Monmouth Caps

Last spring I was on Ravelry browsing the groups and the patterns and came across some historical knitting. Knitting would, of course, be big with the re-enactors. The right color  and pattern for socks was a big topic. Then I found a reference to the hat that was worn on the PBS series Colonial House which was filmed in Maine.

It’s called a Monmouth cap and goes back at least to the Middle Ages and the town of Monmouth in southeast Wales. You can read about the history of the Monmouth cap on the Isca Morrismen’s site. It was the predominant knit cap worn for centuries by people who worked out of doors in the elements and is the ancestor of the watch cap and the balaclava. The wearer could roll up the hem/brim  for warmer weather or down for inclement and cold days. Perfect for fishermen and it certainly came to Maine with the earliest Europeans!

When I looked over the patterns, I realized it was very similar to a hat I’d seen on a crew member of one of the island ferries. It had a plain knit doubled hem, not ribbed like a watch cap, and a little pigtail twist on top. It was knit in  multicolor Fair Isle type patterns in bright primary colors and white, The man wore it with the hem rolled up and cocked forward on his head. Dave and I admired it very much!

So this Monmouth discovery was very interesting and I started experimenting with some of the patterns. The first thing that came up was that all the patterns required worsted weight yarns, but the one we saw on the ferry was of much lighter stuff. Not wanting to boil our brains I opted for some lighter yarn and thus the pattern needed to be altered.


Monmouth Cap 1 & 2

I used Marks and Kattens Natura- a grey tweed blend ( yup, not quite authentic with 40% acrylic and viscose fibers - but I like it anyway!). It takes about one and a half 50g. balls per cap at a gauge of 5 stitches per inch on size 7 needles.


Cast on 105 stitches using a provisional cast-on on 16” circular needles. Place marker and join.

Knit all rounds for 2 inches.

Purl one round - this is the bottom edge of the hem.

Knit all rounds for 2 more inches.

Put the stitches formed by the provisional cast-on onto another circular needle and fold the fabric up at the purl row,

Carefully line up provisional stitches and stitches on the working needle so that the hem will not twist. The first stitches of each should be worked together first and so on..

Working on the right side, knit one stitch from the working needle together with the matching stitch on the provisional needle for the entire round using the other end of the working needle. The hem will now be joined as a tube.

Continue knitting in the round on the right side of the fabric until hat is 5- 1/2” long. (* see below for adjustment)

Compared to other available patterns, the reductions are also different due to the number of stitches cast on. Begin with:

R1 of decreases: *K12, (slip 2, K1 PSSO)*

R2-4: Knit

R5: *K10, (slip 2, K1 PSSO)*

R6-8: Knit

Continue in this manner knitting 2 stitches less between the PSSO in each decrease until 21 stitches remain. At some point you will need to swap to DPNs.

Next row: *K2TOG* K1. 11 stitches remain.

You can end now by pulling the yarn through the loops and tying off. 

Or you can continue decreasing with *K2TOG* until you are down to a suitable number of stitches for a short i-cord pigtail.

The last step it to add a crocheted or i-cord loop at the hem edge using tail yarn from the cast-on. Yes, yes, this i-cord stuff is not very authentic to colonial times either.

What’s with the loop and the button?  I guess, so you can loop the hat on your belt. The original "button" on top was more like a bauble made as a way to end off your hat.

*As you can see, I made two Natura caps. One incorporated some stripes from some leftover black Natura on the inside of the hem which only show in the rolled up version. The other difference is that the second cap is a inch longer before the decreases. As noted by others knitting modern Monmouth patterns the hat feels a bit short in the rolled up style.

Next cap to try: that patterned cap that I saw on the ferry.

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