Mad Hatter’s Tea Party


Long ago in a village far away, a girl invited her friends to a party. She showed them lots of treasures made by the people of a faraway land. They loved it so much that they bought all
her treasures and she had to go back to the people of the faraway land and get some more. Then she has lots of treasures and lots of friends and they had lots of parties. And they all lived happily ever after. The end. No, not really….

It wasn’t long ago – it was only nineteen years ago, and the village wasn’t that far away – it was in Alice Springs Central Australia. The people of the faraway land are the women of the remote Aboriginal communities and the girl is a woman called Adi Dunlop. But most importantly, it was not the end, it was only the beginning of a colourful, joyous and festive journey.

Adi Dunlop, also known as the Beanie Queen, is a charismatic, creative, compulsive crocheter and crafter. In her quest to help develop social entrepreneurs, she started teaching crochet skills to the women of the remote communities surrounding Alice Springs.


Beanies have always been immensely popular amongst the people of the area, as protection against the freezing desert winters and as a form of self-expression. It is the ultimate cross-over item – although not traditionally Aboriginal, it is now so entrenched in their way of life, that it came to be an intrinsic part of the outback desert way of dress. Adi’s first beanie crochet workshop resulted in a mass of magnificent, magical, multi-coloured headgear.

This inspired her to pay it forward by inviting her city friends to a beanie party. Here she not only shared the creative spirit of the desert, but also sold the beanies to provide a financial reward to the makers, and inspire them to continue on this path of communal creativeness. And so the Beanie Festival was born.

The Beanie Festival is as much part of the Central Australian landscape as the red earth and the wide open desert. For the women of the remote Aboriginal communities, spinning yarn and weaving baskets from natural fibres are as much part of their culture as their stories, their language and their music.


This post is an extract from the article written by Ansie van der Walt featured in the Winter 2015 (Issue 03) of Stitch Craft Create AU/NZ.  To read the rest of this article and find out more about the story behind the Beanie Festival, you can purchase a copy of the magazine here.



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