The first crochet hard hat by Lisa Wiseman for Liddell WORKS Project

The very first of the Thinking Caps series, an off white wool crochet hard hat

So I’ve been happily crocheting away on some of the hats for the Liddell WORKS Project. I started with a few simpler ones to get the shape and design worked out, just basic hard hats in crochet, really. But while I say, “basic”, they’re actually pretty complex with-

  • two “shells”, that is, an inner and an outer skin,
  • a central raised, padded section down the middle of the head,
  • a raised, padded lower band, which is shaped to dip down at front and back
  • a reflective stripe in the middle of the head section- usually made from grey mohair mix yarn plied with lurex
  • a wired, padded brim, and
  • a harness inside the hats which is shaped to bend out at the back and swoop around to the other side, then back up into the shell. These harnesses also feature faux adjusting knobs.
Black and orange crochet hard hat by Lisa Wiseman for Liddell WORKS Project

This crochet hard hat has a two tone orange interior with a swirling design, which shows through an openwork black exterior

The series of hard hats are called, “Thinking Caps”, because they’re designed to evoke thoughts, images and memories of Liddell- the idea is that they can be tried on, or even just viewed, and perhaps a person who had worked at Liddell might think of, say particular colours, shapes or textures of a part of the power station. Or perhaps someone who hadn’t seen Liddell might consider the light or colour combinations and contrasts which inspired that hat- or of the people who worked there and wore their own, more usual hard hats.

In keeping with the look of “Lady Liddell” when I visited, I’ve gone for the grubby-coaldusted-slightly-rusty look, using a lot of off white and cream yarns, often flecked with grey or tan, like a sumptuous vintage 12 ply cream Cleckheaton wool with charcoal flecks, or a variegated off white-grey and dull chestnut linen yarn. I’m mostly using 8ply yarn (with some 12 ply where needed to make the hats a little more substantial) natural and synthetic fibres and mixes, including wool, mohair, linen and acrylic.

Hi vis yellow and black crochet hard hat by Lisa Wiseman for Liddell WORKS Project

This hard hat features yellow Freeform lace crochet over a solid black shell and white, feathers yarn harness

This his vis yellow hard hat was crocheted in fabulous faux fur yarn, with a reflective mohair and lurex stripe and fuzzy harness.And then there are the super-bright and hi vis hats! My favourite at present is the hi vis yellow faux fur hat, lined with bright yellow plain textured yarn. It was SO much fun crocheting that faux fur yarn… not. But the effect is amazing, and it’s incredibly soft and fluffy.

After those fairly simple hats, I got into some lacework- Liddell had loads of dark corners; bright, often coloured light sources and latticed pipework, stairs, louvres, grilles and so on which gave strong contrasts and deep, gridded shadows. So I made a hat with a black inner shell in plain treble crochet and hi vis yellow outer in my take on Freeform lacework, which allowed the black interior to peek through the spaces in the outer, like the dark shadows lurking behind the bright pops of light.

Hi vis yellow faux fur Liddell WORKS Project crochet hard hat

There’s also a hat with an inner which has a swirling two-tone orange design, while the outer, in a black lattice of varied stitches and dimensions, allows the oranges to show through.

A variegated off white-grey and rust linen and wool crochet hard hat, with an assortment of ‘pipes’ attached.But then things started to get interesting… at Liddell there were pipes everywhere- from huge to tiny- from the ubiquitous handrails and stair rails to the great big pipes around the turbines. Pipes in lots of colours and patterns, and all interweaving and interlocking. So I made a hat with pipes.

The Liddell WORKS Project pipes Thinking Cap by Lisa Wiseman

And now? I’m working on a hat which will have about two-foot-long wired appendages sprouting from it… And another which shows a map and the terrain of the area… So many things to make yet- I’m just getting to the really interesting part!

These hats- or at least some of them, depending on space, I suppose- are intended to be shown at the Muswellbrook Art Gallery in 2024 as part of the Liddell WORKS exhibition, which will include works by the sixteen artists in residence.

And meanwhile, there’s a special event coming up at Lake Liddell in October, where I’ll be tutoring workshops, but more of that soon…