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AUGUST, 2007

My old friend Miss Minnie Sparks used to design hats for Blumrosen's Department Store (if you haven't met Miss Minnie, you can visit her here), but has been retired for some time. However, so many people kept asking her to find or make over special hats that she now has a tiny little shop that her nephews and nieces set up for her as a special surprise.

"Those little sneaks," she said, laughing. "They dragged me kicking and screaming into the computer age, and now they've got me working on hats at a computer table!" she said, as she opened the door to show me her work area where she refurbishes and freshens her vintage hats.

I peered into the left drawer. "Quite a collection, Miss Minnie, " I commented.

"Oh, yes, this is where I keep odds and ends that might become trims at some point. I have a network of family and friends who are always picking up pretty bits of things that they think I might use." She lowered her voice to a whisper, "They bring some pretty darn intriguing stuff that I don't think most women would want on their hats, but you never know."

[I added a light stain to the inside of both drawers. Otherwise, the raw wood made it look even more clunky to my taste.]

"I'm working on a hat right now for the mayor's wife. It belonged to her mother and she was wondering if I could make it presentable for an upcoming community luncheon. She likes those autumn tone colors and was so pleased when I started showing her various possibilities."

Here is the stripped-down hat, waiting for the special trims and finishing touches that make all the difference in Miss Minnie's vintage hats.

"It's a bit untidy," Miss Minnie said, "but I just have to get everything out to see what might work.

"Now I won't use all of that," she added, gesturing to several items she had gathered as possible trim elements, like the tortoise buckle, matching bias trim that she pulled off the hat, heavy gold banding, and a feather (which looks like it needs a bit of tweaking, in my opinion). "But throwing it all together helps me get ideas that wouldn't happen if I just looked at one thing at a time. Hmm; I see I didn't get everything back in place after I worked on those bridesmaids' hats last week, either."

"This spool stand is so handy," she said, "but I need to put those pastels away from the bridesmaids and use the rusts and golds, probably. Don't you just love my misshapen old tomato pin cushion? I think I've had that ever since I was a girl."

Her shelves are filled with a selection of nets and vintage trims, as well as rose and ribbon accents in a doily-lined basket. "I tear apart all kinds of things," she said. "I am one of the Goodwill Store's best customers. I have been known to buy an entire dress just to get the trim. Those granny dresses from the sixties had some great cotton laces."

"This old sewing box has seen lots of use over the years! That messed up corner dates back to one of my nephews hitting it when he was playing too rambunctiously. My goodness! It's hard to believe that little boy grew up to create this nice little shop for me."

"Notice how I've used all the doilies?" Miss Minnie asked. "I discovered that items just disappeared on the dark wood surfaces, so throughout my little shop, you will see doilies because they make things show up better. Besides that, it gives me an opportunity to display some of the needlework from my mother, too. Better than keeping them all in a trunk or in the bottom of a drawer somewhere," she said, fingering the edge of the doily in the basket to the right of her sewing machine.

And here are more trims and possibilities in the right drawer.

A good chair that can be adjusted for the crafter's height is always important, Miss Minnie and I both agreed.

Here is Miss Minnie's first try-on area. "I want people to be comfortable, so I have more than one area where one can sit and look in a mirror."

"Don't you just love black and white? Always elegant," she said. "That cameo is real ivory, I believe."

"Yes," I agreed. "That is my favorite hat of all those that you have, Miss Minnie. It looks like one that would be seen at the Ascot Race Track."

"Hmm. Interesting that you said that. I saw a picture of the late Queen Mother at the race track wearing a hat similar to this one one time," Miss Minnie confided, reaching to touch the ribbon on this little beige number.

"Those kids just spoil me," Miss Minnie continued, admiring her nephews' and nieces' handiwork. "See all these intriguing old chairs they found for me?" She frowned. "Hmm; I don't think it was a good idea to put this red hat on that chair! It clashes!"

Miss Minnie said,"I told my nephew that this chair just cried out for something special!"

"Yes, it cried out for brass, glitter and pizzazz!" I agreed.

"One of my aunts had a hat like this when I was a very small child," I told her. "I always thought she looked like a movie star when she wore it."

"And there's nothing like a feather and some beads to dress up a simple straw," Miss Minnie said.

Here they are from the back.

The nephews particularly liked this chair. Here is a photo they took when they were first setting up everything.

"Now it takes a strong personality to wear this hat! However, although I like it, I think someone from that new drama group would like it more than some of my customers, no doubt. Those drama people tend to like offbeat things."

"I've decided to move the red hat in its place," Miss Minnie said. "Now I won't have to worry about one of my hats clashing with the chair!"

"At one time there was a large fluffy pink feather on this hat," Miss minnie said, "but it got a bit frayed over the years so I just removed it. I made some new flowers using circles of pink organdy."

"I really love your ability to make over those hats, Miss Minnie," I told her as I prepared to go. "In a sense you are preserving fashion history when you do."

"Actually, Wanna, I can also design a hat from scratch that looks vintage, as well," Miss Minnie confided. "See those books down there on the floor by my chair? That's where I get a lot of my ideas. I also have many blocks and molds that Mr. Blumrosen gave me when he retired and sold his store." She sighed. "He was such a dear man, a real gentleman; always treated me as if I were Queen of the May!"

She walked with me to the door. "I am so glad you stopped by, Wanna. When you get ready to freshen up your hat wardrobe, give me a call."



If you are interested, the hatmaking books are available for purchase as book covers...

I found this little gray wall cupboard at Ross, and loved it immediately because it was completely finished and I wouldn't have to do wallpaper or flooring or anything like that, which is not my favorite thing to do anyway. For months, however, it sat in the floor of a guest room, waiting for inspiration to strike me.

When I was thinking about doing a summer project with my granddaughters, I came across some hats that I had made at one time or another, including the first decent one I ever made, which was in a workshop given by my good friend Beth Lane. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I belive this project happened when I needed it to help me through my grief because I had just learned that Beth was dying. Since I also have to wear hats because of a sun sensitivity, everything just came together fortuitously, and my cupboard became Hattery Flattery, Miss Minnie's Vintage Hat Shop.

The cupboard was nicely finished on the inside, including the trim around the interior windows, so all I did was add a wallpaper border for a bit of color and to establish a mood. There are some scuffs on the exterior, but I think they were deliberate, to make it look old. Whatever; I'm going to leave it just the way it is.

The border is made from vintage- looking scrapbooking stickers. (This view is a bit dark; as you can see in the photos above, the color is actually quite light.)

This is the bottom shelf of the unit.

The desk was originally very shiny, as was the chair. I sanded the heck out of both of them to make them look as if they'd been around for a while, and like the look much better than all that gloss. I added the cushion and ties to the chair seat.

My plan was to use the bottom floor as the work area, and each of the other floors would have a chair, table and mirror so that the buyer could try on hats in comfort. This provided another opportunity to display more of the Reine Take-A-Seat chairs that I have collected.

It is very difficult to take good pictures once items are glued into a container such as this cabinet, especially when it is in an interior hallway where the light is not all that great. Notice that my reflection is captured here! Thank goodness I remembered to take pictures while I was working on it.

Although you can't see it clearly here, the red hat is now on the stand to the left. It was a gift from another friend many years ago, but I cannot recall who it was. We so often think, Well, I will never forget so-and-so, and then we do ....

Because the confines of the cupboard were so limited I decided to use this resin shelf as a table. I had to glue it in place before the cupboard was hung in our hallway because it would not stand on its own.


I think the mirror came from my used-up Merle Norman makeup compact. The frame is from the same package of vintage-looking scrapbooking stickers that I used for the wallpaper border. Although it isn't visible here, I added another mirror made from another sticker frame on the left wall, too.

I made several hats similar to this for a hat shop swap. You can see a tutorial showing the process here.

That mauve silk ribbon was part of the trim on one of my old real-life hats. When I first learned in the 60s that I had a photosensitivity I decided that if I had to wear a hat, I might as well enjoy myself. For several years I accumulated vintage hats with intriguing handmade flowers and interesting band treatments. I still have many of the wonderful trims and flowers that were designed to be added to existing hats. I have duplicated several of those designs for my miniature hats.

The style and color of each Reine chair dictated a certain vintage look. I had just been going through some old family photos and when I saw a picture of one of my aunts wearing a hat much like the glittery black one, that helped determine everything that went on this shelf.

Hmm; there I am, snapping another picture with my new camera, which I still haven't conquered completely yet.

This is the top shelf. I did not add an extra mirror on the wall, although I debated about it, deciding that the swivel mirror on the table was sufficient. The middle hat stand is simply a small pillar that I had in my landscaping stash.


This hat on the pillar is one of the earliest ones I ever made. A piece of fabric used for making draped bows and such was sandwiched between two layers of silk and while the glue was still damp I molded it around the top of a hat stand.

I was trying out new techniques such as pulling bunka, ruching, making bows, etc. At that point I hadn't yet conquered ribbon roses, although I kept trying. Eventually, although I am not left-handed, I discovered that if I turned the needle tool the opposite way from which I had been taught, I could make them easily.

Actually, the ruffled ribbon at the back is much lighter than it appears here.

I made this hat for a doll that I dressed in a Beth Lane workshop. I plan to redo the doll's hair and find a place to display her. I don't want it to be tucked away in a drawer where no one ever sees it. Maybe I'll add a photo of Beth to the display. Some of the flowers have gotten a bit smushed with time, but I still love this little hat. Frankly, I think I did a pretty decent job here, even if I was a newbie.

I had a real-life summer hat that looked a lot like this many years ago, except that it had a crown and no lace around the edges. Eventually I had way too many wide-brimmed hats for the space available and got tired of stumbling over them everywhere. Most of the hats I donated to a colleague in the drama department at the high school where I taught, as well as to a former student who had his own theater. Nowadays I have only a few summer hats. I still have several really nice felt winter hats, although I rarely wear them.

The silks and trims that I have used on many of my hats were from Beth Lane, who was a pioneer dollmaker. When she passed away recently it left a huge void in my life. I learned so much from her and will always treasure our friendship.

It was Beth who got me to sign up for the Marilyn Huston workshop where I learned to sculpt and made my Green Man. She also signed me up for my first online miniatures group, both of which literally changed my life.

Well, it's been a trip down Nostalgia Lane making Hattery Flattery Vintage Hat Shop for Miss Minnie. It will always remind me of my days of wearing some truly nifty hats, and of my good friend Beth, who taught me so much.


NOTE: After seeing this project, my good friend Alice Zinn wrote:

After looking attery,
Hattery Flattery,
It makes one verily
Want to make hats.

So charge your battery,
Feed your cattery,
And mini merrily
Doing just that!


I just LOVE it, Alice!

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