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Trib Total Media readers rise to the challenge to create festive hats

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
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Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Marie Palmer is one of three Easter Bonnet winners photographed at her residence in Unity Township on Thursday, April 2, 2015.
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S.C. Spangler | Trib Total Media
Theresa Schwab, of Ligonier Borough, poses for a portrait inside of her home while wearing her Easter Bonnet creation. The bonnet sports a model of the Ligonier Diamond’s Gazebo and silk decorative flowers adorned to a spring straw-and-lace bonnet.
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Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Bethel Park resident Susann Beardsley created this Easter bonnet.
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Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Bethel Park resident Susann Beardsley created this Easter bonnet.
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Kathryn Haney
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Diane Rinier, Jeannette
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Ron Davis Lower Burrell
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Carol Davis Lower Burrell
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Jen Schwartz Lower Burrell
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Jean Daniher Sharpsburg
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Kim Daniher Sharpsburg
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Joey Daniher Sharpsburg
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Mike Daniher Sharpsburg
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Bertha Fosnaught, Bairdford
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Darlene Turner, Churchill
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Lois Stobert Apollo
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Rosemary Slagley Indiana
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Macie and Serenity Matthews Lower Burrell
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Barb Rushin Johnstown
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Emily Clee Plum
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Carol Longo Ross
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Janet Mccracken Latrobe
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Cindy Burke North Huntingdon
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Eva Nypaver Bellevue
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Janice C. Dominico, Ruffsdale
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Renee Hilliker Irwin
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Lauren Litz
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Karen Strednak North Versailles
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MICHAEL CREAGH
Marjorie Lee Woo, a milliner, is also and associate chair of visual merchandising, clinical instructor LIM College, in Manhattan

A live baby duckling was Marie Palmer’s inspiration.

For Theresa Schwab, it was a miniature wooden gazebo.

And Susann Beardsley turned to a toy bunny.

The three used ideas as individual as themselves, but the result was the same — they fashioned a fun and stylish Easter bonnet.

And they are the winners in the Trib’s Easter Bonnet Challenge.

Even though the era of wearing a bonnet — with all the frills upon it — for the Easter parade might have passed, there are still people who love those elaborate hats. So, the Trib challenged readers to design and decorate fantastic bonnets festooned with ribbons, flowers, chicks and bunnies — or whatever struck their fancy.

They could start with a plain hat or create one from scratch with foamboard or cardboard. The trio was selected based on creativity that pushes the envelope, and they all did.

Prizes are a $50 gift certificate to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, $50 gift certificate to Michael’s and a spring bouquet delivery.

“It was a fun project,” says Schwab of Ligonier. “I have always liked the old days when people really dressed up for the Easter holiday. I love hats, and (Duchess of Cambridge) Kate Middleton inspires everyone to wear hats, especially fascinators. They are so pretty and elegant.”

Collecting gazebos for her daughter when she was a child was a passion for Schwab, because it symbolizes the town where she lives and the Ligonier Diamond where a real gazebo is one of the first landmarks people see when they drive through town.

When she saw the contest in the paper, she immediately spotted one of the six replica gazebos she owns that was sitting on a bookshelf in her study. She put it atop a floppy hat she has for sun protection and complemented the design with flowers such as hydrangea and forsythia, a type of lily, from a silk arrangement she had at her house.

“As soon as I spotted the gazebo, I thought, ‘I could do something with this,’” she says. “I liked the flowers because they were pretty colors. I then added some ribbon, which tied the whole hat together.”

Schwab used hot glue to secure all the parts. She says when she isn’t wearing the hat, she can use it as a centerpiece. Even though Schwab’s daughter, Nikki, 31, is now living in Washington, D.C., being able to use the gazebo as part of the design brought back some fun memories, her mother says.

Adding flowers were a must-have for this avid gardener, which is where she also found her hat to decorate.

“I will wear a hat gardening or if I am going to something really fancy,” she says. “People notice when a woman wears a hat. I know I always admire women who wear hats.”

So does Palmer.

She says she has a love of hats and says they create a frame for a person’s face like an actual frame does for a picture.

“They also are practical,” she says. “I wear hats in the winter to keep my head warm, and I wear hats in the summer to protect my face from the sun.”

This Easter bonnet wasn’t very practical, because it included live animals, but it was fun to try, says Palmer of Greensburg.

She and her husband, Neil, live on 30-acre Palmer’s Farm, a vegetable farm that also has chickens and ducks, so using live ducklings was an easy decision, she says.

“I like to be creative,” Palmer says. “It’s so much fun to do things like this. When I saw them arrive, I thought, ‘Look how cute.’”

She started with a piece of cardboard and stapled fabric from old curtains to it and then surrounded the ducklings with chicken wire, which was easily accessible on the farm. She also had flowers from a previous costume-party outfit. They were attached to a baseball cap that was turned backward.

“It is very makeshift,” Palmer says. “But it was enjoyable to do. I always loved hats as a child and remember getting new Easter bonnets. I think hats are making a comeback.”

Just maybe not those accented with live animals.

Bunnies inspired Bethel Park’s Susann Beardsley, who decided to go with a foam version for her hat. Beardsley had real bunnies as pets as a child and would take them to school in crates around Easter.

So, when she and three co-workers at the Municipality of Bethel Park decided to do the contest together, she knew she wanted to include a bunny.

She started with an orange straw hat from her mother — who also is named Susann — and used it as a base. Beardsley cut a piece of floral foam that fit into the brim of the hat and used pins to secure the bunny and flowers and ribbons, since she couldn’t find her glue gun. She wanted something different than eggs, so she went with wooden carrots to accessorize the hat. She used straight pins with pearl heads to adhere all the pieces. The flowers are silk and the hot pink ribbon is satin.

“I really like bold, bright colors,” she says.

Beardsley has designed hats for other events, including a crazy hat tea at St. Valentine Catholic Church in Bethel Park.

Doing these types of crafts and seeing what other people come up with in terms of designs is what makes it enjoyable.

“That gives me ideas for future projects,” she says. “I like seeing things that are different. You can learn from what other people do. I think people should try these contests together like we did, because they are enjoyable and you end up laughing and having a good time. We said, ‘Next year for this contest, we are going to do even more hats.’ ”

Easter is about renewal and a time for the newest hat of the spring season. Starting off by making your own Easter bonnet is the perfect way to encourage someone to want to wear a hat, says Marjorie Lee Woo, a milliner who also is associate chair of visual merchandising, clinical instructor LIM College, in Manhattan.

She will don one of her creations at the Easter parade in New York City on April 5, along with others showcasing headwear from her collection. The history of the Easter parade dates to the 1800s, when mainly the rich wore hats to church. The middle class would wait for services to be over and the attendees would parade to other churches to see what they were wearing, from the finest clothing to high-end hats.

“I hope people will go beyond making their own hat and have one made for them,” Woo says. “I call the hats people make concoctions. Some are really outrageous. I think people like to express themselves and make a statement about themselves. The key is to have fun making the hat. I enjoy seeing what others come up with.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7889.

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