Friday, March 05, 2010

The Mystery of the Swedish Olympic Team Hats: Crochet in the Social Media Age

crossposted at BlogHer

The buzz started even before the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics ended. Who crocheted the hats some members of the Swedish team wore as they entered the event?

Olympics - Opening Ceremony

The first close-up analysis led to one question. Were these hats truly crocheted, or might they have been knit? By Saturday morning, those in the know were convinced that YES, these were crocheted hats. Why this is important: Crochet cannot be done by machine. If the Swedish team received crocheted hats, someone sat and made them all by hand.

The name of this creator -- and ideally, her story -- became as important a quest as finding a pair of the souvenir Vancouver 2010 red Olympic mittens. (I have not yet found a pattern for making these but I expect that to show up any day now, too!)

For me, the search was led by Crochet Me's Kim Werker -- who used the power of Twitter to reach out to crafters, journalists, Swedes, the world. Another one of the frenzied searchers, Elizabeth Drouillard of Things Bright, said:

Based on Internet chatter, I've found that I'm not the only crocheter to geek out over the Swedish toques. Apparently we all did. Everywhere. Through the magic that is the Internet, I think I found the maker of the hats on a Swedish daily newspaper site, because they love them as much as I do over here. Warning: Google and link madness to follow.

For a brief while, it was hoped that Catherine Andersson, shown crocheting the hat in this video, was the maker. But Swedish-speaking twitterer @bagatell reported that the video was just a news story about how easy these hats are to make.

The next step in the search was a sighting on the Swedish craft blog MiMejd. Run the blog through Google Translator and discover that Ninna and Ida found the directions in a newspaper and posted a copy of the picture on their blog. Within days of the post, their readership (normally 60 a day) jumped to the point that the new visitors crashed their blog. Last Friday, they shared their results in recreating the hat. The translating is not perfect, but they report:

The debate has raged here on the blog as to whether the "real OS-cap" is wood poles or fixed mesh, on nedtagen are made in one or both. Some who have followed the pattern has been thought that the cap has been cruelly good others have testified that it has become so ugly, that it was ready for sopnedkastet directly.

On Tuesday, Kim Werker blogged what is likely the end of the search for the creators in Super Sleuthing Success! Swedish Hats Story:

The designer of the hats, and of the entire line of Olympics clothing for the Swedish Olympics team, is Eva Christensson. The hats were crocheted in China, and she didn't indicate any more information than that.

If you'd like your own Swedish Team Hat, Crafty Peach has quickly recreated the pattern and published it for us all to use, substituting an easily available yarn. As she explains on Ravelry:

I hesitate to call myself a designer ... all I did was copy the great hat the Swedish Olympic Team wore in the Parade of Nations!

This is my version of the Swedish Olympic Team's hat from the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. I used Red Heart Super Saver in the colors Light Periwinkle, Bright Yellow, Black, and White.

The original yarn -- DROPS Eskimo -- is a Norwegian-made thick wool yarn, which crochets these hats up quickly. However, some are reporting that the weight of the yarn is complicating the construction, leading Bagatell to declare her hat more appropriately used as a cowl.

**UPDATE**  Kim Werker had a chance to speak with Eva Christensson on Tuesday.  Check Yet More About Those Swedish Hats at Crochet Me for all the news. One piece of puzzle was answered in a way that is a bit satisfying: Why were the hats made in a China:

The original team hats were made by Chinese company Li Ning Sport Goods Ltd, which is the clothing sponsor for the Swedish Olympic team. Eva indicated the sponsorship relationship when I asked why the hats were made in China rather than by Swedish crocheters.

So there we have it. A worldwide crochet fad is well underway, thanks to a friendly sportswear designer who knows how cool crochet is, a hat that isn't available in stores, and a community of enthusiastic crocheters who won't stop till they have a hat of their own.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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