Knitwear design inspired by US National Parks

An interview with Nancy Bates – hat designer

There are 62 National Parks in the United States, and Nancy plans to visit them all, or at least 61 of them.

To date Nancy has designed hats for 17 of the parks with plans in the works for a least a few more. We caught up with the Canadian-born, California resident while she was visiting Birdhouse Yarns last week sharing her hat designs to find out more.

How long have you been designing for?

It’s been 2.5 years. My goal was always to design five hats a year and I just keep doing more!

Is the goal to create hat designs for all 62 National Parks?

I’m not sure about the St. Louis Arch. I might leave that one out. We’ll see.

Your hat patterns vary from whimsical to stylized to realistic. How do you decide which to do?

I just have to go with what inspires me when I go to the park. Sometimes it’s a very small feature, and sometimes it’s the grand image of the park. I just go with my gut.

Acadia National Park Beanie
Acadia National Park hat – Birch tree

Do you always go to the park first and then design?

It’s both. If I know I’m going to a park, I might design and knit in advance because I like to take pictures of the hat in the park. I’ll go online and see what it is that people are drawn to at that park. Sometimes I just can’t design until I see the park. So most of the time it’s that way around. I go to the park, I get the inspiration and then I go home and make the beanie.

What prompted this mission? What was your first design?

The first beanie I made was Yellowstone, but it was actually Joshua Tree that got me started.

At that time I was really into cables and I could see all the different shapes you could make with cables. And it just popped into my head one day ‘I could make a Joshua Tree hat with cables.’ But it took me a while to figure out how to do it. I actually did a few other designs before I finally got to Joshua Tree.

You use color, texture, stitch combinations to create these very different designs. What have you learned in this process?

To be really patient as I make my idea come to reality. Having something in my head and making it come out in that way…sometimes the features are something that only I really know why they’re there.

I often knit 4 or 5 samples before I get the hat design right. I need to see how the colorwork is going to work.

Which is your favorite?

That’s so hard. I really like Mt. Rainer, I like the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, Acadia, I can’t choose a favorite. I can’t choose a favorite child. Maybe, Yellowstone because it was the first one that published. It will always have a special place.

We are assembling kits of several of Nancy’s patterns so that you can knit them too. Watch this space for:

  • Saguaro National Park Kits (day and night)
  • Grand Canyon National Park Kit


Word Saguaro beanie daytime – Photo courtesy of Nancy Bates
Saguaro beanie (night)
Saguaro Beanie (sunset)
Grand Canyon Beanie





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