Back in 2013, I was introduced to Michael Broder through a colleague at TAFAList, Rachel Biel. Michael had purchased a kufe, but the sizing was off and it was too small for him to wear. I was enlisted to remedy that.
A year later, Rachel referred another customer to me. Another kufe, this one with straight sides, embroidered with Jerusalem crosses. An unfortunate victim of the household dog who claimed it as a chew-toy. The owner sent me a photo, and based on the damage I could see, I decided to give it a go.
The kufe arrived a few days later. The photo I had received was of the ‘good’ side. Or perhaps I should say, the only side. The hat was badly tattered and torn, with a section of the embroidery beyond repair. My first thought was to say “sorry, no can do” but my second thought was to accept the challenge. I sent a cost estimate to the customer, Brian, who approved my plan to reconstruct rather than restore his hat. And so, my next salvage project began.
Rather than walk you through that process, I’m sharing Brian’s story, which he shared with me in printed booklet format. I don’t often receive that sort of feedback from customers, which makes Brian’s story even more special.
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woven hat. It sat on a shelf of a religious bookstore in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, growing dusty as it waited for just the right person…”
“Meanwhile, Brian and his wife Joan were riding the Amtrak cross-country on vacation. They disembarked and enjoyed a few days of sightseeing in Seattle and then Vancouver. Their next stop was San Francisco.”
“The city was well-known for its vampires, who prowl about after sunset. Obviously, they needed protection. Brian carried a crucifix and holy water in his backpack, and they purchased other repellents – salt, garlic, rosewater – along the way. But they did not feel confident that these would suffice in an emergency, and continued to seek “just the right armor.”
“Circumstances led them to the Haight-Ashbury district in search of dinner. As luck would have it, Brian noticed a small religious book shop and was immediately intrigued by it. As he perused the items for sale, The Hat sent out its vibes, quietly pulling him toward the shelf on which it sat. The minute he laid eyes on it, he knew it was ‘the one’. Not only did it fit him perfectly, it was beautifully embroidered in a repeating pattern of Jerusalem Crosses…exactly the vampire-repelling armor he had been seeking. He paid for it, took his leave of the shop and its keeper, and hastened with Joan to dinner.”
“Fueled by an exquisite meal, Brian and Joan set off hand-in-hand, knowing the extraordinary hat that Brian now wore would safeguard them on their journey. No vampires were encountered on the way home that night. Or the next day. Or at all, for the remainder of their trip. Vampires apparently sensed the power of the hat and kept their distance.”
“It became Brian’s favorite and he wore it everywhere. It took on his scent and the shape of his head, as if it were an extension of his very self. But soon the hat, with its familiar scent and broken-in softness, became an irresistible temptation for Brian’s dog, Tailor.”
“Of all the things Tailor loved to chew, he loved hats the most…”
“Inevitably, one day, the hat was left within Tailor’s reach. Seeing his pointy teeth and mistaking him for a vampire, the hat became overconfident in its powers, and the unthinkable happened…”
“Tailor was severely scolded and hung his head in the sincerest of apologies…but the hat was beyond repair and its owner was heartbroken. Unable to part with his talisman, he gathered up the tattered remains and stored them away…”
“Months later, Brian received an invitation to attend services at a local mosque. He thought about his old hat and how perfect it would have been for the occasion. Wondering if he could ever find another like it, he searched the Internet for the store he had bought it from, but came up empty, almost as though the little shop had never existed.”
“Typing in keywords “kuffe” and “Jerusalem Cross” produced only one match, a Seattle company called August Phoenix Hats which offered handcrafted artisan hats made from reclaimed textiles and found objects. He contacted the owner and she encouraged him to send her what was left of the hat. If the repair was not possible, she could perhaps copy the pattern to create a new one.”
“Encouraged, Brian mailed the hat off to Seattle and anxiously awaited her reply [which was, eventually, yes…]”
“…Slowly, little by little, Heather the Hat Whisperer worked her magic. She matched and patched, wove and stitched, lined and resized, expertly blending the old with the new and adding her own chapter to the hat’s tale…”
“When the package arrived from Seattle, Brian and Joan set it aside, saving the best for last. After sorting through letters and bills and Christmas cards, they turned their attention to the box and carefully opened it.”
“The sight of his hat, intact once more, brought tears to Brian’s eyes. He turned it around and around in his hands, marveling at the magnificent job Heather had done to bring the hat back to life.”
“Brian placed the hat on his head and it fit perfectly, the reunion of two old friends. Comfort and Joy in the Christmas season! He danced around the kitchen, not wanting to take it off. In the meantime, Tailor stood nearby, curiously eyeing the hat, catching the faint scent of his master still lingering in the fabric. He wondered how such a miracle could have occurred and hoped it meant the end of his probation.”
“And the hat, with its new lease on life, was carefully placed on the closet shelf, where it awaits its next adventure…”
My thanks to Brian and Joan for writing, and sharing this wonderful story with me. — Heather, Hat Whisperer : )