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.)
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.
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!
Opening reception: Sunday, March 8, 1-4PM
Third Thursday Art Walk: March 19, 5-8PM
Come see the Northern Saw-whet Owl and Wild Rooster pieces in person at this year’s small works show! The exhibit features 250 pieces of artwork from 70 artists and runs through the month of March 2015. I’m going to try to make it to both the reception and art walk. Please stop by and say hello!
Once again the Laysan albatross have gathered to breed on the north shores of Kauaʻi, and once again the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is running a live camera at a good nest site. Iʻm very excited to be volunteering again this year as a cam operator. Weʻve got two nests visible this year plus chicks at two other nests, on site but off view.
I’m torn between going on and on about these incredible birds and just handing you the cam link and telling you to check them out yourself. (Here it is! http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/41/Laysan_Albatross/) They start off as adorable fluffy chicks and over five months grow into elegant birds with seven-foot wing spreads, graceful in the air and a little goofy strolling on land. They are tranquil and affectionate but real show-offs when it’s courtship time.
Since we have multiple nests in view this year we thought it would be helpful for volunteers and the public to have a map of the area. We wanted to protect the anonymity of the site (which is private property) while still making key elements of the site clear. We also talked about making it a book-style map like you might find in the end papers of a fantasy or children’s story. It sounded like an interesting project and a bit different than my usual work so I took it on.
We started off by building a clear understanding of the site through very rough maps. I was lucky enough to visit the site last summer while on vacation but alas I’m very far away from it now. Volunteers on site help with photos and explanations to make the layout clear so I could start drawing.
I knew I wanted to use watercolor with ink lettering in the final piece but after experimenting with that I decided to do ink illustrations for the whole thing with watercolor added. Rather than draw out the whole thing perfectly I drew all the elements, sometimes taking a few tries to get something right, then scanned the drawings and assembled them with Photoshop. That’s especially helpful when someone looks at a rough draft and suggests that nest four should really move over to the right a few inches!
I did the drawing and lettering with Noodler’s Ink in Bulletproof Black and a crow quill (Hunt No. 102) pen nib on Strathmore Bristol plate paper. That nib is probably my all-time favorite. It’s a variable-width nib with just the right about of spring for my taste. (For a similar feel in a larger nib I recommend the Tachikawa G nib, available through John Neal Bookseller.)
After the drawings were all assembled I printed the image on cardstock and painted the print. It’s not the best paper for watercolor but it worked well enough. I then took that painted version and scanned it. I brought together scanned handwritten text, the map and additional texture and color in Photoshop for the final image.
I would love to read comments and suggestions about the map from cam viewers! Is it helpful? Are there confusing elements or things youʻd like to see included? Your answers will help all of us on the cam team as we plan for the remainder of this season and next.