Tam O’ Shanter !

. . . This truth fand honest Tam o’ Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,
Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses
For honest men and bonnie lasses. . . .

(excerpt from Robert Burns Poem ” Tam O’ Shanter “)

The ” Tam o’ Shanter ” is a name given for the traditional Scottish bonnet which was born  from a character in poet Robert Burns’ imagination,  and comes to life in his epic poem  Tam o’ Shanter.  Also called  a “Tam” or a “Tammy”, the hat is flat on top, usually made of wool , and has a pompom on top called a “toorie”, or even a tassel, but also they are made without any.  There is in fact, an actual arithmatic equation of the popular design, that the crown is  twice the diameter of the head , but I’ve noticed many of the  bonnets in different sizes  and shapes.  Originally, having only plant dyes available, the hat was made only in blue,  but they are now popular in many colors, as well as tartan plaids.   Tam o’ Shanters, the Balmoral bonnet, and the even the somewhat military Glengarry cap all are worn either formally or informally in Highland dress, as well as in uniforms of a number of military units.  (I personally suspect the Glengarry evolved from the Balmoral Bonnet, as a scrunched or folded version, the advantage being that it can be folded flat and tucked into the waist of the kilt). These Scottish bonnets have been worn by men in a traditional sense ~ however,  it is quite obvious that the Tam is popularly worn by women in modern day, especially the knit versions, having endless designs and motifs.

The Scottish Bonnets I think are smartly fashionable, and though some styles have a bit of a regiment look, I think any excuse to wear one is acceptable !



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Originally a soft, knitted blue cap with a flat voluminous crown, it gave the Highlanders their nickname ‘Bluebonnets’. Here the Balmoral style of Scottish bonnets appears in a 16th century portrait …

The band was sometimes checked, or ‘diced’, and sometimes plain. A diced band, with a  feather placed into the band,  is shown in this illustration …

Now , in case you’re wondering about all this hullabaloo about bonnets, well, it is because I am going to make one !  Perhaps several. I am keen to also try sewing one from felted wool cloth, either or both solid and plaid, which I will no doubt over-dye for a signature color affect.  Of course I’ll include the grossgrain ribbons on the band,  and make a cockade  on which to fasten one of my lovely pins .  Whichever I decide to do, I’ll keep you posted !

4 thoughts on “Tam O’ Shanter !

  1. Ah yes I have seen these on ravelry – good for you! Looking forward to seeing how it works out. My Grandfather was in the Black Watch and I have wonderful photos of him wearing a glengarry – and also my Dad, who played in a pipe band.
    We used to refer to any knitted hat as a tammy.
    lLovely post xx

    • Faldon, the images in the post are not of my own work, I’m sorry. I don’t know where to direct you either, I am very sorry. Good luck finding a woad blue bonnet ! 🙂

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