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The Cabbage Tree Hat: from Convicts to Colonials

What better way to celebrate ‘THREADS’, the theme for History Week 2012, than a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney to explore one of the colony’s first fashion accessories - the Cabbage Tree Hat.

Inspired by learning that the cabbage tree palm, Livistona australis, was used in Australian colonial times for the production of hats, Volunteer Guide, Jenny Pattison set out on a mission to research the traditional ways of making the hat. On the way Jenny uncovered some fascinating stories.

Read Jenny’s story

‘I have always been interested in using plant materials to make string, bags and baskets so when I learnt that the convicts were making cabbage tree palm hats in the early days of the penal colony, I thought the best place to start my search on how they were made was to visit Hyde Park Barracks. This was the start of my journey that took me to view original hats at the Powerhouse Museum and Wollongong Museum and hear the stories behind those particular hats. These hats were behind glass and I really wanted to get my hands on a real hat and handle one. I also wanted to meet someone who had first-hand knowledge of the making of the hats, and had actually made one. My breakthrough came when I tracked down Vivienne Webb, a Sydneysider, who had written an article about the hats in a basketry book published in the early 1980s.

Vivienne, in the 1970s, when researching the history of Kurrajong, had met an elderly lady who had made cabbage tree hats for many years. This lady had learnt from her mother who used to sell her hats to drovers passing through to Singleton in the late 1800s. Stories and techniques, as well as the shredding tools used in the preparation of the palm’s plaiting material, had been passed down mother to daughter, then on to Vivienne. I now had my first- hand contact!

Subsequently, Vivienne has made her own hats and I have been very fortunate that Vivienne has passed the information and stories on to me and guided me in making my first hat.’

Jenny is happy to share this knowledge with you and talk about the place of the cabbage tree hat in the history of Australian fashion. She will also demonstrate the steps in making a cabbage tree hat. You should be able to leave the talk ready to start making your own hat and revive this very useful, historic and very Australian craft.

The Cabbage Tree Hat: from Convicts to Colonials

When: Tuesday 11 September 2012, 5.30-7.30 pm
Where: Maiden Theatre, enter via Woolloomooloo Gate, Mrs Macquaries Road, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
Cost: $30.00 general $15.00 concession
Bookings: 9231 8304 Email donna.osland@rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

History Week 2012: 8-16 September www.historyweek.com.au

Cabbage Tree Hat

Cabbage Tree Hat

Cabbage Tree Hat