Hats off to Truckee Roundhouse

The classmates and author wearing their finished hats. Back row, from left, Chris Hinkle, Priya Hutner, Tracy Parker, Judi Morales. Front row, from left, Joan Uram and Jennifer Jay. | Priya Hutner

I entered the Truckee Roundhouse makerspace at the Truckee Tahoe Airport and was catapulted into a cavern of creativity. The industrial warehouse building was big, with concrete floors, divided spaces for work areas and a high roofline; it felt like an airplane could fit inside it. There was art on the walls in all forms and mediums. A man in an adjacent room fiddled with a computer chipboard with focused concentration. Machines whirled, metal clinked, and people were doing, building and creating.

The Roundhouse opened in 2016. The makerspace is a place for members to create, express, tinker and build. The space has five shops for wood, metal, ceramics, technology and textiles that boast state-of-the-art tools.

“The space is a positive and supportive space; everybody is creating and sharing,” said executive director Karen Stanley.

The makerspace offers classes throughout the year from 3-D plasma cutting, welding, sewing, ceramics and hat making. I was excited to attend Chris Hinkle’s Top Hat Making Workshop. Jennifer Jay, who was also taking the class greeted me; she recognized me from a recent Painted Vine class with Veronica Lichter. Jay was there with her friend Joan Uram. The childhood friends met in summer camp at a hat-making class. Tracy Parker, a realtor from the Bay Area, also participated in the class.

As we gathered around the massive worktable with rulers, scissors and utility knives; an array of different types of hats were spread out in front of us. Most looked like they were plucked right out of “Alice In Wonderland” and last worn by the Mad Hatter. A few looked perfect for Burning Man with a steampunk vibe; others were perfect for a costume party.

Hinkle gave the class an overview of each hat. She got into the art of making top hats when her daughter wanted to make one. Hinkle’s assistant, Judi Morales, aka the Steampunk Seamstress, was on hand to help us.

Most of the hats were 8 to 10 inches tall. I placed one on my head and was promptly swallowed up and lost inside. Who knew an 8-inch hat would be so tall? Everyone was drawn to a different style of hat. I liked the hat that was a bit shorter although it was taller in the front and smaller in the back. The style would prove to be most difficult to make.

The first task at hand was deciding on what type of fabric we wanted our hat to be made of. The makerspace has bins and bins of fabric. It was overwhelming how much fabric there was to choose from. Once we picked out our desired material, it was time to get to work. I found a lovely army-green satin that shimmered in the light.

Chris Hinkle instructing Joan Uram and Tracy Parker. | Priya Hutner

Next, we were instructed on how to create the chimney of the hat. Hinkle demonstrated how to cut the cardboard and roll it into a cylinder. I decided to make my hat 5 inches tall. Hinkle suggested I cut it 1 inch taller — just in case. I measured the circumference of my head and cut the cardboard, leaving some room for a band inside the hat.

We cut out a circle to make the top of the hat and taped it to the cylinder. Now it was time to glue the fabric to the cardboard with a hot glue gun. There were a number of yelps; the glue was very hot. There was much chortling and laughing as we watched our creations evolve. Once the fabric was adhered to the cardboard, we cut out the brim, taped it to the base of the hat and added thin wire around the edge. Morales sewed the material onto the brim. At this stage, our hats took on life.

We added a band on the inside of the brim for comfort and to reduce sweating. Then it was time to decorate the hat with trim: a band, bows or flowers. Hinkle dug up some black and gold trim, while Stanley found lovely feline black and gold shimmery material for the band of my hat. Once our hats were complete, we put on our new creations.

The class was fun and inspiring, a reminder of how important being creative is. I immediately wanted to sign up for another class.

The nonprofit Truckee Roundhouse is almost entirely run by volunteers who are passionate about art and creativity. The classes and workshops are fun, informative, creative and inspiring and open to both members and nonmembers. Open hours are Thursdays to Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Public tours of the makerspace are given on Thursdays at 2 p.m. Check the schedule for the next hat-making class in the fall. | (530) 582-4007, truckeeroundhouse.org