A Quaker with a taste for simple elegance created this cap, probably between 1750-1800.
Philadelphia History Museum records associate this cap with Rebecca Jones, a Quaker “minister” (their quotes, not mine), who lived from 1739-1818. It’s a 2-piece lappet, with one unusual skinny ruffle sewn along the bottom of the cap, encircling the nape of her neck.
The pattern for this cap is very simple: cut out 2 flat piece of super fine linen, and sew them together up the middle. But first, whip the edges, then butt them together and whip again, with the resulting join measuring less than 1/8″ across. This is another example of fine and exact stitching.
The front edge is rolled, not whipped, to a minute, neat, finish. The gathering channel is only about 6″ long, along the nape. The short string comes out at the back, inside, through a buttonholed opening. After the channel, the edge smooths down to a 1/16″ hem that finishes the back of the lappet.
A gauzy ungathered ruffle only 3/8″ wide decorates the bottom edges, from the tip of one lappet, around the nape, to the tip of the other. Its edges are also minutely hemmed, then whipped to the cap.
The other decoration is a row of tiny straight stitches 1″ back from the front edge of the cap, completely straight and even, giving the impression of being pieced, or maybe she just liked the sheen of the thread. I’ve seen this detail on numerous Quaker caps.
I think this is the only cap I’ve seen with a laundry marker. It is a red “G” in itty bitty cross stitches. I wonder why Rebecca Jones made a cap marked “G”? I guess “associate with” doesn’t mean “hers.” Made for daughter Gertrude or Gina?
Questions that remain
One detail makes me wonder about the pre-1800 date: the squared lappets. Curators at both Philly and Chester County were willing to say that is characteristic of post-1800 caps.
The front of Mrs. Cooke’s cap looks similar to this one, a simple lappet with no ruffles. The Philly example has ties at the tips, but in this portrait I think she has overlapped the ends and pinned them. I do think this one is made in 3 pieces, so it has shape and gathers that this cap doesn’t have. I can’t find a portrait of a cap that seems to be made of only 2 flat pieces.
The pattern was easy because the cap lies almost completely flat. The only question I had was whether to dip in the nape or cut it straight and let the gather string make that curve. I opted to cut in the curve.
I had a problem with this one that I’ve had with others: when I whip an edge, then whip the whipped edged together, I end up with dinosaur humps. See how it makes a Stegosaurus back? That join is stiff and inflexible, too. Someone suggested it was because I was stretching the cloth as I worked, and to run a
line of stitching up the edge before whipping it. I’ll try that next time.
I also forgot the strings at the ends.
I think this cap has an especial simple beauty. It’s unique and intriguing and elegant.
Click here for notes and pattern: philly 87.35.825
Thank Yous and Permissions
Kristen Froehlich, Director of the Collection and Exhibits at the Philadelphia history Museum at the Atwater Kent gave me permission to use images I made and discuss this artifact here.
Other Related Scholarship
This cap does not appear in the museum’s online catalog.
I am not aware of any other scholarship on this cap.