Knit a Scots Bonnet (Historic Hats)

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These were periods when the Guild ordered production to stop, as an excess of bonnets could mean a drop in the selling price.

Bonnets were knitted by hand, using pique needles, which were about nine inches in length. Once the bonnet was complete, it was dyed using woad which produced the distinctive indigo colour.

18th Century Men’s Caps

It was then steeped in urine to help make it waterproof, after which it was stretched on a stretching stool and loose ends were cut off using large shears, and a carding brush combed out the pile on the finished bonnet. All these tools can be seen in Stewarton Museum. The picture below shows the belt and needles, with the larger Kilmarnock bonnet on the left and an official Stewarton Bonnet Guild bonnet on the right. Specifically, I want to discuss an interesting, but altogether rare type of bonnet called the Hummel.

The Balmoral

The two types of bonnet that one is familiar with today are the Balmoral the round, flat bonnet and the Glengarry the wedge shaped cap. Both ultimately derive from the old Highland broad bonnet.


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We are not sure when the broad bonnet was first worn in the Scottish Highlands, but it was sometime after the Reformation. It was made from wool, knit and felted, and most often blue in color. Up until the middle part of the eighteenth century it was quite flat, with the edge of the crown hanging down, shielding the face of the wearer.

Kilmarnock – Balmoral Bonnet – A short history of these classic Scottish hats

The loose ends of the wool in the center of the cap made a little tuft, which at some point became a decorative ball called a toorie , usually red to contrast with the bonnet. Beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, the crown of the bonnet grew smaller, so that it could be worn cocked up, exposing part of the headband. The crown continued to grow smaller, and the bonnet grew taller, and then in the s a diced band was added.