Rijksmuseum = Brijksmusem

Last Saturday, the 6th of February, an atelier of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam became the “Brijksmuseum”.

(For the non-Dutch speakers, “Rijk” rhymes with “Brijk” which rhymes with “brei” and “brei” means “knit”.)

The word went out a few weeks earlier (via Ravelry, via knitting groups, via a blog) that a knitting event was organized at the museum, partly to talk about knitted sailors caps that were found in graves dating from the 17th century and partly as a knit-along using a pattern written up based on one of the hats.

The event was over subscribed and if you didn’t reserve your spot you were turned away at the door.  I saw in the news afterwards that there were 140 of us there.  I’ve never seen so many knitters all in one place!  While we were sitting in this canteen (photo above) waiting for the presentation to begin, the organizer gave a little welcome speech.  It was quiet except for the sound of needles clicking.  Too funny!

There were professional photographers there and a couple of movie cameras filming us.  Gosh, are we THAT unusual?

Everyone wanted photos of the event….

The presentation was one hour long.  For the first 30 minutes a woman (sorry, I don’t remember her name) talked about paintings from the 16th century and the clothing we see in these paintings.  What are we looking at?  What did these styles represent?  She talked about the influence of Spanish fashion and the big difference between rich and poor dress.   We learned about the different parts of dress and where they came from.  It was very interesting.

Next a man (also who’s name I didn’t catch) talked about the hats we were busy copying in our own knitting, who wore them and where were they found.  The hats were found in Dutch sailor’s graves from the 17th century, on an island in the far north of Norway.  What were they doing up there?  Whaling.  They died of scurvy for the most part.  We heard about the history of whaling in that time period and why the Dutch went up that far north and the troubles they had.  Can you imagine living on a small wooden boat, up near the arctic circle, trying to kill whales and trying to keep yourself alive?

All the sailors were buried with their knitted hats on their heads.  The theory goes that each hat was so individual to the person that no one else would want to have the hats so they were buried with the wearer.  My theory is that they were probably so smelly that no one would want to put them on their own head.

Here is a photo taken by Geerje Jacobs, during the talk, showing the hats that were recovered:

It was a fun day out and I’m glad I went.  It’s always fun to knit with other knitters and this was even better with the history and education thrown in.  The organizer was really amazed that so many people wanted to come.  Maybe with this experience, the museum will organize more events like this.  Obviously there are enough of us who are eager to come together, chat, knit, and listen to experts explain something new to us.  I feel a real surge in knitting interest these days.  It’s in the news.  WE are in the news.  I hope we keep the momentum going.

So, did I knit the hat that we were given the instructions for?  I started it.  It’s about 25% done.  I might finish it.  I might not.  I have other projects I’d rather knit right now.  You can see a few finished hats, along with other photos, here.  It’s a nice pattern though, that you can modify a lot to make it your own.  Just like the sailors.

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