I’m seldom in between projects, as I like to keep my hands busy at work! Right now I am whipping up a cap, in order to perfect a look I’ll feature next week. Caps are one of my weaknesses, both in terms of what accessory I always want more of, as well as one of the things I am the worst at constructing. It’s a well-known joke in my circle of reenactor friends that if I’ve worn a cap I’ve sewn twice, it will never be seen again. I usually decide that I hate whatever cap I just made at the end of the first wearing, and after a second day with it, the cap disappears into the box of old reenacting clothing.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my methods – a lot of my caps are replicas of 18th century ones – but I just don’t like how my head looks in most caps. The ruffles have to be just right, and the body of the cap has to sit at just the right angle with just the right amount of pleating and gathering, and that seldom happens. So, my biggest challenge this time is making something that I actually want to wear!
I started by looking at lots of caps, looking at primary sources (paintings, extant garments, and patterns/books), as well as modern reproductions and tutorials. When I thought I knew what I wanted, I cut out trial caps out of some scrap linen/cotton blend. There's nothing terribly exact about my methods here, I just measured my head and made some educated guesses, but here's what worked for me:
- The distance from the base of my skull (where the cap will be at its lowest point) to the top of my forehead minus two inches (ish) for the band was 12 inches. This measurement was done over top of my bun, as that's how I will be wearing my hair in this cap.
- The distance from earlobe to earlobe, as measured across the base of my skull, was 10 inches. I added 6 extra inches, to accommodate pleating.
- The distance from earlobe to earlobe, as measured over the top of my head, where a headband would sit, was 16 inches.
- Cut one half-oval with a base of 16 inches and a height of 12 inches. This works best if you cut on the fold, so it's a base of 8 and a height of 12, and you automatically end up with a symmetrical curve.
- Cut one strip approximately 2.5 inches wide by 16 inches long.
- Finish the flat edge of the oval, one long edge on the band, and both short edges on the band (a whipstitch, backstitch, or even a nice running stitch will do).
- Add 6 pleats to flat edge of oval, finished measurement should be 10 inches long.
- Pleat curve of oval to fit unfinished edge of band, attach band to curve.
That's a pretty basic cap. I whipped that up start to finish during work on Monday, and after work I went to buy some lace.
Right now, I’m working on adding the silk and the lace over top of the body, and finally I’ll be adding the light blue ribbon that’s seen in the painting. Essentially, the lace gets pleated over the band, with a little bit hanging over the edges (I'm using 100% cotton lace from JoAnn Fabrics because I'm not an expert on 18th century lace and I didn't want to spend too much money on this project). The silk (from Burnley and Trowbridge) is cut to the same dimensions as the body of the cap, with an extra 1/2 inch seam allowance to help everything lie nicely. Check back on Day 10 to see how it all turns out!