I do research on and recreate garments and objects from the past. My sources range from original items to photographs in books, periodicals, art works, literary references and period patterns. My research also involves the history of knitting needles and related implements.
The portrait in the corner is by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) of Elisabeth Alexeyevna (?), location and ownership unknown.
I have always wanted to make one of these caps, not only because it looked life fun to knit but also because of its long connections with mariners.
I used a pattern from Wicked Woolens by Sally Pointer, who is widely respected in the field of historical and reproduction clothing. The patterns from Wicked Woolens not only come with clearly written instructions for the entire process of making the cap but also with extensive and valuable historical background and citations in text and images.
This style of cap can be documented back to the 16th century, in art, literature, personal and documentary writings. The shagginess is created by thrums which are the short lengths or trimmings off the loom or bits of fleece, worked into a knit stitch or knotted on.
For this cap, I used short strands of wool of various lengths of Lion Brand’s Fisherman’s Wool in Brown Heather on 5mm/US 8 needles. The cap is a tall one and is knitted to a very large size and then fulled (felted) down to the required size. The thrums become solid but flexible and as they stand out from the hat, provide a certain barrier from the elements. If the rain and snow does get through them, the knitted fabric below is thick and durable.
Here is the hat before fulling.
This type of cap was favoured by mariners and often became a designated one for the ship’s carpenter like Mr. Lamb in the film, Master And Commander – The Far Side of the World (2003). *
My thanks to my friend, Russell, for modelling the cap.
*The Making of Master and Commander – The Far Side of the World – The Official Guide to the Major Motion Picture, Tom McGregor, New York/London: W.W. Norton, & Company, 2003