Our little corner of the Battlefields Region of KwaZulu-Natal is over 1200 m (almost 4000 ft) in elevation, so even summer days can become chilly with cloud cover. As a surprise for my roommates, I decided to crochet them South African flag hats. I enlisted their wives as co-conspirators, who sent me gift certificates for yarn (fun fact: one of my co-conspirators is now my co-volunteer and roommate).

The temporary banner that became the pride of South Africa.

The temporary banner that became the pride of South Africa.

History of the Flag

Apartheid was abolished in the early 1990’s, and a new democracy needed a new flag. The current national flag was designed by South African State Herald Mr. Fred Brownell, and was first used on 27 April 1994, just in time for the first racially inclusive national elections. It was intended to be an interim flag, adopted at the last second. However, it proved to be so popular that it was adopted officially in the final draft of the Constitution in 1996.

Symbolism

The green “Y” represents the convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity. The colors of the flag mean many things to many different people, so there is no universal symbolism assigned to them. Black, green, and yellow are from the banner of the African National Congress, while red, white, and blue are from the Dutch tricolor and British Union flag.

Crochet

Tom's toque before stitching it together. Alas and alack, I never got a photo of the handsome Colonel in the finished product.

Tom’s toque before stitching it together. Alas and alack, I never got a photo of the handsome Colonel in the finished product.

I chose to use slip stitch in the back loop (sl blo).  It’s not as fast as single crochet, but the fabric makes beautiful stripes and is super stretchy.  To make the hats, I crocheted two flags, sewed the long edge together to make a cyllinder, put the black triangles on the brim, and sewed the striped ends together at the crown in 6 short seams.  You could also gather the crown end together instead of sewing seams, but you need to cover the top with a small circle or a pom pom.

The best spot for drying the washed crocheted piece. Until the wind picks up.

The best spot for drying the washed crocheted piece. Until the wind picks up.

A hat flag will not have the same aspect ratio as the actual flag, but the important detail is to get the stripe ratios correct.  One-third of the flag width is blue, one-third is red, and the middle one-third is green and white.  The tail of the green “Y” is at least three-fifths of the middle stripe.  Each white stripe is one-fifth of the middle stripe, optimally 4 stitches.  The yellow stripe is the same width as the white.  The most difficult decision is how tall to make the black triangle; if it is too large, it will dominate the entire design.  Use graph paper to make a sketch, keeping in mind that slip stitches are flat while single crochet stitches are almost square.

Mike's hat--before it became a neck warmer.

Mike’s hat–before it became a neck warmer.

Regardless of what stitch you use, the most important step is to correctly measure your gauge.  For the first hat I crocheted, I made the gauge swatch early in the morning.  I am not a morning person.  When I finished Mike’s hat, it was HUGE!  Mike now has a lovely neckwarmer.  Tom’s hat had much more accurate dimensions.

For both Mike and Tom,  I used “Joy” by African Expressions, a lovely mohair-wool-acrylic blend, made in South Africa.  The mohair does make it difficult to frog your stitches if you make a mistake, however (“rip-it, rip-it!”).  I got it from Craft & Yarn online.  They make gift cards very easy, but the website is currently under re-construction.

John sports his 3-country Peace Corps hat.

John sports his 3-country Peace Corps hat.

Those of you who know John will know he’s a special case (in the best ways possible).  His sensitive skin required a 100% acrylic yarn:  Elle’s Family Knit DK.  Since South Africa is his third country of Peace Corps service, he requested Tanzanian and Liberian flags in addition to the South African flag.  He also got a brim and a fantastic pom-pom.

Proudly stitching the colors of Liberia and Tanzania.

Proudly stitching the colors of Liberia and Tanzania.

If you or a loved one would like a South African flag toque, you can find instructions on my Crochet Patterns page.  Happy hooking!

Advertisements