The Barb Brown – Toque: A Canadian Thing, Eh?

When I was 21 years old, I headed off to Scotland in April. I was well-equipped for the weather, since I lived on the very northern tip of Vancouver Island. My regular wardrobe for April at home had all the perfect garments!

First day, taking the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh, I left my toque on the train. I thought, How hard can that be to replace?I didnt have any knitting tools with me (backpacks are limited for space!) so I decided to buy one. There were plenty of shops selling knitted goods, so I went into one and looked all around. Not a toque in sight! But there were lots of helpful clerks.

Excuse meI asked the kind lady Can you tell me where your toques would be?

She stared at me.Toook??? What might that be?

And I was stumped! How could someone not know what a toque was?? It was like someone asking me What might a shoe be?or Shirt?? What on earth is that?My mind just went blank. It took a bit, but the brain finally started working.

Catacombs Hat” Not a toque says Barb. Is a toque says Caroline.

A toque. You know, a knitted hat? Thats nice and tight and stays on your head?” 

Ah, says she A tammy!and she pulled out some lovely tams.

No, thanks for trying. But I need a toqueyou know, tight and …”

Cat and Mouse Hat” Definitely not a toque.

I looked around at the people in the crowded shop, and way over in the corner was a lady with a knitted hat. Not as tight as a toque, but close. It had a large pompom on top. I am not a pompom on my toque person, so I pointed at the lady and said to the clerk Sort of like that white hat the lady over there is wearing

Ah!.you wanting a bobble cap! she was beaming!

Well, yes, if thats what thats called, but without the pompom. And snugger too. What would you call a hat like that?I had finally realized that toquewas just not in the Scottish vocabulary.

Funky time Headband” Not a toque, it has no top!

Well, if youre wanting a cap like that with no bobble, then youre wanting a bobbleless bobble cap!She smiled even brighter.  Im afraid we dont have any of those, but other shops will.  You just ask them for a bobbleless bobble cap and youll find one with no difficulty!

Knot my Hat and Mitts” So close! But not a toque.

She was right. Three shops later, and I had a bobbleless bobble cap that fits tightand not one clerk thought my request was strange. I did ask for a toqueas well, but that just made them stare at me, totally bewildered. 

Years passed, and my lovely red bobbleless tight fitting bobble capfinally wore out. I knit more toques, for myself, my husband, and my boys. More years passed.

Big Easy Hat” It’s snug on the head! It can be rolled! BUT it’s too long and not a toque!

I attended Olds College Fibre Week, and met a lovely lady named Jayne, from Washington State. We were chatting over a cup of coffee, and both of us were knitting away.  What are you knittingI asked her.  Socks for my daughtershe said And you?  Oh, Im making a new toque for my husband

She stared at me. Toook???she said.

And thats when I realized, Toqueis a Canadian word. Who knew, eh?

We hashed out what made a toque an actual toque and not a bobbleless bobble hat. 

  1. It must be knit, and not felted.
  2. It must keep your ears warm, but you must be able to roll it above the ears on warmer days and it has no ear flaps.
  3. It must give you major hat head after only 10 minutes of wear.

And there you go. Thats a toque.

Toque recipe:

Step 1: Measure the head, and subtract 10%. Thats how big it needs to be

Step 2: Make a swatch to get the gauge per inch of your yarn (make sure the fabric stretches!)

Step 4: Multiply step 1 x step 2 = how many to cast on.

Step 5: Knit until you have about 9 inches (you can do all rib, all stocking stitch, a combination. Its your choice!)

Step 6: Shape the top. You measured your gauge per inch in step 2. 

  1. Knit this many, k2 tog. (fudge the numbers a bit if needed!) 
  2. Knit 1 round plain. 
  3. Knit 1 less than you did in Ak2tog. 

Repeat B. and C. until you have about 1/3 of the stitches left. Now repeat C. only until you have abut the number of sts. in an inch. Gather these up and sew in ends etc.

Here we go!



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