In Switzerland the knotted hats are known as Röhrlihüte or Spitzhüte. In the 20th century they were sold as Yeddo hats and exported around the world. These hats were made for men, women and children.
The origin of these hats is uncertain. They are also made in Spain and in southern Italy. By the 1700s, the making of these hats was established in Switzerland.
These hats are made from whole straws, usually first bleached, taken from the top section of the stem. First, the top of the crown is made by laying the straws on top of the hat block. Using lengths of waxed thread, the straws are knotted in place. When a straw is used the old end is inserted into the hollow stem of the new straw, and then at the join, it is knotted in place. Once the top of the crown is knotted together the hat block is put into the Hütlerstöckli (also known as a Knüpferstöckli, a wooden stand in which the hat block can be held in place, whilst being able to turn as work progresses) and the sides are knotted. Next the brim is knotted and this work is very skilled, as now the knotting must be done away from the block. Finally, the edge of the brim is finished with a border.
A man's knotted hat requires approximately 2,500 knots and will take approximately 15 hours of work.
In Switzerland, there are still a few makers of Röhrlihüte. In the canton of Freiburg Mrs. Monika Brugger of Plasselb (1912–2004) was the expert. It is possible to take courses at Ballenberg Museum where you can learn the skills.
It is worth mentioning that the knotting technique can also be used to make lidded baskets and bowls.
Hubert Boschung, november 2005
© Schweizerische Strohstiftung © Fondation Paille Suisse © Swiss Straw Foundation
c/o Kurszentrum Ballenberg, Museumsstrasse 96, CH-3858 Hofstetten