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Discussion in 'Hats' started by job, Feb 14, 2012.
I like the contrast to the black hat, BB.
Thanks, HJ. Been looking for something to put on it for about two years.
That's beautiful, and wonderful craftsmanship! And it looks perfectly at home on that hat.
Thanks Z! I appreciate that. I dropped it on this 1940's Carlsbad but it needed some brim ironing after being boxed up for a while. So I didn't even tighten the band up.
This is taking sweatband initial pins or embossing to another level.
That Carlsbad can support a lot of hatband. Looks really good on it. I keep going back and looking at this band, HJ because it is so refined and almost delicate at the ends where the braided ties begin, leading to the keeper loops and the ending with the tassels. Especially compared to my recent purchase where the braided ties look almost big enough to be ski ropes. Really great find.
Thanks BB! I'm sure the knots would have specific names but they remind me of what used to be called pineapple knots. They are a slip knot too.
Love that one Greg!
Thank you, Rick!
I liked my last horsehair band so much I started looking for another one to replace the self felted band on my Dorer —50. It’s dressed up with a little sterling buckle for that faux belt appearance like the fake gold one that was on the black Bailey. Just not a fan but it’s common on
modern westerns and has been for awhile. Dorer even does that with their very expensive hats, some studded with gold or platinum. This is their entry level hat, what they call the “working cowboys hat.” This is one that was sold by Orvis but it’s the same 50/50 beaver/hare hat with the split cowhide sweat along with the bridle leather lacing of the seam that was available through Dorer at the time. Think my first posting of this hat was around 2016.
Anyway, lucked up on this hitched horsehair hatband that the seller states was made in the Wyoming State Prison. No confirmation on that. This one came set up for the braided ends and tassels to hang from the rear brim of the hat. Not a look I like. It took some effort but I was able to set it up like my other one. Not quite as ‘chunky’ as my other, the braided ends and knots are a bit smaller with more detail. It shows signs of use with some fading and scuffing along the front. I was surprised to be the only bidder on this one. With shipping it came in at about 1/5 the cost of one from the MT prison hobby shop and a 1/2 band can go for $350 in some retail shops.
Ruffin Hill (Austin, Texas) made many of the custom hand-spun and woven hat bands (cotton, wool or silk) for Texas Hatters back in the day. She passed in 2008.
FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL INTERVIEW WITH: Ruffin Hill, Weaver and Spinner
Interviewer: Esther MacMillan Date: August 3, 1980
Place: Institute of Texan Cultures
M: I love your accent. Where are you from?
H: I'm originally from North Carolina.
M: Where do you live now?
H: I live in Austin.
M: Do you want to tell me about that Ruffin? It is such an interesting ..... surname
H: In North Carolina and Virginia it is not an uncommon name. It's not real common but it's not uncommon. It was my great grandfather's surname. throughout my family it has been used as a first name, always with males, except me. I'm the only female that ever had it but now I have a grand daughter that has my name.
M: I love names. Have always been interested in people's names. When they're unusual like that, it's just fascinating. What we're going to talk. about today is spinners and weavers. Spinners and weavers ... it should .... no
H: You have to spin it first.
M: Tell me how you got started with this.
H: Well, I used to be a painter. About ten years ago, my daughter picked just a frame and started making a sort of a loom and weaving. I thought, "Gee, that looks like fun" and I saw a little city course about weaving and I took it and enjoyed it and then I got. into .. of course when you do just a little bit then you want a big loom and I bought one big loom the more I got into it; the more I got into it and now I have three large looms and four small looms. Then I got into the band weaving. I had a western hat and made a band and the people who make the hats were interested in the hat bands and so most of my business at this point is custom hat bands for Texas Hatters of Austin.
M: Oh, really?
H: I do things like this: weave names in; different designs.
M: Do you have a shop?
H: No, I do it for a hatter, I do custom bands for custom hats. I have a studio at home. I have about half my house as a studio. I have two rooms just full of it.
M: What kind of material do you use for these hat bands?
H: Mostly cotton; I use some wool and recently I've gotten into doing silk. For some real fine Panama hats; so they're a little more elegant than wool.
M: Isn't silk terribly hard to weave with? It's so fine.
H: No, it's beautiful. It's slick and smooth which makes it go easy. Because when you're changing threads on the warp, if it's not smooth it will be sticky and will catch on each other and you tend to not get a clear shed. So when you have a smooth yarn for the warp, particularly, it is easier to work with.
M: What is the texture of the silk? Is it like a piece of silk thread? Or is it coarser?
H: You can get any ... That that I use is, oh lid say is about the thickness of a piece of wrapping thread like you'd wrap around a package.
M: Ah, so it's not too thin.
H: No, not what I use. You can get it finer.
M: And this is pure silk? You aren't fooling with un-natural stuff.
H: This is 100 percent natural silk I've been dying it with black walnut hulls, Mexican hat wild flowers. The dying is a lot of fun. We don't do that for Festival because the people next to us do that. Most of the people who are with the ___ ? we do do that too.
M: You buy whatever thread you're going to be using and then you dye it yourself, mostly. That makes it more fun.
H:Most of the people who come down here to the Festival with me do more spinning than they do weaving. Some spin their yarn and knit with it. Or crochet.
M: They do? Do they dye their wool?
M: I noticed it's all natural out there. They had little kids combing yesterday.
H: After you get the wool and wash it, then you have to get the tangles and to line up the fibers before you can spin it. The better you comb it, it's called carding, the better piece of yarn you get when you spin.
M: I noticed yesterday, there was a woman showing a little girl, yes, and that twisting with your hands as it moves on the spindle , is that what it's called?
M: there's a certain technique about that, isn't there. You don't just suddenly start ....
H: You don't actually do the spinning yourself. You try to pull it out in an even consistency and if it's the drop spindle, that twists it or in the spinning wheel, the wheel makes those fibers twist.
M: So you yourself don't .... I didn't know that. Have you ever been in northern Mexico, driving along and seen the Indian women spinning as they trot?
H: live seen pictures of it; I've never actually seen it. I think in Bolivia they do that and in Greece.
M: The first time we went to Mexico, we were driving, I can't remember where, I had read about this) and here was this Indian woman trotting and spinning as she went. It was perfectly fascinating. How you could run at the same time you were spinning your wool ....
H: I couldn't do it walking, much less running.
M: Isn't it amazing? Do you do much wool?
H: Yes. Wool for spinning is the easiest fiber to spin. Because wool, if you look at it closely is just really tiny little hairs that are real kinky, they actually have scales on them under a microscope, What happens is that when those little fibers catch to each other then they latch on to each other and as they twist it makes it strong,
M: Kind . of locks.
H: With that kink in the fiber, it also has elasticity so it will ,nap back whereas cotton or linen, when it stretches it's stretched. With wool, you can pull it and stretch it and then it will snap back. Which makes it easier to work with, especially with beginners.
M: About how wide are most of the bands you're making . for hats?
H: Generally they're about 1 1/8 inches .... 1 to 1-1/4 inches. If you get much wider than that, unless you have a very high crowned hat ... it's ----
M: When the custom hat guy says to you, "I need a 1-1/4 inch band for Mr. so and so, he wants wool." Now is he going to tell you what color he want; and what design?
H: Yes. He doesn't usually tell me what fiber he wants. I have samples set up and photographs and he says, "I like that design, or "I'm a ski instructor, (which is one I've done) Could you do one with a ski instructor woven in?" ... a ski jumper, that's what it was. So I take graph with paper and first draw it off because you're working with stitches, which would be like squares and then I take a piece and you start trying it out. Adjusting your pattern as you see what doesn't look right. Until you get what you want.
M: It sounds like an absolute impossibility to me. I don't see how ...
H: A lot of them I've worked out ... I worked out a little thunder bird, which is extremely popular, people like Indian designs. The thunder bird is one of the prettiest . I figured that out and I must have made 500 with thunder birds in them. People will pick out the colors. Or they just see one they like.
M: And you can accommodate them. What kind of a loom is that called, when you're doing the narrow bands?
H: There are two kinds. The way I do that is with card weaving. Just little square cards with 4 holes in it and you put the threads through the holes in a certain sequence, a certain color sequence. Then you turn those cards and by turning them, you've got two threads on top and two on the bottom and you put the weft thread through and then you turn it again and it locks it in and that's the way you make your shed. But your pattern comes out with those long threads as opposed to most looms like we use down here. You will notice that the pattern is that thread we go across with, which is the weft thread.
M: Are you familiar with Mexican weaving? You get back into the villages and they've got what they call the strap ---
H: back strap
M: and they're sitting with the strap around their backs attached to a tree. What kind of a loom is that?
H:lt's a back strap loom. You do a similar type weaving ... I also do have bands with inkle weaving, which is you make a two shed thing with over and under but your designs comes in your warp threads or how you pick up the threads. The back strap weaving and the inkle weaving the basic thing is the same thing. I do it on a small loom because it's easier to handle. I haven't got a good tree to tie up to . You know the Mexican belts? with the little figure designs? that's the type of weaving that I do.
M: It's so interesting. I had some people in here yesterday who were making baskets and they didn't know anything about Mexican baskets and I said, "You've got to go to Mexico and go off into the villages and see~ They said they hadn't been able to work with bamboo. I said they make their cheap tortilla baskets out of bamboo. And there's so much marvelous weaving going on in Mexico, too.
H; And Ecuador. Most of the beautiful Panama hats come from Ecuador. This one comes from Ecuador. I had them cut out .. this is a custom designed, custom made hat.
M: Yes, indeed! So you can get your tail out! It does what you want, it shades. Are you having good response? Are people interested in what you're doing?
H: If you bring a spinning wheel out, it's like magic. There was something magical about spinning. The stories about spinning, it was always sort of magical. My experience in giving demonstrations in a number of places, I would say that people at least 80 years old remember carding the wool for their mothers or grandmothers. They never did any spinning. I believe from that generation 'til now, it wasn't lost, but there was nobody doing it on a regular basis. You read the stories; you look at a spinning wheel and you think that piece .of string you see around there is the yarn spinning. That's just the drive band for the wheel. Your spinning the yarn down here somewhere. There's something magical about it.
M: There are fairy stories about spinning and weaving and that sort of thing Are you ever tempted to do any spinning yourself?
H:Oh, I do spin. I don't have time to do as much of it as I would like
M: You have enough orders for hat bands to keep you busy?
H: I sure do. I also do wall hangings and table runners and ponchos and shawls, and things like that. I don't do as much of it now because I do have so many hat band orders.
M: Do you have somebody helping you?
H: No, It's my thing and I have never found anybody that is as interested in that type of weaving for the bands as I am. I taught my daughter how to do it and if people want to learn) I'll teach them but . .. you know how you have your thing, you develop your thing, and you'd kind of like to keep it that way. You get very selfish about some things you do. I've never wanted to find anybody to help me do it.
M: Well, you say, "the people I've brought with me". Are there lots of people in Austin weaving and spinning?
H: There sure are. Because the University is there, you get a number of young ones but there an awfully lot of people in all age groups that do spinning and weaving. There is an organized group in Austin of weavers and spinners. I used to be a part of it but in the last few years I haven't been very active with it. Some of the people I bring are members of that group but they' are all friends of mine that I know that spin and would enjoy the festival and would work well.
M: But people are interested?
H: They sure are.
M: I've asked this of everybody and over and over again they're saying to me, "It's the children, it's the young kids that are asking the questions.
H: We have a lot of adults asking questions. It's interesting: as an adult you get a little shy about asking questioning ... you think, "well, maybe I should know about it" and so they'll let their kids, they get their kids interested. But we get a lot of adults . Especially men, who are mechanically minded. They are interested in how that machine works.
M: A lot of men are weaving, for goodness sakes,
H: In some countries, the men were the weavers and still are. The women were the spinners and the men were the weavers.
M: I have for years collected those sisal bolsas in Mexico_all sizes, and use them for carrying everything in the world, The men make those. They also knit. I have 4 heavy wool yarn sweaters and the men make those. And on the edge of the rebozos that are sometimes made on a strap loom the men tie those fancy, complicated fringes. Interesting, isn't it, that those macho people down there. This is over the centuries?
H: I believe, historically, traditionally, the men were the weavers and the women were the spinners. I think in some of those middle Eastern countries like Pakistan, some of those countries, it's still true. The spinning wheel itself has the names .... the names of the parts are all female names. Like there is the "maiden" ,"the mother of all", in England the word spinster came from the unmarried women who were spinning.
M: That's interesting!
H: I can't remember now, offhand, all the little parts but most every part of the spinning wheel has a name that is related to feminine.
M: When you accepted the invitation to come down here, did you come because it was fun, but did you also think that maybe you could share something?
H:I didn't come the first year. I didn't really know about it until afterwards. Then the second year, O.T. Baker, I was at the State Arts and Crafts Festival in Kerrville with this weaving group from Austin and he approached me, I happened to be standing there, about our group coming down here. He was mostly interested in spinning but we also did weaving. So I organized people from that group to come down. I did that for three years and you know as organizations go, as volunteer groups, it was not too active at that point and he asked me if I would just organize my own group of people ... to come down. My husband, who does no kinds of crafts, he doesn't work with his hands at all ... he's a professor at U T/ he encouraged me to do it and said he would help me. My daughter had young friends who were weavers , knew how to weave and spin. Some I brought down here didn't know how to do any of it until I brought them down and they've learned down here, too. There are some things we can show them how to teach people to do very fast. Everyone I've brought down wants to come back next year. By the end of today, they'll be dead tired but they'll want to come back next year.
M: I have not had one negative reaction from anybody I've talked to. Every body loves it; they love the family feeling; the warmth.
H: There are people you've made friends that are just Folklife friends. You never see them any other time. But you always see them next year.
M: It's just wonderful. We're so apt to get off in our own thing and especially living in the city, this is just so charming.
H: I have done demonstrations in many places, in a lot classrooms, I have never worked with any group ... the of schools, running people this Festival may change ... but the attitude toward the people coming here has never changed. I've never dealt with anybody that was nicer to deal with. From the person storing your goods, to the person giving you your tickets to your rooms, it really is marvelous.
M:Last year all the tapes they had made last year were erased by mistake and so they're trying to catch them all up again this year and that's what I'm helping with.
H:They may have talked with one of the men that is a spinner. He had so much interesting information and if that got erased I sure am sorry.
M: Is there anything you want to add on this tape that should be on for the record?
H: Not that I know of. I can't think of. It's fun. It's like a disease; if you get into it and you just get deeper and deeper.
M: You started as an artist so you have an artistic bent for design and that sort of thing in the first place. That didn't hurt you any.
H:When I picked up this kind of medium, I have never wanted to do any other kind of craft, art.
M: Was it painting that you did before? Do you keep that up?
H: Haven't touched it since I started weaving. I really like what I can same do with that same knowledge with weaving better than I did with paints.
M: Design, color, proportion ... texture?
H: You can get more with weaving, because you do get more texture.
M: You weave with wool, cotton and silk.
H: Some linen.
M: But you're not fooling with dacron and all that artificial stuff. I think that's great.
H: It doesn't really lend itself to .... it 's great for sweaters, clothing, but I don't do too much in clothing and it doesn't lend itself to having an attractive appearance. Weaving is prettier when it's not so consistent. If the yarn is not consistent, it makes it prettier.
M: One of the basket makers spoke of the fact that a thing is so much more ____
H: A machine can always do it better than I can. They can make it perfect. I can't.
M: That's an interesting point isn't it? The woman started out and then she enlisted this man to make baskets with her. And she said, "I knew that he could accept imperfections" That's the handcrafted stuff!
H: If you want one that's perfect, buy one made by machine. It doesn't make mistakes.
M:I think you're wonderful to give your time to talk to me. Thank you.
Picked this glass bead and horse hair hat band up at an estate sale. Appears to have some age on it. The “center” pattern seems to have some random or substituted bead colors in there. A repair maybe?
Couple more from that estate sale:
This buckle set on ostrich is stamped "Sterling"
Leather with buckle set and stampede strings.
Round beaded hoop. Interesting non-PC caricature silver pin of a Native American.
Glass beaded band. Need finishing on the ends to allow some form of tying/adjusting.
I probably should have stayed in on this, but ... bad timing. Someone got a great deal on it at $250. This was an online auction, but was only 25 miles from me. Vintage top hat with Hudson Bay trade silver "crown" (early 1800s?).
Some others for reference:
Picked up an old beaded band. I need to replace the lacing.
That's sweet, Bob!
This band lived on a 30s BOP so I'm assuming it was made then too. I like it better on this 40s Nutria Quality. I keep an eye out for old horse hair bands but they're far and few between.
I asked the "Quiet Lady" in Caufield, Missouri (who I've purchased several beaded hat bands from) to make up one for me based on a pattern from a 1938 Indian bead loom kit pattern (with a bit of pattern from a fob to break up the repeating pattern).
I wanted the blue birds and flag pattern on the black background, but didn't want the birds wings touching when the pattern repeated.
Here is the result mounted on a black leather strip with a figure-eight and beaded "bead" closure. She called this closure "southwestern". I could have gone with "continental" (continuous beaded loop) but it would have to be the exact size as the exterior circumference of the hat crown and I knew I would be moving this band from hat to hat (sharing it with my wife who's hats are smaller).
I'll trim the ties back a bit.
I think it pays homage to the original (and saved me much eye strain and struggles with trying to work with tiny beads). Very happy with her work (and price!).
Found my Grandpa’s box ‘o beads and crap in a storage build we were cleaning out to move. He taught crafts for the Chicago Parks Dept. in the 1930s. Among some vintage jewelry making tools and supplies were these bead looms and assorted beads. I plan to organize these enough for my local bead lady to make a hat band for me.