From Field To Fashion


From Field to Fashion is now available as an Ebook!

With rising printing costs, I have decided to make From Field to Fashion: The Straw Bonnet available in an electronic format. In the new format, I have been able to price From Field to Fashion at a fraction of the printed price. My hope is this will make FFtF easily accessible as well as informative.  Please visit my Etsy store to order your From Field to Fashion.

bookletscanUPDATE 2011: Out of Print

From Field to Fashion is a 46 page booklet with the following sections:
– Straw Bonnets and the Straw Bonnet Industry
– Straw, Harvest and Preparation
– Straw Plait
– Straw Cloth
– The Straw Bonnet Base
– Industry and Labor
– Finishing the Straw Bonnet
– Who Wore a Straw Bonnet When?
and an Appendix:
1 – Original Bonnets Online
2 – Bonnet Production in Massachusetts, 1855
3 – Millinery Establishments by State, 1860
4 – Straw Bonnet Shapes
5 – Fashion Quotes from Harper’s Monthly & Weekly
6 – Fashion Quotes from Godey’s Ladies Book
7 – Straw bonnet quotes from fiction
8 – Wheat and Rye produced, 1850 & 1860
9 – Straw Industry Statistics
10 – Straw and Bonnet Related US Patents

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 10:53 am  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Anna, if you still have copies of From Field to Fashion, I’d like to have one. Can you take a check? Where should I send it? Shipping?

    Trish Hasenmueller

  2. Hi Trish,
    Thank you. A check is great. I am sending you an email with my address.

  3. Dear Mr. Hendrix,

    I am sending you an email.

  4. Hi Anna,

    I would love to get one of the books when you republish. Could you please let me know what the contents are? Thanks very much.

  5. Hi Marie,

    I will add you to the list. Thank you.
    I am adding the contents above.


  6. Am trying to learn about hat making in western Mass in antebellum period. Would your book be useful? I suspect it would be!

    I think I have a reference to post-civil war hatmaking in connection with this. Would this scenario be possible? A man raised in northern Connecticut and southern Mass. in 1830s is in Freedmen’s Bureau in Atlanta and tries to find a way for local former slaves to work up a cottage industry connected with hat braiding? Would this have worked out in Georgia or would he have found himself thwarted by climate? There is a reference to rye growing. For straw?

    Also want to know if western Mass. women from antebellum period would have brought hat-making skills to Great Lakes frontier and used local materials for summer hats?

  7. Hello Linda,
    Thank you for your inquiry.
    I don’t think my booklet will directly address what you are looking for. I don’t get that specific in the book. I wish I had my notes unpack because I’m sure I have information that would be of help. Since it is packed, I have to draw from memory.
    The majority of the straw bonnet/hat industry in the antebellum US did take place in New England. Massachusetts had the highest production rates within the area. I do have a chart in the appendix looking at Massachusetts production. There were 42 straw millinery establishments in Mass in 1855. Most produced both bonnets and hats. The counties include Bristol, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Worchester.

    The straw bonnet industry combined cottage industry and factories. Women and/or families were contracted with the factory owners to make plait and sew in the home. They were paid piece-work. (This was different than in Europe.) Plait would be braid at home for the most part for most of the century. (Later mechanical means were introduced. I would need to look up the dates.) The bonnets and hats would also me sewn by hand in the home. Sewing machine for sewing straw were just beginning to be tried in the middle of the century (again need to look up date) but weren’t used in mass quantity yet. It would not have been impossible for a woman to move from New England with experience sewing or plaiting to continue doing so in the Great Lakes area. You could look at the records for millinery establishments in those states to see what products they sold. If they sold straw, they could have been purchase from back east or made locally.

    The rye could have been used for bonnets. That was a favorite straw. The stats in the booklet for rye production show a good amount grown in Alabama and Georgia. So, it may be possible that it was attempted. The concerns would be connected with the weather. First whether the rye grew with enough shaft length between the ‘elbows’ in the straw. Next, whether the straw would be pliable enough to be worked with. Also, whether the climate (heat, moisture) was suited to working the plait. Dry weather is awful for working with the straw. The straw becomes very brittle. (Also from experience it is horrible on the hands.) If the weather is to humid, risk of mildewing is a problem for the straw.

    Would you care to share more about your reference? I would like to hear more.


  8. The material is embedded in some letters from the Am Missionary Assoc. archives in Amistad Research Center at Tulane. Very obscure. I don’t have the citation marked down but if I stumble on it I will write it out for you. Old letters in handwritten script. AARGH! The Atlanta author was Rev. Edmund Asa Ware but can’t recall who he was writing to. Ware was from Norwich, CT, among other places, but I’m not sure if his father was from there or another village. In the letter he says essentially, “We need somebody who can teach this. My dad could but he’s too old to come here to the South in this climate….”

    I am confused by the presence of a second person from New England in the same place and time, who was from Heath, Mass in Franklin Co. She’s the one who might have made hats in frontier areas. The town history of Heath says they had quite a business in hats, so she should have known how to make them if she came from an industrious family trying to feed eight kids. But perhaps these were palm hats and not rye straw. I’ve learned that there was somebody on the coast who imported palm and distributed it to Mass cottage manufacturies for piece work.

    I learned about this at Old Sturbridge Village. There’s a house there that has a Masonic meeting room on the upper floor. It was found to have two amazing things under and between the floorboards of that room–straw (or was it palm?) pieces and leather pieces. Both indicate cottage industries–hats and shoes. Imagine a whole gaggle of people in that room, working and chattering!

    On a tangent topic…
    I’m with a fur trade reenactment group and we’re trying to document summer hats for canoeing. We have a couple images from 19th century that show voyageurs wearing very wide brimmed hats. Problem is that they easily catch the wind, and blow off, so we have to turn around the canoe and….well, you get the idea. I buy straw hats at garage sales, etc., and keep them on hand for our flatlander paddlers at public events. As for the voyageurs, we’re working on a “plan b.” Our most recent project has been to make some unpadded linen “mechanic’s” or “wheel” or “clerk’s” caps with lower profile and a visor and a customized headband that can be pretty tight. So it goes.

  9. Tulane? Hmm, a good excuse to visit NOLA sometime. 😉
    Franklin County’s 1855 production was in palm hats, $43,212 worth. I don’t have the county numbers broken into towns though. There were 16 men and 986 women employed in making the hats. This is from the _Statistical Information Relating to Certain Branches of Industry in Massachusetts, for the Year Ending June 1, 1855_ You could try a census or other source detailing the industry stats at a more localized level. If that exists.
    About the hats and canoeing, let me see if Bevin came across anything when they were prepping for their canoe trip.

  10. Please put me on the list for your reprint.

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