When I started making bonnets over five years ago, I would draft a pattern for each of the bonnets in our Museum collection or of the bonnets loaned to me for our exhibit. I would then sew the bonnet and model it for my family. My husband, Chuck, would always respond with, “No, it’s not as big as Grossmama’s bonnet was.” Finally one day, he declared this one as big as he remembered hers. Chuck’s cousin, Helen Weiser, had loaned me her mother’s work bonnet. Her mother, Elsie Jenke, was Grossmama’s oldest daughter. I believe that Elsie got her pattern from her mother Anna Dube and I then had a bonnet as large as Chuck remembered. It is the largest one in my collection. Eight buttons hold the bonnet close to the head and allow for the bonnet to be flattened out for washing and starching.
Work bonnets were usually made from feed sacks or scraps from other sewing projects. Fabrics and buttons did not need to match since these bonnets were worn for work. Large prints or bright colors were often used so the wearer could be spotted easily out in the garden or field.
Another work bonnet we will have in the Gift Shop is Hattie Schautschick’s bonnet, which can be turned into an apron. This bonnet barely covers the head, but the wearer can take it off and tie it on like an apron to fill with clothespins or produce from the garden.
The last work bonnet has a good balance between the size of the brim and the collar and it is known as a slat bonnet. Evelyn Kasper has given the Museum her mother, Alice Noack’s bonnet. When Evelyn’s father died, her mother came to live with Evelyn and Arnold and would come with Evelyn to work at the Museum. Alice watched when the log cabin was relocated and re-roofed. She picked up the discarded cedar shingles, took them home and reshaped them for the stiffening slats of her bonnet. Since Alice used gingham for her bonnet, I try to make our copies of gingham.
I’m trying to keep a good selection of bonnets available in the Gift Shop so that many of us will be able to honor our founders on our 45th Anniversary by wearing bonnets. I look forward to seeing your bonnets and hats at Wendish Fest.