Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's Day 2014 - Bison Ho!

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.

I call him Bernie

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.

Bernie’s baleful glare suggests dissatisfaction with his tiny hat

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.

New employees are given a Noogler hat at the end
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.

It even came with a spare

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.)

The 4th muslin
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.

The hat is topstitched in green thread

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.

Bernie’s pleased grin as he rocks his snazzy new Noogler hat.
Such a handsome boy!

Shams: Bison Milliner

mem: Consultant

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.
This Android is one-story tall - the tiny bike is a full-sized bike

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.
You can buy one for a mere $3600 (free shipping)


  1. So admirable, Shams!! Bernie looks very pleased with his beanie. And I'm sure he likes you the best of all his workmates. It's always good to have a bison on your side! And if I had a bison I would make him all kinds of hats, in your honor!!!

  2. Just perfect! And I'm so glad to learn he's a fake. ;-)

  3. What a fantastic job! I hope you signed the hat so you can rake in the compliments!

  4. hilarious! What dedication you had to making this project work and what a great result! I'll be waiting to hear what the responses were to Bernie's Noogle beanie.

  5. You are so clever. What fun, bet everyone there loved it!

  6. Cool April 1 joke. It looks like Ralphie, the U of CO mascot. Ralphie is actually a girl b/c you don't want to share a football field with a boy bison....

  7. Love it! My college mascot was the Bison; we had a live bison, Bennie that attended the football games. He was a hoot!

  8. Has anyone appreciated your handy work? Cause that was a lot of work with a very cool result!!!

  9. I bow to your awesomeness!!! Or....Googliness, as the case may be. A job very well done (and so right up my alley of joy & appreciation!)

  10. Haha - so wonderful! Reminds me of the song my grandmother used to sing to me as a wee child, "Barney Google with the goo-goo-googly eyes." (Of course you can Google that song!"

  11. So charming. I admire your perseverance.

  12. I know a herd of bison that would have a field day with Bernie ;) but then I have a dog that can tell you stories about the bra hat I've put on her head ;) All joking aside, such a fun project!! I bet you will be creating more hats for Bernie in the future.

  13. ZOMG. ZOMG. ZOMG!!! You are AMAZING!!!

  14. You are a legend. My favourite bit was where you said it was too much trouble to stencil the logo on. Too much trouble!! have you read your post! Thank you for raising a big smile x

  15. Shams, Coco Chanel started as a milliner. So, your chapeaux could be the start of something really BIG! ; ) This must be the best April 1st at Google ever.

  16. You deserve a raise for stick-to-it-ness!

  17. newt to say but - very, very well done.

    you've raised street cred of nooglers exponentially!! high five! steph

  18. LOVE IT! Awesome that you made your mascot a cap. Would love to hear the comments from fellow 'googlers' - I'll bet they loved it!

    Have you looked into just using that iron on stuff to create the logo you wanted to monogram? That might work if you still want the 'noogler' logo :)

    Well done!

  19. You made my day! Bernie looks quite fetching with his noogler hat on!

  20. Very cool. I wonder how long his custom noogler hat will stay.

  21. I've been reading your blog a while now, and have never commented, but I have to share my awe and admiration. You, madame, are a rock star.

  22. OMG...I love Bernie, his hat and the story about bison facing the storm...didn't know that. I sure should. We have plenty of buffalo in SD.

  23. Shams, YOU ROCK! Did you hear any comments?

  24. My granddaughter is a bison fanatic! She'll love this story. I still haven't quite developed a full appreciation for bison in general, but Bernie is adorable in his custom made Noogler. Well done Shams!

  25. I like your determination, and enjoyed Bernie's history with Google. Thanks!

  26. Bernie must be the best hatted bison in the Bay Area. I see a bevy of hats for future occasions in Bernie's future.

  27. Simply amazing! Bernie should be so proud to be an official Noogle! Your fellow Google-istas and your company received a fabulous gift- I am sure that the beanie with remain smartly perched upon his noggin for posterity!

  28. Nothing to do with the buffalo hat (but it was cute); I wanted to thank you for blazing the trail for me in Santa Fe. I visited Santa Fe last week and spent some time in Santa Fe Drygoods - gathering ideas and goals. I also spent some time and money at Santa Fe Fabrics. I could have spent more time but I had a husband hanging around outside. We decided that in the future I'll take him back to the hotel or make sure he has a book with him!

  29. I have laughed out loud at this wonderful post.....and forwarded it to my cousin whose son is working somewhere on the Google campus as well. Two degrees of separation......