Lost at Sea, October 14th, 1583
Knitting pattern for this project can be found here: Recreating the Gagiana Barett – Knitting Pattern For a Barrett or Flat Cap
On October 14th, 1583, the merchant ship “Gagiana”, while carrying a load of goods from Venice to the East, hit a reef and sank off the Adriatic coast, near the island of Gnalic and what is now known as Croatia. The wreck lay undisturbed for more than 350 years, until it was rediscovered and the remains of the cargo were recovered by divers in 1967-1968.
Part of the cargo that was recovered from the sea was this iron clad wooden chest, which contained 3 men’s linen shirts, 54 meters of silk damask, and 8 men’s knitted hats. Several years later, these items were sent to the Abegg Foundation for conservation (Flury-Lemberg, M.)
Here is a picture of the two of the hats during conservation to remove the impregnated rust caused by being in the iron clad chest. The one on the top right shows the topside of one of the hats, the one on the bottom left shows the bottom side of one of the hats
While they were undergoing conservation, a detailed description of their measurements and construction was completed. They were found to be made out of wool that had been knitted and then fulled. The original color is not specified, but appears from the picture to have been a dark brown or black.
Description of knitting technique used, written by the conservators (Flury-Lemberg, M. page 328)
I – Cast on: 100 stitches, all plain:
In the 5th row at each 6th stitch, in the 10th row at each 7th stitch, in the 15th row at each 8th stitch, 1 added.
II – Then reversed: In the 20th row at each 8th stitch, in the 25th row at each 7th stitch, in the 30th row at each 6th stitch, 2 knitted together. Knitted 5 rows
III – Amount of stitches back to 100 (I – II same height as II – III)
Knit I and III together.
In the 5th row at each 6th stitch, in the 10th row at each 7th stitch, 1 added etc. until at each 10th stitch, 1 was added.
IV – 1 row purl
Now again decreased in each 5th row, started at each 10th stitch, then each 9th, etc., etc., until no stitches were left (V)
Historical Colors and Name
In the business records of Bartholomaeus Hartpronner, who imported Italian goods into Augsburg in the 1530-1550’s, it is recorded that he imported from Italy baretts of the following colors: black, red, ash-colored, liver-colored and white.(Zander-Seidel, J)
This lady, painted by Hans Memling, Germany 1539, is wearing what I believe to be a barett. As the hats from the “Gagiana” look very similar to this image of a flat, floppy, fuzzy hat, I think that they are baretts.
My Reconstruction of the Hat
In examining the description of the hat, I was able to determine that the finished gauge of the knitting was 2sts = 1cm, 3 rows = 1cm.
I chose a liver-colored 4-ply worsted wool, brand name Cascade 220, for the yarn as I didn’t have access to hand spun yarn that was the right size to reach the required gauge. As the hats are knitted in the round, without any seams, I used size 5, 7″ long wooden double pointed knitting needles.
To knit the hat, I followed the description exactly, until I reached the end and had a very funny looking hat! The description says to continue decreasing until there are no more stitches, but I found that if one did this, one ended up with a pointy topped hat. In closely examining the picture, it does not appear that this was done in the original extant hat. So I am presuming that the person doing the conservation work got tired of counting stitches and rows, thus the “etc., etc.” at the end.
I used my experience with knitting modern tams, and finished it this way: after the row in which I knitted two together at every 3rd stitch, I knitted one row; next row, knit two together, knit one, to end of row. I did this three times, after doing this I knitted one row and then pulled the yarn through the remaining stitches to finish off the knitting.
I then washed the finished barett in hot water and blocked it to its finished shape. It fulled a little in the washing process but probably not as much as the original. As we have no way of knowing what the original gauge before fulling was of the original, I just made my gauge slightly larger than the finished gauge I wanted to allow for shrinkage.
Flury-Lemberg, Mechthild. Textile conservation and research : a documentation of the textile department on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Abegg Foundation. Bern : Abegg-Stiftung Bern, 1988.
Zander-Seidel, Jutta. Textiler Hausrat, Kleidung und Haustextilien in Nurnberg von 1500 – 1650 English Translation by Katherine Barich, available on the web at GermanRenCostume Files
See section 5.2: Barett – Schlappe
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