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15th C 'Acorn Hats'

Posted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 5:57 pm
by gregory23b
I recently recall a casual conversation with a few people about the construction of the 'acorn' hat so much seen in Flemish images. Some said that they were knitted and heavily fulled and the little tag at the top was the bit you get left over, others say they were felt or woven cloth.

I was browsing my book on Durer whilst noshing and came across an early portrait of Durer's dad circa 1480, see attached file. Well what the image does not show all that clearly (it is better in my book) is a line of stitches running up the crease on the right of his dad's hat.

does the stitching negate it being knitted or can stitching be applied anyway?

How bulky would these hats need to be if:

Does anyone know how they were actually made?

Posted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 7:32 pm
by sally
That does look as if its 5 panels, the knitted version I've been working on is more snug to the head, and effectively four panels, though knitted in the round. Will try to dig out a pic of the efforts so far

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 9:53 am
by sally
Not a great pic, but this is the prototype hat I'd been working on

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:13 am
by WhiteWolf
Sally is that knitted open then stiched up or is it done on one of those weird round needle thingy wots-its?

WW 8)

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:17 am
by gregory23b
Thanks Sally, funny thing about the pic is the stitches are not on the prominent parts, to me that could be formed felt, but I know naff all about textiles really so that may not mean much.

The other thing that has been bugging me about this thing is that some of the acorn hats have steps at the back, ie they are higher or sometimes lower than the rim at the front.

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:41 am
by Shadowcat
I would make the Durer hat from 6 sections of felt, or felted wool, putting the stitches on the outside to make that ridge. I would be capable of knitting it, but my personal opinion is that it is a solid fabric.

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:49 am
by gregory23b
Shadow the stitching on that hat is not on the prominent bits it lies between the two, which is odd or at least seems odd as I would have sewn it out on the ridges.

scratches head

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 11:05 am
by Chickun
There's a pattern in the medieval tailors assistant which I copied a while back. It seemed fairly straightforward, but this one only had four panels. I used two layers of fairly densely woven, good quality wool for mine.

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 11:09 am
by sally
WhiteWolf wrote:Sally is that knitted open then stiched up or is it done on one of those weird round needle thingy wots-its?

WW 8)

Done on 5 needles (which is very simple to do, it only looks complicated. You just use plain knitting throughout)- I'm working these up for a kit, will probably be £10 for needles, enough wool a pattern and a potted history of medieval knitting, will be enough wool to make a taller version as an alternative. Takes about an average weeked show to knit up, so a nice project pack. You knit em a little big then felt it to size

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 2:07 pm
by WhiteWolf
sally wrote:
WhiteWolf wrote:Sally is that knitted open then stiched up or is it done on one of those weird round needle thingy wots-its?

WW 8)

Done on 5 needles (which is very simple to do, it only looks complicated. You just use plain knitting throughout)- I'm working these up for a kit, will probably be £10 for needles, enough wool a pattern and a potted history of medieval knitting, will be enough wool to make a taller version as an alternative. Takes about an average weeked show to knit up, so a nice project pack. You knit em a little big then felt it to size

Does this mean I have to read the felting booklet we bought from you? :lol:

Andy 8)

Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 2:47 pm
by sally
Only part of it dear :lol:

Posted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 2:06 pm
by Steve Stocker
It could be leather of course, butt stitched.

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 4:33 am
by Gwen
Why would there be only one way to make a hat? It's possible to get this shape any number of ways, maybe some were knitted, some stitched of woven cloth, some felted.


Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 5:28 pm
by gregory23b
I don't think anyone said there was a single way just that some of the designs seem not make sense if say knitted or felted etc.

I am sure acorn hats were made in a variety of ways however if knitted then why do many of them have a step or appear to be quite thin, why do they appear quite stiff (if knitted say how is that done?) and like Durer's dad there is side stitching and ridges.

Do some construction techniques mean some variants are not possible is what I am asking I guess.

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 7:12 pm
by Vicky
I agree with Gwen, I think there may be several methods of constuction.

However, a friend of mine has knitted one based on:

and it came out very similar - tall and stiff, despite being knitted. It was knitted with very chunkily plyed wool (similar to that used in some of Kirstie Buckland's caps), and then felted. Unfortunatley she sold it before I could get my grubby mitts on it, but I'm working on her to make another! I have seen an Italian painting in the National Gallery with a hat of this type in which the knitting was visible at the edge around the forehead, but faded into the rest of the hat which could have looked block felted. Sorry, I don't have the reference, it was Italian, and so I didn't note it! Next time I'm there I'll try to find it again.

I don't think that means they were all knitted - though seams don't necessarily exclude knitting - as they may be knitted in panels and then sewn together. Maybe? I admit I don't knit though, and I'm not meaning to be an advocate for knitting - as I say, I think many construction methods are simultaneously possible, just that I don't think the seams necessarily prove non-knitted.

A good picture of one 'off the head' is here: ... rture.html

- though unfortunatley this isn't the best copy of it. I have a good, large copy in a book which shows this particular one to be quite flaccid.

The visually best reconstructions of these hats are often in blocked felt, but they wouldn't lie flat like this one.

( I really tried to use language other than 'tall and stiff' and 'flaccid', but I admit defeat this time! ) :oops:

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 7:31 pm
by Gwen
Sorry if my post sounded confrontational g23b, I'm not accusing you of anything! You know me so know I hope you know it's just the way I write! :oops:

I bought a knitted cap of Kirstie Buckland and it's so felted, thick and stiff that it's difficult to tell that it's not just felted wool. I commissioned another of a lady on the East Coast (of the US) to make one, and it was the same. Certain types of wool, when coarsely plied felt up quite astonishingly.

I don't knit but my mum did, so I'm very familiar with the technique. It wouldn't be difficult to knit in a shape that drops down in the back, or even a vertical rib that when finished looked like a seam.

I seem to recall Dave Key providing a reference to an import record for "knitted caps". I'll have to go back through my records and see if I can find it.


Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 8:17 pm
by Vicky
Hi Gwen,

The cappers guilds were pretty big in England, with The Cappers' Act of 1488 apparently fixing the prices of knitted caps and hats, and heavy fines were imposed on anyone wearing a foreign-made cap or hat (though IIRC in some places it was called the Cappers and Feltmakers Guild...).

There's actually a book on the Coventry Cappers Guild:
The Mystery of the Coventry Cappers, by Peter King

I've also been to one of Kirstie Buckland's lectures on knitted caps and the guilds - but I don't think she's ever done one of the acorn-style ones, mainly the 'monmouth caps' and quite heavy rolled brim types (as well as later styles). I did try to persuade her to do an acorn type one once, but no luck.

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 8:37 pm
by Gwen
Hi Vicky-

As I recall the cap I bought was called a "Warwick", and now that I think about it it was shaped rather like a bowler.

The hat I got from Leah was an acorn shape.

Jeff is pretty fussy about his hats- we were going for the style you see in Rene; Jeff didn't like the Kirstie hat because he thought the top was too flat. He liked the acorn I got from Leah, but it's a bit big on him so he can't really wear it until I felt it down some more. (that's what he gets for being a pinhead! :wink: )

Interesting infor on the Capper's Guild- you guys have all sorts of cool info like that available to you, sure wish I could lay hands on that sort of info for Burgundy!!

Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks!


Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2005 8:48 pm
by Vicky
Yeah, Neil's got the Warwick type - that's the one I meant by the heavy one with rolled brim - I didn't use the name as I believe it's her own name for it rather than anything contemporary. That shape is seen quite a lot in pictures of lower-class people - which I can't quite see suiting Jeff's style! :wink:

See you soon!

Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2005 9:36 am
by gregory23b
Chill Gwen, no it wasn't confrontational it was a valid question/observation.

It was a conversation with Vicky that came to mind when I looked at the Durer dad pic, I fully realise there is more than one way to skin a cat (cap?) but are some methods more suited to certain styles? If the Durer dad pic is to be taken at face value then the stitching is on a flat plane and not on the ridges, if so what construction would that type of hat be?

I have seen and even fondled Neil's hat and it is a fine thing indeed is it not Vicky?

Nothing wrong in using correct terms is there Vicky, Stiff and Flaccid are fine............

Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2005 3:56 pm
by Gwen
In considering it, I suppose I just took the different variations as either different styles or regional variations. The hat Durer's dad is wearing is a different hat than the one St. Eligius is wearing is a different hat than the ones the Duke's homies are wearing in Rene'. I assume the variations are nearly infinite, and probably almost imperceptible to a modern person who is thinking in broad strokes.

To draw a modern analogy, jeans are not just jeans. There are hundreds of variations, and each variation appeals to a certain group. My shoer (farrier) wears Wrangler 5 pocket button fly jeans. Jeff wear Gap boot cut. I'm wearing Gap low rise boot cut, but they don't look anything like Jeff's. The kids at the high school wear the "urban chic" skater jeans. Technically, they're all jeans; they're made of demin, are worn on the legs, have pockets and a fly, but in practice they are all different.

Further on that line, the jeans I see being worn in the UK are not shaped and detailed at all like the ones here in the US. Even Gap jeans sold in the UK are different than the ones here.

I have to think it's the same thing with these hats. They're all different variations on a theme, and we probably can't know why Durer's dad is wearing his particular brand of hat and St. Eligius wear another. Maybe Durer's dad is completely out of fashion. wearing a hat his grandmother made him 20 years before. Maybe it's a unique style Albrecht whipped up just for the picture. Maybe Al thought the hat dad was wearing wasn't interesting enough, and added some details that didn't exist....

Dunno. Issues like this raise more questions than they answer for me.

Hope that didn't ramble too much. It's early here and I need coffee.


Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2005 6:44 pm
by gregory23b
Ok yes it could be anything but in order to be intelligent and try and make a starting point is it possible to eliminate certain materials from certain styles? At least that way sensible assumptions could be made based on what we do know about how materials in general work.

This kind of links to the AA thing I mentioned a while back about how cloth is always portrayed the same way, hyper realistic but someone asserted that cloth does indeed look like it is made of cardboard, missing the point completely, ie artistic convention is applied to all cloth at all social levels so if the portrayal is correct in all particulars then in that instance all poor people wore the same materials as the rich etc etc my turn to ramble. But we can eliminate that argument by a reasonable assumption/knowledge of what people actually wore rather than what or how it is portrayed in a pic, maybe the same method can be used in this case or any other.

I am not a fan of the acorn hats* as I see them as a conceit for the young and an emulation of foreign Flemish fashions, why have such structured hats when a perfecty good roll of cloth does the job and at a pinch becomes a neat knec scarf/snood ;-)

*this is just another mental excercise/fact finding thing.


Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 6:56 am
by face119

And why the hell would one want to do something like that...please tell me....

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 10:15 am
by gregory23b

not sure about anyone else, but I don't see a quote, any chance of a re-paste?

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 4:36 pm
by Gwen
Might be a spammer- remember the flood of online poker posts to FireStryker a month ago?


Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 6:19 pm
by mally ley
OK, here's my tuppence worth.
A lot of early (C16th - earlyish) knitted stockings quite often had a purl stitch running down the back. When knitting in the round this was a good way of keeping track of where you've got to, but also echoed the seam down the back of bias-cut cloth hose.
I've knitted the flat, pancake style hats, based on some TJ saw (actually handled) at the V&A and, on the inside at least, the increases and decreases show up even though the hats are felted.
Having knitted a couple, acorn/bobble hat style you still need some way of keeping track of where to increase/decrease to keep the shape even. counting stitches is possible, but not easy, especially if you're likely to be interupted a lot. Maybe marking the sections with a purl stitch did this, and then ending up looking like a ridge when felted.
Bit of a ramble, all conjecture, but just thought I'd run it up the flagpole and see who threw mayonnaise at it ... :!:

Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 6:49 pm
by sally
Interesting idea, I'm still playing with various ways of making caps, and my recent 'kit' is aimed at giving an easily knitted, plausible visual effect based on the overall style rather than being a carbon copy of any one example, but I found that if using 5 needles it was actually very easy to see where to decrease, as you did it at the ends of each of the four working needles, and that naturally made a slight textural difference that shows as ridges in the finished cap.

Posted: Sun Nov 27, 2005 5:47 pm
by Grymm
You can felt an acorn cap in one piece using a fabric resist but I also have a modern Kangol roll hat that is knitted (modern preshrunk wool) mit the ickle stalk on the top looking bit like that picture of some bloke in Order of the Garter robes....that I can't find aaaaaargh

I'll come back again when I can give some refs.