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Hats off

Oak Crest culinary staff satisfies Anne Brownson’s appetite for sewing

Created date

June 30th, 2016
Anne Brownson (center) is surrounded by the Oak Crest culinary staff wearing their Orioles chef hats.

Anne Brownson (center) is surrounded by the Oak Crest culinary staff wearing their Orioles chef hats.

Before her feet could even reach the pedals of her grandmother’s treadle sewing machine, Anne Brownson was learning how to make her own clothes. Now that she lives at Oak Crest, the Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md., she is putting those skills to use for a very different reason.

“I learned to sew at a very, very young age while sitting on my grandmother’s lap,” says Anne. “I just loved it. We would cut out patterns using salt and pepper shakers and sugar bowls—we didn’t have all the fancy stuff they have today.”

For the last two years, instead of lining her closets with shirts, slacks, and skirts, Anne has been creating fun hats for prep cooks, line cooks, and chefs in Oak Crest’s Acorn Pub and Oak Room Restaurant. 

Hat trick

It all started when Anne got wind that one of the chefs from the Acorn Pub wanted to swap the plain white sleeves on one of his chef coats with some Baltimore Ravens material he had purchased. 

“I love a challenge,” says Anne. “He brought me the fabric, and I sewed the new sleeves on. There was a lot left over, so I asked him to give me one of his chef hats. I wanted to see if I could copy it. He brought me two hats: a floppy-style chef’s hat and a skullcap. It took me a little while to develop a pattern, but I was able to make both of them. He loved them and wore them all the time.” 

Word of her handiwork spread quickly, and Anne was having so much fun that she started making more hats, dozens of them—Star Wars-themed hats; wine-themed; red, white, and blue; gingerbread men; and her latest project, Baltimore Orioles hats. 

“I love looking for fun fabrics. I’m like a kid in a candy store,” says Anne, who does most of her fabric shopping online. “Orioles Opening Day was approaching so I thought it would be fun to make something with the Oriole Bird or logo on it.”

Over the last two years, Anne has become quite adept at hat making. 

“I do them in my leisure time,” says Anne.  “Each one takes a few hours to do.  It’s a matter of finding the right fabric online, cutting the design, and then using my sewing machine to stitch it all together. The cutting is what takes the longest because you have to be careful when you have a pattern or writing like the Orioles logo that it’s not upside down or cut in half.” The hats are finished with a Velcro tab on the back making them one size fits all. 

Aside from her time, Anne also supplies all of the fabric for the hats. But because Oak Crest staff cannot receive gifts from Oak Crest residents, Anne accepts $1 in exchange for the hats.   

Sew sweet

“It’s another reminder why Oak Crest is the best place to work,” Steve Sweeney, general manager at both dining venues, says about Anne’s generosity. “The relationships that you can develop between employees and residents are like no other. As much as it means to the staff, it means even more to Anne. She has the biggest smile on her face when she sees how excited they are to receive new hats. It totally makes her day.” 

“When I see the kitchen staff in the hall coming and going, they’ll give me the thumbs up or sometimes they’ll come up and hug my neck,” says Anne. “The hats also are light weight and comfortable. I’m glad the culinary team enjoys them.” 

Since moving to Oak Crest, Anne has kept busy. She founded a book club, served on the Resident Advisory Council, volunteers with the AARP Tax Aide program, and coordinates guests for the Oak Crest Speakers Series. But using her sewing creativity has always been close to her heart.

“When I moved here, I planned to join two quilting groups,” says Anne. “I have yet to join either one of those groups, I’ve been so busy. I moved here to have fun, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”