Ryan Williamson had a problem. The then-14-year-old couldn’t find hats in local retail stores that fit his slightly overgrown noggin. But, with the help of a needle and some old blanket ends, Williamson crafted his own head apparel that garnered the attention of his peers. Thus, an entrepreneur was born. Eighteen years later, Williamson is still relying on recycled fleece to fashion his specialized hats and winter wear for his clothing company, The Mouse Works. From fuzzy bear hats to an assortment of colored headbands, Williamson spends his summers rummaging through yards of discarded Polartec fleece to stitch together thousands of these custom pieces for the looming cooler seasons. The warmth, durability and comfort of Polartec fabrics help in making it the top choice for outdoor wear. The Mouse Works creator singlehandedly cuts the hats from a homemade pattern and sews them together with his industrial sewing machine in his small, solar-powered studio near Charlottesville, VA. Leftover scraps are transformed into tassels and other funky adornments to help keep the overall material waste to a minimum. Even more, some of the unusable fleece bought from Polartec, LLC, or other nearby fabric factories is made from recycled plastic bottles. His average amount of tossed-out trash per year: an entire plastic grocery bag’s worth.
Mouse Works recycled fleece hat
The Mouse Works’ Fleece Bear Hat in grey berber
Williamson’s selection of fleece gear ranges in size to fit a 1-month-old to a 99-year-old, and also extends to women’s skirts and unisex bib overalls. Whether you’re looking for a simple, rolled beanie, a feisty, horned dragon cap or the warmth of fleece clothing, The Mouse Works has you covered. Hats range from $18 to $30, with the larger items stretching anywhere from $50 to $95. Starting in September each year, Williamson treks to various East Coast crafts festivals and peddles his comfy merchandise through the end of December. Go here to track his trips, and to also learn what businesses sell The Mouse Works apparel regularly. Or, order your favorites and make custom requests online to make sure the item is tailored to your liking. Williamson is so committed to running an eco-friendly company that almost all of the individual clothing orders are packaged in recyclable envelopes. “I believe that running a business requires environmental responsibility that should go well beyond the current norm,” Williamson wrote on the Mouse Works website. “While it might be slightly more and more intensive I think that it is our responsibility both as individuals and businesses to do all that we can to lower the environmental impact of our daily lives.” Get a closer look at The Mouse Works’ handicraft by visiting its website and Facebook page.