially the middle one in her adorably scratchy voice, "Are you wearing a strawberry on your head, Mary Beth? That's so funny." So I had that in my mind - the delight of one 5-year-old child - as I ventured into the cold onto the train to Mass. So when my dream wasn't realized, I didn't bother to record History, namely the one woman who wore a fashion hat to Saint Mary of the Angels church 8 a.m. on April 9, 2007. Whatever. I even put on my practical shaggy suede spring green hat on the way to the parking lot. It was like Fantasy Kaput, job done, time to go eat breakfast!
More on the fruity concoction in another post. And yes, I did make it. If Easter is an important day in your life, was it filled with hats, yours or others? I'm hoping so....

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I had no idea this hat image was so huge. A good thing if you really want to see the detail, seemingly larger than life. I love how you can see the nap on the felt. I practically want to pet this topper. Nice hat, nice hat, you're such a cute, little hat (said in voice used especially for adorable babies, puppies and kitties). Now don't back off if I tell you this chapeau is being advertised as gangster-style. It's hard to imagine an accessory as innocent-looking as this involved in any kind of criminal activity. Lifting a few packs of Wrigley's Spearmint gum is about evil as my mind can picture. Which brings me to the fedoras featured in Eugenia Kim's book, Saturday Night Hat: Quick, Easy Hatmaking for Downtown Girls, which I found at the Paper Source this past weekend. I was hoping to learn a thing or two about how to make a fedora. Instead she suggests you buy one pre-made and embellish it! I'm all for decorating one's hats, but a tome about millinery should be just about that, not fixing pretty ribbons to a chapeau from Target and calling it a day. I know making a low soft felt hat with length-wise crease in the crown is a bit tricky: you've got to make the upper part of the hat, the brim and stitch the two together. (You more experienced milliners can fill me in on this). My dream is to have an ocelet-print fedora just like the ones my friend Eia used to make and sell. The first step is to buy a hood from Manny's Millinery while I'm in New York City in a couple of weeks.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

6 Days
To Go

Even though I'm having issues with a hat big enough to cover a patch of hyperpigmentation on my face, a large picture hat is not what I have in mind for Easter. That holiday is all about little and adorable - little girls in bonnets, chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. Right now I have a hard time thinking about wearing a broad-brimmed chapeau in church; it's not conducive to looking around to see what ladies are wearing a hat on this day. I usually see maybe one or two women wearing hats; they're usually outnumbered by their nine-year-old counterparts. Just that thought alone has me feeling a little competitive. I was thinking about making a dress, but if I'm going to give my hands some business it should really be a hat. Yet I feel like I'm missing the proper coat - I no longer own my cream wool princess overcoat. Ugh! It went with everything. This makes it really difficult to come up with the proper headwear because my garments need to match.
Which brings me to this cocktail hat above, for sale on eBay. How many of you have ever bought a vintage topper online? I must confess I never have. I like to try on my headgear. I once bought a pair of shoes online, even today they're a bit tight on me. I do it again since I've read return policies have improved - now if they don't fit you can often return them free. Can you imagine doing that with a hat?

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