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Dear Kay,

Heads up that I am in the midst of manufacturing a tam.

You know, the flat-topped hat with a tight brim and sometimes a pompom.

“Tam” is short for “tam o’ shanter.” It’s not totally clear to me why this particular style of hat would be named for the main character of Robert Burns’s beloved 1791 poem “Tam O’ Shanter” who I guess was wearing a flat-topped hat with a tight brim and possibly a pompom. But there you go: this fun-loving fella Tam O’ Shanter gets tangled up with a witch named Nannie, and here we are with a really specific hat named for him as a result.

Wikipedia absolutely crushes it with its entry “Tam o’ shanter (cap).”

The tam o’ shanter is the banjo of hats—it’s impossible to be sad wearing such a jaunty topper. Even the legions of military men, even academics with their velvety floppy tam toppers—everybody loves a tam.

The minute I bound off my Crowberry Sweater, I found myself with a not-inconsequential amount of yarn left over: sweet quantities of Plotulopi and Love Story ready for another destiny.

Great! What I need is a tam, I thought to myself.

Perfect together: Love Story, the slimmest of laceweights. And Plotulopi, the airy fluffy unspun yarn.

Hélène Magnússon knows her way around a tam. She includes a truly dreamy one in the new Field Guide No. 26: Moss. I immediately cast on the Reindeer Moss Tam, which calls for pretty much the same yarns that are used in the Crowberry Sweater.

I can’t wait to finish so I can block this tam on a salad plate, which is what expert tamstress Beth Brown-Reinsel taught me to do in a stranded knitting workshop.

I want it to be extra flat, and I’m definitely putting a pompom on this thing.

I hasten to point out that we have bundles in the MDK Shop for the Reindeer Moss Tam—the Plotulopi and Love Story colors are just superb together. And I’m pretty sure you could get two tams out of this bundle, if you move the colors around for the second one.

Or you could make a pair of Reindeer Moss Mittens.

It’s all quick and fun and makes me feel like I just traveled from Iceland to Scotland, so great. Any other tam fans out there? What’s not to love, right?




  • You are going to have a very jaunty chapeau! Years ago I tried to knit what I *think* was a tam, worn by Harriet Vane in one of the Lord Peter episodes…it was what I think happens if a person does not block the hat on a plate – or perhaps at all – and it fits like a sort of wooly sack. I was very taken with the look of this hat on Harriet. My attempt to duplicate this hat produced two results: one sort-of tam that would have fit a toddler, and one unique not-at-all-tamlike but wearable piece which I named “The Hay-Hauler Helmet.” I still wear it occasionally if I need to keep falling snow off the back of my neck during chores.
    Looking forward to seeing your actual tam! 🙂

    • The “Hay Hauler Helmet”… awesome!

    • Harriet Walter made the perfect Harriet Vane, and of course any hat would look great on her!

  • I have always loved tams, this one is a beauty! May give it a try.

    • Moss, my favorite Field Guide so far! Tam coming right up after successfully finishing the Crowberry sweater.

  • Oh, how I do love a tam! Thanks for this sweet ode to my favorite hat style.

  • I love me a knitted tam! I end the crown with a loop of I-cord instead of the bobble.

  • I have had an aversion to tams since my mother and I struggled over one many (many) years ago – I wanted to pull it down, and she wanted it to sit at a jaunty angle. Perhaps I should give it another try!

    • Exactly why I don’t wear them. They, and those flat newsboy caps, leave your ears uncovered. What’s the point in a hat that doesn’t help out cold ears? I do love the colorwork patterns people create for them, but I make squishy, generous hats instead. And always with a small i-cord loop at the top to carabiner to my purse strap or tote bag.

  • My Grandma could rock a tam and always looked lovely in it!

  • What is the difference between a tam and a beret?

    • I’ve worn berets since I was a toddler. Never had pompoms but a stalk, like the ones I bought in France and Spain which have little stalky things sticking out on top, and the ones I’ve knitted are the same because I put one there. It’s a cultural thing, but for me the pompom makes them fancy dress LOL

  • Years ago, I knitted a tam and enjoyed the process, especially the plate-blocking. It did not fit, however, and I was too lazy to run an elasticized thread through the hem to tighten it up. I’m not sure that I’m the tam type anyway (I’ve slipped from ‘jaunty” to “severe” in my old age (which has it’s own “admirable” look, don’t get me wrong)). But I think you will look smashing in a tam, Ann,with the colors it appears you have chosen!

  • The world at large may call it a tam. Even we far-from-Scotland Scots call it a tammie. 🙂

  • Great article

  • My mother knitted these in the 1950’s for me. They are warm, attractive and not really difficult to knit. I knit too. Hopefully others will enjoy this item.

  • This is timely for me. I have been thinking of making a beret/tam as an alternative to a baseball hat to keep me hair out of me face at our always windy dog park and any other places around town.

  • The tam was worn in our house—and I remember them laid out on the dining room table at the end of winter having been washed and blocked with various sized plates. A great memory. Caring for our wool items was a big deal.

  • I can’t believe that no one has mentioned the book, Knitted Tams, by Mary Rowe.
    It has all you need (or want) to know about tams; from the basics to variations, plus patterns and lovely pictures. I’ve knitted a couple beautiful ones following her patterns, now if I could only get up the nerve to wear one!

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