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.
Much Love and Light