When I first made TrossHat it hadn’t occurred to me that other people would be interested in having one as well, but I’ve had a number of requests and am now doing my best to make a small number of albatross chick hats for those interested in purchasing one.
I knit each hat from two yarns: a super-bulky wool/acrylic blend and polyester eyelash-style yarn. The super-bulky yarn gives the hat shape and the eyelash yarn gives it fluff. After I’ve knit the body of the hat and wings and sewn the latter into place I make the face and feet with a combination of felting techniques. The face and feet are attached with pin backs so that they can be removed if the hat needs a wash.
The hats are one-size-fits-most. I haven’t made a child-size pattern yet. The current hats are suitable for adults to wear. Due to small pieces (button eyes, pin backs) I do not recommend these hats for small children. If you are interested in a child-size hat with sewn on felt elements and embroidered eyes please let me know! I’m considering working up an appropriate pattern.
The nitty gritty:
$155 US plus shipping and handling per hat
Orders will be completed as I am able. Due to the time required to make each hat I can’t guarantee quick delivery.
If you would like to order a hat or have any questions please contact me through my contact page on this site or through Twitter (@rownsmith).
Sometime in 2014 when I first became acquainted with albatross chicks I thought to myself that their body shape would translate well into a knit hat. This may seem like an odd train of thought and I don’t really have an excuse for it. Welcome to my brain.
The process from that first thought to the finished hat was a long one. I started by learning to needle felt because I thought it was a technique that would work well for sculpting the hat’s face and feet. My adventures in needle felting went off in another albatross-related direction but I never forgot my original reason for learning the technique.
I worried over yarn selection. I knew I wanted the hat to be fluffy but I wasn’t sure how best to capture the complexity of the chicks’ down. Ultimately I decided to keep it simple and settled on some eyelash yarn that was sold at a reasonable price point. This hat was going to be an experiment and I was reluctant to work with some of the beautiful but much more expensive yarns out there.
I made up the hat pattern as I went along. I cast on stitches based on the yarn and rough size I wanted for the finished hat and went from there. I have enough experience knitting to know some options for reducing stitches in a row so I used that knowledge to gradually shape the chick hat’s neck and head. I knit the wings separately and stitched them into place. Finally I felted the face and feet, adding button eyes, and stitched those into place as well. Finished!
The only notes I took through this process were on wing pattern since I wanted the two wings to match. I intended the hat to be a one-off, unique item, never thinking that other people would be as excited about it as I was.
In December 2016, shortly after I finished the albatross chick hat (now dubbed TrossHat) I knit it a Santa hat. The hat-wearing-a-hat idea was silly and fun and I wasn’t the only one to get a kick out of it, so I made more and TrossHat’s fame spread.
I decided to make a hat a month for TrossHat for 2017. It’s been a delightful project so far, giving me opportunities to explore additional craft materials and processes. The year isn’t finished yet and I have a whole list of hats yet to make!
During these hot summer months TrossHat keeps me company on my desk or elsewhere around the house, sitting with that stoic albatross patience (and often wearing the latest hat).
Last week I added a new art tool to my collection: an iPad Pro and Apple pencil (stylus). In order to practice with the tools I gave myself a goal of one fantasy bird drawing a day for a week. I came up one day short (Thanksgiving made things tricky) but I’ve loved working on the birds. The tablet/stylus/app combination feels very natural to me and I can see myself using it a lot of experiment with roughs, sketching and layout.
Part of the fun was coming up with wild plumage colors for some familiar birds, so here is an 8.5″ x 11″ PDF of the spectacled owl for you to print out and color in however you like. (Click on the text link to download.)
It’s taken far longer than I ever intended, but my scratchboard portrait of Towan is finished.
Towan was one of Woodland Park Zoo’s beloved orangutans. He passed away this year and his keepers, fans and fellow orangutans are still feeling his loss. He was a wonderful ambassador for his people of the forest.
Orangutans are critically endangered, largely due to habitat loss. Palm oil plantations are a major threat, taking over land that used to be vibrant forest. I hope that this portrait of dear Towan will inspire people to learn about orangutans and take action to protect them. Here is a resource to start with: Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program.
While working on this piece I recorded a couple of short videos and shared them on YouTube. Here they are:
The 2016 Kauaʻi Albatross Cam season has come to and end, but I’m still finding ways to keep albatross in my life. I’m fine-tuning prints of a recently-completed watercolor painting of Kialoa and his/her parents and I’m making fuzzy little wool albatross chicks.
A couple years ago I and some other albatross cam volunteers got to chatting about albatross stuffed animals and albatross figurines and how there just weren’t enough things like that available for the ‘tross lovers out there. I started experimenting with needle felting and the tiny wool chicks (like the one pictured above) were the result.
I’ve started making the felt chicks available through my Etsy shop (listing here), but only a few at a time. I don’t plan to limit the total number of felt chicks I create, but taking the orders at a measured rate will allow me to manage my time and other responsibilities. I plan to list a limited number of felt chicks each week, probably on Monday. i will send out a notification via Twitter (@rownsmith) when I do that. At the present each chick is priced at $20 with $7 shipping in the USA. If you would like to ship a felt chick outside the USA please contact me and I can figure it out for your specific location.
I’m not taking pre-orders at this time but will consider it if my current system leads to frustration for potential buyers. If you’ve got your eye on a felt albatross chick and need it by a specific date (for a birthday or something like that) let me know and I’ll work with you on the timing.
Our third year with the Cornell Albatross Cam is almost over. I’m celebrating our season’s beautiful new setting with a new ‘trosscam map, available to download as a 1920 x 1080 desktop image and as a printable file suitable for 8.5″ x 11″ paper. These are for personal use only.
As our chicks near fledging we’ll see them less and less on cam. There is a vast, beautiful green field between their nests and the ocean bluffs where they will ultimately launch (Albatross Playground!), and they’re already starting to explore in that direction. Don’t worry if you don’t see them — they’re out adventuring in the neighborhood!
2016 Albatross Cam 1920 x 1080 Desktop Image
(Click on image, then right click to save to your computer)
2016 Albatross Cam Print File
(Click on image, then right click to save to your computer)
I’ve been a volunteer with Cornell’s Kauaʻi Albatross Cam since its first season in 2014, but I live in Seattle, so I didn’t see an albatross in person until a trip to Kauaʻi in April 2016. I was walking the manicured streets of Princeville with my husband and another cam volunteer when she pointed to an adult Laysan albatross soaring overhead. There it was, my first albatross! I was downright giddy. My second came moments later: a fluffy chick named Kirwan, sleeping in a front yard. (Read all about Kirwan and more Princeville albatross here: My Albatross Diary.)
We saw additional fluffy chicks and sleek adults on our stroll through Princeville, then later that day a KAN (Kauaʻi Albatross Network) volunteer made my dreams come true with a trip to the current cam site. As in previous years, our cam site is on private land, generously made available by an anonymous Kauaʻi landowner. Out of respect for the owner, the birds and our cam viewers we kept our visit short.
Each of our chicks was in their usual spot: Honua in the lawn beyond the “art rock,” Kialoa near the step at the other end of the building, Haulani in the trees at cool, shady nest two. We saw adults, too, including frequent visitor A381 who circled joyfully overhead in the breeze before coming in for a landing. Honua looked back at us curiously with those big dark eyes, strolled and stretched. Haulani sat up and cocked his/her head. Kialoa sat peacefully and kept an eye on the neighborhood.
There I was, seeing our downy celebrities in person. I didn’t beg for an autograph although it was tempting. I fell in love with the birds on cam and face to face they were just as magnificent. It was a true joy to see them. I felt like I won the lottery.
There is a part of me that wishes these albatross could understand how special they are to me (and to many other albatross lovers in the world), but a wiser part recognizes that it is better for all albatross simply to be albatross, without being weighed down by human wishes, interactions or expectations. It’s our job to appreciate them and to learn from them, not the other way around. They’ve already got more than enough to learn without worrying about what humans are up to. What is squid and where do I find it? How do these wings work? How does this landing gear work?
Because of the albatross cam, people all over the world can observe Laysan albatross behavior daily from hatching to fledging without ever troubling the birds. The handful of people that do enter their sphere do so with great care, always mindful of the birds’ well-being. I can’t thank KAN and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology enough for putting the Laysan albatross cam together and giving us all this opportunity.
An thank you to the Laysan albatross for being themselves: fluffy and feathered, loving, goofy, gentle and wild.
Before my plane touched down again in Seattle I’d finished reading a brand-new copy of Holi Mōlī: Albatross and Other Ancestors by KAN founder Hob Osterlund. It is a book about both albatross and human experience, moving as poetry. Beautiful. I teared up on the plane, but that was ok. I highly recommend the book!
Iʻm back to Seattle and daily viewing of our cam chicks. I’ll be drawing a map of the cam site now that I’ve seen it in hopes that it will help our viewers understand the area too. Chances are good that I’ll come up with some additional ‘tross art as well! I still can’t get enough of these birds.
In honor of International Orangutan Day, here is a short video of the Towan scratchboard in progress. I do most of my scratchboard work with an X-Acto 16 blade. I rotate the blade in my fingers and change the angle of the tip to create lines of varying widths.
You can read up on orangutans and the dangers they face at the Orangutan Conservancy website. These amazing animals are sadly endangered and need our protection.
It’s been far too long since I posted anything here! It was a busy albatross cam season followed by recovery from albatross cam season. I’m starting to get my balance back.
Here are a few nifty non-albatross images from the last few months.
First I’d like to share the amazing great blue heron that posed for me at the park in May. I was just about to pack up and leave when this incredible bird showed up and spread his (her?) wings. What a thrill! He showed off a drop wing pose that I like to think of as “the satellite dish.”
On to a completely different subject: the moon. I recently amused myself by trying to take a series of photos of the moon. It offers different challenges than birds. I enjoyed the change of pace!
Last but certainly not least, I’m working on a scratchboard portrait of Towan, one of Woodland Park Zoo’s resident orangutans. He has wondrous eyes. This is a detail of the portrait in progress. The finished piece will be 8 x 10 inches and will show him looking out from under a burlap blanket.
I hope you enjoyed this little update. Thank you for taking a look!