Category Archives: Late 1700s Foragers Hat


My forager’s hat is finished – a nice big modified stocking cap with a blunt end and a double-thick self-lined brim (no ribbing). The only thing left to do is to find out if my re-enactor pal wants the optional big honking tassel at the top or not. Here you see it modeled by Smaller Daughter. This is really an adult size hat. It’s not stretched at all on her head.


I used a very dense deep teal hand-spun yarn 100% wool yarn. I purchased it from an outside vendor at a local spring farm festival held at Drumlin Farm in Concord, MA. This yarn had no name, and the spinner (selling her own products) didn’t include a card with the sale. The gold is a fragment of another single of similar weight. I know that the gold is Merino, but I don’t know the fleece type of the teal, but it’s scratchier than the gold (but not too much so to limit wearing).

My yarn has quite a bit of slubbing, and looks like the color was produced by aggressively combing together black and teal dyed fibers prior to spinning (some of the slubs are clearly one or the other color, others are blended). It’s not bad, but it’s not uniformly good, either. The staple is short and the twist is uneven. As a result it breaks easily. The good news is that it also splices easily. In terms of weight, it counts out to 15-16 wraps per inch, which lands it in between fingering and sport in weight.



You could use a lofty sport, knit down to gauge, or a very dense fingering – something thicker than a standard sock yarn though. I think the Regia and Socka style European sock yarns would be too thin for this. My hat weighs in at about 90 grams, which is about right as I used all of one 50g skein plus a bit more than half of a second. I haven’t made a tassel yet so I can’t estimate how much more yarn would be needed for one.

If you are making a Voyageur’s hat – they were most often deep red. Liberty caps were most often red or blue. Sometimes liberty caps had patriotic mottoes knit into the brim area. “Don’t Tread on Me” would work. An aside – Older Daughter tells me that people wanting to cosplay Link from Legend of Zelda would also want one of these hats, but in green and with a bit more of a pointed rather than rounded end.

This patten is a transcription of my working notes. I haven’t test-knit a second item from them, so mistakes are certainly possible.

Voyageur’s Hat/Liberty Cap In the Style of the Mid-1700s



  • Roughly 90 grams of a heavy fingering/light sport weight yarn, with a recommended label gauge of 6.5-7 stitches per inch (this does not include any yarn for a tassel)
  • Waste string for provisional cast-on
  • Double pointed or circular needles – US#0 (2mm)
  • Extra circular or double pointed needle to hold stitches while fusing the brim US #0 (2mm) or smaller
  • Tapestry needle for ending off
  • Five stitch markers
  • Optional: A graph of a motto or design that is no more than 30 rows tall
  • Optional: A 4-6 inch long tassel made from the same yarn as the hat, and a small holed button (not a shank button) to sew it onto on the hat’s inside as a reinforcement.

Gauge and Dimensions:

  • Taken over stockinette on US #0 (2mm) needles – 6.75 stitches and 9.5 rows per inch
  • Finished hat will fit most adults. It’s 21 inches across the bottom opening (stretching to fit easily on a 23 inch head). It measures roughly 17.25 inches from brim edge to top.

Using a provisional cast-on, cast on 130 stitches. Distribute on DPNs or if you’re using the two-circ method – onto two circular needles. Knit 32 rounds, then purl two rounds to create a fold line. If you are inserting a pattern follow the optional directions below. If not, skip to the no design instructions.

If inserting an optional graphed colorwork design. Your graph can be worked in stranding or intarsia, but must be no more than 30 rows tall. For best proportions and an authentic look, I suggest single color (plus background) patterns of no more than 20 rows in height. My X is 16 rows tall). In terms of horizontal placement, the hat’s brim finish ensures that there is no visible jag where the cast-on round begins, and there is no front or back, so don’t agonize about centering the pattern in any one particular spot. Subtract your graph’s row count from 32, then divide the result by two. Knit that many rounds before starting your graph. Knit the remainder after the graph is complete. To prepare for the next step, look at your colorwork area. Take a moment to tug any extra loose ends so that the appearance on the front is as neat as possible. If any are particularly unruly, thread them onto a tapestry needle and take a little sewing stitch to secure them. So long as you flick the loose ends right and left so that there is no giant lump of strands in any one spot, you don’t need to take the time to end them all off neatly.

If not working an optional graphed colorwork design. Knit 32 rounds.

All knitters. At this point you are ready to fuse the brim. The knitting done before the fold welt will become a self facing, totally encapsulating any loose ends resulting from the optional colorwork. Unzip or unpick your provisional cast-on, threading those stitches onto spare DPNs or a circular needle.

Hold the work folded at the purl welt with the purl sides inside. Then knit around one row, knitting each stitch from your active needles along with its complement on the needle holding the now awakened stitches from the provisional cast on. At the end of this row you will have the same 130 stitches left on your active needles, and the brim will be completely fused to the hat body with all ends neatly out of sight.

Continue knitting in stockinette (all knits) until your hat measures 8 inches when measured from the bottom of the purl welts at the brim’s opening. On the last round before you begin the decreases, place a stitch marker every 26 stitches

Decrease rounds:

Round 1: (Knit 24, K2tog)5x – 125 stitches remain (You will be knitting to two stitches before the each stitch marker, then working your K2tog)
Knit 10 rounds
Round 12: (Knit 23, K2tog)5x – 120 stitches remain
Knit 10 rounds
Round 23: (Knit 22, K2tog)5x – 115 stitches remain
Knit 10 rounds
Round 34: (Knit 21, K2tog)5x – 110 stitches remain
Knit 10 rounds
Round 45: (Knit 20, K2tog)5x – 115 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 51: (Knit 19, K2tog)5x – 110 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 57: (Knit 18, K2tog)5x – 105 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 63: (Knit 17, K2tog)5x – 100 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 69: (Knit 16, K2tog)5x – 95 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 75: (Knit 15, K2tog)5x – 90 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 81: (Knit 14, K2tog)5x – 85 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 87: (Knit 13, K2tog)5x – 80 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 93: (Knit 12, K2tog)5x – 75 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 99: (Knit 11, K2tog)5x – 70 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 105: (Knit 10, K2tog)5x -65 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 111: (Knit 9, K2tog)5x – 60 stitches remain
Knit 5 rounds
Round 117: (Knit 8, K2tog)5x – 55 stitches remain
Knit 2 rounds
Round 110: (Knit 7, K2tog)5x – 50 stitches remain
Knit 2 rounds
Round 113: (K6, K2tog)5x – 45 stitches remain
Knit 2 rounds
Round 116: (K5, K2tog)5x – 40 stitches remain
Knit 2 rounds:
Round 119: (K4, K2tog)5x – 35 stitches remain
Knit 1 round

The rounded point:

Continue working (K1, K2tog) until fewer than 10 stitches remain. Break the yarn leaving a 6 inch tail. Thread tail onto tapestry needle, and use the tapestry needle to gather up all remaining stitches draw-string style, pulling them together and securely ending off on the inside of the hat. Affix any optional tassel to this center point, sewing it on through a small button placed on the hat’s inside. This button acts as a reinforcement and decreases the chance of the tassel pulling out or distorting the end to which it is sewn.

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I’ve promised a re-enactor pal a forager’s cap that he can wear at historical recreation bivouacs with his Revolutionary War era British regiment. He described it as being basically the same shape as a voyageur’s hat (the ancestor of the toque) or a liberty cap – a rather blunt stocking cap of medium length related somewhat to the Phrygian cap seen on some statues of Lady Liberty, and omnipresent in the French Revolution (but without a turned brim).

It’s tough to see from the various representations of similar hats in paintings and illustrations (mostly created long after-the-fact tiny thumbnails of behatted folk rowing boats, or running around in idealized depictions of famous battles), but I don’t think they had a modern ribbed type bottom edge like most of the contemporary knitting patterns show. Some look to have a sturdy split section that was turned up to make a sort of a bottom cuff (the Phrygian cap variants), others look to have plain edges. Some look like they’ve been fulled or made up from fulled yardage of some sort. Voyageur’s hats are usually described as being either red or blue. So are liberty caps. Some liberty caps bore mottoes either knitted in or embroidered on the bottom edge. And finally both hats are mentioned as sometimes, but not always having a large tassel on the end.

Throwing any attempt at historical accuracy beyond this cursory level of attention to the winds, I’ve taken a middle ground among all of these. I am making a blunt end slightly tapered stocking cap, long enough for the top to flap down to just below the brim when worn. The verdict is still out on the tassel thing. To recap, I’ve decided that instead of ribbing, I’m going to use a doubled ear band done with a self-facing and turning row of welting. And I’m going to knit an X into the brim (my friend’s regiment number). I am also going to use a hand-spun single that’s probably heavier and probably coarser than what would have been used back then, but is closer in spirit to a period yarn than is modern factory-made DK or worsted. I am somewhat limited in color choice. As I described before, my red is heathered with too much white for this purpose. Instead I’ve got a nice, strong tealed blue/green, with the X done in a mustardy gold.

So. Here’s what I have so far.


I ripped out what I had before because it was too big.

I began again on US #0s and did a better job of swatching. For my hat to fit snugly at my demonstrated gauge of 6.5 stitches = 1 inch on 2mm (US #0) needles, I cast on 130 stitches. I used a provisional cast-on and knit 32 rounds in stockinette. Then I purled two rounds, and knit another 7 rounds. At this point I was ready to begin my X. I adapted that letter from a graphed alphabet first published in the mid 1500s, but stretched it out a row to improve the proportions. Yes, this is wildly anachronistic, but the letter form was pleasing, and in keeping with type faces current in the mid 1700s. Then I worked my 18 row tall X in stranding. Sort of.

I’m knitting in the round here on two circs. I cheated. To do the first two rounds, I broke off a length of about 8 inches from my ball of gold yarn. Then starting in the center, I worked the first row of my X. I dropped the gold when I was done with that area and continued around. When I got to round two of the pattern, I used the second leg of my length of gold to finish it. I continued in this manner, using broken pieces for every two rows of my X chart.

When my X was done, I worked another 8 rows in stockinette. At that point when the brim was folded along the purl welt, the facing side was the same length as the X-bearing part. So I unzipped my provisional cast-on, and threaded those stitches onto a spare needle. I tidied up the X, and did a couple of anchoring stitches to keep the gold from wiggling loose and to make sure that the ends weren’t lumping up in one mass, but I didn’t bother doing a full darn-in/finish on them. They are after all going to be completely encapsulated in the double-thick hat brim. Holding the piece folded along the welt, on the next row I knit together one body stitch along with one stitch rescued from my provisional cast-on. When it was done I had my double-thick brim neatly finished, with no pesky ends of my X to peek through.

I’m now at the “make the thing longer until you can’t stand doing it any more” stage of lengthening the hat body. I’ve read several descriptions of how others have formed the top of their caps, plus other speculations. Since 130 isn’t a particularly convenient number for evenly staged decreases, I’ll be noodling out this part on the fly. Some descriptions of these hats opine that there is no taper at all, just a drawstring finish. But I don’t believe that the people who wrote that have ever knit. A drawstring on an untapered tube would not make the graceful shapes I see in the paintings, instead that finish would make something that looked like a gathered pants leg, with a bulby end.

I’ll keep posting here as I go along. Comments from anyone with real historical citations to either support or blast to shreds any supposition here are most welcome.

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We celebrated Hanukkah this weekend past in our own style. Fried foods are traditional. We did crab cakes. Not traditional by a long shot, but tasty none the less.

The Resident Male, finding himself at the fish shop buying the crab was tempted by some beautiful Bluepoint oysters. So he brought home four as a special grownups-only treat.

So there we were, happily slurping down our excellent oysters, when I thought I found a bit of shell. Not uncommon in oysters opened by amateurs*. But it wasn’t shell.

It was a pearl.

A natural pearl. Far from gem grade, but round and pearly enough to qualify, even though you can see a bit of the gravel that inspired it sticking out from one end.


I’ve put my tiny pearl next to a strand of cultured pearls for size comparison. I’ve joked about finding a pearl, and have known it was remotely possible. But I’d never heard of anyone actually finding one. So what to do with my inferior but extremely lucky pearl? Wear it for luck, of course. I’m thinking of getting a tiny silver charm in the shape of a cage to keep it in.

And I’ll probably make the traditional latkes tonight.

As far as knitting goes, I’m trying to zip through the remainder of a pair of socks, plus get a start on the foraging cap (in the style of a Liberty or voyageur’s cap) for my re-enactor friend. I’ve got a nice hand-spun wool fingering weight single, in a color sort of between forest and teal, with a touch of black. I would have preferred a barn red, but the red I had was heathered with too much white and from a distance read “pink.” Shown here are my larval beginnings (I’m working on the area that when finished will be the facing in the earband, plus the too-pink yarn. Gauge here is between 5.75 and 6 stitches per inch. I’ve got 130 on the needles, and am getting a band big enough to fit a 23″ circumference head. There’s some allowance for stretch and the hat will be double thick at the earband, but I don’t want to make it so tight that the wearer will get a headache. You can see just a bit of provisional cast-on peeking out at the bottom of that dark green wiggle:


Other than that, I am finishing up yet another pair of gift socks. This one from Schoeller+Stahl Fortissma Colori/Socka Color, color #5.


* We follow the safer Julia Child oyster method (learned while watching her on TV). It involves identifying the hinge and using the pointy end of a bottle opener to dislocate it. Then using a thin, sharp knife – winkling it into the opening made by the unhinging and running it around the oyster inside to scrape it top and bottom from its shell.

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