PORTLAND HAT MAKER MAKES CUSTOM HANDMADE HATS

We recently read a great article about hat maker John Penman of the Penman Hat Company. So we called him to find out about his hat making talent (and his thoughts on hat making). Apparently Penman makes mostly men's fedoras in 100 percent pure beaver or pure rabbit fur felt in the tradition of the masters.

Penman hats are handmade (by him) with vintage tools and hat blocks. And, he must be doing something right because there is a six month waiting list for a Penman hat. "I make about 20 to 30 hats a month that range in price from $250 to $500," said Penman.

A former firefighter, Penman has always been drawn to hats. According to an article in The Hillsboro Argus, Penman has always liked the look and style that a fine hat adds. When the original Indiana Jones movies first came out, Penman said he was hooked. He began what became a 20-year search for a high-quality Indiana Jones style hat. In the meantime, he began retooling old hats, teaching himself the trade.

His search ended - and his life as a hatter began - when he met Steve Delk and Marc Kitter of Adventurebilt Hat Co. Delk and Kitter designed and made the actual hats for the Indiana Jones movies. The two men helped Penman perfect his work and encouraged him to start a business. "If it wasn't for them I would be sitting on my couch getting fat," said the former fire-fighter.

Penman, who said he is a perfectionist, started by making 12 hats. He posted them online "at a discount price," he said, figuring it would take him six months or so to sell out. To his astonishment, he sold them all the first day and had orders for 21 more.

Penman is not only selling a premium line of hats (that will be priced from $850 to $900) but he is he now selling women's hats made by Hat Museum hatter Alyce Cornyn-Selby. The hats, called Lady Penman are sold on his site: www.penmanhats.com. According to Penman Cornyn-Selby is a talented hat designer.

All of these custom-made hats come with a hat box made of recycled clip board. It is great to know that there is a big demand for custom made hats – which might be indicative of the huge resurgence in headwear. Penman had this to say about his hats: "If you buy a hat from me your grandson will most likely wear it."

If you would like to read the article that was written about Penman it is below:

Downtown hatter fashions classic men's hats by hand
By Kathy Fuller, The Hillsboro Argus

He's mad about hats.

Penman crafts stylish men's hats in his downtown Hillsboro workshop. A former firefighter, Penman has always been drawn to hats. A self-taught hatter, his hand-crafted, hand-sewn creations are highly sought. He has a six-month waiting list. Penman makes 20-30 hats per month.

And judging from the success of his business, so is a fair portion of the population.

John Penman, firefighter turned hatter, has been making — well, hats — since 2008 in his modest workshop in downtown Hillsboro. One by one. All hand made. Penman is an old-fashioned hatter.

He begins with beaver or rabbit pelt, then uses vintage-style wood tools and old-fashioned craftsmanship to create custom men's hats.

Penman, who worked as a Hillsboro firefighter for seven years, originally hails from New York City. He has always liked the look and style that a fine hats adds, he said. When the original Indiana Jones movies first came out, Penman was hooked. He began what became a 20-year search for a high-quality Indiana Jones-style hat. In the meantime, he began retooling old hats, teaching himself the trade.

His search ended and his life as a hatter began when he met Steve Delk and Marc Kitter of Adventurebilt Hat Co. Delk and Kitter designed and made the actual hats for the Indiana Jones movies. The two men helped Penman perfect his work and encouraged him to start a business.

Penman started by making 12 hats. He posted them online "at a discount price," he said, figuring it would take him six months or so to sell out. To his astonishment, he sold them all the first day and had orders for 21 more.

"I had a two-and-a-half month lead time the first day," Penman quipped.

What looks like a simple adornment that sits atop the noggin takes an extraordinary amount of work, including using tools like block spinners, foot tollikers, rounding jacks, flanges and blocks. Penman goes through many steps to create his custom hats — blocking, soaking, ironing, pouncing (something like sanding the hat) and brushing.

He estimates he makes 20-30 hats each month, working on about a dozen at a time in one stage or another of creation.

A hat, depending on the style and amount of customization, takes between six and eight hours to make, over a period of two to three weeks, Penman said. Sewing takes half of his time. All Penman hats have a satin liner, a sheepskin leather sweatband and grosgrain hat ribbon, hand stitched by Penman.

He offers all styles of "Indy" fedoras. Casual fans may not know that the hats Harrison Ford wore varied from movie to movie.

He also offers the classic Humphrey Bogart fedora from "Casablanca" and many other options for hat connoisseurs.

"I'm trying to keep the art form alive," Penman said. His customers seem to appreciate his fine handiwork. Penman has a six-month waiting list.

He has designed some of his own tools to make his work more efficient. A specially designed brim cutter helps him get a more exact cut. Penman has also fashioned his own line of accouterments to go with the hat. Every hat includes an acid-free recycled chip board box. Other accessories he offers are hat stands, brushes and a hat jack that allows the owner to preset the jack to his personal hat size.

Right now Penman is designing a portable hat hook perfect for use in restaurants and in the car.

"If you're going to spend a few hundred dollars on a hat, you're going to want to keep it nice," Penman said. At the same time, Penman's hats are "just as tough as they are nice." He said his hats can be refurbished to look like new. "You can hand these down generation to generation," Penman said.

He also offers Lady Penman hats, one-of-a-kind creations by Alyce Cornyn-Selby, curator of Portland's hat museum.

Most of all, Penman is proud of each and every hat he sends out.

See his website at www.penmanhats.com.