This beauty is at the Philadelphia History Museum, dated 1750-1800, #87.35.827. It is crafted of very fine linen, 11 1/2″ from tip to CF. A simple lappet, with those kissing strings and another example of a double ruffle. There is no public catalog record for this cap.
The Caul is about 8″ tall by 4 1/4″ wide (measured flat). A 3/8″ casing at the bottom encloses a very thin linen tape. These tapes are attached to the far side of the channel, come out on the inside under the ear, and then hang down 19″ on one side and 12″ on the other. I assume the short tape is torn. The front caul edge hem is 1/16″, and when it turns into a whipped gather over the top, there are 26 miniature pearl-like stitches per inch. I counted.
The headpiece is also hemmed with that tiny hem all around, and butted to the caul and ruffle.
That hem makes an anchor onto which we can whip the ruffle. The ruffle is doubled. It’s made by hemming one rectangular piece of cloth all the way around, folding it off center, and whipping it to the headpiece on the fold. Note that for that to work, the outside edges have to be hemmed to opposite sides of the rectangular cloth. As is usual, the ruffle is only gathered enough to get around the point, and stops at the join with the caul. The ruffle gets skinnier as it rounds the tip, and skinnier still as it goes up the back of the lappet. (1 1/4″ at CF, but 3/4 at the far ends.) It is pieced.
The ends of the lappets are reinforced to hold the 1/2″ linen tabby weave tape. It is 4″ long, just enough to make a bow.
Questions that remain
This is from the Philadelphia History Museum, and most of its clothing collection is Quaker, and this cap is noted as Quaker. In the 18th C, that did not mean fossilized fashion. You could be a “gay Quaker” or a “plain Quaker”, which meant you went in for fashionable colors and embellishments, or you chose muted and simple clothing. Don’t take that to mean not fashionable, or not expensive. If you could, you wore silk of course. It’s on my list to write about Quaker fashion, as it was one of the many rabbit holes I went down on this journey.
Mrs. James Smith, painted by Charles Wilson Peale, 1776, wears a cap like this one. The gathers under her chin are very subtle. The ties that hold the lappets are visible. She has added a ribbon. This is another example of an older woman in a lappet. I like it that her chins are still visible! She looks friendly. I bet this grandchild was a great favorite.
This was the cap that finally showed me how the double ruffles were put together. It was not nearly as clear in the first one of these I saw. Whipping the folded edge was neat and easy.
But, I didn’t finish opposite sides of the ruffle, so the inside ruffle shows its hem. But it’s really teeny — you’d never notice. And anyway, you can see both sides of the ruffle’s edge when you wear it.
I always wonder how they would know where to put the gather on the ruffle. Did they sew down from the CF, and do the gather as they went, where it needed to sit? I don’t have any evidence that there were patterns with that level of detail to follow. So this time I tried it that way, whipping it to the headpiece, and gathering as I went. That’s a whole new level of skill! I got it too tight again. Because you are sewing along a folded piece, at least you don’t have to roll that edge before you join it.
Which brings me back to the ruffle getting skinnier as it goes. I actually cut this out with a built-in taper. I’d like to go back to the original and see if I could find a taper in the ruffle. It has to, doesn’t it? and if the ruffle’s edges deviate from the straight grain, are shaped to taper on purpose, it means the place where the gather goes is predetermined. That was hard to explain. Do you see what I mean? Who did that math?
Another complicating factor is how much to allow for the gathered part. I was taught that for ruffles you allow about a 2:1 ratio. That is, allow twice as much cloth for the space you want to cover with ruffles. 12″ yoke? 24″ of cloth. But I am learning that the required measure depends on several variables. Most important is the weight of the cloth. No one can make 26 whipped gathers to the inch with a 6 oz. linen. But with super fine, maybe 2.5 oz., you almost can. So lighter cloth takes up more in a gather than heavy cloth. It also depends on how small a gather you can produce (stroke or whipped). It helps to have a long, fine needle, like a milliner’s needle, and fine, strong thread. Silk is a good choice. The needle should not leave a visible hole in the cloth, and the thread should be the same or lighter weight than the threads of the cloth.
Click here for notes: philly 87.35.827
I didn’t include my pattern because it was so off measure. I need to redo this one.
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.
Photos by the author.
Other Related Scholarship
There is no other research about this cap as far as I know.