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. 

INTRODUCTION

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!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • 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. 

DIRECTIONS

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!) 

Finishing

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 

HOW TO WEAR YOUR CAP

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.

Portraits

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.

FB_IMG_1572187120363

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.

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.

Portraits

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

The Reproduction

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.

What Cap Should I Wear? What the Rev War Camp-follower had on her head

I began this incredible odyssey many years ago with the question, “I am a camp-follower in the American War of Independence; which cap should I be wearing?”

Table with caps on display in the sun.
My table full of caps, at the Fair at New Boston

Saines wearing 18th C clothing, with caps on display.
This is me at the Costume Society of American Symposium in 2016. I didn’t realize I was so completely grey!

So, here’s the easy answer: You can choose between 2 caps: one with a ruffle under the chin, and one without.  These are commonly called a “lappet cap” (ruffle under the chin) and a “round-eared cap” (ruffles curve around near your ears).

See the Glossary for more definitions.

I base this answer on a sample set of about 300 portraits of American women, and the more than 100 caps I have examined in museum collections in America.  I am chronicling this research over time with this blog, so you can see what I am seeing.

I’m also basing this on an assumption that camp-followers would not be seeking the latest styles because their circumstances demanded practicality and frugality.  Assumptions are dangerous things, of course, and no one that I know of recorded that sentiment directly, but it is supported by what we know of their difficult lives, documented in many sources.

Note: I would, however, fully expect visiting officer’s wive  to wear the fashionable piles of linen and lace that arose around 1775 and grew larger over time.  (More on that over here…)

American cap styles are more restrained in general than French styles, of course (oh, those French!), but they are also more restrained than even English styles.

What should my cap be made of? 

The finest linen you can afford. Because linen of the era tended to be finer than ours, our lightest handkerchief linen (2.0- 3.0 ozs) is a good match.  And, of course, the richer your persona, the finer the cloth should be.

Does it have to be white?

Yes. Every artifact is plain white. There are a few examples of colored caps or cap covers in European paintings, and a few examples of a black kerch over a white cap in America. I am aware of only one American cap that is made of patterned cloth.

Do I have to sew this by hand?

Yes, you have no choice because HA caps cannot be made on a machine. There are no hidden stitches.

Should I make the ruffle out of lace?

Only if you are an officer’s wife.  Lace was so very expensive, camp-followers shouldn’t include it on their caps.  What you can do, though, is make the linen ruffle from an even lighter linen than the rest of the cap.  This is common enough.  And, just like our WAI predecessors, maybe you can afford just 1/4 yard of that exquisite stuff to add to your cap.

Should I wear a ribbon?

YES! We should all be wearing a plain silk ribbon tied in a bow over the headpiece.  These can be pinned on so washing is easy. Depictions of even the meanest women of our era include a ribbon around her cap.

Can I piece it together from scraps?

Yes. I’ve seen caps pieced in all different places: the top of the headpiece and along the ruffle is common, but one cap has 3 pieces just in the caul.

Can I re-purpose used linen?

I say yes to used linen because we shouldn’t be as clean or tidy or new looking as we usually are.  Also, linen shirts from the second hand store are a really good source of finer linen than we can get easily by the yard.

1750 portrait of Mrs. Pemberton by Wollaston. © Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
Nice example of lappet cap with lace ruffles. Portrait of Mrs. Ebenezer Pemberton 1750 John Wollaston, American, fl. 1733-1775 Artstor IAP

I hate having something under my chin! 

I know, honey, but you got used to stays, didn’t you? Lappets are a little more common than round-eared caps, and are underrepresented in reenacting, I think. So, yes, make yourself a lappet. And you can leave your lappets lose; there are a few examples showing them worn that way, but it is not the norm. (And only the French pinned them up.) 

Where can I get an HA pattern?  

I keep going around on this question…

I’ve bought and tried just about every pattern out there. The most common problem is the caul is just too big (and I have a large head). Another common problem is directions adapting caps for machine sewing and muslin cloth. Ouch.

I’m still saying Kannik’s Korner 6602 is the closest for the round-eared cap. It also includes really good directions and documentation.  But her sources are a smidge later than AWI.  I recommend starting here, but making the small size caul.. . . .

Also, the split ruffle is, of course, characteristic of the fancy caps, so save that for your not-a-camp-follower outfit. I’m actually having second thoughts even about the shape of the ruffle on this pattern, as all the ruffles I’ve seen on cap artifacts are straight strips. And, you’d want to make the headpiece straight, not curved.

For a lappet, you could start with Instructions for Cutting Out Apparel for the Poor, which isn’t the most common 3-piece construction, but is at least verifiably accurate, really easy to make, and free on Google. Still, it’s 1789, but I have seen one dated earlier.

Rural Pennsylvania Clothing has a lappet that’s pretty close, but the headpiece is too wide, and there’s a button on the tips, so definitely later.  Someone made commercial patterns of the caps in that book, but you can just use it straight from the source.

….I see a need for patterns that copy common construction for our era…  well, that’s a project for another day….   WAIT, I DID THAT! I made a lappet pattern that is an average of all the lappets I saw.  Enjoy.

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I didn’t make a round-eared cap pattern because so far we only have 2 that are probably 18th C, and both are very late.  So there’s not enough evidence here to find an average so to speak, and the 2 examples are too late anyway.  I could create a pattern that looks like what we see in portraits, but that’d be cheating because it wouldn’t be based on artifacts.

Here are some things we do not see in the American portrait evidence for 1750-1775:

  1. Caps that cover the face, or ruffles long enough to fall down the chin or into the eyes.  Reenactors frequently wear too big a cap, pulled too far forward.
  2. That very old BAR pattern that has a paddle-shaped, double-layered headpiece. I’m still trying to figure out where that came from.  If an original exists for it, it is a rarity and should not be used.
  3. A lot more round-eared than lappet caps. In both the portrait evidence and the artifact evidence, lappets outnumber round-eared caps. My current count is 21 lappets to 2 round-eared caps among artifacts, and about 50 lappets to 48 round-eared caps in the original portrait set.
  4. No tightly gathered ruffles down the front of the lappet.  The ruffle of a lappet is gathered only at the turn around the tips.
  5. No “butterflies”.  These are the caps with stiffly starched wings riding high on the head. One portrait of an American child has this. No adults.
  6. No ships, no birds, no turkey butts, no 3 foot hairdos, nothing from Versailles.  No evidence of this craziness exists for American women in portraits or artifacts.
  7. Gehret’s Rural Pennsylvania Clothing has a cap with a simple rectangular headpiece on a gathered caul, with strings under the chin, on Pg. 68.  This cap is only seen early and late in the century, and not during our time period.  Too bad! I made a bunch of these!

version #5. Still needs portraits