Thursday, February 7, 2013

Suzy Homemaker

There must have been something in the water.

Every blue moon or so one feels the need to tackle a Project.

It all started when Valerie decided to buy this great straw hat at the Metropolitan Vintage Show. After completing the purchase, she asked the vendor - Mim - if she knew anything about steaming hats, having heard that steaming was fraught with perils, like dyes running, finishes coming off and glues coming unglued. The vendor enthusiastically responded that she had steamed this very straw hat in just a minute or two, and it had revived quite nicely. The only reason it was mildly re-dinged, she explained, was that she'd brought it to the show without a box of its own. After some discussion, all parties (the vendor and her assistant, and Jean and Valerie) agreed that by now there was undoubtedly a You Tube video seminar on how to steam a hat, and Valerie took the hat home looking forward to trying her hand at it. In the photo above, taken by Jean at the vintage show, you might be able to make out the crease on the right side of the hat.

There must, in fact, be a dozen You Tube videos on steaming hats, and there are several on steaming straw hats. They all say it takes under two minutes. Just keep turning the hat and steam it evenly, keeping the hat about 6-8 inches from the pot of water. (Too close and you could burn yourself.) The finished straw lends itself nicely to the steam, and when it dries, the finish becomes crisp and hard again.  Above, the re-steamed hat, all nice and even, worked by an absolute beginner.  By the way, never ever wear your summer straw hat with your winter woolies.  These two pics demonstrate the hat, and NOT what to wear it with.  (Well, the colors are ok; the wool is not.)  And about the pearls - at first we both agreed that the pearls would HAVE to go.  But they're so of the period - the 1950s girls in pearls period - that they might just have to stay.)

Steam is the only thing you need, although the vendor did suggest that a hat stand would be the best place to put the hat, so it could dry evenly and without pressure from below. Valerie added a hat elastic afterward to prevent the hat from falling or blowing off - one of the hazards of wearing hats. We both agreed that we should have made our own hat steaming video. Another lost opportunity for fame and fortune!

Flush with success, Valerie took on another project. This favorite old blue leather belt had gotten almost completely separated from its leather backing. Elmer's Glue to the rescue! Apply a little Elmer's, and then clamp the front and back together with colorful toy clothes pins. (Every home should have a set.) The spiral shape is not for fun - the front and back are not exactly the same length, and had to be dried in a circle to prevent puckering.

Here is the belt, almost as good as new, after the clothes pins have been removed.

And - OMG!  Yet another project!  This is the place - under the sink - where Valerie, like most people, keeps household products. This week she went looking for something under the sink, and couldn't find ANYthing, because it was such a mess. Determined to find what she was looking for, she took everything out, and then put it all back, item by item, in the best kind of order possible in a small kitchen. Of course, this photo loses a little impact because at the time Valerie started cleaning, she didn't think to photograph a cabinet worthy of any episode of Hoarders. So you'll have to use your imagination. A few of our readers, perhaps, can just take a look in their own kitchen cabinets!

In any case, there is once more a place for everything, and everything's in its place. Valerie put her spider pin front and center in the photo (on a green straw vase) to prove it was her kitchen cabinet, and not a photo purloined from Better Homes and Gardens. You can see the iron, which hasn't been used in over a year, the bag containing appliance manuals, the laundry card, the recycling and hurricane pamphlets, the boric acid that prevents the invasion of nasty bugs, and Jean's gift of red rubber gloves. What you can't see, needless to say, was the one thing Valerie went in looking for, which still has not been found.


  1. What a great post....I love, love, love the hat! So much fun! I recently cleaned out...forced by husband...and it really is so freeing and exhilarating to have my cabinets not look like this anymore. My laundry room is now magazine-worthy!! I highly recommend it!

  2. I love that hat. I have never heard of people steaming hats. That is very interesting.

  3. thank you for this post . i have a few hats that could do with some tlc. a perfect project for this cold wintery weekend ahead. the hat is lovely . I'd love to go to a antique fair in America.

  4. I just started reading your blog last week and I've learned so much from you already. Thank you,thank you!