Phrygian Caps for the Occupiers.


Phrygian caps have a long history. Phrygia (a part of what is now Turkey) is sometimes associated with Troy. Mithras and Attis are sometimes shown wearing Phrygian caps.

Wiki says that the Phrygian cap is a “soft conical cap with the top pulled forward,” that became associated with the “the pileus, the [conical] felt cap of manumitted (emancipated) slaves of ancient Rome.” During the French and American Revolutions, the Phrygian cap became a symbol of freedom from tyranny. And, of course, my own beloved Goddess and genius loci, Columbia, is often shown wearing a Phrygian cap (sometimes called a Liberty cap).

When I decided a few weeks ago to knit caps for people at Occupy DC, I began casting about for a pattern for a Phrygian cap. I was able to locate a pattern for a Phrygian cap for a doll and a pattern for a Voyager’s cap. (I asked one of the best historians and researchers that I know for help, and these were the two patterns she was able to locate, as well. So if there’s a better one out there, it’s hidden pretty well. But if you’ve got one, I’d love to have it.) I took the pattern for the doll and played around with it. This is what I came up with:

Using size 10 needles, cast on 108 stitches. Knit in *k1, p1* ribbing for 2 1/2 inches. Knit a row, increasing 8 stitches evenly over the row (116 stitches). Continue in stockinette stitch for 5 inches.

K1, k2 tog, k2 tog, knit to last 5 stitches. K2 tog, k2 tog, k1 (112 stitches). Knit 4 rows in stockinette stitch.

*P1, P2 tog, P2 tog. Pearl to last 5 stitches. P2 tog, p2 tog. P1. Knit three rows in stockinette stitch.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until you get down to 100 stitches.

Knit 1 inch in stockinette stitch, ending with a pearl row.

*Knit 7 stitches, k2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.
Pearl a row.
*Knit 6 stitches, k2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.
Pearl a row.
*Knit 5 stitches, k2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.
Pearl a row.
*Knit 4 stitches, k2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.
Pearl a row.
*Knit 3 stitches, k2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.
Pearl a row.
*Knit 2 stitches, k2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.
Pearl a row.
*Knit 1 stitche, k2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.
Pearl a row.
*Knit 2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.
Pearl a row.
*Knit 2 tog.* Repeat the instructions between the asterisks until the end of the row.

Cut yarn, thread through a needle, and pull the yarn through the remaining stitches. Sew up the back seam of the cap. Make a tassel and attach to tip of the cap. (The tassel’s optional and, if you’re going for a classical (as in classical Rome) cap, don’t add it. A few pictures of Liberty caps with tassels start showing up in pictures of Columbia from just before the end of the 19th Century, by my completely unscholarly survey. I think it helps to make the top, “slouchy” part slouch towards the front.)

(I’m using up yarn from my stash, so my gauge varies a bit. However, for a stretchy item such as a cap, that’s not a big deal. This makes a large, loose cap that would fit a man. I may play a bit with a future cap to make a slightly smaller one. A more ambitious woman would work intarsia stars into the ribbed edge or sew red, white, and blue rosettes onto one side.)

At any rate, we all do what we can. I can knit caps. My hero, the Freeway Blogger, can hang signs. What can you do?

And, of course, it’s an act of magic. It’s magical to invoke this symbol of freedom that goes back to a people whose language of words is now “dead,” but whose language of symbols continues to carry meaning. It’s magical to invoke those ancestresses of the bone and of the heart who wore these caps during times of revolution. It’s magical to work protection into every knit row and warmth into every pearl row. It’s magical to cast on (a lot like casting a circle, is casting on in knitting) with intent and to stitch up the seam with “So mote it be.” So, I can knit caps. And I can do magic. And so can you.

Picture found here.

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12 responses to “Phrygian Caps for the Occupiers.

  1. Pingback: Crafts by rahne1 - Pearltrees

  2. Thanks for the mention! Would be honored if my foragers/voyagers/phrygian cap were to be embraced by the cause. http://www.string-or-nothing.com/2006/12/27/VOYAGEURSCAPLIBERTYHATFORAGERSHAT.aspx

  3. indifferent children

    I know several programming languages, but the one that you used there might be the oddest. I guess different you need different languages to create different kinds of soft-wear. 🙂

  4. Thank you for the link. I think OWS and the Liberty Cap are a perfect fit. And, it’s probably a good idea to grab it before the Right turns it into another marketing scam.

  5. I can knit, so I’ll try the caps!

    My daughter and son-in-law wrote a song

    http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_11152636

  6. Thanks everyone! Always try to link; there’s so much good stuff out there! indifferent children, your comment made me laugh! “Soft-wear/software” indeed! Cyn: nice song!

  7. Here’s somewhere you can buy them on ebay:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/DK-Red-Liberty-Cap-Phrygian-Cap-Bonnet-Rouge-w-tassel-/310369995185?_trksid=p3284.m263&_trkparms=algo%3DSIC%26its%3DI%26itu%3DUCI%252BIA%252BUA%252BFICS%252BUFI%26otn%3D21%26pmod%3D310020146588%26ps%3D54

    There are others if you type in Phygian Cap.

    Also this lady makes them to order:
    http://www.etsy.com/listing/74647202/phrygian-cap-in-lime-green-rust-and-dark.

    These are great for winter… especially the polar fleece ones. The linen ones would be good when it gets warmer.

    Buff makes a bandana type scarf that can be worn in a similar fashion and has multiple other uses.

    http://www.buffusa.com/buffusa/collections/5?gclid=COzMtuPSh64CFYXd4AodUWlY3Q

    I agree that this style of cap should be taken up by the Occupy movement before the Teaparty folk considering its history.

  8. Pingback: “LibertĂ©, ÉgalitĂ©, FraternitĂ©!” – “Freedom, equality, brotherhood!” « Cradle of Civilization

  9. Hi there; I’m interested in trying out this pattern. What weight of yarn did you use?

  10. b socha, I used up yarn from my stash. Basic worsted weight. Good luck!

  11. I can’t help but notice the irony – You say you “undermine the patriarchy” every chance you get, yet the hat pattern you made is in a size to fit a man.

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