Monday, August 21, 2023

Towards a New Hat


This was going to be a 3-pic FB post, but it kind of ran away with me.  Still, these are mere snapshots in the middle of a process which I'm thinking will be rather long.  Let's start with a few memorable looks at my old hat, Coondoondah 13.  The below portraits were shot at Cranberry Bog, north-central PA, on July 31, by George.

 (They do a good job of showing I really was ankle-deep in the bog.  Wear swamp shoes!)

As it happens, these two pictures are the last photographs taken while my thirteenth hat was still in use and whole.  All my hats have been named Coondoondah, an Australian aborigine word meaning 'hat.'  All the ones since about 1990 have had silver and rawhide on them.  The first one to have silver conchos, which were given to me by my grandmother, was stolen in December of 2002 (the only one I've lost in such fashion).  But I was able to find more silver at the Tucson Gem Show.

Hats do wear out, especially when you don't clean them regularly, or treat their leather every year.  Also, when they get rained on and don't get re-oiled.  For the last year or so, this particular hat had been getting older and dirtier and I was so busy I didn't have time to clean it, until it reached a stage where cleaning would have destroyed it.  This close up doesn't show it, but this hat is on its last legs.

Here's a couple shots that do show it.  These were taken in the shop as evidence of which buttons were used, and the spacing of them, on the hatband.  In this first shot you can see the old stampede string of braided leather, black with age.  Yes, it broke, triggering all this.

Note, above, the missing concho on the left.  Note, below, the condition of the rawhide:  stained, shrunken and in some cases actually broken.

 Fortunately, a replacement hat was waiting.

The above shot shows the "shoelace" string that the Tilley company originally supplied the hat with (for a tie-down strap, or stampede string).  I've already cut half of it up to make small strips which will become the new keepers for the hatband.

I started out not particularly happy that Tilley had discontinued my beloved white hat color.  My favorite could not be replaced directly.  So we went with the next best choice, an off-khaki sort of color, almost olive.  When I sewed together the "shoelace" strips (above) and installed them as keepers, I started to really like this hat.  The keepers lend a classiness that the old white elastic ones just didn't have (themselves put on by me).

And then I started braiding new buttons.  Why am I not surprised that my skill is very rusty?!  But it is a great pleasure to re-learn them...  The new conchos -- I bought three Navajo ones to replace my lost one -- are bigger and have better shanks, and they have interesting new designs on them.

Coondoondah 14 is off to a good start.

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