Monday, February 19, 2007

The Mad Hatter

While I'm on the topic of Danbury (see yesterday's post), I'd like to add that the city of Danbury was known as the World Capital of Hat Manufacturing. "The Hat City," started as an industry in the 1700s and ended it's reign in the 1960s (reportedly due to President Kennedy being our first "hatless" President). Credit is given to resident Zadoc Benedict, who discovered a technique of using pressure and moisture to turn fur into pelt.

When hat production increased from three hats a day to five million a year, industry changed the way the hats were created ... possibly even including the creation of President Abe Lincoln's well known hat!  When mercury nitrate was added to seperate the fur from the felt to increase production, long time workers who were exposed to the mercury were poisoned causing hair loss, speech & thinking difficulties, and nervous disorders such as trembling hands. The workers suffering from the mercury poisioning were referred to as "Mad Hatters." It was in the 1930s that a study was done proving that mercury was the root of the problem. To learn more about Danbury history, and the hat industry, visit these webpages: Danbury Historical Society and Mad Hatter Mercury Mystery

As for my own "Mad Hatting" experience, I just finished this hat -- it will be a gift for Auntie who requested it. I decided to trim the hat with bullion stitches (also known as the "rice" stitch and "crochet on the roll") ... 111 of them with 9 to 10 wraps each. Getting them all the same; maddening. Liking the end results; priceless.

For those tracking my wooden hooks, this one pictured with the hat is a size "F," hand turned by Graydog. It was a gift from my husband, custom made (back when Graydog still took private orders) just for me. It consists of my birthstone and his. Graydogs are available on ebay. I found it worked fantastic with the bullion stitches due to it's long tapered body. If you'd like to learn how to do this stitch, visit annies attic and view their free video clip for "Crochet on the Roll". :)

By the way, can you name the President who was a crocheter, and the one who was a knitter? The answers can be found in my archives. Happy Presidents Day!

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