Stats Wrap-Up: Stitch Analysis

first draft;

I am often asked about which stitches were used when on caps.  There’s a theory afloat about which stitches are likely to be earlier and which are likely to be later. I can never keep it straight.  So I’m not trying to prove or disprove anything here; I just know it’s a question, and here’s my data.

The gathered CF ruffle of DAR 1203

I did a quick and dirty run down of this on Facebook a couple years ago in the “Historically Accurate 18th and early 19th Century Sewing” group. That group is retired now; but I can still get to the archive. Perhaps you can only see it if you were a member, but a lot of my readers were.  Still, it’s OK if you can’t get back to see that, because now I’m going to go back and be more careful.

First of all, we are talking about only 13 caps.  I saw more than 100, and started off saying there were about 30 for the time period, but in the end I’m only betting on these 13 as being 18th C. I have described them all in the posts on this blog. (I started by counting a whole set of caps that were dated 1800-, allowing for wiggle room, but in the end I decided not to include them because there were differences that seemed to attach to the date.)

I’ve laid these out earlier to later (museum date) in the chart below. Remember, it’s a small data set.

Also, there are many places where a cap is stitched, and most caps are put together with several different stitches.

I’ve tried to make a nice, easy, chart here. I had trouble, as you can see, with spacing; it still looks bulky on the page, so here’s a Word Doc for you, too: stitch chart rev

chart of stitches used in 18th Centurycaps on this blog

 

Can we draw any conclusions here?  We might say that the earlier the cap, the more often the gather on the caul is likely to be a stroke gather. On the other hand, several of these have no gather, or are constructed so there is no join. And the ruffles in all these examples are whipped gathered, so it doesn’t mean they weren’t using that stitch.

Why did they use so many different methods and stitches? I think it is because joining the caul to the headpiece is much more complicated than adding a ruffle.  To add a ruffle, I make a straight piece with a whipped edge that can be pulled to a gather at any point, and I whip that piece in place.  To join a caul to a headpiece, I have to switch from gather to finished edge somehow without creating bulk; the transition is awkward.  Then, I wonder why every edge isn’t whipped?

Anyway, there’s my data.  Enjoy.

“Squared” Caps, Early and Late

1st draft; pics rev. wrote to alexis today. This is the last cap description.

Caps with a simple rectangle for a headpiece appear early and late in the 18th C.  This cap is probably an early one, but with so little to compare it to, it’s best guesses all around.  Its home is the McCord Museum in Montreal, Canada, #M980.4.26. It does not have an online record. The museum dates this cap as “late 17th? or early 18th” Century. If that’s true, it is the oldest cap I have found.

The Original

This one is very simple: a half-circle caul of linen attached to a rectangle of lace for a headpiece.  A tape gathers the caul at the nape, as is common.

Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author. A rectangular headpiece of lace marks this cap as early (or late?) 18th C.
The lace headpiece will help us date the cap, perhaps?

The large size assures me this is an adult cap: 9″ high by 9.5″ from back to front edge.  The caul is made of two pieces, felled together down the center back line, with about 10 big stitches per inch.  The front edge of the caul is hemmed back with a 3/8″ seam. There aren’t any gathers sewn in.  The only gather is the drawstring along the bottom, which isn’t drawn through any casing in the cloth, but caught up within a looped string.  Two tapes, anchored at opposite ends, pull across one another through these loops to effect the gather.

The headpiece is a rectangle of lace with a motif of birds and flowers. Is is whipped onto the caul with big uneven stitches. The bottom edge is finished with another piece of lace sewn on that is about 1/2″ wide; the front is edged with a piece that is about 1/4 wide.  This makes me think the large lace piece is cut on those edges. One of the points has a small loop – for a tie or button? Please someone who knows lace come behind me here and help with the lace description!

 

 

Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author.. Close-up of inside of join of headpiece and caul shows unusual drawstring arrangement.
At the join of the headpiece and caul (inside), the arrangement of the tapes, sewn down, doubled through, and attached with a looped string.
Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author.. Close up inside of bottom edge of lace headpiece.
The lace that edges the bottom is sewn on with large straight stitches.
Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author. Close up of midpoint back, inside, of caul, showing construction of drawstring.
The felled join of the back of the caul can be seen, as well as the way the string is sewn down to created the loops.
Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author. Cap laid open to see inside details.
The hemmed caul and placement of edging laces.
Cap McCord Museum #M980.4.26 photo by author. Close up of lace, with motif of birds and flowers.
The lace design isn’t exactly centered; another reason to think it was cut from some other use.

 

Questions that remain

Other Squared caps that we have access to are few.  Burnston covers two of these in Fitting and Proper, pps 35-37. She dates these 1790-1810.  (West Chester, PA., items # 1989.1995 and # 1994.3270; I got to see 1994.3270, but didn’t see 1989.1995) Her descriptions in that book are clear and detailed, so I won’t repeat them here.  The other place a squared cap is described is in Rural Pennsylvania Clothing. (Caps C and E, pp 68-69.) Gehret notes these caps are late 18th C (some say they are even later.). All that to say there isn’t much to compare this cap to, especially if we want to date it to the early  1700’s.

Being housed in Montreal also adds the complication of possible French influence. The museum record notes the provenance as “Antwerp?” so it might be Belgian.  If so, it is technically outside the scope of this study, in which I am trying to keep to items from places that became the United States.

Still, if it is “late 17th, early 18th” century, it is the oldest adult cap I have found. 

Portraits

Ann Pollard portrait, 1721.
Ann Pollard, 1721, wears a cap with a squared-edged headpiece.

Few portraits show caps with squared headpieces.  Or, we might say, in few portraits are we sure we are seeing a really squared headpiece.  In many portraits, the cap is high and back too far to be sure; only the ruffle suggests the shape.

Ann Pollard was 100 when she had her portrait made.  Her caps looks definitely squared at the edges.  Since she is aged, I wonder if this was old fashioned at the time?  I’ve only found 2 other portraits with the same shape cap, and they are also early.

Then, in the 19th C, they show up again, and styles take off with additions of deep lace & ruffles, inserts and embroidery.

The Reproduction

I haven’t made a repro of this cap yet.

My Notes

Click here for notes: mccord 980.4.26 notes

Thank Yous and Permissions

Thank you to Alexis Walker, Curatorial Assistant, Costume and Textiles, who corresponded with me and helped me at the McCord.  I have written for her permission to use these images and discuss this artifact here.

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha Canby’s Cap: Quaker Lappet

2nd draft; pics rev.

Another of those rare birds: a cap with provenance. This one, held at Winterthur Museum, #1982.0064, was part of a group of needlework passed down through the Canby-Ferris family. The note with this cap reads, “Great-great grandmother Martha Canby’s cap – died 1826.” She was married in 1774, but no birth date is included.  That puts the majority of her life before 1800, and no construction details make me think otherwise, so I accept this as a possible 18th C cap.

The Original

Martha’s cap is a well crafted example of what later became Quaker fossilized fashion in caps. A simple lappet, with no lace or froufrou.  Made in three pieces: caul, headpiece, ruffle. The only gather is around the tip of the lappet where a short tape ties it under her chin; the caul is gathered with “kissing strings.” The ruffle skinnies as it goes around, and ends about 1 3/8″ back along the caul, but doesn’t wrap around the back.

18th C woman's cap: lappet with ruffle gathered only at the tips. Long strings gather the nape.
Winterthur #1982.0064 is a simple lappet of Quaker provenance, beautifully crafted.

 

Every edge is first finished with a rolled hem. The bottom of the caul has a channel just big enough for the long strings that gather it.  I hadn’t figured it out yet, but I think these are attached on either side after going through the channel.  So they criss-cross in there, and pull at the opposite side.  They come out where the caul and headpiece meet under her ear, on top of the ruffle.  These strings aren’t tapes; they are small round strings.  (Is that a datable clue?)

The top of the caul is whip gathered across the top 6″, then whipped to the headpiece along the rest of the join.

The ruffle goes from 1 1/2″ at the CF, and gradually skinnies down to 1″ at the turn, and 1/2″ by the time it gets to the end.  I’ve pondered that before. But this is the most extreme example so far.  The front of the ruffle seems to stay on the straight grain, so the difference happens on the join.  You can see my confusion in my notes. I kept marking the grain as straight, but the width changed; what was changing? the ruffle? the headpiece?  Answer: ruffle.  The two finished edges of ruffle and headpiece are whipped together, and the seam is immeasureably small. Go ahead, zoom in on that seam. I wish my photos were clearer. I’d like to get another look at this cap.

The headpiece has a really narrow point, only 1/4″ across at the skinniest. The point is reinforced to hold that 5″ long tape.  I’m not sure I’m  looking forward to trying to reproduce that very small detailed work.  The back edge of the lappet, from tip to under the ear, has a nice curve; sometimes that line is rougher, or straighter.

0verall, Martha’s cap is 11 1/4′ tip to stern, 8 1/5″ at its widest point laid flat.

Three edges come together in perfect harmony, showing the perfection common in 18th C stitches.
Close up of Winterthur #1982.0064 shows the join of the caul and the headpiece. Each edge is rolled minutely before being sewn together.
With one lappet folded back, the turn of the ruffle and the skinniness of the lappet are visible.
Lappet showing where tape is sewn on to reinforced edge. The pin holds the museum’s ID tag.
How did they get that ruffle to lay so easily around that tight a turn?
The other side of the lappet. If only I knew which was the right side… Winterthur # 1982.0064

 

Questions that remain

My notes say, “Tape sewn to outside,” yet the picture shows clearly that the tape is on the inside.  That’s because I was confused with this one, whether it was being stored inside out or not.  That isn’t unheard of; I’d already seen a couple like that. 18th C seams can be so incredibly perfectly minutely made that you really have to look hard to determine inside from out.  I think I had decided this one was inside out.  You look and see if you can tell — again I wish my pictures were clearer.  I only have an average camera, and lighting isn’t always photo-friendly.

Have I ranted enough about the sewing here?  This one reminds me of the fineness of Mary Alsop’s cap. I’ve wondered if the edges I’ve seen are really selvages.  That is, what I am seeing is not two edges rolled, then whipped, together, but two selvages whipped together.  How could I ever tell?  But this example, where the inside edge of the ruffle is NOT along the grain, sort of proves that edge, at least, is a hand-rolled edge.

The Reproduction

I haven’t reproduced this one yet.  You try it, and share your attempt with us, OK?

My Notes

Click here for notes: notes wint 1982.0064

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

This cap appeared in Winthurtur’s exhibit, “Who’s Your Daddy?”  The Exhibit Guide, Page 4, includes this cap, and references Martha’s ownership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Double Ruffles: Philly 87.35.827

2nd draft; pics rev.

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 Original

18th C linen cap from the Philadelphia History Museum.
Philly #87.35.827 is a linen lappet with doubled ruffles.

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 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.

Tip of the lappet showing string attached.
I only have one other good photo: a close up of the gathered turn of the lappet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Portraits

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.

https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/mrs-james-smith-and-grandson-19292
Mrs. Smith wears a double-ruffle on her cap.

 

The Reproduction

Saines' repro of double ruffle cap on green background, with snow.
It’s frigid and snowing today. My repro of Philly 87.35.827.
Saines' repro on drawing from notes shows discrepancies.
After it was all made, I laid it on the drawing I made and realized it is about 1″ too small all over. *sigh* Philly 87.35.827 repro.

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.

My Notes

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Those Double Ruffles: Smiths 6608-C

2nd draft; pics rev.

Several caps I’ve seen have double ruffles.  On Smiths 6608-D, they are made of finer cloth than the rest of the cap, and the finishing hem, about 1/16″ across, has stitches so fine I couldn’t see them to count them.  The effect is like an edge of tiny silk ribbon.

Lappet cap shown on graph paper for size.
Smithsonian 6608-D has a doubled ruffle whose edge is invisibly hemmed.

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the Smithonian’s National Museum of American History*, a part of the Copp Collection. The museum date is 1775-1799. The record for this item is not online.

 

 

 

 

 

The Original

The caul and headpiece are made from handkerchief-weight linen, but the ruffles are finer.  The headpiece, including the lappets, is 10 1/2″ from tip to top.  The Caul is stroke-gathered to the headpiece, and the edge left unfinished inside.  A casing 1/4″ wide along the nape is made of a piece sewn in (I’m not for sure about that, but I can see the edges in the photos) to create the channel for Kissing strings, 18″ long, of 1/8″ linen tape.  The tapes come out on the outside, just where the caul, headpiece, and ruffle all come together.

The headpiece is pieced at the top, felled together.  It is hemmed all around with a tiny hem and then butted to the caul. You can see the stitches, like whip stitches, joining the two, but loose enough that the 2 hems sit side by side.

Then the ruffles:  hemmed on the front side, and whipped to the headpiece, with a gather only around the lappet tip.  The top ruffle is about 1/4″ skinnier than the bottom ruffle.  I decided later, when I’d seen a couple more of these, that the ruffle was made from one piece of cloth, folded, and joined through the gutter.

The ruffles don’t go all the way around the back, but end 2 1/2″ past the point where the strings come out.  Right here, the straight grain of the cloth has to bunch to get around the curve, so although it isn’t actually gathered, it appears so.  But the top ruffle ends earlier, about an inch past the tip of the lappet….

Which makes me wonder. You can see in this picture, which shows the ruffle laid open on the left side, that there’s a little bit of cloth puckered up under there.  Last detail: the ruffle goes from 1 1/4″ wide at the CF to 3/4″ wide at the other end, so maybe the difference is hidden here?  After this point, there’s a felled join, and the single ruffle finishes the round.

Look closely to see a (folded) piece of cloth between the layers of the ruffle.
What is the little fluff hiding between the layers of the ruffles?

 

 

Closeup of CF of cap, inside.
The stroke gathers visible inside. And the exact and fine hems and joins.
Close up of bottom of caul showing tape coming out at join.
The long tapes come out at the point where the caul, headpiece, and ruffle intersect. You can also see what looks like a pieced channel for the gather.
Close up of ruffles at the tip of the lappet.
The skinnier ruffle (1″ at its widest) lays on top of the wider ruffle (1 1/4″ at its widest). The folded cloth, once hemmed, would be 2 1/4″ wide, folded at 1″, and whipped on at the fold. … I think.

Questions that remain

Why do ruffles get skinnier on the sides and back than in the front?  It’s confusing because the grain of the cloth is straight on the outer edge, but the inner edge gets progressively more eaten up by the rolling of the whipped join?  On purpose?  Why?

And the Kissing Strings again.

Portraits

Remember Mrs Galloway?  Her cap is an exact match.

18th c portrait of woman in plain brown gown with lappet cap.
Mrs. Richard Galloway, by John Hesselius (1728–1778), 1764. Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

The Reproduction

No repro yet.

My Notes

Click here for notes: smiths 6608 c notes

Thank Yous and Permissions

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!

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any other scholarship about 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.

 

 

 

 

The “Corsage” in the Ruffle: Smiths 6608-D

2nd draft. pics rev.

The ruffles of most lappets are barely gathered except for the turn at the point of the lappet.  But some also have a tuft of tight gathers at the Center Front (CF), like a corsage of little flowers on top of your head.  Smithsonian 6608-D has that extra flair.

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the Smithonian’s National Museum of American History*, a part of the Copp Collection. The museum date is 1775-1799. The record for this item is not online.  I found a great picture of this collection on display at the museum in 1894.

The Original

Lappet cap laid out on graph paper, showing size.
This Smithsonian cap is made of heavier linen.

Heavy linen cloth gives this cap a unique feel and weight.

The structure is the same as most 18th C lappets: caul, headpiece, ruffle.

This ruffle goes all the way around the back, so when the gather around the bottom of the caul is pulled to fit, it creates a ruffle at the nape of the neck.  The gather string comes out of a buttonhole inside.

The outer edge of the ruffle is hemmed 1/8″; the inner edge alternates between a rolled gather where needed and a minute whip.  The headpiece is hemmed 1/8″ all around, and joined to the ruffle with a whip stitch. The caul is sewn the same: hem, rolled gather, whipped to the headpiece.  The whole work is as neat and tidy as… an 18th c cap.

I love seeing the human element in an artifact.  This cap is nearly perfect, but the hem around the lappet gave the seamstress some trouble. There’s the edge awkwardly folded, a little bunchy on the turn.  Part of that has to be the heaviness of the cloth.  Getting around the lappet has often left me cursing, too.

The short ties under the chin are 1/8″ tapes, probably linen, sewn on to the hem of the headpiece for strength.

Inside of 18th C cap from Smithsonian showing stitches and construction.
Inside we can see the exact and regular hem, the perfect popcorn of the rolled gather. Smiths 6608-D
Inside of lappet tip shows awkward folding at turn.
I’m so glad to see she had trouble turning that lappet tip, too. They drive me to distraction.
Detail of gather at lappet tip.
But the outside is just perfect. I often have trouble getting the amount of gather just right so it lays. This is the ideal.

 

Questions that remain

I wonder if the weight of this cloth means it had a specific use?  Heavier for night time? For winter?  I’ve only seen this weight of cloth a handful of times.  The hood-like cap from the Philadelphia museum is one.

Also, can I call that nape ruffle a bavolet?

Portraits

Abigail’s cap is a lot like this one.  It has a ruffle that goes all the way around her neck,

and that extra little fancy bit at the top of her head.  Her ruffle appears to several layers, doubled at least, possibly tripled, which really makes me wonder how it is made.  She has tied her cap with a pretty bow matching her gown. There might be a white ribbon over the headpiece, too.

Portrait: Mrs. John Edwards (Abigail Fowle) about 1750–60 Joseph Badger (American, 1708–1765) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Abigail wears a cap like this one, with a nape ruffle and that extra little pouf at the top.

This corsage effect I’ve seen mostly in mid-century portraits, 1750-1770.  The museum date of the last quarter would be a little late, then?

 

The Reproduction

No repro yet.

My Notes

Click here for notes: smiths 6608 d notes

Thank Yous and Permissions

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!

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any other scholarship about 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.

 

 

 

 

Sisters: Two Lappets Side-by-side

2nd draft. pics rev.

I took a little break because Christmas, and because I have blogged all the caps I have reproduced.  After this, I will go on to describe other caps I’ve seen, but I haven’t sewn those yet.  I’ll add repro notes, if I sew them, later.

Two 18th C caps side-by-side from the Smithsonian.
Smithsonian 6608-A and 6608-B are similarly constucted. 6608-A is dated 1775-1799; 6608-B is dated 1790-1810.

These two caps, from the Smithsonian, #6608-A and # 6700-B, looked so similar to me that I have always thought of them as sisters.  They were accessioned close together, too, part of the Copp Collection.  Maybe they were acquired side-by-side by the original collector, big sister, little sister, from the same family?

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.* The records for these items are not online.

The Originals

Both of these caps are constructed in the typical three-piece pattern of an 18th C lappet.  A semicircular caul, gathered at the base with a string and at the CF with whipped gathers; a skinny headpiece with lappets; and a ruffle, gathered at the point of the lappet. These ruffles go all the way around the cap, across the nape of the neck, and back up the other side. 6608-A has an added 1/4″ lace that stops 3 3/4″ behind the lappet. Reinforcements at the tips stabilize linen tape, 3-4″ long, to tie them on.

Now for the little differences.  6608-A, Big Sister, is larger overall.  The caul is 8″ on a side, by 7 1/4″ tall.  The headpiece is 1 7/8 ‘ at the tip, and 10 1/2″ from CF to tip. The ruffle is 1″ wide all around.  This one has the lace. The museum date is 1775-1799. It is very fine mull. The stitches are super fine: the join of the ruffle and the headpiece are two minutely hemmed pieces butted together, and the finished seam is 1/16″ across. That kind of precision boggles my mind.

Lappet cap laid out on graph paper for size.
Smithsonian 6608-A is larger, and has a small lace edging.
View inside this cap, showing neat rolled gather stitches.
Rolled gathers create the fullness of the top of the caul on Smithsonian 6608-A.
Close up of lappet end, showing lace edging and tape to tie the ends.
Tapes stabilized by reinforcements tie under the chin. Smiths 6608-A.

 

Little Sister, 6700-B, is smaller overall.  The caul here is 6 1/2″ on a side, and 6 1/2″ tall.  The headpiece is 1 1/4″ wide, and 10″ tip to CF.  The ruffle starts out at 1 1/4″ at the CF, and is down to 7/8″ by the time it gets to the nape.  I’ve seen this in other caps, and I can’t tell if it’s imprecision or a deliberate choice.  Little Sister isn’t quite as good a seamstress; her stitches aren’t quite as fine. Her ruffle is gathered, just a little, all down the front. The headpiece is hemmed all around 1/8″, and the front of the ruffle finishes in a 1/4 hem. The cloth is a loose weave  The string ties come out at the back, whereas as Big Sister’s come out at the  front point of connection between caul and headpiece. No lace for you, Little Sister. Maybe when you are older, and your stitches are as fine as your sibling.  Museum date: 1790-1810.

Close up of CF of 18th C cap.
Rolled gathers make the pouf in the caul. Smiths 3700-B.
Close up of end of lappet of Smithsonian 18th C cap.
Loosely-woven cloth and large edge hems argue for a later date.
18th C lappet cap from the Smithsonian, laid flat.
Smithsonian 6700-B is smaller than 6608-A, although the pattern pieces are all the same shape.

Questions that remain

I wish I could ask the curator what made them give the differing dates. I would account for the difference in dating from the larger hems and looser weave of Little Sister’s cap, if I had to give reasons. I wonder if other people have ideas about this?

Portraits

 

18th c portrait of woman in brown gown with lappet cap.
Mrs. Richard Galloway, by John Hesselius (1728–1778), 1764. Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Mrs. Galloway wears a cap with lappets and little or no gathers around her face, tied with string under her chin.  Is her ruffle doubled?  You can just make out a wide white ribbon, but no bows or furls.  See how you can see her ear?

My Notes

Click here for notes for 6608-A: smiths 6608 a notes

Click here for notes for 6700-B: smiths 6700 b notes

 

Thank Yous and Permissions

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!

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any other scholarship on these caps.

*. . . 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.