Molly told us the night before that the next day's outing would be rummaging through an old hat factory. Huh? I'm a fearless junker, but it took me a minute to picture that. Molly is a masterful storyteller and as she continued, we all knew it would be completely awesome. She described an abandoned hat factory where the workers stubbed out their cigarettes, laid down their tools and went home for the day, never to return. Maybe 30 years ago. And that the owner would unlock the doors and let us rummage and collect what we wanted to buy from the random materials and things left behind. We were cautioned that some purchases might be denied when he grew sentimental about certain things. Hmmm.
Guy met us and opened the door to a dark and neglected warren of workrooms on two floors. At first, I just looked around and took photos. It definitely felt like trespassing to me. Wanting us to get past the initial shock of it, he sat down and showed us one of the old sewing machines in action, stitching brittle, coiled straw braid into the top of a tiny hat.
Millie felt right at home.
We scattered like the mice who clearly lived there, each of us in search of our creative food. Images, hats, millinery trims, flowers, old bits of paper, hat labels, grosgrain ribbon spools. We weren't the first and wouldn't be the last.
You had to dig for it. Which, of course, makes it all the more precious.
(That little bit there isn't a lavender bud.)
There was so much beauty here.
(My birth month and day!)
Soon, everyone had a hat on. Each one so perfect and sweet. Nothing looked right or fit me. I was pretty sure I would be going home without a hat.
And then I saw Pamela in hers!
I looked harder.
This one apparently belonged to Maurice Chevalier. It was untouchable, revered enough to hang on its own special peg.
My friend Jane's maiden name is Cherry.
Time was up and we found our way outside again. Guy went from stack to stack and priced us out, occasionally pulling something away from the pile. True to form, he couldn't part with some things.
At the last moment, I found my hat. It's unfinished and older than I am. Monsieur Guy tried to explain how I should trim and hem the edges, add a hatband from the ribbon I bought. Didn't have the heart to tell him that I like it as is, that the wonky form and raw edges are my favorite part.
(Yes, I shook it out really well before trying it on. I do love it!)
What a terrific adventure we had! Thanks to Lizzie, Kaari, Cathy, Christopher and Guy, the hat man. There was even more to come as the day wore on, but I'm running out of time today. I think I'll save the rest of that day for another post. Back soon.