The Milliner’s Muse

Every milliner needs a muse; Maggie Mae was my muse and studio kitty in the beginning when I began my hat business.

When she passed, a lovable orange and white feline entered our lives. She arrived one Christmas in a pet taxi from our local shelter with a stuffed chicken named “Chickie.”


My husband and I named her Marmee as much for the character in Little Women as her beautiful coloring.

After spending a week under our bed, Marmee emerged and has been finding her place here in our home ever since. And to my surprise and delight, she has become my new helper and muse.

Very early on, Marmee inspired a brand new hat, the “Marmee” chapeau, offered now in my Derby Hat Collection. How could anyone not be inspired by those soft amber-green eyes and gorgeous fur coat?



In spite of what we had heard from the shelter about the rough life this girl had in her early years, Marmee quickly melted our hearts and tried her best to fill that empty space left by Maggie Mae.


When one of my customers requests a one of a kind hat design, Marmee is there, inspiring me, as I sketch out ideas on sheets of paper that she loves to focus on as she naps and dreams with them beneath her.


It can take days to come up with a truly inspired sketch that meets everyone’s approval, including Marmee’s.


And whenever we become stumped, Marmee shows me the importance of sleeping on it and letting the design simmer and bubble up to the surface…Cat naps do wonders.


Whatever the cat experts say about kitties and eyesight, our Marmee has a great eye for gorgeous colors and fabrics, fuchsia dupioni silk being one of her favorites. And mine…


The silk organza “feathers” I create for my hat trims require studying our Cape Cod birds for inspiration. Marmee is great at showing me the best perches to observe them.


She helps me do the research for some of my other favorite hat trims, too, most especially the handcrafted florals. Pots filled to overflowing with Marguerites, Gloriosa Daisies and hostas seem to captivate her as much as they do me!


And when it’s time to ship a hat, Marmee is right there beside the hatboxes, those eyes filled with anticipation and wonderment!


But lest you think that Marmee only helps me with the serious parts of hatmaking, she teaches me to giggle…


The value of a good chin scratch…


And the absolute necessity for regular afternoon naps. Preferably in the sun.


When our day is done my little helper and I crawl into our beds, exhausted but gratified by a hard day’s work. And we dream we are chasing horses and hats and birds under a sky filled with stars to light us on our way.



Thank you once again for visiting me here at Hats and Horses!

Until next time,


6 Replies to “The Milliner’s Muse”

      1. Hi Sally! I often think of my favorite students and especially you whom I have not seen in years. I found your site by accident. I was looking at an old Cape Cod Life magazine- 2010- and saw your beautiful array of hats. What an amazing talent!!
        You look exactly as you did when in high school. I am thrilled to know you are so successful and happy. Love Mary Bolton (English- Harwich High)


      2. Well hello Mrs. Bolton! How wonderful t hear from you. Are you still living there in Eastham? I would love to reconnect. I think of you whenever we drive over that way, and wonder how you are. Please let me know your email, and we can catch up! 🙂


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