Sunday, May 6, 2018

Review: The Mahaffie Sunbonnet

This past week had me down with the worst cold ever. I was laid up on the couch for two whole days. And I'm no good at sitting still, especially when I don't feel good. Other people might turn on music or the TV and just veg, but I want something to distract me.

Luckily, Elizabeth Stewart Clark of The Sewing Academy recently put out a new pattern for a sunbonnet, based on one in the collections of the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop. I decided to try it out as a distraction from feeling miserable, and to make sure I didn't get sunburned at an upcoming event.

Before I start discussing my experience, one thing you should know about me: I'm terrible at reading patterns before I dive into something. I'm really not great at spatial reasoning. Reading through a pattern and seeing the steps in my mind isn't part of my skill set. Keep that in mind.

Another thing to note: I have a big head. I mean, it's pretty big. It's hard to buy hats. I have to enlarge all my bonnet patterns from Timely Tresses. So, I walked into this with some trepidation, wondering whether I would have to enlarge the pattern or not, and how forgiving it would be to enlargement.


Let me start by saying this is not a pattern for rank beginners, and it's not pretending to be. It's a great complement to Liz's earlier slat bonnet in that way - it's a totally different, fitted look that requires a bit more time and has a couple more complicated steps. Whereas the one-piece slat bonnet on the Sewing Academy could easily be done in an afternoon, this one requires a few afternoons. So, not a huge time investment, but still a bit of time.

The biggest time investment was the ruffle. Holy cow, did that take forever to hem and gather! But it was easy, mindless sewing, easily done on a long car trip or during a sewing bee with friends. It could easily be left off, and I thought about leaving it off several times...but it's so cute, I'm glad I didn't.

I'm a details girl - I love the tiny little things that make a garment special and interesting, and this bonnet is just bursting with little details. The casing for the neck adjustment is both simple and really nifty. The ruffle is an opportunity to show off a really well-made rolled hem. And the construction of the ruffle with the brim facing and hem facing is super cool.

I really didn't appreciate the way the facings and the ruffle get attached until I was actually doing it. See the notice above about how I don't understand patterns when I read through them - I had to get to the very end of the pattern to see just how NIFTY it truly is. It was a real revelation, and made the end of the pattern really fun. The instructions are really easy as long as you read them, and be sure to read them as you go, but be willing to trust what they say.

Lest you just think I'm trying to be complimentary to Liz and garner brownie point...I do love brownie points, but take a look at just how cool it turned out:

I love that it's big enough to fit my head (I did make the brim 1" deeper) and that it's long enough to cover my shoulders, which is a period look that falls short on so many reproduction sunbonnets. I got tons of compliments on it, and best of all, it gave me tons of shade on a really bright sunny day. Considering my optometrist recently confirmed that my eyes are "pale" and more sensitive to the sun, this is a big relief.

The semi-sheer lawn fabric was a lucky find at the local fabric warehouse. I had two yards of it, which was plenty. It was 44" wide, so I instead cut it on the cross-grain. I'm usually a stickler for cutting fabric on grain, having had terrible experiences when I do otherwise, but for something like this I'm less concerned.

For the bias facing, I happened to have the exact same fabric in my stash, in a smaller check, just as called for in the pattern. Clearly, it was serendipity!

Conclusion: This is a really fun, very interesting variation on a sunbonnet. If you're looking for something fast and easy or a good beginner project, save this one for later, but do definitely give it a try at some point - you will really enjoy it, learn some skills in the process, and you'll wind up with a super cute sunbonnet.


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Joy Fowler said...

Love your style! I am encouraged and determined more than ever! Thanks.

Marie McNamara said...

Good work, Betsy!