Hats off to headstrong Antarctic artist 14 February 2021

Australian Antarctic Division

Textile artist Hadley Westwood has created another batch of bespoke beanies for members of the winter team at Mawson research station, inspired by photos from the icy continent.

Each year her ‘Hadley Hats Arts Project’ aims to produce differently-themed woollen headgear for Australian Antarctic expeditioners.

In 2019, Hadley’s initial labour of love saw her make a beanie for each of the 15 Mawson winterers.

“It took me a full year to knit the 15 hats, inspired by Douglas Mawson’s ideals of conservation and exploration,” she said.

Hadley now has an annual tradition of making three beanies as gifts for wintering expeditioners at Mawson, and one for the charity auction on the ship returning expeditioners to Tasmania.

“This year I chose ‘icebergs’ as my theme, which was a huge challenge to knit realistically!” she said.

Hadley scanned the weekly station updates on the AAD website to choose her favourite photos.

“I research my topic, and spend about three days drawing up the pattern.”

“I draw the image on graph paper, knowing I have approximately 200 stitches around the hat and about 60 rows to feature the picture.”

“Each square represents four stitches, and I have to adjust this as I knit,” Hadley said.

“My biggest challenge is to stick to what I have drawn and not go off plan!”

Each beanie takes about four weeks to knit.

“The hats are hand-knitted on 2.25 mm size needles, using a commercial sock wool for some of the bands and two threads of wool dyed at Australian Tapestry Workshop in South Melbourne.”

The new consignment of beanies is currently on their way to Mawson research station on MPV Everest, for presentation at mid-winter celebrations.

“I hope the hours, days and months I spend creating the hats for the Mawson station winter expeditioners represents a fitting tribute to them,” Hadley wrote to expeditioners in a note with the gifts.

“Without you doing your crucial work on the station over winter, the science couldn’t happen in the summer months.”

With three lucky recipients soon to be resplendently hatted, all she asks is for action photos of her handcrafted headgear keeping ears warm in Antarctica.

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