Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Bog Hat


I've been wanting to make myself a sun hat for about a year now.  I'm not a basket weaver, so I started researching and testing materials that grow in abundance where I live, twining ropes and making mini baskets.  

Most examples of sun hats in the Middle Ages seem to be made of straw.  In the SCA (Medieval recreation) my persona is from 11th C. Ireland on the west coast where large scale grain agriculture was less likely.  But there are coastal sedges and swamp rushes in the bogs, conveniently, the same variety that grow wild here in Oregon.  There are many instances of these rushes being used for basketry in the area, and this includes a few references to hats.  

Early this spring, I foraged the thin Pacific blackberry vines, pasture rush, and lakeside sdges and hung them to dry.  The day before I began, I soaked them in a bin of water to soften them.  I began with a simple weaving of the thorn-stripped vines, and twined a few rows of the rushes.  This was accomplished by maintaining a strand of at least three stalks at all times, twisting and weaving through the spokes. I  propped this on a bowl and used the sedges for the vertical part of the hat.  They were chosen for their length, however these were more brittle and difficult to work with.

When I reached my desired depth, I re-wet the spokes and added more to allow fanning as well as reinforce the walls.  By this point I had run out of the sedge and was back to using more of the rushes.  I gently bent the spokes to a 40 degree angle to achieve the flat brim and continued to twist and weave until it was wide enough.  I wove in the ends of the spokes to finish.  The hat was quite heavy at this point, but that changed drastically as it dried.  Once completely dry, I trimmed any long ends, except for the seed heads at the edge of the brim, which I left for character.  

I wore it first to this years' Egils Skallagrimson Tournament in the Barony of Adiantum (outside Eugene, OR) and it worked great!  We had quite a bit of sun and this hat kept me cooler and free from burns!  I'm excited to make another for my husband now.  It will be a little bigger and (hopefully) a little more uniform.  I received many compliments on it as well as requests to teach it to others.  Perhaps that will come after a little more practice!