In the last week of Spring, I went searching for my straw fedora, I'd bought a few years ago at Woodford Folk Festival, only to realise it hadn't made the trip with us to Mildura, so I was without a summer hat. This got me thinking, once upon a I would have just popped down to Kmart for a cheap new one. These days though, fast fashion just isn't for me. While thinking of alternatives, a quick look online was quite eye opening. There was an absolute lack of simple ethically made summer hats. Short of something that could be worn to the races, my only option was to make one myself. So armed with my trusty crochet hook, a few balls of raffia and only a rough pattern in my head, I set about to create my ultimate summer hat.. My little rebellion against consumerism, trends and fast fashion.
Eight weeks later, two and a half balls of raffia, two crochet hooks, plenty of tea and episodes of Gourment Farmer and here's the result.. My perfectly imperfect, one of a kind, rustic raffia hat.
My method.. I watched a quick YouTube clip about working with raffia and just started with a single crochet, adding each row to get wider in the crown. Once I thought it was about right I just continued with that amount of stitches until it fit snugly on my head. I made the brim by chain stitching about 100 or so stitches to make a big circle. This corresponded to the amount of stitches at the base of the hat. Then I just continued out, adding on a few stitches every now and then, quite haphazardly, as I wanted the brim to have a nice, worn in shape. I attached the two pieces together with hemp cord and just trimmed all the little stray bits and it was ready to wear.
I had quite a few people on Instagram ask what working with raffia was like. Honestly, at first I thought I was a bit crazy for taking on such a project, having never really made a hat before (except a few berets). Raffia comes in short lengths, is very stiff and a little unmanageable. After a bit of perseverance though, and figuring out what worked, the process became much easier.
So here are my tips.. Find the best bits, thickest pieces (the thin ones are too brittle), curl and scrunch them in your hand, to get a bit more movement before using. After a little while the natural oils in your hands really help to soften the raffia. Don't pull to hard, the pieces can snap (so can your crochet hook) and try to work a little bit loosely as it's easier to see where you're up to. Try your hat on often and make sure to turn it inside out, so the 'nice side' is on the outside. This will make it look like you're wearing a hat, rather than a bird nest.
Of all the projects I've created over the years, I think this is one I'm most proud of. It's certainly not the neatest, or perhaps the most beautiful, but it's the most real. It's a reminder of our gorgeous Summer, it's an intentional comment about the shocking state of the fashion industry and it's my little act of rebellion. Something to keep the sun off my face in the garden and something that makes my heart very happy.
You can check out all see all my progress photos over on my Instagram feed and under the hashtag #myrebelliousraffiahat and if you've got any questions about the making process or would like to try and make a rebellious hat yourself, I'd love to help out. Please feel free to comment or email me.
The last few nights, just on sunset, I've embraced my love of cloud watching and taken ten minutes to myself to lay down in the back yard and stare up at the sky. And you know what, I've had the most remarkable revelation.
This simple process, a cloud meditation, has not only bought back fond memories of my childhood, but there upon the grass of my suburban garden, I've begun to truly reconnect with my place in the earth. With the ground below, still warm from the summer sun, and the sky above, a boundless, intricate and ever evolving universal painting, I've found myself gazing up, forgetting all the 'busyness' of my everyday and being enveloped by something far greater.
The magic that is Mother Earth..
That feeling you get when you dive your feet into warm sand and inhale the salty sea air. When you climb a mountain, wander through the rainforest, catch a glimpse of the full moon or listen for the early morning magpie warble (my favourite). And in the past, all too often I've let those moments pass me by, too caught up in what's on the screen, what's on the to do list.. to just put the phone down, stand up, walk outside, lay down, inhale and just be.
Each day I feel myself drawn deeper into The Great Turning, evermore yearning for that interconnection with the fibers that makes up my life. So I begin with cloud meditation.. Just ten minutes to stare up at the sky. Yesterday two beautiful pelicans flew over my head, the day before that, the most magnificent angel wings appeared in the clouds. Letting go, embracing the peace, the joyful celebration and gratitude for Mother Earth.. This is where change begins.