Sonia Delaunay, Driving Caps, Silk and Wool, 1924-28. Included in the Cooper-Hewitt Color Moves exhibition, 2011.

I am taking a break from my collection today, and researching a feature which somehow keeps bringing me back to the work of Sonia Delaunay. I came across these amazing wool and silk ‘driving caps’ that she designed, and was so blown away by them that I just had to show you. In their interplay of colour and rhythm, they capture so much of what I love about Delaunay’s work. They are hats for use as much as ornament, garments intended, like most of Delaunay’s clothes, to be worn with ease by what she regarded as ‘modern’ women — women on the move. Like Delaunay’s famous ‘simultaneous’ coats and dresses, the bold, undulating and interlocking rectangles that create the structure of these these caps are the effect of dense, woollen embroidery rather than knitted stitches . . . still, as you can imagine, they have got me thinking. But today I am not supposed to be thinking about knitting. I am supposed to be thinking about 1920s Paris and New York, of the grid of the city, of wheels in motion, sleek architectural lines, bobbed hair, sportswear, dancers and swimmers, runners and cyclists, chevrons and stripes, blocks and spirals. I suppose it does all come back to the knitting, after all.

Delaunay and her matching decorated Citroen B12, 1925

Delaunay, cars and clothes, 1925

George Lepape, cover image for Vogue’s ‘Winter Touring’ issue, January 1925, depicting Sonia Delaunay driving outfit with matching vehicle.

For anyone interested in Delaunay, I highly recommend the catalogue and accompanying essays of the Cooper-Hewitt Color Moves exhibition (2011).

30 thoughts on “on the move

  1. As a book artist my introduction to Sonia Delaunay was her book that she did with Blaise Cendrars about a trip Cendrars took on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Her use of color is phenomenal in both the hats and the book.


  2. Yes, I saw the exhibition and bought the catalogue when it was at the CH & blogged about how inspiring her work has been on my knitting. Her work is timeless!


  3. Thank you, Kate….am going to explore more of her work….my cursory look at the photos made me wonder if there was any connection with Missoni?


  4. Thanks so much for a wonderful lesson in art history. I did go straight to the Cooper Hewitt (online) and to various other sources to see and learn more. I will join the others commenting and improve my knitting skills in hopes that you will do a pattern for those marvelous caps.


  5. So modern! I’d love a matching car and outfit and I can’t even drive! (Mind you, if I had a Delaunay pattern car then I would be inspired to drive). The rhthym of pattern and colour is extraordinary. And embroidered? What a lot of work. If the pattern were knitted in it would have more flexibility – can’t wait to see your knitted interpretation of Delaunay type patterns. I love her circle paintings.


  6. Thank you for introducing me to an artist/clothing designer/surface designer that I had not been aware of prior to your post! Her work is amazing, and as all wonderful things, can be seen currently in so much of the fashion of the day. I will certainly be doing some research on her – when I lived in New York City the Cooper Hewitt was one of my favorite places to uncover exhibits on artists that might not have been well known by the general public, but were so very influential to the art & design world. Thanks again!


  7. Oh, for the stylish days when driving was something you dressed for:) When I think of my usual driving costume–yoga pants or jeans with a tee shirt–I just shudder. And so, I think, would Sonia. Well, at least my dark gray car matches my drab attire.

    Thanks so much for this post. It inspires me to wear a scarf or sweater at the very least.


  8. I was fortunate enough to see some of Delaunays work this May. I can’t really describe in words how much I love the colours and rhythm of her work. On display was a jacket, similar to the one pictured above. They claimed it was knitted. It obviously wasn’t, but ever since then I couldn’t help but secretly imagine a knitted garment in the same spirit. That is a lot of intarsia.


  9. The driving caps are stunning, I’m really in love with the colours. I’m sitting here figuring out how to knit one, but perhaps you’re already onto this idea?


  10. Look closely in photo 2 (Delaunay and her matching decorated Citroen B12, 1925). Isn’t the woman behind the steering wheel wearing one of the driving caps from photo 1?

    Thanks for introducing us to a superb designer. Like those above, now I want to learn more.


  11. Gee, I wish those styles would come back (hint, hint, Kate). I have photos of my grandmother looking just like the girls by the roadster.


  12. I saw that show when I was in NYC last summer – it was spectacular! It was my first introduction to Delaunay’s work, I was caught unawares because I was not expecting to like it so much, but I fell in love. I have the exhibition publication that went with it and LOVE paging through it and having it open on my drawing table. Thanks for recognizing her linking her work!


  13. I have always loved Sonia Delaunay’s work, just as I love your blog even though I don’t knit. Perhaps, finally, the sight of these caps and the combination of the two of you might get me struggling again. I made a disastrous jersey once but I live in a mostly hot climate so it languishes in a cupboard. I guess i will have to look for help from Google and Youtube unless you can recommend a really good beginners’ book?


  14. what a phenomenal post on a phenomenal designers. i learned a lot about delaunay during a conference at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec’s programming around their exhibit Mode et apparences back in 2010… as someone who has always been enamoured with the 1920s, i was thrilled to learn more about this amazing designer.


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