When I started at Google in Dec 2013, I worked in a centrally located building of the Mountain View campus. (I have since moved to another building.) I routinely ate my meals in a nearby cafe called BigTable, and I couldn’t help but notice the almost-life-sized Bison in the lobby of this building.
One day, a colleague, mem, placed a novelty, plastic Octoberfest hat on Bernie and waited to see how long it would last.
It lasted about a week.
But that gave me an idea.
It seemed to me that Bernie needed a real hat.
A bison-sized hat.
A Noogler hat.
And he needed it for April Fool’s Day.
of the first week of orientation to wear at TGIF.
How handy that I can sew!
So my plans were underway.
One challenge for a bison-sized Noogler hat is a bison-sized propeller - I figured that a foot long propeller was a good length - that would nestle nicely between Bernie’s horns. I was puzzling how to get my hands on a 3D printer, when mem checked on ebay and, voilà, thanks to a market for model airplane aficionados, there it was: a blue 12” plastic propeller.
So I bought it.
Fitting Bernie was a bit of a stealth operation. On the days that I needed to take measurements, or test the fit of a muslin, I headed to Bernie's lobby as early as possible. The receptionists are scheduled to man the lobby at 8am, and the first bus gets me to work around 7:30am, but sometimes the receptionists are early, and sometimes the bus is late. I was in and out as quickly as possible, but on a couple occasions, one of the receptionists would show up while I was working with Bernie, though no one ever asked me why the heck I was making a skull cap for the giant bison.
After measuring Bernie, I drafted a pattern, and made a succession of muslins to test the fit of the hat. I drafted the pattern 4 times and made 4 muslins. Bernie has a very strangely shaped head and no neck to speak of which required, in the end, 4 pattern pieces for the beanie, instead of the usual 1. (I also created a pattern for the brim, and another for the hem facing, for a total of 6 pattern pieces.)
A well-fitting skull cap with notches for his horns
One day at lunch, mem drove me to Michael’s, a craft store near the Mountain View campus, where I purchased pony beads and fabric paint.
I couldn’t find proper Google colors in the correct weight of fabric, so I painted white duck (canvas) fabric with Tulip fabric paints. The colors weren't perfectly right either, but they were close enough.
It was a pain to sew the painted fabric - the paint made the canvas stiff and thick - like sewing vinyl - and I had to be careful as pins left permanent holes.
Pressing the fabric was also problematic and I had to repaint several panels because the first brim that I made, and one of the blue beanie panels, were ruined by the iron.
My trusty Bernina couldn't handle sewing the brim to the hat, with the thickness of two layers of painted fabric and two layers of thick interfacing, so I had to sew the brim to the hat by hand, bending two needles and many pins in the process.
Yes, a royal pain.
The other required supplies were copper electrical wire from the hardware store for the propeller, the thickest Pellon interfacing available to stiffen the brim, fabric glue to secure the brim facing, cotton twill tape to use as ties, and E6000 glue to hold the propeller in place.
It was a challenging project but, in the end, determination prevailed.
And that’s the story of Bernie the Bison and his very own Noogler hat.
Such a handsome boy!
Noogler Hat Fun Facts
After spending considerable time studying the Noogler hat, I am sharing some fun facts that I have learned. (OK, "fun" might be a bit of an overstatement.)
- What colors are in the Noogler hat?
- The beanie portion of the hat is made from 6 sections. There are 4 Google colors, which don't neatly divide into 6, so the beanie itself contains only three of the Google colors: red, yellow, and blue, two panels of each color. The brim is green, the fourth Google color.
Whenever the Noogler hat is shown on the Android, there is no brim, but the Android himself is green, so the overall effect includes all four Google colors.
- What color are the beads on the propeller?
- After much googling, I learned that the beads are always: red, yellow, and orange. Yes, orange - not an official Google color. I bought two bags of pony beads in order to get the right colors.
- What color is the propeller?
- After much searching, it seems that the propeller is always blue. I think a green propeller would be nice, but it's always blue.
- How is the propeller attached to the hat?
- Via a plastic "pin". The pin has a knob at one end and the other end is threaded through the propeller and the three pony beads, then into the hat. On the inside of the hat, the plastic is then "melted" into a flat disc. A lightweight circle of interfacing is then glued to cover the plastic circle - to protect the wearer's head.
I don't have access to a similar plastic pin, or to the device used to melt the end of it, so I used a short length of copper electrical wire covered with a green plastic casing. I bent one end into a circle, and threaded the other end through the propeller, the three pony beads, and into the hat, then through a circle of stiff interfacing. I bent the copper wire to a 90 degree angle and glued it, with E6000, to the interfacing.
- How does Bernie's hat stay on his flattish head?
- Note the notches at the bottom of the hat to accommodate Bernie's horns. I've attached twill tape ties to the corner of each notch.
- Does the propeller work?
- You betcha! One of my primary goals was to make sure that the propeller spins (without falling over)!
- Why isn't your bison hat embroidered with "Noogler"?
- Funny you should mention that!
I did have plans to have it embroidered by a colleague's girlfriend who owns an embroidery machine. (I do not own an embroidery machine.) Mem found a free font that is very close to the Google logo font (called Catull BQ) and she created the graphic to the size that I specified. But the colleague's girlfriend was concerned that embroidering a painted fabric might damage her machine, driving bits of paint into the bobbin casing. She might be right - the last thing I would want is to damage an expensive Bernina!
I considered stenciling "Noogler" onto the hat, but I decided that this was more trouble than I wanted to bother with. Given my dubious abilities with a paintbrush, even with a stencil, it was too risky.
- Is that Bison a stuffed (taxidermied) bison?
- No! This is an oversized toy bison. It is made by Hansa.