What an adorable baby bonnet! Just kidding, it's a 1750's cap.
I wanted to enter my cap in the Historical Sew Monthly June challenge, because it fit perfectly--it represented a time period that was new to me, and it has whip gathers, a technique I had never tried. But sadly, I wasn't able to write a blog post last month, so I decided to enter the cap in the July challenge as an accessory.
This project entailed far more research than actual sewing. I used the following sources to learn about how to construct caps.
"How to make an 18th century cap" by Art, beauty, and well-ordered chaos:
"How to make an 18th century cap" by Sue Felshin: http://people.csail.mit.edu/sfelshin/revwar/caps/making-caps.html
I decided on making a "round-eared cap" (some people call it a "lappet cap," but I prefer the first option as it seems more descriptive and distinguishes it from other caps with long lappets that do not tie under the chin--see "Round-Earred Cap," http://thegoldenscissors.blogspot.com/2015/02/round-earred-cap.html). Sue Felshin writes that "This style with lappets coming down to a point under the chin is generally a 1740s–1760s style." I wanted to distinctly represent the 1750's, as Montcalm's Cross at Fort Ticonderoga happened in 1758. The style seems to be viewed as frumpy by reenactors, but I wanted to look like an actual low-class British camp follower and wanted to strive for the most accurate representation possible. I also enjoy wearing things that seem dowdy by our 21st century standards but would have been the norm for the "original cast." Furthermore, this style appears to be mostly associated with British women, and I wanted to differentiate myself from French styles and other cultures in which the women wore similar caps.
Artwork is also a helpful tool. Another exciting aspect of recreating this time period that is new to me is relying on paintings and drawings, because there are fewer extent garments from the 18th century and certainly no photographs as there are for the 1860's. Many of the images I consulted were from a later date than what I was recreating, but I felt they were still relevant because they showed the style that I wanted to make. Moreover, clothing styles didn't fade out overnight, especially among lower class people, so many women would have still worn the round eared caps in the 1770's. Here are some links to artwork that I consulted.
"18th century cap styles" by At the Sign of the Golden Scissors: http://thegoldenscissors.blogspot.com/2015/02/18th-century-cap-styles.html This post is about the painting "Mrs. Willard," by Winthrop Chandler, at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, dated 1770-1775. I chose to use it for inspiration because since the subject is middle aged, she would have been about my age during the 1750's, and probably wore this style of cap at the time.
"Heads of Six of Hogarth's Servants," by William Hogarth, circa 1750-1755, The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hogarth-heads-of-six-of-hogarths-servants-n01374 This painting shows lower class people and is from the decade I wanted to represent.
"The Jealous Maids," by Robert Laurie, circa 1772, at The British Museum: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3347397&partId=1&searchText=jealous+maids&page=1
"The Pretty Maid with Her Apron Before the Candle," by Philip Dawe, circa 1770, at the Yale Center for British Art: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3622323
"The Drowsy Dame," by Robert Sayer, circa 1760-1799, at The British Museum: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3344623&partId=1
After researching, the next step was creating the pattern. I sketched the style, including a rough representation of how I wanted to assemble the cap. I took some measurements and then draped newspaper on my head, drawing, checking the fit, and cutting the paper until it looked like the right proportions. Then, I basted together a mock-up in scrap cotton muslin and tried it on. I made sure to wear my hair in a bun so that the cap would fit right over the hairstyle that I would wear at a reenactment. I made a few more adjustments on the muslin, accounting for where I would gather adjoining edges. After perhaps 20 hours of research and fitting, I was happy with the pattern.
I used 100% linen that is probably about 3.5 oz per yard. Sue Felshin writes that this weight was probably suitable for a working-class woman, though for a finer, more fashionable cap, a lighter weight of linen, cotton organdy, or silk organza would be appropriate. Most of the edges of the cap are hemmed with a nice, narrow, 1/32" wide hand-rolled hem (okay, it's probably not all that narrow, but that was the goal). For the caul, I roll hemmed the sides, then used a rolled whip gather to gather the curved part at the top. I consulted "Whip it, whip it real good!" by Slightly Obsessed with Historical Reenacting (http://slightly-obsessed.blogspot.com/2011/01/whip-it-whip-it-real-good.html) to learn how to do the rolled whip gather stitch.
Next, I made two eyelets on the bottom edge and folded the hem to 1/4"-1/2" wide, whip stitching it in place and hiding the eyelets on the inside. I threaded two short pieces of narrow linen tape through this channel, sewn down at the corners of the caul and sticking out through the eyelets so that they can drawn up to adjust the cap's fit at the nape of the neck. The band is entirely flat, and thus roll hemmed all around. I attached the caul to the band with small whip stitches, butting the rolled edges together. For the ruffle, I roll hemmed the front edge. Then, I sewed a loose roll hem, leaving the thread tails free. I pinned the ruffle onto the brim to ensure even spacing. I gathered up the ruffle by pulling on the thread tails, then whip stitched the ruffle to the band. I cut two short pieces of ruffle to sew at an angle to the other pieces for the pointed ends of the band, rather than curving the ruffle around the acute point. Finally, I used a running stitch to attach pale blue silk ribbon to the band, making it just long enough to tie a small bow at the lappets. The cap is completely hand-sewn.
The Challenge: July, Accessorize
Fabric: 100% linen 3.5 oz
Pattern: my own
Year: 1758 (or more generally, 1750's-1760's)
Notions: 100% linen thread.
How historically accurate is it? To the best of my knowledge and ability, so perhaps 95% accurate
Hours to complete: Maybe 10 hours of sewing, but I don't know. Many more hours researching and drafting the pattern.
First worn: This month, at Fort Ticonderoga
Total cost: No cost--the fabric, ribbon, and thread were all given to me by my dealer (I'm a fabric junkie)