A Pattern for an 18th C Lappet Cap

It’s finally here: 18th C lappet cap pattern!!!

That took for absolutely ever.

The pattern is all here, all 48 pages. It’s very long, and I know that’s awful in a blog post, so here’s a Google doc version you can read and print as you like. The pattern is at the end. It must be printed on 8.5 x 11 paper so that the 1″ square is actually 1″ square. You may have to print it and then enlarge it to get it to do that. Here’s a PDF version of the actual pattern that might be easier to get to print right.

The Capalog Pattern 

A Lappet Cap for Reenactors of the Revolutionary War Era

18th C caps are put together similarly, no matter the style. In brief: 

  1. Prepare the drawstring channel
  2. Finish all the edges
  3. Sew the finished pieces together

Those 3 steps, with a little more detail:  

  1. Prepare the drawstring channel: The bottom of the caul will have a drawstring, so on that edge, first create the hole the ends of the tape will emerge from, and then sew a channel the width of your tape. 
  1. Finish all the edges: most commonly, there are 3 pattern pieces: caul, headpiece, ruffle. (See definitions and stitch instructions on the Capalog glossary page. )  Edges can be hemmed, rolled, or whipped with the tiniest stitches possible. As there are extant examples of all these finishing methods, you can choose among them.
    1. Edges that will be gathered are rolled and whipped to allow gathering as needed.  
  1. Sew the pieces together: pull the whipped stitch on the gathered part of the caul so it fits the headpiece. Sew together.  To join a whipped gather, whip over the stitch again.  
    1. To sew the ruffle on, join the finished edges with a whip or butted stitch to the headpiece. For the gathered portions, pull up the whip stitch to fit as you come to those places.   

If you have enough experience and that’s all you need to know, bless you and go for it.  

For everyone else, read on. 


This pattern was created by Sherri Saines, author of the Capalog, and is a representational amalgam of all the period caps I have seen, as described in the Capalog.blog.  I’d be so happy if you went and read about my research. It will probably help you interpret this pattern, too, and make us all more careful recreators of 18th C. life. 

This pattern is copyright with a Creative Commons license CCbyNC license. That means you may use this pattern to make your own stuff, but you may not sell the pattern in any way, or make money from it. Any use or link to this pattern should include proper URLs and citations, including my name and the Capalog address, so it’s clear where it comes from, and that it is not yours.  

If you make caps with this pattern and sell the caps, you have to include the citation information on the cap, so the buyer knows where the pattern came from. It’d be nice to tell them what a good resource this is, too, so they can come and read more. 

You’ll notice I am not making any money from this pattern.  That’s because I didn’t take the time-consuming steps to test, retest, and get it professionally sized and printed.  This pattern work for me, and I hope it works for you. #capalogpattern. Share yours!


  • ¼ – ½ yard of the finest white linen you can find/afford. The richer your persona, the finer the cloth. Wash, dry, and iron before use. 
    • Hint: It was often done to make the ruffle out of a finer cloth than the rest of the cap.  So you could indulge in a really small cut from an expensive piece just for the ruffle.  Period lace is a whole research area of its own, and I can’t offer advice as to patterns, but it is appropriate for rich people.
  • 12” of white tape, cotton or linen, 1/8” – ¼” wide. 
  • White thread: I like to sew with silk, but regular cotton thread is good.  I haven’t found a linen or wool thread that works for hand-sewing fine cloth.  
  • Hand-sewing needles. The fineness of the thread and needles should match the fineness of the cloth.  A test: the needle or thread should not leave a hole larger than the weave of the cloth when it passes through. Ideally, the thread disappears into the weave.  I like milliner’s size 11s.
  • If you have a [bone] awl, the kind that tapers from one end to the other, it helps with making the hole for the drawstring. 
  • Scissors to cut the pattern, and possibly other hand-sewing tools you like to work with: a thimble, a stitch guide, etc. 


Make sure the 1″ square block on the pattern is actually 1″ square. If necessary, use a copier to enlarge the pattern pieces.

Choose your size: 

  1. Large caul (big hair, large head)
  2. Small caul (child, small head)

Lay out and cut the pattern pieces. 

In period, efficient use of cloth was a major concern, so let’s think that way.  

Begin by pulling a thread to make sure the edge you are working from is straight. Any straight edge on the pattern should be cut in this way, that is, rather than cut along the pattern piece, pull a thread and use it as your cutting guide to create a truly straight line.  These straight cuts make hand sewing a lot easier.  

image shows a ruffle piece being created by pulling a thread and then following the channel created to cut a straight edge.

For a folded edge, fold over only as much cloth as is needed, so you are cutting the edge, not the center of the cloth.  

Only fold the cloth over enough to make the width of the pattern piece. This saves cloth, an important consideration in period when cloth was so expensive.

I can’t think of an instance where using the selvedge as a straight edge is beneficial.  You don’t want it to be seen, so you’d have to hem it somehow, and then it would be bulkier than the rest.  Cut off the selvedges.  

For ruffles, I suggest 1” wide finished width as an average, but some variation is allowed as per your preference.  Using the pulled thread technique, cut a strip about 1 1/2” wide and about 40-60” long.  You may or may not use all of it.   

Hint: Any pattern piece can be made of 2 pieces of cloth joined with a minute felled seam. This is common along a ruffle or at the top of the headpiece.  If you do this, allow an extra ¼ at the join when you cut it out. 

If you can't fit the headpiece on a folded edge, leave a little extra cloth along the top edge so you can fell the 2 pieces together instead.  In this example, I will cut off the selvedge, too.
the three pattern pieces ready to being sewing.

Sewing: step one: Prepare the drawstring channel

At the nape of the caul, there is a circle where the drawstring exits the gathering channel. Using the tapered awl, push through the weave to make a hole here about ¼’ across.  Try not to break any threads. Use a buttonhole stitch to finish, sewing against the awl.   

to make the exit hole for the tape, insert a tapered awl between the threads of the weave.
Using the awl to sew against makes it a little easier to keep the shape as you go around the hole.
the hole with the buttonhole stitches finished around the edge.

Fold the bottom of the caul up twice to make a drawstring channel and hem the edge.  The hole should be on the inside center. 

the hole goes on the inside.

Note: some caps in period do not have the center hole, but instead leave the channel ends open, attach 2 long tapes, about 20+”  to each end, cross them in the channel, and leave the long ends hanging.  This works really well, and you can then wrap the long strings around your head to secure the cap a little. 

Sewing: step two: Finish all the edges. 

In the following instructions, “finish” means to hem, roll, or whip the edge. Your choice unless otherwise stated. 

Caul: starting at the bottom edge, finish the edge up to the mark on the pattern, and knot off. 

After the mark, roll and whip the edge until you reach the mark on the other side. 

Hint: Start with a really long piece of strong thread (one of the reasons I like to sew with silk.). Make a big, loopy knot that will be easy to find and pull later.  Whip over to the other side. Make another big, loopy knot here.  Don’t pull it to a gather yet. 

Use a finish stitch up to the mark, and then start a new thread to make the whipped gather stitch all the way over to the other mark.

Go back to your finish technique and sew from the mark to the bottom edge. 

Headpiece: Finish around the entire piece.  

Hint: Curved edges can be tricky.  Especially the ends of the lappets, where you have to turn in a very small space, tucking and turning at the same time.  I’ve had luck with sewing the straight parts and then going back and sewing the curved edges. After many years of experience, this is still a challenge, so be patient with yourself. I’ve seen some pretty rough turns on period caps, too.  

In the first photo, you can see I joined 2 pieces with a small felled seam to make the headpiece because I didn’t have enough cloth to place the pattern on a fold there.

I had to sew 2 pieces together rather than cut it on the fold. I used a small felled seam for strength.

Ruffle: Finish one long edge and two short edges.  You should have a longer ruffle than you will need, and you may end up cutting off and resewing one short edge, but it’s easier than trying to figure out which end doesn’t need to be finished!  

The other long side will be the gathered side, so roll and whip that side. Don’t pull it to a gather yet.

Hint: I have not found a way to predetermine where on the ruffle the gathers will occur.  Whipping the whole side means I can sew along until I get to a ruffly place and pull it up to fit when I get there. This isn’t ideal; it’s hard to find the gather thread to pull, for example, and when you get there you are trying to do 4 things at once, usually around a curve, and it’s really awkward.  Still, it’s the best method I can offer so far. 

Sewing step 3: sew the finished pieces together. 

Sew the Caul to the headpiece. This part takes some working, so start off with your patience in hand. 

  1. Mark the center front of the headpiece and the caul with a pin.  (Find the center front by folding the piece in half.) With right sides together, pin this point.  

Hint: check and double check that you have the pieces in the right places.  The headpiece will be under / inside the caul as you work it.  I’ve sewn the headpiece on inside out numerous times. 

  1. Pin the bottom points of the caul and headpiece together. (In this picture, the headpiece is on the outside, but I’ll flip it inside in a minute…)
  1. Pin the caul and headpiece together at the mark where the stitch on the caul changes from the finish stitch to the whip stitch. 
  2. The cloth that is gaping between the mark and the center front on either side is how much has to be gathered to fit the headpiece.  
    1. Note the center of these two halves on the headpiece and caul; that is, we are finding the quarters on the to-be-gathered portion. Pin these together, too. 
  1. Now grab hold of one of the big loopy knots at the end of your whip stitch, and gently pull to create the gather. Usually you have to pull it as tight as it will go, which creates a row of regular bumps that look like popcorn.  You are trying to space the bumps equally along the line of the headpiece from mark to mark. 
  1. Pin it all down. Use a lot of pins, about every inch. 
  1. Start from one end. 
    1. Sew with a whip or butted stitch up to the mark and knot off. 
  1. Change to a whip stitch when you get to the gathers.  With the caul toward me, and the popcorn at the top, whip over the previous stitches, catching the headpiece underneath as you go.  Knot off.

Hint: when you “catch the headpiece,” make that part of the stitch straight up and down, not angled.  That will allow the gather to lie neatly.  This takes some practice.  

  1. Change back to your finish stitch and sew the straight part from the mark to the edge. 

Sew the ruffle to the headpiece.  

Depending on the style you have chosen, you could be placing a ruffle all the way around the cap or just down the front of the headpiece.  You have a lot of latitude here in amount of ruffle. See the Capalog.blog for many variations.   

Start at one end of the ruffle placement.  With right sides together, and the ruffle on top, whip over the previous stitches, catching the headpiece underneath as you go.

Hint: when you “catch the headpiece,” make that part of the stitch straight up and down, not angled.  That will allow the gather to lie neatly.  This takes some practice.  

On lappets, the only gathered portion of the ruffle is at the turn of the lappet. When you get within about an inch of the point, stop and lay your needle and thread aside so it won’t get in the way.  With a pin, find the stitches on the ruffle and pull up the thread to create a gather just tight enough to get around that curve and about 1” up the other side.  It’s hard to pin the ruffle down to sew it on in that tight space but do your best. Sew the gathered part, and now you can keep on sewing until you get to the other lappet point and do the same.   

Hint: it is possible to pull it up too tight and get a flower effect at the end; it is also possible to not pull it up tight enough and then the ruffle will not lie flat.  (Sigh!) 


Thread the linen or cotton tape onto a large-eyed blunt needle.  Thread the needle through the channel to one end and push out through the weave on the inside corner, trying not to break any threads. 

Pull the tape through just enough to fold it under about 1/8” and pin it, covering the join.  Go back and do the same to the other side.  You now have a tape pinned on 2 ends with the middle sticking out of the hole on the inside.  

Sew around each end, sewing the tape down onto the cap.  This is a good time to cover up any irregularities or unmatched edges at the join.  It reinforces the seams that meet here, too.  

Now cut the tape in two where it is sticking out of the hole.  Period caps don’t have their tape ends hemmed, so you don’t have to do that.  

Add 2 short tapes (4”) at the points of the lappets if you desire. The ends can be pinned, or tied with a tape or a ribbon. 

Clip any loose threads, oversew any loose seams, take a picture and post it so we can applaud your hard work.  #capalogpattern 


Pull your hair straight back and up and pin all the stray whisps. Gather the tape at the back of your cap until the caul fits over your hair.  The ruffle should be back from your face. Some hair should show at the front, and some can show at the nape of your neck, too. A cap never covers your forehead or eyes or cheeks.  It frames and enhances your face.  Lappets are usually pinned or tied under your chin. 

Hint: To keep your cap on: put 2 opposing bobby pins in your hair right at the top of your head. This is good for keeping your hair up and back anyway.  Put your cap on and with a long thin pin, attach the headpiece of the cap to your hair right in front of the bobby pins.  

The Pattern: 

Print out these 3 pages.  Make sure they each take up the whole 8.5 x 11 page. Alternately, enlarge as needed until the 1” box is really 1”. 

Print out a cleaner, brighter pattern in PDF from this Google Drive File

Version #3. Now shows some differences from the PDF.

Another Quaker Cap: Philly 87.35.826

This is very similar to many other Quaker caps I saw in my travels, especially a group from Chester County Historical Society, but also individual examples in other places.  It’s the only squared-lappet one museums date 1750-1800, though, and I want to talk about that while I suggest it’s more probably 19th C.  This one is housed at the Phildelphia History Museum. Its item number is #87.35.826. It does not have an online catalog record.

The Original

Typical of turn-of-the-century Quaker caps, this is a lappet of a superfine cloth, gauzy and see-through.  But while its shape is standard, its construction has some unique features.

A gauzy lappet made with interesting construction.
Philly 87.35.826 is dated 1750-1800, but is more likely 1800-, when compared to similar examples elsewhere.

The headpiece and ruffle are all one piece.  So is the caul and the bavolet, or ruffle around the nape.  Then there is a third piece that’s really just the lappets pieced onto the rest of the cap.  The shaping is created by strings in self-fabric channels in all three pieces. I’ve made a color-coded quick drawing to help you see what I’m talking about.

The ruffles are created from strings through self-fabric channels in the caul and headpiece.
A color-coded version of Phill 87.35.826, to show construction. Probably 19th C.

The strings are all running in self-fabric channels just large enough to hold the string.  I think there are two strings, but there might be three.  One starts at the join where the lappet, headpiece, and caul all cone together, and goes back on each side, coming out to a visible bow at the center back, 1″ from the bottom edge.  The other starts from the end of one lappet, wraps and over the CF, and comes out the other lappet, to be tied under the chin.  It runs up the middle of the lappet, so it makes a pretty runching when pulled.

The caul is whip gathered, then sewn on to the (rolled edged) headpiece  with big loose stitches, flattening the effect. All the outside edges are whipped to finish.

The characteristic that most gives away this cap’s 19th C date is the square end of the lappets.  That seems to be one detail that curators I talked to agreed was a dividing point.  In other examples, the gather up the middle of the lappet is created by finishing the edges of 2 rectangles, and leaving gaps in the join where the string is threaded.  Here’s an example of that technique in another Philly cap, #1000.179.

The gather is accomplished by leaving gaps in the vertical seam down the middle of the lappet, and weaving the stings in and out.
Philly 1000.179 (not the same cap) shows a variation on the gather technique in a Quaker lappet, probably 19th C.

Questions that remain

I’m making a judgement call on the idea that there are only two gather strings. The one that goes up and down the front, creating the faux ruffle, might be two different strings.  This cap was too fragile to manipulate much, but as it sits there is a slight pucker in the front string.  Also, other Quaker caps with similar construction have sometimes a separate string, creating this false-ruffle effect.  Sometimes it is just a silky thread, without even a channel, and the bow is at the CF.  Kannik’s Korner pattern #6602 (view B) reproduces a cap like that.

Also, notice that the way the lappet is sewn on, it has to fold like a piece of origami under the chin.  You are sewing a straight piece into a corner.  Who came up with that?  It’s very awkward.


Peggy's cap is very similar to this one, but note her lappets are rounded.
Margaret “Peggy” Custis Wilson (Mrs. John Custis Wilson) 1791 Artist: Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) Colonial Williamsburg

I was so excited when I discovered this portrait at Williamsburg!  Look! her cap looks like this one!

Two things are important here:  Only a small number of  portraits I’ve seen show a cap with the lappets hanging loose.  Which is great to know — they did it too, and all ya’ll that complain about ties under your chin can use these rare exceptions to justify your attire.

The other great thing about the Peale portrait is that this has a solid date, 1791, which makes us feel very confident that these types of caps were being worn by wealthy people in our time period.  But note the ends of her lappets are rounded.

Here’s the another example of a loose lappet. I hate to do this, but I’ve lost the identifying info on this portrait. Please, if you know anything about it, let me know.


I’ve now found four American and five British examples of loose lappets. They sometimes depict a person in an informal situation: dancing, socializing, shepherdesses, etc.  Perhaps loose lappets are associated with informality?

catherine greenwood

One last one: John Greenwood’s portrait of Catherine Moffat, 1745.  Her lappets are large and lacy, and lay comfortably on her shoulders.

The Reproduction

I haven’t reproduced this one yet.

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: Philly 87.35.826

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

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

Version 4. added loose lappets info. crop and Identify that portrait; alt ref on 2 new pics.

Martha Canby’s Cap: Quaker Lappet

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

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 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.

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.


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.

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

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.


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

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?


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 be 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

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 ‘ wide 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?


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.


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; superfine supersimple lappet cap, with provenance.
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 near 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.

Lappet cap beside a ruler gives an idea of size.
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.”  (And then changed back!) 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 woman in reproduction of this 18th c cap: it fits!
Newbie models Wint 1955.0003.013 at CSA 2016. (Thanks, Newbie!)                                        

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.

young woman modeling the wedding cap on dressed hair
This is how I imagined the cap looking on dressed hair.


Here’s another good example of the cap on dressed hair. Thanks, Simone! 


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

I made this from silk to mimic the fineness of the 18th C cloth.
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. Thanks for permission to include the young woman modeling the dressed hair; I will add her name when I find my notes.

Other Related Scholarship

The museum record notes this article, which details many other needlework items owned by Winterthur and made by Mary Alsop. This cap is not described in the article.

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?

Version 4; add name of model at Schoenbrunn.

Gauzy Ruffles: Winterthur 1969.4675

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 caulWinterthur Museum date: 1750-1800.  Their online catalog includes a description, but no image.

The Original

Really badly lit photo of a lappet cap with many stains and tears.
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 front 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 gathering, 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.

Detail of the top of the cap showing the outside, with the close and even stroke gathers.
Close up of the the stroke gathers. Winterthur 1969.4675

Close up of cap folded back to see the inside. 18th C lappet cap.
Shows the inside unfinished stroke gathers, with transition to felled seam down the sides. Winterthur 1969.4675

Close up of 18th C lappet cap.
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? (Not sure) Was it common to have a ruffle of finer stuff? (Yes.) Is this typical of 18th C caps? (Yes.)  How do they make those minute hems and stitches?  (Practice, practice, practice.)


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.

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.

Repro cap shown on black head mount against a green ground.
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

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, with lappets.
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.

Close-up of top of cap where headpiece and caul are joined.
Cap from the top: the headpiece is made of 2 pieces butted together in tiny stitches, with rough ends exposed inside.

Lace edges the front of this 18th C cap.
Good view of the bobbin lace with purple glove behind as contrast.

Close-up of top of cap, showing join of the headpiece and gathers of the caul.
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:

Very small cap shown on adult head.
Steve Saines, 59, models the Boston MFA cap.

4-cut picture of baby in repro cap, laughing.
Weston Wells, 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.


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 online record identifies this as a child’s cap.

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.

See Sharon Burnston’s notes and pattern, too. Her pictures are clearer than mine. Better two than one.

Lappet cap, repro of Boston MFA cap, probably child's.
First attempt, before adding lace. I made the lappets way too wide.

Repro cap, gathered and displayed stuffed with paper to show shape.
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.