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Put a bird on it!

Apr 16, 2012

Have you seen the episode of the TV show Portlandia that pokes fun at the popular bird motif that's everywhere in the design world? It's hilarious, and it totally applies to me—from where I'm sitting in my home office I can see eleven birds that are part of the decor. Um, yeah, I like birds.

    
The Yoruba Bird Hat by Vicki Square, from Folk Hats

I was thumbing through Folk Hats by Vicki Square and I discovered the crossroads where my love of birds, knitting, and hats meet: The Yoruba Bird Hat. It literally has a bird on it—right on top! The whimsey is fantastic.

According to Vicki, "Hats are magical. In the twinkling of an eye, a hat can transport you to another place, another state of mind-you can step into a grand adventure through the simple act of putting on a hat. And wearing a hat is not only a means of self-expression, it's an invitation to assume the hat's character and mystique."

I totally agree. I love hats, even though they're not super flattering on me. Knitted hats are my go-to gift project and they're the projects I get the most requests for from my family. I think I might put a bird on it for my sister. She'll wear the heck out of that hat!

Here's the story behind the Yoruba Bird Hat.

The Yoruba tribe of Nigeria regularly transform themselves into compelling art forms. They are best known for spectacular beadwork on their clothing and accessories by which they designate people as warriors, diviners, hunters, musicians, and kings. Tunics, bags, staffs, and most especially elaborate headdresses contribute to these designations.

Yoruba headwear, which can extend one or two feet above the head, often features sculptural human or animal figures. On a ground of indigo blue and sienna brown, I have played bold black geometric shapes for a hat that's more in line with everyday wear. Then whimsy led me to place a bird on top of an ancient affirmation of the king's power.

—Vicki Square, from Folk Knits

When I saw the Yoruba Bird Hat on the cover of Folk Hats, I smiled. Then I flipped through the book to find out more about the hat, coming upon hat after fantastic hat. Plus a bunch of interesting information about hats and hat knitting techniques. Here's one that'll be really helpful for me—a hat blocking form. I struggle with blocking hats; they just don't block well when laid flat. Here are Vicki's instructions to make your own blocking form.

Make a Simple Hat-Blocking Form
    
Purchase four pieces of one-inch-thick Styrofoam circles (available at craft stores) seven inches in diameter. Glue the four circles together, layering one on top of the other (Figure 1), and let them dry.

Use a hacksaw or an old serrated knife to shave off about half an inch from each side to form and oval block (Figure 2)) that is the desired circumference (about 22" for an adult).

Shave off the upper edges to round off the top of the block (Figure 3). Use a wood file or coarse sandpaper to smooth the transition from the hat sides to the top.

Wrap the finished block with plastic to prevent the Styrofoam from shedding onto the hat and to facilitate slipping the hat on and off the block.

Easy-peasy! I have to run to the craft store today anyway, so I'm going to pick up some Styrofoam rounds and make one of these hat forms.

And I hope you'll check out Folk Hats, now available as an eBook, and the Yoruba Bird Hat. Sure, you could leave the bird off and still have a beautiful hat, but why wouldn't you want to put a bird on it?

Cheers,


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Comments

Lili wrote
on Apr 27, 2012 8:34 AM

Commenting on  JoyceH@16, bgvt, Lynn G. and other pot/bowl people: Those circular household objects work for soft stretchy hats such as berets and toques. But the human head is not round in cross-section, so if you make a felted stiff hat, you really do need an OVAL form of *the right head size* to block it to fit correctly. The foam wig heads can be pared down or padded up with paper. I like the balloon+papier mache idea.

And Kathleen's 22" adult circumference would fall down over the eyes of this 21.25" adult. One Size does NOT fit all. Measure your subject!

on Apr 27, 2012 1:19 AM

Thanks for all of the hat form ideas, ladies. I'm just such a make-it person, but I don't want to do any harm to the environment, for sure. I'll have to think on this one.

Kathleen

on Apr 21, 2012 8:47 PM

Has anyone knitted the felted cowboy hat in this book?  I have attempted it several times.  (To the point where my husband told me not to try it again!!!)  I just can't seem to get it to "shape" properly.  Any suggestions are appreciated!  

EllenM@47 wrote
on Apr 21, 2012 5:09 PM

for an easier way to block a hat -- or to keep a hoodie's hood spread out while it dries -- just blow up an oval balloon to the appropriate size and tie the neck tightly. easy, cheap and much better for the environment.

if you want something more permanent, you probably could blow up an oval balloon a little bit smaller, cover it in papier mache, let it dry and then put a couple of layers of plastic wrap over the papier mache to make it waterproof.

LyndaC wrote
on Apr 21, 2012 3:10 PM

What kind of glue works well on styrofoam?

I already have a wigstand for blocking/displaying hats, so am unlikely to build one. But I've had craft projects in the past that called for glueing (gluing?) styrofoam and never found one that worked well.

on Apr 21, 2012 9:49 AM

Hej!

Om man ser någon ha en sådan här hatt har man rätt att fråga: Har du fått pippi?

Hälsningar

Mamma

5280Spinner wrote
on Apr 21, 2012 9:44 AM

I agree with Ms. Applegate's comments!

Fr.Jonathan wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 10:55 PM

One of the more interesting hats I've seen is a Klein bottle hat.  A Klein bottle is a shape that has only one side..".A closed surface with only one side, formed by passing one end of a tube through the side of the tube and joining it to the other end."

It's the three-dimensional version of a Moebius strip.

It's a great gift for your physicist friends...

on Apr 16, 2012 10:45 PM

I agree the bird hat is adorable.  I just feel uncomfortable about cutting and sanding styrofoam....it is one of the most destructive materials to life on our planet especially if it gets into our water systems.  And ironically, birds are one of the animals that suffer greatly when styrofoam pellets or scraps are ingested.  I hope all readers of this suggestion, if you must make a styrofoam hat form, will be especially careful to dispose of all scraps responsibly and intentionally.  And I see that there are many creative suggestions for hat forms that entirely avoid styrofoam.  Bravo!  Hats off to you....especially bird hats!

on Apr 16, 2012 10:43 PM

I agree the bird hat is adorable.  I just feel uncomfortable about cutting and sanding styrofoam....it is one of the most destructive materials to life on our planet especially if it gets into our water systems.  And ironically, birds are one of the animals that suffer greatly when styrofoam pellets or scraps are ingested.  I hope all readers of this suggestion, if you must make a styrofoam hat form, will be especially careful to dispose of all scraps responsibly and intentionally.  And I see that there are many creative suggestions for hat forms that entirely avoid styrofoam.  Bravo!  Hats off to you....especially bird hats!

on Apr 16, 2012 6:38 PM

That bird hat is adorable and I promptl. Bought the ebook. I love birds, hats and knitting, too!

Lynn G. wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 5:10 PM

I use an upside down flower pot with a plastic bag over it, to keep the knitting clean.  They come in many sizes, so it's easy.  You can also add the air cushions that are often used as shipping materials if you need to add more height or width.

s5brooks wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 2:22 PM

I purchased a styrofoam wig form (head) for less than $4 at a beauty supply store.  Works well and unlike the balloons one can stick pins in it wherever needed for blocking.

FeliciaS wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 1:18 PM

I use  an inflated balloon, set on a wide mouth jar for stability, for blocking hats.  This way you can customize the size for each hat recipient.

bgvt wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 12:02 PM

I use a kitchen bowl of about 20 - 21" circumference - free, and always on the shelf - for blocking hats. When I bother to block them at all, that is!

AmyAngela wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 11:49 AM

Why would you go through all of this when you can just buy a wig form? They cost about $20, they are so easy to find, and they come in different sizes. If you can find one, call a wig shop or a professional hair salon supply.

JoyceH@16 wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 11:46 AM

to pegasus227

You have to buy the book Folk Hats by Vicki Square.

on Apr 16, 2012 10:56 AM

I spend a LOT of time knitting hats! I make kufis, which are the headcovering for observant muslim men. I've devised a top-down down version that's reasonably easy to knit, and pretty much one size fits all. I got the initial idea from Barabara Walker"s Knitting From The Top. I use a crochet finish because I've found that it holds up better then a knitted finish. I've also discovered that men tend to like to wear them what I call inside out - with the pearl side showing instead of the knit side. So I've gotten pretty good at sewing the tails in nicely!

pegasus227 wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 10:23 AM

where are the instructions for the hat?

pegasus227 wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 10:21 AM

So much work - make life simple - buy a wig form - it too is stryofoam

JoyceH@16 wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 9:30 AM

Re blocking hats, my mother always used a pot, a cooking pot that is, to block my dad's hats after she washed them. Think it should still work today--and the advantage is you don't have to go buy something and glue it together, which would mean for me that it would never get blocked.

Tannenvald wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 9:28 AM

"Put a Bird on It"

I live in Portland and just happened to miss the "Put a Bird on It" episode of Portlandia.  Then one day I was in line at the gas station when the woman next to me got out of her car with an enormous, real live parrot perched on her shoulder, which hopped to the top of her head when she stepped out of her car.  I couldn't resist and posted a message to Facebook, thinking I had seen it all.  Then someone replied with a link to the Portlandia episode and I was reminded of where I live.  How very hip of you knitters to be dialed in to the Portlandia scene!  

Christine

KarenW@71 wrote
on Apr 16, 2012 9:26 AM

Or go to a store that sells wigs and buy a styrofoam wig head.  Much easier!