Knitting Phrygian Caps for the Occupiers


I’ve promised for some time now to post a new and improved knitting pattern for Phrygian caps, which I’ve been knitting all Autumn, and Winter, and Spring for the Occupy DC folks.

Phrygian caps have long been a symbol of the struggle for liberty, perhaps because they look very much like the Pileus, a cap worn by freed Greek slaves. The Pileus was made of felt and early Phrygian caps had a slouchy, felt-like look. I think the knitting pattern that I published here captures that look.

Later, Phrygian caps became associated with Columbia, the Goddess of America and the American Revolution and with Marianne, the Goddess of the French Revolution. Over time, the caps developed less of a slouchy, felt-look and more of a sort of an interesting stocking cap look. I think this new pattern captures that look.

I have a special devotion to Columbia, the Goddess and genius loci of my shining city on a swamp. And, so, Phrygian caps have a special meaning for me.

I’ve been reading Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War by Guy Gugliotta. (Thanks to the wonderful people at Politics & Prose, I scored an autographed copy, in spite of being tied up at work the night of Mr. Gugliotta’s talk, and I am just loving it!) It tells how the original design of the statue that would crown the United States Capitol wore a Phrygian Cap. Jefferson Davis, however, (then Secretary of War, and later to become a traitor as President of the Confederacy) objected and, as a result, the statue of Columbia, Known as Freedom, Triumphant in War & Peace, that greets me every morning as I cross the Potomac River from Virginia into Columbia’s District (a major daily ritual, for me) wears, not a Phrygian cap, but a helmet topped by an eagle.

I’d love to see these caps with a red, white, and blue rosette, but I haven’t quite figured out how to knit those.

At any rate, I’ll be dropping off my 4 finished caps this weekend to the Occupy DC folks. We’re now having warm days here in DC, but the nights can still be chilly enough to call for caps for those sleeping outside of, let’s say, banks.

I’ve heard that some knitters in Portland, Oregon are starting to knit Phrygian caps for their Occupiers. I think that’s v cool.

I knit Yule gifts for my own family members. This year, I’m knitting fingerless gloves for the men in my family, many of whom are gardeners and rock-wall climbers who can use something that keeps their hands warm, but leaves their fingers free. If I come up w/ a pattern that I really like, I’ll publish it here. as well, in the hopes that The Occupiers will find those of us who stay at home able to knit warm gloves.

Pattern: Using size 10 kneedles, cast on 60 stitches.
Knit 1, Purl 1 ribbing for 2 inches.
Stockingette stitch for 3 1/2 inches.
*Knit 10, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
*Knit 9, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
*Knit 8, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
*Knit 7, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
*Knit 6, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
*Knit 5, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
*Knit 4, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
Knit entire row
Purl entire row
Knit entire row
Purl entire row
*Knit 3, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
Knit entire row
Purl entire row
Knit entire row
Purl entire row
*Knit 2, knit2 together* Repeat steps betwen asterisks until end of row
Purl entire row
Knit entire row
Purl entire row
*Knit 1, knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row.
Purl entire row
Knit entire row
Purl entire row
Knit entire row
Purl entire row
*Knit 2 together* Repeat steps between asterisks until end of row
Purl entire row
Knit entire row
Purl entire row
Pull thread through remaining stitches to gather them and knot off.
Turn cap inside out and sew up back seam.
Make tassel and attach to the top of the cap.

Picture found here.

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4 responses to “Knitting Phrygian Caps for the Occupiers

  1. Good for you for doing this. FWIW, the red, white, and blue roundel isn’t technically a rosette–it’s a cockade.. Theyre’ usually made of ribbon. “How-to’s” here and here.

  2. I understand that the Norwegians protested the Nazi occupation during WW2 by wearing red pointed caps.

  3. it was red paper clips and when they were banned regular paper clips on your lapel as though you stuck it there absent mindedly

  4. you can crochet a cockade and or a rosette i think the distiction is to materials and gender of the wearer and variant of english spoken and when in time the speaker spoke or spake.
    in other words somewhere i think your both right and the technicality need not be parsed:)

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