Winterthur “Wedding Cap” — Or is it? Wint #1955.003.013, 1760

I was so excited to discover this cap, and see the photographs.  It has provenence, it is beautifully made, its style is interesting and unique.  At Winterthur, the research assistant walked me through many layers of security, locked doors, hidden entrances, to bring me to a workroom with this cap laid out under a cloth.  It felt like the big reveal when we pealed back the cloth, and I couldn’t help myself, I cried out, “This is a child’s cap!”  It is so small and perfect and jewel-like. So, like the Boston MFA cap, the query here became: could it really be, as the record asserts, an adult wedding cap?

This cap is at Winterthur Museum, # 1955.003.013.  Their online catalog includes a photo and description.

The Original

Wint 1955.0003.013 cap
Winterthur Museum record photo. Used with Permission.

3″ by 5″ is a very small caul.  The lappet is only 8 1/2 ” at its tip.  The “ruffle,” which isn’t gathered at all, averages 5/8 wide.  So all the dimensions are small.

The needle work is incredible.  Each edge is whipped, then whipped again to join it to its neighbor, creating a little raised edge inside. But what you see on the outside is just 25 perfectly even tiny stitches per inch.  The entire  finished join measures less than 1/16″ across.  The outside edges are rolled, not whipped, to finish.

The caul is pieced up the back, and has a 1/8″ casing along the bottom, but no exit holes for gathering strings.  The only gather is along the top 5″ of the caul, a perfect miniature rolled gather.

The shape of the lappet headpiece and the unruffled ruffle is unique among the examples I’ve seen.  The headpiece is cut on the grain, but curved under the ear, ever so slightly. The ruffle is shaped like a bread knife, with the slightly wider part at the ends.  Joined, these two pieces make a round end, with the join going right up the middle.

Winterthur dates this cap with provenence because it came as part of the collection of needlework made by Mary Alsop (1740-1829), with a note pinned to it, “My Mother’s wedding Cap.”  As Mrs. Alsop was married on April 27, 1760, that is the date given the cap.  (All this is on the long record of the item.) You can see more of her needlework  in the online catalog.

The cloth shines like silk, but it is cotton.  The cloth is beginning to wear away; several mended places are visible.

 

My study photo. I didn’t get any good detail photos.

Questions that remain

Is it an adult cap?  I noticed when I went back to the record to write this post, that its description is changed now to “child’s cap.”  It is true that many items that come to us with provenance end up, upon close examination, to be falsely attributed.  So maybe her family did not know which cap was really her wedding cap.  I’ve also seen in museum records, conflicting accounts by various visiting experts about the date or story for an item.  I love that the curators carefully attach all these to the item for the next person to discover, a story gathering over time, perhaps with a conclusion, perhaps not.

I’m leaning toward calling this an adult cap. Here are my reasons:

First, I put my reproduction on the head of Newbold Richardson, (Newbie) who claims she has the “smallest head in the world.”  It fits her.  True, Newbie has short hair, so there isn’t any bulk under the cap.  Also, as I note below, my version is a little off, but not substantially, I think, for fitting purposes.

modern women in repro 18th c cap: it fits!
Newbie models Wint 1955.0003.013 at CSA 2016.

Second, unlike, for example, Boston MFA #49.366, which has gathering strings that will make that cap even smaller when worn, this cap shows no sign of gathers.  The normal method of sizing by gathering the caul is not being used.  This would sit on her head in just this shape, exactly fit for the purpose.  And, as Newbie shows us, it is rather nice looking laying simply on her head.  It could be worn higher, on dressed hair, with ribbons and flowers, and still look fitted and appropriate.

Portraits

No portraits.  No examples.  I’ve never seen this shape anywhere else.  Have you?  I’ve been looking at baby caps in museums (of which there are hundreds!),  websites and books about baby garb, portraits of women and children, both 18th and 19th C sources. I don’t see anything anywhere like this.  Which doesn’t help, does it?  If something is unique — Mary’s one-of-a-kind self-designed custom-fit not-really-fashionable wedding cap — it leaves us at a loss to place it, prove it, or dispute it.

The Reproduction

Saines repro of Wint 1955.0003.013.

As with many caps, one challenge here was reproducing exact 25-stitches-per-inch perfection.  I used silk organza to mimic the shiny look of the original.  The fineness of that cloth, with silk thread, made it possible to achieve those minute edges.

I had some trouble with the shape, especially in the lappet.  Mine ended up pointy rather than rounded.  And the curves suffer from stretching. I pulled so hard on the cloth to make those tiny rolled edges that some look riffly when they should lie flat. I think I would enlarge the pattern pieces of both the caul and the ruffle to allow more room to work.

 

 

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: wint 1955.0003.013

Thank Yous and Permissions

Linda Eaton, Senior Curator of Textiles, gave me permission to  discuss this artifact here. Lea Lane met me at the museum that day and helped me with questions afterward.

Museum record photos by Winterthur Museum.

Other photos by the author. Thanks for permission from Newbie to show her modelling this cap.

Other Related Scholarship

The museum record notes this article, but I have not been able to get hold of it to read it:

Krueger, Glee. “A Middletown Cameo: Mary Wright Alsop and Her Needlework.”. Connecticut Historical Society Museum & Library Vol. 52, No.3-4 Summer/Fall 1987

Mary Alsop’s work was part of the museums’ 2009 exhibit, Who’s Your Daddy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gauzy Ruffles: Winterthur 1969.4675

second draft

A solid example of an 18th C lappet cap, cotton muslin with a gauzy cotton ruffle gathered only at the turn.  Long “kissing strings” gather the caul.  Winterthur Museum date: 1750-1800.  Their online catalog includes a description, but no image.

The Original

Winterthur 1969.4675, a lappet cap with superfine needlework.

Three pieces are finished, then joined:

  1. The caul, only 7″ tall, with long tapes in 1/4″ casing at the base. The tapes come out at the join of the caul and the headpiece.
  2. The headpiece, cut on the straight grain, minutely whipped on the front edge. Felled to the caul on the back edge with the world’s tiniest hem (except where it is stroke gathered across the top). 10 1/4″ at the longest point. Ties sewn to the tips are 4 1/2 ” long, sewn to the inside.
  3. The ruffle, made of fine, loosely woven cotton, 1 1/4″ wide, is whipped, then joined to the headpiece. It is pieced on both ends. The front edge is finished with a 1/16″ hem.  1/16″.  Let that sink in…

The gather at the top of the caul is a stroke gathered, unfinished on the inside, across the top 6″ of the arch.

I think it was while examining this cap that it hit me what was going on with those long strings, functionally:  each one is sewn to the end of the channel on the other side. The strings are doubled inside the channel, so then pulled, they pull against each other and gather up the base of the caul.

So these kissing strings maybe have to be long so they can be tucked somewhere, otherwise they hang under the ears and get in the way.  But we don’t know where they got tied. See my discussion of this over here.

The original has many mended places, perfectly darned.  The cap is stained.

If I were to pick an example of a “typical” lappet with “typical” construction, I’d pick this one.  Its lines are clean and the stitches perfect, nothing oddly cobbled together or poorly executed.

Close up of the the stroke gathers. Winterthur 1969.4675
Shows the inside unfinished stroke gathers, with transition to felled seam down the sides. Winterthur 1969.4675
The fineness of the felled seam is clear here, also showing some examples of mended areas. Winterthur 1969.4675

Questions that remain

By the time I got to this cap, I’d already asked the questions raised here: what are those long strings for? Was it common to have a ruffle of finer stuff? (Yes.) Is this typical of the 18th C caps? (Yes.)  How do they make those minute hems and stitches?  (Practice, practice, practice.)

Portraits

18th C portrait of a women wearing a lappet cap with a white bow under her chin.
Anna Porter Brown (Mrs. Nathaniel Brown). Painted by Joseph Badger, @ 1750. Fine Art Museums of San Francisco. https://art.famsf.org/joseph-badger/anna-porter-brown-mrs-nathaniel-brown-197976

Anna Brown, @ 1750, wears a cap like this one.  Its simplicity is echoed in her dress, neckerchief, and sleeve ruffles.  Her cap is tied on with a simple white ribbon.  Note how it sits back from her face, the ruffles fanning out but not actually gathered.  Anna was from Massachusetts, and the clean and fine lines of her garments make me wonder if she is Quaker.

The Reproduction

The challenge of this cap was to get those edges and joins as small as the original.

Saines reproduction of Wint 1969.4675

I used batiste cotton for the body and mull for the ruffles.  I’m learning that if I want to recreate really fine stitches, it helps to have really fine cloth — but you already knew that, didn’t you?  It also helps to have really fine thread and needles.  Ideally, the thread should match the weight of the cloth being sewn, and the needle should not leave a hole bigger than the weave.  I’ve resorted to silk thread because it is as fine as a cotton batiste.

People often ask me where I get my cloth. I go to the normal reenactors’ suppliers:  Wm. Booth, Draper or Burnley and Trowbridge. Their finest linens and organzas are close enough to get the look right.  The really fine weight cloth (3.5 oz or lighter) is expensive, but a cap takes 1/4 or 1/3 of a yard, so that makes it seem almost affordable.  I don’t live near to any big cities with a garment district, so when I travel I try to get to good fabric stores, but even these have very little. I also buy linen blouses and Indian cotton skirts at second hand stores and take them apart.  These often have finer cloth than I can find by the yard.  I once got a whole stack of cloth at a Goodwill — must have been a reenactor who never got around to things.

The mistake I made on this cap is I put the lappet tapes on the outside, and they are supposed to be on the inside.

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: wint 1969.46.75

Thank Yous and Permissions

Linda Eaton, Senior Curator of Textiles, gave me permission to  discuss this artifact here. Lea Lane met me at the museum that day and helped me with questions afterward.

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any further research on this cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cap That Started It All — and the Debate that Ensued

[second draft.]

This was the first cap I saw in a museum. It is housed at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. I found it because it is one of the very few women’s caps in American museums dated to the 18th C that have online catalog records. It was so exciting to go behind the scenes for the first time and be allowed to touch something 200 years old.  I was wide-eyed and awe-struck, in a sort of history bliss coma.

I was also disappointed: the cap was so small!  Although the museum has it categorized as an adult cap, we wondered immediately if, after all, it was for a child.  Deciding that question became the focal point of my investigation of this cap.

The Original

small 18th C cap of linen
Boston MFA #49.366. Yes, but is it an adult cap?

Boston MFA #49.366 is a lappet cap with the usual 3-piece construction of semicircular caul, headpiece on the straight grain, and a ruffle, this one made of lace.  It is linen, dated by the museum “18th C”.  All details here agree with that dating.

Being only 11″ from tip to tip isn’t what makes this cap really small; its the caul, only 6″ high by 4″ deep.  The seams are unfinished on the inside; stroke gathers go along the top 3″ of the caul. The ungathered edges of the caul and headpiece are butted together, 22 stitches to the inch.  A 1/16″ hem down the front of the headpiece is whip stitched, before the lace is whip stitched on.

The record identifies the lace as linen bobbin lace, and since the study of lace is another thing all its own, I defer to their judgement.

The headpiece is on the straight grain, with a little triangle of cloth that dips under the bottom edge of the caul.  So the caul and the headpiece have to be cut to agree on that curve.

The really interesting part, and for me the final deciding factor, is a casing made of a straight piece of cloth that goes from the tip of one lappet, around the nape of the neck, down the tip of the other lappet.  A plain linen tape is encased here, allowing the cap to be pulled into a gather all around the bottom at once.

In correspondence with Curator Jennifer Swope, I learned that this cap was give to the MFA by Mrs. Wendell Taber, who gave the museum a collection of clothing dating from 1742 to the 1830’s, but no information about the wearers.

Cap from the top: the headpiece is joined here, butted together in tiny stitches, with rough ends exposed.
Good view of the bobbin lace with purple glove behind as contrast.
Seams are all unfinished on the inside of Boston MFA cap #49.366.

 

 

Questions that remain

So, the question: is this an adult cap? My verdict: no.  This is a toddler’s cap. It’s that all-around-the-bottom gather that seals the argument for me.

Here’s [my repro of] the cap on an adult head:

Steve Saines, 59, models the Boston MFA cap.

 

Weston Well, 4 mo.s, models Boston MFA 49.366

And here it is on a child, with the gather string making a really pretty face-framing ruffle:

Thanks to Selena Wells, Weston’s mom, for allowing Weston to model for us!  Weston is probably just a little young for this, but you can see the effect the gathers makes.

 

While many of the caps I’ve seen seem really small for my head, I wear an XL hat. But in general, 18th C caps are smaller than 19th C caps, which are often made to cover the whole head and frame the face.  18th C caps tend to ride further back, higher on the hair, more like a halo than a frame. You can see the hairline, the whole forehead, often even one’s ears. So I’m not going to say that every small cap is for a child. See my discussion of another really small cap, Winterthur 1955.0003.013 for comparison.

Portraits

I haven’t found a portrait of a baby in a cap with lappets tied under the chin! Help me out here! Maybe 18th C babies didn’t like having things tied under their chins any more than my babies did. Maybe that’s why this cap survived.

I did discover this very similar cap at the UK National Trust, dated 1730-1750. Dimensions aren’t given, which is too bad, so we can’t compare exactly. I see a similar gather casing along the back of the lappet, just like this one.

The Reproduction

As the first cap I tried to measure, pattern, and recreate, this was a learning experience.  How to discover the shape of a gathered piece had me flummoxed for a while. Making the curved headpiece mate with a curved caul was a puzzle as well.  I have since made this cap over several times, and it is, with experience, — and a working pattern — a simple, pretty baby cap. [add photo of latest version]

First attempt, before adding lace. I made the lappets way too wide.
Here is a second version, with lace, of Boston MFA 49.366. It’s pulled up to show the gathered effect.

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: boston MFA 49.366

Thank Yous and Permissions

I want to thank Sharon Burnston, who met me at the Boston MFA, taught me to measure and examine an artifact, and set me on this journey with her help and blessing.

Diana Zlatanovski, Curatorial Research Associate, helped us at the museum that day, and Jennifer Swope, Curator, corresponded with me afterward when I had more questions.

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any further scholarship on this cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museums I Visited

Between 2013 and 2017, I visited a dozen museums and saw more than 100 caps.  Here is a list of the museums*, and the artifacts I saw at each one.

INSIDE OUT: REVEALING CLOTHING'S HIDDEN SECRETS Kent State Museum
https://www.kent.edu/museum/event/inside-out-revealing-clothings-hidden-secrets

Each is listed with its museum dates. Those deemed eighteenth-century for this project are starred.

Many more leads could not be followed up because of time constraints.  More caps with eighteenth-century dates exist than were supposed, and, one assumes, more will be discovered.

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

#49.366 18th C. * (child)

#49.370 (infant)

#51.238 (infant)

#45.787 (infant)

#99.848 1820’s

Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, Washington DC

#200.10.2 18th C. *

#1203 1777*

#78.65.9 1805

#82.138.9 1820

#2005.13 n.d.

#2464.2  1800

#1817 n.d.

#98.54.5 n.d.

#4510.2 n.d.

Kent State University Museum, Kent, Ohio

#1995.017.0467 1860

#1995.017.0399 1860

#1983.001.1493 1840

#1995.017.0455 1860

#1990.086.0002 1840

New Canaan Historical Society, CT

#CE 237 n.d.

#CE 419 19th C. *

#E169 19th C

#HS 19th C

#269B 18th C (Dutch)

#CE 173 18th C

#CE 164 18th C

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC

(Which is not the same thing as the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in NYC. Their textiles section was under construction at the time of this study, so I didn’t get to see their artifacts.)

#274535.2 late 18th C

#220965.20 late 18th– early 19th C

#6608 1780-1800*

#1971.1162.28 1800-1899

#254326.2 late 18th –19th C

#372.213 n.d.

#312686 n.d.

#6608-A 1775-99 *

#6700-B 1790-1810 *

#6609-B 1790-1810

#6608-B 1795-1815*

#6608-D 1775-1799*

#6608-C 1775-1799*

Charleston Museum, Charleston, SC

#HT1836 1820-1830

#HT1693 1820-30

#HT2908 (1722-1837)

#1855 late 18th C*

#2008.029.002 n.d.

#HT 4196 (a, b, & c.) n.d.

#2008.029.003 n.d.

#2006.041.003 Early 19th C

#HT6815 n.d.

#HT6392 1820

#HT 1641 n.d.

#HT1650 n.d.

#HT1644 n.d.

#HT1867 Late 18th C

#HT1868 n.d.

#HT5884 n.d.

#HT 1839 1790

# HT1876 n.d.

#HT 1872 n.d.

#HT1694 1850

#HT 1710 1850

#HT6309 1857

#HT1881 early 19th C

Genesee Country Village and Museum (Susan Green Costume Collection in the John L Wehle Gallery)

#88.195 1825

#2001.026 1800-1850

#87.213 1770-1800*

#91.70 1750*

#2004.102 1800-1850

#97.024 1815

#98.036 1750* (on display)

Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent

Note: closed until further notice!

#87.35.825 1750-1800*

#87.35.138 1800-1860

#87.35.827 1750-1800*

#87.35.826 1750-1800*

#1973.37 n.d.*

#1000.179 n.d.

#1000.176 n.d.

#87.35.994 1820

Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA

#1989.1891 n.d.(?)

#1989.1892 1800-1840

#1989.1890 n.d.(?)

#1989.1912 1800-1840

#1989.1903 n.d.

#1989.1882 1800-1840

#1989.1883 1800-1840

#1989.1886 1800-1840

#1989.1897 1800-1840

#1989.1902 1800-1840

#1989.1962 n.d.

#1989.1893 1800-1840

#1989.1894 1800-1840

#1989.1914 1800-1840

#1989.1954 (1953?) 1800-1840 (?)

#1989.1959 n.d.

#1994.3270 1790-1810*

#1989.1995 1790-1810*

#1989.28.11 n.d.

1990.21.3 n.d.

Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Gallery, Delaware

#1955.0003.013 1760* (child)

#1969.4675 1750-1800*

#1982.0064 1774-1826*

Henry Whitfiled State Museum, Guilford, CT

#942020 18th C or 1827

#955003D n.d.

Musee McCord Museum, Montreal, Quebec

M987.32.1 1785

M987.32.2 1785

M965.136.86 early 19th C

M980.4.26 late 17th-early 18th*

*The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, NYC., and  Historic New England, (fromerly Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA)), Haverhill, MASS have caps with  eighteenth-century dates, but these 3 museums were undergoing renovations during the period of this study.   ?????

 

The Second Round-Eared Cap: Smiths 6608B

[1st draft. ]

In all my travels, I have found only two round-eared caps from the 18th C. They are both at the Smithsonian, both from the Copp Collection.  The other one is described here .

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the National Museum of American History.* The record for this item is not online.

The Original

study photo of round-eared cap
Smiths 6608 B is a round-eared cap with a wide ruffle

The museum dates this cap 1795-1815, so it just barely qualifies as 18th C.  Since we can’t ask the curator who assigned these dates so long ago, we don’t know what that person saw to prompt her to date this one later than Smiths 6608.  I think that the wider hems and cotton cloth are clues to a later date.

Made of cotton mull, superfine and almost gauzy, plain white, with an edging on the ruffle (it isn’t lace; an extra fine tape, perhaps?).  My notes are unclear here.  (Argh!  even when you think you’ve been thorough…)

It’s made of three pieces, all on the straight grain: semicircular caul, 1 3/4″ straight headpiece, and a ruffle that’s wider at the CF than the bottoms. The headpiece is pieced at the top with a felled hem. That’s pretty common. Gathers on the caul and the ruffle are rolled, whipped, gathered all in one stitch, making a pretty popcorn effect inside that goes across the top 4″ on the headpiece, the top 8″ on the ruffle. The headpiece is hemmed 1/8″ all around, and the hem of  the ruffle is 1/4″. A casing runs along the bottom of the caul and headpiece, allowing the strings to come out right under the ears.

Questions that remain / Portrait

mr and mrs brewster, seated. She wears a round-eared cap
Mr. and Mrs. Brewster, 1795-1800. Her cap shows us about as much detail as an American portrait gives us.

What don’t I understand?  The two round-eared caps have straight headpieces.  I keep recommending Kannik’s cap pattern, but really her cap isn’t like these at all. That cap I wear, that I’ve replicated a dozen times, has a moon-shaped headpiece, and a shaped ruffle that is gathered all the way down.  Many French portraits have detailed renderings of caps, but for American caps, Mrs. Brewster is abut the only one I can see any detail. This portrait is 1795-1800, so it fits the time period given the cap.  I think her headpiece is straight, too.

 

 

The Reproduction

round-eared cap with gathering strings at the bottom
Saines repro of Smiths 6608B, made of cotton.

I had a nice soft cotton to work with, and the repro matches the original shape and size. The caul pattern is off; I had to make adjustments as I went, and I noted “redo this” on the pattern, so don’t trust it!

Having the gather string go all along the bottom and tie under the chin, plus the really wide ruffle,  gives this cap a halo effect when worn.

 

 

 

 

My Notes

smiths 6608 B round notes and pattern

Thank Yous

Nancy Davis, Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, helped me to identify items in that collection that were useful to this study. That was no small feat, as records were spread across several legacy cataloging systems, and details were minimal.  I can only hope I found what there was to find!

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any scholarship for this artifact.

*. . . which is not the same thing as the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, in NYC. Their textiles section was under construction at the time of this study, so I didn’t get to see their artifacts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doubled Headpiece: Genesee 87.213

First draft. No known issues.

I’ll say it again: just when you are ready to say, “Never”….

This lappet cap has a doubled headpiece, the only case of that that I remember seeing.  Its ruffle goes all the way around the perimeter, making a frill at the nape. (Does that qualify as a bavolet?) The Genesee Country Village & Museum, Mumford, NY, owns this cap and dates it 1770-1800.

The Original

18th C cap from Genesee Museum
Genesee 87,213 Doubled caul.

Made of a super fine soft cloth, probably linen, in the common three-piece pattern of semicircular caul, headpiece on the straight grain, and a ruffle attached to the outer edge.  The ruffle’s front edge is hemmed back 1/8″, and the ruffle goes all the way around the cap.  The edge joining the ruffle to the headpiece is whipped, slightly gathered to get around the lappet tips.  At the nape, a cased 1/16″ tape (in the bottom of the caul), gathered up, creates a ruffled effect around the wearer’s neck.

The headpiece is two pieces with all their edges turned in 1/8″. No stitches are apparent that hold those pieces together, so I assume it is stitched and turned in where possible.

The caul is stroke gathered and all the raw edges are laid between the 2 pieces of the headpiece, the way we would hide a modern gather.  This construction is normal in shirt cuffs, for example, but unusual in caps.

The gather tape at the bottom of the caul comes out outside, and there are two 3/16″ tapes sewn to the outside of the lappets for tying. Actually, I looked at this cap a long time trying to decide whether it is inside out or not, but decided the hem stitches on the ruffle determined in from out.

The poor cap has many mended places, sewn by an unskilled hand in large loopy stitches, in some places with stabilizing cloth.

Questions that remain

I found the doubled headpiece an inefficient set up, and wondered what its advantage was to the maker.  Maybe she hated whipped gathers?

And details like poor mending set me wondering: the work of some curator who didn’t want us to think those stitches were original?  The cap given to a child to fix for practice?

Portraits

Here are two portraits with similar caps.

https://americangallery18th.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/hannah-farmer-mrs-benjamin-peck.jpg
Hannah’s cap is only slightly gathered, and the ruffle appears to continue around the back of her neck. Hannah Framer (Mrs. Benjamin Peck) 1768-1770 by John Durand (1731-1805)
Sara has wrapped a large striped ribbon around her lappet cap. The lace ruffle wraps around her neck and ties under her chin. Sara Bostwick (Mrs. Sherman Boardman (1796) by Raph Earl (1751-1801)

The Reproduction

The doubled headpiece I found very awkward to put together.  Possibly you would do this by sewing the front of the headpieces together,  turn it, and then tuck in the caul’s edges, gather where needed, pin and sew.  I didn’t figure all that out until later, though.  *Sigh*  In either case, it’s hard to get that 1/8″ folded in neatly and keep it there while you fit other things together.  The headpiece is actually 4 pieces, with a join at the top.  I thought of that as optional, but I shouldn’t have.

You can see it better here. I turned it inside out for the photo.

I also measured the caul wrong by about 4″ the first time, so I had to go back to the notes and redo the pattern, make a new piece. My notes are a mess.

Me wearing my repro of Gen 87.213

I managed to put the drawstring on the inside when notes and photos show clearly it exits on the outside.  I am confused about the tapes on the lappet ends; they are both on the outside in the photos, but I put one on the inside…  Sometimes I look at a mistake and decide to start over, and sometimes I just can’t.

And stroke gathers just make me scream. I used silk organdy for the weight, although the stiffness isn’t right, and really if you have to suffer through stroke gathers, this is a lovely cloth to work with.  Perhaps you have some tips on making stroke gathers? I’ve got the whipped gather down to a tee, but never do those stroke hills and valleys line up for me.

Still, once completed, it makes a pretty cap that is big enough for my (large) head.

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: notes gen 87.213

Thank Yous and Permissions

This cap is presented here with permission, Courtesy Susan Greene Costume Collection, Genesee Country Village & Museum, Mumford, NY.  I worked with Patricia Tice on my visit to Genesee.   I also corresponded with Susan Green, who generously helped me understand what I was seeing here.

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any other scholarship on this cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rare Round-Eared Cap: Smiths 6608

[Draft 1: .  Sent to Nancy Davis 6.20.18. for comment. (she retired; forwarded to Bill Yeingst, chair of the division of Home and Community Life, at yeingstw@si.edu)]

Of the 100+ caps I’ve seen, only two are true “round-eared” caps.  They are both from the Smithsonian collection, and from the same collection, the Copp Collection.  They are cut out differently from one another.  This one, Smiths 6608, has a rounded, pointed headpiece, and the ruffle curls around to meet it.  The other, Smiths 6608B, has a straight headpiece.

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the National Museum of American History.* The record for this item is not online.

The Original

The shiny, fine soft cloth of this cap is probably linen. The incredibly minute stitches are are not unusual in 18th C caps: I counted 20 stitches to the inch.  Each edge  is finished with a whip stitch, then the edges are butted together with another whip stitch. Together, the finished join is 1/16″ across! While not every cap was expertly made, most exhibit these  precise, small, nearly perfect stitches.  Every time I think, “I can do this now, look at those tiny stitches!” I see another example like this of period perfection, and despair.

There are 3 pieces:

  • half-circle shaped caul with a gather tape that comes out of a split in the casing, CB.
  • 2 1/4″ wide headpiece that rounds back to a point under the ear (thus the term, “round-eared cap,” I suppose.)
  • 1 1/2″ ruffle, gathered only enough to get comfortably around that curve. The ruffle is whipped to the headpiece, but the front has a 1/8″ hem.

The museum dates this 1780-1800, partly because the Copp family artifacts include that era.  As with many older collections, the curator who dated this item is no longer at the museum to ask what prompted the dates given.  Nothing about it argues for a later date, and it looks like many caps seen in portraits of the period, so I accept this possibility.

Questions that remain

What don’t I understand?  This cap is small, only 7 1/4″ high, which, once again, makes me wonder if the average 18th C head was smaller. In portraits, many round-eared caps are worn high on the head, with hair piled up inside, so maybe it isn’t intended to cover much ? Or were many extant caps  actually made for younger women? We can’t tell a small adult cap from one made for a teenager.

And I always wonder why THIS cap made it through time for me to touch. Is this the souvenir saved from a child who died? Is this the failed cap that no one liked, so it sat unused? (I can hear the adolescent whine, “But, Ma, no one wears a cap like that anymore!”) Made at school for practice?  Made by Grandma right before she passed away? Made by someone rich enough to have extra caps she didn’t need, found years later in some cupboard?

Round-eared caps are nearly as common in my sample of American period portraits as lappets.  So why do we only have 2 examples?  Did more of them get worn out? Perhaps because they tended to be worn by younger women?  Or did I miss a trove of them when I couldn’t get to the Cooper-Hewitt?

Portraits

This portrait

portrait of the Gordon Family by Henry Benbridge, 1862. Mrs. Gordon wears a round-eared cap.
Mrs. Gordon is wearing a round-eared cap with not much gathering, similar to Smiths 6608.

of the Gordon Family shows Mrs. Gordon in a cap similar to this one.  Most round-eared caps on portraits have a lot of gathers all around the cap, but here is one that seems less so.  The date is 1763. The oldest daughter is wearing a cap like this, too, set very high on her head, so maybe the idea of small caps set high is accurate.

 

 

 

The Reproduction

 

IMG_20160527_182648550
Saines repro of 6608.

 

I used the finest linen I had, but it isn’t as fine as the original.  I didn’t manage to get my stitches as fine, either, especially the whipped edges.  The thickness of the cloth does make tiny stitches harder.  When I sew 20 stitches to the inch on a whipped edge, it often comes out stretched and tight like a dinosaur’s back.

Otherwise, I got the shape and proportions right.

 

My Notes :

smiths 6608 round notes and pattern

 

 

Thank Yous

Nancy Davis, Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, helped me to identify items in that collection that were useful to this study. That was no small feat, as records were spread across several legacy cataloging systems, and details were minimal.  I can only hope I found what there was to find!

Other Related Scholarship

I don’t know of any other scholarship concerning this cap.[

*. . . which is not the same thing as the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, in NYC. Their textiles section was under construction at the time of this study, so I didn’t get to see their artifacts.