This winter we have had a warm head. Frozen fingers, teary eyes and icy toes, yes, but the head and ears were toasty warm. How did we manage such a feat? It’s all thanks to Holly Magner and her magical sewing machine.
After a particularly cold ride, a quick stop in the Freewheel Midtown store netted us a hat that fit perfectly over one gigantic head and underneath a tight helmet. As an added convenience the hat also had fold down ear flaps that hugged tight enough to stop cold air from freezing our ears. The best part? The hat was made from recycled materials, right in the heart of Minneapolis.
The company is South Minneapolis’ own, GroveCraft and the driving force behind it all is Holly Magner who was nice enough to take a break from her hectic schedule to sit down for an interview.
CTC: How long have you been sewing cycling specific hats?
Holly: I started making cycling hats in 2006.
CTC: What gave you the idea to moving into this niche area?
Holly: Well, in 2006 my wife was working at the Hub and racing for a local cycling team. She had one of those “One size fits all” Pace brand hats. They don’t “one size fits all”, okay? I liked the look of it, but it would squeeze my head and give me a wicked headache. I looked for another hat, but almost ALL cycling caps were way to small for my larger than some head. After asking around, i realized that I wasn’t the only one. I took to designing a cap that was a little roomier and a little more unique. I was already making mittens from recycled wool sweaters, so I decided to try out hats from recycled materials as well. I also had experience with screenprinting, so I created a few simple screens to add a little detail to the hats.
CTC:How long does it take you to make one hat?
Holly: I never make just one hat, so I couldn’t say how long it would take. An hour? Two? I do an entire order in steps, start to finish, whether it’s 10 hats or 100. I cut, screenprint, sew, sew cut, sew, iron, cut, sew, trim, iron, size, tag. One step at a time.
CTC:How many hats do you produce in an average week?
Holly: It’s feast or famine with hats. I only make hats when I need to as the seasons and orders dictate. For example, I’m making 120 hats this week for the Almanzo 100 bike race, but I may not make hats for another few weeks until I need to start doing spring orders for bike shops. Then, maybe I’ll do another 100 hats in about 2 weeks, then take another break. It’s a little crazy and stressful, but I work best under deadlines. I can’t tell myself “you know, Holly, you’ll need hats in two months, you should start working on them a little at a time and then you won’t be so stressed out”.
Holly: In a regular hat, about 90% is recycled. In a winter cycling hat, about 95% is recycled. Explained: Originally, for the regular hats, I was buying old pants at thrift stores and cutting them up. While this was ‘recycling”, it was also creating a lot of wasted material because i couldn’t use about 1 third of the pants because of seams, pockets, and waistbands. I found a great resource to buy remnant bolt ends from the Pendleton Wool mill in Oregon, where I’m originally from. So, I’m now using 100% wool fabric from the ends of the milling process at Pendleton that would otherwise be thrown out. They are higher quality, beautiful fabrics that created a lot less waste and last a lot longer. The only parts of the hat that aren’t recycled materials are as follows: the inside brim material: some people use old yogurt containers for their brims, but i prefer a thick fabric interfacing that washes, folds, irons and molds really well. You can’t really find it used. 2)Elastic: you don’t want to use recycled elastic, it’s old and funky 3) sometimes I used recycled bias tape for the inside trim, but I usually use new material for that part. It’s a very tiny piece of the hat.
CTC: Are you looking to expand into any other types of cycling clothing besides what you already do?
Holly: Right now, I only have time to stick to the two types of hats.
CTC: Do you do any custom work?
Holly: Currently, I don’t do custom work for individuals. Since I do assembly-line production, it doesn’t make it worth the time and money to make one hat from one old shirt that someone loves and can’t part with. THe majority of my cost comes from labor, not materials, so it hasn’t worked out too well in the past to do 1 custom hat for someone. I will do custom screenprints and color choices for bike shop and teams (I’ve done work for CRC and currently doing work for Almanzo and freewheel) but those are bulk wholesale orders.
CTC: We have seen your hats in Freewheel Midtown, what other shops are you in? Are they for sale any other places?
Holly: Currently, I sell my hats at Freewheel Midtown, both Hubs, I Like You MPLS, Angry Catfish and there may be a few hats still at Hiawatha. I’ve had my hats at CRC (rip) and The Wedge as well.
CTC: Are you looking to expand outside of the Twin Cities Area?
Holly: That would be great to some day take my show on the road, but, pun intended, I’m wearing so many hats right now as mom to toddler with another on the way, grad student in k-8 education, book arts instructor, hat maker, homemaker, and all around kick-ass lady that I find it hard to even keep up with demand in my own neck of the woods. Who knows?
Wow, we are calling dibs on one of those Almanzo hats right now.
Check out GroveCraft gear at her website, and be sure to pick up a hat just in time for spring at any of the places she mentioned.