Rose Monzyk wears many hats — and she makes them herself.
Monzyk, 61, Washington, has practiced the art of millinery, or hat making, for nearly 12 years.
“I wanted to have a couple hats for myself,” she said, “but every time I tried them on in the store they would drop down over my ears. So I decided to make a couple and I was instantly hooked.”
Monzyk said she has been sewing since she was 7 or 8 years old, so making hats fit in with that lifelong passion for working with fabrics, needles and thread.
The hats she makes are a wide variety, from the cloche hats of the 1920s era to more modern and original designs, such as a smaller version of the 1960s pillbox hat that fastens to the head with a headband.
There are hats with sparkle and glitter, bows and feathers or Monzyk’s unique two-tone brims and animal print wide-brim hats made from sinamay, an organic straw made from Abacá fiber. Each hat is hand-sewn and one-of-a-kind, wand each hat receives its own unique feminine name, such as the Kaitlyn or the Laurie.
Monzyk travels the country to sell her hats, going to Texas, Michigan and other states for art fairs and festivals. She has local clients, as well, and goes to Silver Dollar City each fall for about a month.
“I don’t operate out of a shop because I don’t want to be tied down,” she said.
Recently, Monzyk said she stepped out of her comfort zone and took her millinery to Lexington, Ky., where she competed, and won, a hat-making contest on “Top Hat,” a reality show broadcast on YouTube.
“When I first found out about it, I thought, ‘No, you are not doing that! You are not putting yourself through that stress. Just forget about it,’ ” she said. “But it just kept working in my brain and I thought, “If you’re scared to do it, then you need to do it.’ ”
Monzyk packed her bags and went to Kentucky.
The competition, which was March 8-10, featured six milliners, including Monzyk, from across the country who had to create an original hat designed from materials provided by the show.
Each milliner was given a different color scheme from which to create the hat, and Monzyk was given two of her favorites, pink and orange, from which she fashioned a piece inspired by the roses in her garden.
Monzyk said during the first few hours she was a nervous wreck.
“Friday night I was shaking so badly,” she said. “I was dropping needles, but I finally just settled in and started working.”
The last day there was a runway show where the six hats were judged by a panel.
Monzyk was announced as the winner.
“I was completely shocked!” She said. “I thought for sure I knew who won. They were all really good.”
As the Top Hat, Monzyk received $200 worth of millinery supplies, she and her hats will be featured in the “Fast Horses and Fabulous Fashion” calendar. In addition, her business is being promoted on fashionattheraces.com.
“It’s brought name recognition that I’ve never had,” she said.
Monzyk doesn’t limit her creativity to hat creations. She also paints silk scarves of different sizes using brilliant, vibrant colors to create floral and other original designs.
“I probably sell a lot of these because I think it’s easier for people to see themselves wearing it,” she said. “You can wear them lots of different ways.”
Monzyk occasionally paints on canvas and has featured the paintings for sale on her website.
For 30 years, Monzyk has been a sales representative for Mary Kay cosmetics. She said she started with the company when her children were small to earn some extra income. Over the years she has won 10 or 11 cars from outstanding sales over.
“Mary Kay has always been a good fit,” she said. “Every day is different. It’s great variety and it keeps my brain working.”