Hallie's Hat

Contributed by: Rottnest Island Authority

Front view Back view Left hand view Right hand view Close up of tip Close up of front
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Rottnest Island Authority
  • Owner registration number:

    CH83.89 (West Australian Museum on loan to Rottnest island Museum)
  • Date range:

    1960 - 1970
  • Place of origin:

    Rottnest Island, Western Australia, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

Hallie's Hat was made by Hallie Margaret Stow (1876-1972) from seaweed collected on Rottnest Island. Hallie was a regular visitor to the Island between 1929 and 1970 visiting mainly in winter with three friends, Catherine Summers, Rettie McGibbon and Grace Davidson. They would take horse trips to the West End, and around the Salt Lakes. Mrs Stow made many such hats for family and friends. Hettie’s daughter Mrs Sheila Plank donated the hat to the Rottnest Island Museum

This hat is a valued object in the Rottnest Island Authority’s museum display. It is historically and socially significant, being representative of a time and place when Rottnest was regarded as an inexpensive holiday playground for all Western Australians. International travel for the annual holiday was uncommon and the notion of “home made” was aligned with skill, design flair, individuality, and originality, as well as being economical.

Rottnest Island is 11km long by 4.5kms wide. It has undergone many incarnations since being named by early Dutch explorer, William de Vlamingh. Since 1830 it has been the home of free settlers, a summer home for the Governor, a place of confinement for Aboriginal prisoners, a telegraph station, a detainment centre for men of German and Austrian descent during WW1, a military defence base during WW2, and since 1911, a holiday island for West Australians. Its most famous marsupial is the Quokka for whom the island was originally named. It is now an “A” Class reserve with very little transport except for bicycle. It has a general store, a few cafes and shops at the area called the Settlement, but once outside this area it is possible to enjoy, in tranquillity, the many outdoor activities the island has to offer.

Author: Gaynor Ashford, June 18 2014.


This hat is made from Rottnest Island seaweed, which has many shades through from cream to glossy dark brown. The style is a variation on a Sailor style with slightly rounded tip and angled brim. The front is decorated with a bunch of leafy seaweed, corals, sponge and shells, attached to a thin single chain band. The hat lining is in three parts, a circular cream tip, white tricel sideband and a petersham stiffening band and hat elastic to complete.

History and Provenance

Hallie's grandfather, Nicol Paterson, emigrated from the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland and came to Fremantle in 1840. From Pinjarra the family moved to Whitby Falls and farmed from 1886 until 1897 when they built a house called "Stromness' on the bushland on the corner of Keane and St Leonards Streets in Mosman Park, now a very popular suburb. Hallie married Robert Norman Stow in 1907. He was an accountant and work took him from Ravensthorpe in the south of the state, to Sydney, Newcastle and Pinjarra before settling in Mt Lawley, a suburb of Perth, in the 1920s. Travelling in the west at this time meant using coastal steamers or horse drawn covered wagons 'as in the Wild West'.

Hallie and Norman had two daughters, Norah and Sheila. Hallie was a keen artist, woodworker and craftsperson. She enjoyed collecting flotsam and jetsam from the seashore to use in her craftwork which included bags and baskets as well as hats.She enjoyed using natural and inexpensive materials to create beautiful things.

Hallie and her friends were keen Rottnest visitors, and would travel on steam boats such as the "Zephyr" and the "Wandoo" in all weathers to enjoy a week or two of tranquillity.

Hallie and Norman's descendants still live in WA.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Hallie Margaret Stow nee Paterson was born in 1876 into a pioneering family at "Creaton" a farming property on the Murray River, near Pinjarra, Western Australia. Her father, William Paterson, became a Member of Parliament, and the first manager of the Agricultural Bank, now Bankwest. Her mother was Susannah Chidlow, of the Chidlow family, after whom Chidlow's Well was named. Hallie died in 1972, aged 96.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Hallie's experiences on Rottnest would have  begun not long after World War 1 when the island was used as an internment camp for Germans, Hungarians and Austrians. Although the island ceased to be a prison for Aboriginal prisoners in 1903, the last prisoner left the island in 1931. During World War 2, the island was part of Australia's defence, with manned gun emplacements. Rottnest has officially been a holiday place for West Australians since 1911. It is now an "A" Class reserve.

Where did this information come from?

Rottnest Island History

Newspaper Article, undated, but probably from the "West Australian"

A transcription of the Article, letter dated 12/06/2008 from Geoffrey Shellam, Hallie's Grandson, to the Rottnest Island Museum Curator.

Many thanks to Wendy Bradshaw, Curator at Rottnest Island, and Kate de Bruin of the Western Australian Museum for information and advice.

This garment has been exhibited

Hallie's hat has been on display at the Rottnest Island Museum since the mid 1980s.

  1. Place of origin:

    Rottnest Island, Western Australia, Australia

  2. Cost:

    The hat was made from found materials. Hallie was fond of beachcombing.

  3. Owned by:

    Hallie Stow and Sheila Plank, her daughter

  4. Place:

    A hat like this would be worn at any time during the West Australian summer.

  5. Designed by:

    Hallie Stow

  6. Made by:

    Hallie Stow ( Mrs Robert Norman Stow)

Trimmings / Decoration

Attached to the twine band are various leafy seaweeds and small shells and corals. such as would be found along a sandy beach. Shells include a cowrie and bivalves.


The hat band is a single crochet chain of nylon twine, encircling the hat between sideband and brim.

Fibre / Weave

The seaweed is in its natural state of variegated creams to dark brown.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


The seaweed strands were plaited into a four strand flat plait. Starting at the centre of the tip, the plaited seaweed was stitched, using black thread, anticlockwise into a a circular shape, probably fixed onto a block with pins. The sizing suggests it was made for a small female head.

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


The hat elastic is stitched to  the inside of the hat, where the petersham band meets the brim at the two side points.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

A 40mm deep Petersham band stops the hat from stretching. It is hand stitched to the white lining of the sideband and where the brim meets the sideband. 


Hat measurements

Crown                        inside                         outside

circumference             530mm                      532mm

depth                            75mm                       80mm


diameter  front to back  140mm

               side to side    130mm   



Outer rim                    1050mm

depth                             98mm

Hat Elastic                     320mm




  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor
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