Monkey Meat

January 31st


A friend at the bagel shop, who is sporting an impressive beard himself, would like to have one of these Billy Gibbons hats. I did a bit of research, and strangely enough this ZZ Top dude retired his Texas cowboy hat for an African Nudu cap. The African Nudu? They are Bamilike from Bamenda — just a 45 minute drive from my Peace Corps post in western Cameroon.
Bamenda is one of the most charming African cities I’ve ever visited. It was a special get away. When I got sick of French and needed the company and comforts of a larger city, I would hike out of my village, take a couple of buses and meet up with the other volunteers in Bamenda. Granted, I was only there for a few months, but in that time I grew rather fond of this city and its amenities.
Bamenda is the the western English (pidgin) speaking region of Cameroon, not terribly far from the Nigerian border. The city sits in a large tropical valley, and the people are kind and welcoming. This is one of Cameroon’s larger cities. In the outlying mountains, which are thick with fog most mornings, there is an excellent restaurant and shop called “Handicraft” just off of the ring road. They cook a mean chicken dish and sell amazing handmade items.
{Although one time I ventured off to the bathroom (latrine) behind the restaurant and found a baboon chained to a tree. That makes you think twice about ordering the chicken.}

Back to the hat — the only way I can think to create something like this is to knit a beanie and then add a bunch of icords off the top. Any ideas? I don’t know how to crochet, but I’m guessing that would be considerably easier to create these little Bamendian dreads.

I feel like I am supposed to make this hat. After all, how bizarre is it a man I know wants a hat worn by one of his favorite singers, a hat that comes from one of the few areas of the world I happen to know? Odd, don’t you think?

Knitters put on your thinking caps (ha!) and please let me know your ideas.

Posted in
Africa, Domestic Art
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47 Responses

  1. I don’t have any specific ideas but I feel that felting will be a large part of the dread-making.

  2. i agree–felting! not odd..kismit? and i sympathize…i’ve been pining away for a dr. who scarf for some time. perhaps my knitter friend will find out that dr. who scarves were originally knitted from faneuil hall. i knit, but am not ambitious enough.

  3. “kismet” rather. and sorry–got curious and had to share this.

  4. Okay, I’m not an expert knitter, but I do know a thing or two. I’ll try to help…I don’t think felting would be the way to go (sorry, too tedious! and then how would you attach them?) I think you’re right on with the little i-cords idea. You’d probably want a 3-stitch i-cord. You could either first attach the yarn to the pre-knit cap and knit the little i-cords one by one after you attach the yarn, or pre-knit the i-cords and then attach them. Definitely pre-knit the cap first, of course! Crochet might be faster, but the i-cords would look more like the above pic. And it wouldn’t take too long since they don’t have to be knit very long. Definitely a labor of love, but not impossible by any means! Seems like good t.v knitting with all the mindless i-cords. I bet it’d look awesome!

  5. Isn’t there a rug at IKEA with dread-like thingamabobs? You could cut out a square of it and attach it to a cap. How you’d explain this action to an IKEA employee while you’re sitting on the showroom floor with scissors in hand is another story.

  6. That hat is awesome!! I’m with you–I think crochet and then felting would be a ton faster (and easier to attach)than knitting i-cords. And yes, you were definitely destined to make it.

  7. I agree that felting is the way to go. Isn’t it strange, the variety of forces that lead two people to the same place? I’m laughing about the baboon and thinking about the Matrix and how everything tastes like chicken. But who knows what chicken really tastes like??

  8. i loved the baboon story 🙂
    and i remember seeing a hat awhile back that was designed by amy swenson of indigirl, with felted dreads on top… if i remember correctly they were longer, but i bet you could modify it to work for this pattern. i do think, like others here, that felting would be a good idea so they have some solidity to them.
    good luck! 🙂

  9. Oh my gosh, that image popping up on my screen gave me a fright (before my caffeine intake even). When were you in the Peace Corps there?

    I remember the same hat Amisha was talking about, but I agree with everyone about the felting. Can’t wait to see that one!

  10. I don’t know enough about knitting yet to give any helpful advice. My immediate thought when I saw the photo (besides that I thought of ZZ Top, too) is that the hat looks like a chrysanthemum that hasn’t completely unfurled its petals. I think it’s a bit of synchronicity that this whole thought process evokes Bamenda for you–amazing how small the world can be some days.

  11. wow. i think the beanie with i-cords might be the trick. but i’d felt it. so make it super large and… felt it?

  12. Believe it or not, Kelli, I attempted to make this very hat for my boyfriend about 4 years ago. He also was in love with Billy’s hat. I crocheted a beanie style hat and used a chenille as fringe. I admit it did not look so great. Having more experience under my belt (and seeing a better photo of the hat), I would say crocheted beanie with single chains as the cords and then felt it.

  13. I would definitely not go the i-cord route–you’ll end up with a bazillion ends for attaching each one and ending each one. I knit a sweater a few years ago (Loll in Rowan Calmer, you can see Rowan’s version here: with these little nubs of knitted fringe around the hem and cuffs.

    To make the fringe, you knit to the place where you want one, cast on several backward-loop stitches then bind them off and keep knitting to where the next one goes. I realize that probably made no sense whatsoever, but it works. If you’d like a better explanation, I’d be happy to try to help.

    And it does look like the hat in the picture is felted. If you’re looking to make an exact replica of that hat, I’d say you’re going to be doing some math. It’d be worth it though–it’s a cool hat.

  14. I think felting would look cool, but it sounds like a lot of work to me.

    Crocheting would probably work really well. BUT, I wouldn’t just do single chains, I think that would be too thin and wouldn’t stand out. Perhaps sc about 8, and then come back for a second row (sc in each sc, starting with the 2nd ch from hook) back to the cap. That would give it a little thickness.

    Another idea, perhaps you can find some thick cord and use that?

    Keep us updated! 🙂

  15. I like the idea of icords started directly from the hat itself (knitted first of course) and then felted. Just knit the hat big, the icords long (a 3 or 4 stitch icord would probably do) and toss it in the wash. I bet it wouldn’t take TOO long. And plus, icords are so fun and efficient.

  16. That’s such a cool hat!

  17. Wow, that’s cool, and the connection is even cooler. I hope that you find out how to make it! 🙂 Sending you good vibes for dread making!

  18. Kelli, I’ve been lurking for quite a while but just have to de-lurk to comment on this post! (and while I’m delurking, let me just say that I really enjoy your blog! — you’re so productive in your baking and crafting, it’s very inspiring.) Anyway, the real point of this comment: I was a PC volunteer in Cameroon, too! We (my husband and I) were posted to Edea, in the Littoral (about halfway between Douala and Yaounde) — never made it to Bamenda, I don’t think, but we did our training in Dschang, which is pretty close by. It was a beautiful part of the country. Where were you posted? And when?

  19. kelli, get to working on the bamendian dread hat. i think it is your calling. too many connections here. give the man his hat.
    oh that poor baboon….well i’m definitely sticking to my vegan foods.

  20. Just happened to watch uncommon threads today and lady was using wool roving to make a felted belt that had a sausage-y look to it. Reminded me of your hat. Here’s the link:,2025,DIY_13768_5318282,00.html

  21. I don’t have any good ideas for the hat, but I did work for ZZ Top in the mid 80’s. The boys were in Europe touring when I was working in their offices in Houston. I did meet Billy Gibbon’s mom though. Nice lady.

    Speaking of Africa, I have a friend that just announced she was going to be teaching in Africa for the next year and a half. Any advice for her? She’s going to be in Accra, Ghana, Africa.

  22. I just thought of you Kelli. My husband has WWE Smackdown on the TV (you know, the wrastlin’) and ZZ Top is sitting in the front row, and your had made an appearance. So, no hints, just wanted to say that I saw it on TV. 🙂

  23. Google for thrums, thrummed mittens, or thrummed hat. You will find the knitting technique with incorporates lengths of unspun wool fleece (thrums) at regular intervals in the knitting. It is an ancient Scandinavian technique. Usually, the thrums are turned inside fior warmth. In your case, the thrums would be turned outside and felted (washed in the washer until they felted. I wuold knit the cap of a non-felting yarn, superwash wool, or synthetic blend like Wool-Ease. Then just the thrums will felt! If all you have is wool, then needle felt the thrums later or just mess them up with wetness and soap between your fingers so the cap doesn’t felt too. There is nothing wrong with felting the cap, but then you have to knit it really large, and the spacing of the thrums would be trickier.

  24. I actually met the man who gave billy gibbons that hat. He actually lives in Texas. If you would like more information feel free to email me.

    • patrick August 7, 2009

      Thia is a reply to your original post almost two years ago. Hope you get it.
      you know the person who actually gave or made the hat for Billy?
      How can I get in touch with this person?

    • patrick August 7, 2009

      This message is for Dave who mentioned he knew the person who gave Billy his hat. How can I reach this person??

    • Debra Paschal November 19, 2010

      I would be very interested in learning how to make this hat. If the guy who made the hat is okay with sharing his pattern please let me know. Thank you!


  25. teri morter November 13, 2007

    Wierd, I am trying to figure out how to make that hat for my guy also. help

  26. I am looking to purchase a hat like Billy Gibbons or similar to this. If anyone has the information on how to obtain this, I would greatly appreciate it

    Thank you


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  28. I am looking to purchase the same hat as worn by Billy Gibbons in the photo. Does anyone know where i can buy one.

  29. Karrie Odonnell November 12, 2008


  30. I just completed one tonight as a custom order (before reading all these comments – which would have been useful!) I used DK weight hemp, which doesn’t felt because I was afraid of all the little nobs tangling & felting together. Billy’s looks so neat & even. If it was felted, it must have been done before being assembled.
    Anyhow, it was a lot of work. Over 200 little I-cord tentacles in 3 weeks. It was a fun & challenging project, but I won’t be doing another one any time soon. I seriously under-estimated the work involved and didn’t charge nearly enough $$$. Oh well, live & learn…
    I should have it posted tomorrow evening:
    Happy knitting everyone! 🙂

  31. patrick August 7, 2009

    This message is for Dave who mentioned he knew the person who gave Billy his hat. How can I reach this person?

  32. Kidnapp a Rastafarian, take him to a deserted location and scalp him. Take the scalp home, trim the dreads to the desired length, pour salt in the fleshy part and let it sit in the sun for three weeks. Viola…African Nudu hat.
    Just kidding. I’m sick, I know. Sorry.

  33. i am currently crocheting this hat for my brother -in-law. i will post back once it’s finished and let u all know how it turned out!

  34. Dharma Dawg December 23, 2010

    The man who sold Billy the hat is a close friend of mine, he has a African import gallery on the Strand in Galveston Tx.
    “Mamady Primitive Art from Africa” look him up and give him a call, he,s the nicest guy you,ll ever talk to.

    • Called Mamady, but the call would not go through. I’ll try again because I really want the pattern or some directions about how to make this hat. Thanks for the information.

  35. I have the directions for how to make the hat for sale. Email me through the contact me button on this site!

    • Hi, Kelli –

      I’m interested in the pattern. Can I see an example, and get a price?


    • Hello – you posted you know how to make the Billy Gibbons hat – this was some time back – are you able to tell me how you did this???

      Thanks Andrea

    • Hi Kelly,

      I would really like to know the African beanie for my husband’s birthday… is it possible to have the pattern?


  36. I have felling the hat is not crochetted but knitted. maybe. I am trying to make one mayself for my kid. and sofar, the icords go best when you are making each row, Right now I am using a snow hat weight yarn. Its the only ones I can find in vergated colors which REALLy look good in this hat. I don t have a pattern to work with. so I am gooding by what looks close. When I am do with thes one I will try with thnnier yarn. something bewteen sock and snow hat yarn.