Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Knit Cap

While checking out some wonderful information on 18th century knit caps, I came across these two pictures.

I wanted to reproduce that striped cap, and the cook in our reenacting group graciously volunteered to be the recipient of the finished cap, even though I’ve never seen anyone in the hobby wear a striped cap. Besides what we dubbed the “rasta” cap, I found a striped cap in Hogarth’s Industry and Idleness series. The same guy with the eye patch shows up in several plates.

I started by knitting a swatch on my needles of choice. Then using Mara Riley’s pattern, I scaled my pattern up since I was using a finer yarn, and cast on the navy wool. I knit about 30 rows and realized that my scale was way off. I also noticed that in both paintings, the knit cap was worn over a linen workman’s cap. So … I ripped out all 3 inches, knit a bigger swatch, recalculated how many stitches to cast on (remembering THIS time that it had to go over another cap) and started again.

 I used the "Porter" painting to try to gauge the scale. I looked at how much of the ear the navy yarn covered, and went from there. The stripes looked like they were a finger and a half wide. I kept knitting until I had what looked like was going to be that distinctive “bell” shape and started decreasing. I didn’t like the way the top looked, so I ripped that out, pulled out my copies of Mark Tully’s “The Packet” series until I found the directions for his knit cap and tried again.
I was happy with it, so I wet it, blocked it, and put it over a "bouncy ball" to dry.

I’ll get pictures of it on our cook, complete with black felt hat, at our next event.

UPDATED to add: Another knit cap here.


  1. I have a question. My mom is a knitter, so I have been around modern knitting quite a bit. Not that that really has anything to do with my question...

    I was thinking back to your mittens, and realized that they don't look much like modern knitted things. More "unfinished" than you would see nowadays. But the techniques haven't really changed from then till now, have they? Were there ever any "smoother" or more finished mittens from back in the day, or are these things just a development that comes from time?

  2. Utilitarian things got used up/worn out, so there aren't many extant mittens to work from. What we do know is that ribbing (knit 2, purl 2 for instance) isn't really seen at this time - not until the end of the 1700's of memory serves. We also know that you can't just start knitting stockinette stitch (like a t-shirt is knit) without the bottom curling up. We know from original knit stockings that garter stitch was used at the top to keep them from rolling, and so it's a logical step to apply that to the bottom of the mittens. Remember, too, that wool will felt up as it's used and conform to the wearers hands, so maybe that pointy top will shape to the wearers hands. It could also just be a really simple project to teach kids to knit. Once children hit the age of 4, the free ride was over and they started earning their keep. This would be a good beginner project.