The snow in my country makes me long for hot cocoa and knitting. Yes, knitting. I am not going to show you what I knit myself. That really isn’t something to write about. Instead, what I am going to share with you today, is just a bit outside the SCA time frame. But you know what? I don’t care! These hats, because it is hats I am going to show you, are absolutely adorable and date from the late 17th century.
In 1980 archaeologists investigated the graves of 185 Dutchmen – whale hunters and workmen of the train oil refineries – who had died on or near Spitsbergen during the 17th century. The skeletons were still wearing their knitted woollen caps! Each cap was individualized; the men recognized one another only by the pattern of stripes on the caps. The men were bundled up so tightly against the fierce cold that only their eyes were visible. And, if you have ever been in a snowstorm, you know you can barely see. So those hats were important to recognize a particular co-worker.
The amazing re-enactor Sally Pointer also has a pattern available on Ravelry, or you can order from her shop. She describes these caps as doubly knitted. The hats are without seams, so made on a circular needle OR on 4 separate needles. You then create a very long tubular shaped item, Sally describes it as a “large flat rugby ball”. You then fold one end into the other, thus creating a very warm double layered hat. You can felt them, as was costumary back then and will of course also give you warm ears today 😉
This hat from Marken you see hereunder, dates from the 1800s. You can see how the lighter knitwork can become the lining by folding it inwards.
If you look on elsewhere on Ravelry, the knitting community online, you will be able to find a pattern if you look for ‘Dutch whaler’s cap‘. So, what’s keeping you? Get your yarn!
The entire Spitsbergen excavation is documented in this book by archeologist Sandra Comis, I will try to find an English version and post it here as well.