Shop Local Spotlight: Upcycled handmade hats from old sweaters

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 8:30am

    For the month of December, we continue our “Shop Local” series to shine the spotlight on local craftspeople who make things by hand. So each week, until Dec. 25, we will bring you this series until you can’t take it anymore. Ready. Set. Go.

    Mary Alice Bird’s Hat Designs

    Upcycled handmade hats from old sweaters

    The Back Story:

    It all started 25 years ago, when Rockland resident Mary Alice Bird heard a story from her daughter, Sarah Bird, who had come across stack of old wool sweaters at a resale ship in Austin, TX that were about to be thrown away. Sarah didn’t have the heart to see them go to waste, so she took them home and made hats and other upcycled items out of them. “When I retired 15 years ago, I was talking to my daughter and she said she thought I’d enjoy doing this too,” said Bird. “At the time, not many people were doing this kind recycling here in Maine, so I made a series of hats for the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Christmas Fair.

    “Being rather compulsive, I’d made a lot of them,” she said. “Since at that time I was living on an island, I went into Archipelago to see if they would take them on consignment. And they did. From there, I branched out to making different kinds of recycled fabric items — scarves, handbags, children's clothing, slipper socks, and for about the next 10 years, sold my things not just at St. Peter's Fair, but at Archipelago and about three other area shops. I get my fabrics from clothing and fabric remnants at from Good Will, Salvation Army and other rummage sales, as well as from friends who give me sweaters that have a few holes or have gotten shrunk by mistake.  I then shrink wash them and cut them into the pieces of my design patterns. What I enjoy is mixing unusual textures and colors. Two years ago, as I was approaching 80, I retired from year-round sewing and now only prepare items once a year to sell at local craft fairs to benefit the community service work of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, located in the center of downtown Rockland.”

    Fun Fact

    Mary Alice said a number of her past customers came to the Festival of Lights Craft Fair specifically to buy something and at the end, she cleared around $1,000 and gave it all to her church.

    Where to find it/price range:

    Most of her handmade items are between $25-30. Mary Alice takes special orders and people are welcome to make an appointment to view her stock of items at home. She can be reached via email:

    Kay Stephens can be reached at