Put a bird on it!

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?



Who's crazy about feathery friends? That would be us AND we bet you'll be jumping on the trendy bandwagon soon enough.

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