Story Hats©

My Story Hats© are made of silk fabrics, some of which were purchased on a trip to China, and unique vintage fabrics and trims. Before cutting fabrics, I must decide if the design will be an original Leslie O'Leary or a traditional Chinese. The hat bases have three to five pieces. The second decision is to choose the outside and lining fabrics and because they are of equal importance, I put great thought and care into the choices. These fabric pieces are sewn together and lined with thin cotton batting, then hand-quilted. Finally, all the pieces are hand-sewn together to make the hat base.
The third design decision is to make each hat unique. My greatest pleasure is taking the time to hand-make every ornament by incorporating vintage Asian fabrics and vintage trims. A marvelous feeling of serenity and satisfaction comes with sitting and hand sewing. It’s also a vital part to completing a story. I call it mind sewing and my way of sharing what is in my heart through these “stories in fabric.”

Story Hays 2015© 2021© Leslie O'Leary-ROotie StudiO
Photography Mark Mortensen

Balance: Butterfly

Good Luck : Fish

Courage : Dragon



 Harmony : Seahorse

Love: Lily


Perseverance: Lotus

Protection : Tiger

 Snow Tiger


Black Cat

 Loyalty : Happy Dog

Strength : Elephant

To be successful, a story must have a reason to be—a symbol the author wants to convey. There are four ways symbolism is used in these hats: To call upon good fortune, to outwit evil forces, to produce social achievement and to wish for happiness and longevity. The legends are from the Chinese calendar; each year has an animal and its own characteristics. To that end, I structure a special traditional hat for each year and by intertwining symbolism and legend, the hat “tells” its own story.