The hats for my stall at the International Permaculture Convergence are coming along nicely… they are made of all sorts of ethical yarn: some organic, some frogged from old garments, some from Freecycle, some recycled, some new British wool… you get the picture:

A whole heap of hats in a whole heap of yarns

A whole heap of hats in a whole heap of yarns

However, it struck me that I should make a hat representing the permaculture principles. And so I did:

It’s made entirely from scraps of yarn left over from other projects, apart from the brim which is yarn from a frogged cardigan; and it’s reversible.

In case you are wondering, the twelve principles, as outlined by David Holmgren, are used to help design resilient human systems or objects that are sustainable and kind to the earth. They are as follows, with my hat as an example;

  • Observe and interact: I observed that I had been collecting yarn scraps for the past few years and decided to make creative use of those long enough to tie together. In addition, observation of the hat as I made it allowed me to create the shape without following a pattern.
  • Catch and store energy: Wearing a hat is a good way to stop heat (energy) loss and with its tufts, this hat provides good insulation by trapping a nice layer of insulating air. In addition, the energy embodied in this scrap yarn is being captured because it’s being used rather than discarded.
  • Obtain a yield: A hat where none existed before, plus the satisfaction of creating something from (almost) nothing.
  • Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: As with anything made without a pattern, this hat ‘evolved’ as I made it – I increased the number of stitches until it seemed to be the right size and decreased to get a nice snug brim. Whatever yarn you are working with, you have to respond to its characteristics.
  • Use and value renewable resources and services: As long as there are people using yarn, there will be left-over scraps; this provides a way to convert them into a useful and unique object.
  • Produce no waste: It’s all too easy to throw away left-over yarn, but this demonstrates that it can be put to good use. There were lots of scraps that were too small to tie together for this project, but those will be used in the future for stuffing. No Yarn was wasted in this hat, because the ends that in other projects get trimmed off have been retained as a feature of the hat.
  • Design from patterns to details: The overall plan (pattern) was to create a hat with yarn scraps. The details came as I tied the pieces together – varying the colours and lengths to create a unique pattern. The plan also involved making the hat reversible, so different details appear according to the side that is exposed to the world.
  • Integrate rather than segregate: It’s a whole mish-mash… integrating colours, textures, fibres.
  • Use small and slow solutions: I’ve been collecting the scraps for several years, so I won’t be able to make another with this gauge of yarn for some time yet, although I’m planning a chunky version because I probably have enough thick scraps to do that. Despite using ‘waste’ yarn, it took a longer time to make than a ‘normal’ hat because so many pieces of yarn had to be tied together.
  • Use and value diversity: I have rarely seen a more diverse hat!
  • Use edges and value the marginal: The end of each piece of yarn is an important feature of the hat – providing decoration and insulation. I think it may also be pretty ‘edgy’ as far as fashion goes!!
  • Creatively use and respond to change: The changes in colour and texture were used to create the ‘look’ of this hat… there will never be another one like it.

So, there you have it, a quick lesson in permaculture and a rather mad hat… It will be for sale at the IPC in September unless I get a better offer before then!


Leave a comment


  1. I think you should auction it! I now fully expect to see, in a year or two, a similar ‘edgy’ head adornment making its way down a fashion runway. You are leading the field Dr Snail!! I think it is brilliant and if I were a little younger and edgier myself I’d be after it!! 🙂

  2. About 6 or 7 years ago, I met David Holmgren at a permaculture day he was holding at his farm Meliodora, in Victoria. Having met the man, I think he’d approve the hat. I go so far as to say I think he’d wear it!

  3. Have you ever used the Russian method of joining wool scrap ends to make a scrap ball? You end up with a most marvelous mish-mash of all kinds of wool in a ball and whatever you create with it takes on a life of it’s own. A hat made with a ball of wool made from the odds and sods that are too small even to turn into doll hair would be the ultimate permie hat. I reckon add some hemp, the odd crafted butterfly and leaf and perhaps some ear flaps as most permies LOVE ear flaps. Love your wooly fluffy creation Ms Snail. It is gorgeous to a T. Hope you do really well at your stall 🙂

  4. I really think that what you have achieved in creating something which so perfectly aligns with the principles of permaculture is quite brilliant!

  5. That hat is darn cute. I would wear it on either side.

  6. I love the hat and the principle behind it. I think you should send a copy of your blog with the hat photo to David Holmgren. I think he would be darn tickled to find someone had taken his principles to that degree. :))

  7. I love your hat, and this is the first time I’ve come across the 12 principles of permaculture — so interesting! I’m going to save these to think on. Thank you!

  8. Fantastically scraptastic! Now I know that permaculture principles can inform all parts of our lives and not just gardens and agriculture!

  9. Oh my goodness, that is must have taken more time to weave in the end than make the hat!! Worth it, it is gorgeous! xo Johanna

  10. Love the hat and the 12 principles… I shall apply them to my own creative outpourings. I’d not come across them before, but I shall head off to explore the world of David Holmgren.

  11. Not surprised it was sold — that is a hat that deserves to have its own exhibition 🙂

  12. Thanks for sharing the permaculture principles. I don’t think I was fully aware of them in that detail. You’ve applied the principles to this hat beautifully. What a joyous post.

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