The Second Round-Eared Cap: Smiths 6608B

[1st draft. ]

In all my travels, I have found only two round-eared caps from the 18th C. They are both at the Smithsonian, both from the Copp Collection.  The other one is described here .

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the National Museum of American History.* The record for this item is not online.

The Original

study photo of round-eared cap
Smiths 6608 B is a round-eared cap with a wide ruffle

The museum dates this cap 1795-1815, so it just barely qualifies as 18th C.  Since we can’t ask the curator who assigned these dates so long ago, we don’t know what that person saw to prompt her to date this one later than Smiths 6608.  I think that the wider hems and cotton cloth are clues to a later date.

Made of cotton mull, superfine and almost gauzy, plain white, with an edging on the ruffle (it isn’t lace; an extra fine tape, perhaps?).  My notes are unclear here.  (Argh!  even when you think you’ve been thorough…)

It’s made of three pieces, all on the straight grain: semicircular caul, 1 3/4″ straight headpiece, and a ruffle that’s wider at the CF than the bottoms. The headpiece is pieced at the top with a felled hem. That’s pretty common. Gathers on the caul and the ruffle are rolled, whipped, gathered all in one stitch, making a pretty popcorn effect inside that goes across the top 4″ on the headpiece, the top 8″ on the ruffle. The headpiece is hemmed 1/8″ all around, and the hem of  the ruffle is 1/4″. A casing runs along the bottom of the caul and headpiece, allowing the strings to come out right under the ears.

Questions that remain / Portrait

mr and mrs brewster, seated. She wears a round-eared cap
Mr. and Mrs. Brewster, 1795-1800. Her cap shows us about as much detail as an American portrait gives us.

What don’t I understand?  The two round-eared caps have straight headpieces.  I keep recommending Kannik’s cap pattern, but really her cap isn’t like these at all. That cap I wear, that I’ve replicated a dozen times, has a moon-shaped headpiece, and a shaped ruffle that is gathered all the way down.  Many French portraits have detailed renderings of caps, but for American caps, Mrs. Brewster is abut the only one I can see any detail. This portrait is 1795-1800, so it fits the time period given the cap.  I think her headpiece is straight, too.

 

 

The Reproduction

round-eared cap with gathering strings at the bottom
Saines repro of Smiths 6608B, made of cotton.

I had a nice soft cotton to work with, and the repro matches the original shape and size. The caul pattern is off; I had to make adjustments as I went, and I noted “redo this” on the pattern, so don’t trust it!

Having the gather string go all along the bottom and tie under the chin, plus the really wide ruffle,  gives this cap a halo effect when worn.

 

 

 

 

My Notes

smiths 6608 B round notes and pattern

Thank Yous

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!

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any scholarship for this artifact.

*. . . 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doubled Headpiece: Genesee 87.213

First draft. No known issues.

I’ll say it again: just when you are ready to say, “Never”….

This lappet cap has a doubled headpiece, the only case of that that I remember seeing.  Its ruffle goes all the way around the perimeter, making a frill at the nape. (Does that qualify as a bavolet?) The Genesee Country Village & Museum, Mumford, NY, owns this cap and dates it 1770-1800.

The Original

18th C cap from Genesee Museum
Genesee 87,213 Doubled caul.

Made of a super fine soft cloth, probably linen, in the common three-piece pattern of semicircular caul, headpiece on the straight grain, and a ruffle attached to the outer edge.  The ruffle’s front edge is hemmed back 1/8″, and the ruffle goes all the way around the cap.  The edge joining the ruffle to the headpiece is whipped, slightly gathered to get around the lappet tips.  At the nape, a cased 1/16″ tape (in the bottom of the caul), gathered up, creates a ruffled effect around the wearer’s neck.

The headpiece is two pieces with all their edges turned in 1/8″. No stitches are apparent that hold those pieces together, so I assume it is stitched and turned in where possible.

The caul is stroke gathered and all the raw edges are laid between the 2 pieces of the headpiece, the way we would hide a modern gather.  This construction is normal in shirt cuffs, for example, but unusual in caps.

The gather tape at the bottom of the caul comes out outside, and there are two 3/16″ tapes sewn to the outside of the lappets for tying. Actually, I looked at this cap a long time trying to decide whether it is inside out or not, but decided the hem stitches on the ruffle determined in from out.

The poor cap has many mended places, sewn by an unskilled hand in large loopy stitches, in some places with stabilizing cloth.

Questions that remain

I found the doubled headpiece an inefficient set up, and wondered what its advantage was to the maker.  Maybe she hated whipped gathers?

And details like poor mending set me wondering: the work of some curator who didn’t want us to think those stitches were original?  The cap given to a child to fix for practice?

Portraits

Here are two portraits with similar caps.

https://americangallery18th.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/hannah-farmer-mrs-benjamin-peck.jpg
Hannah’s cap is only slightly gathered, and the ruffle appears to continue around the back of her neck. Hannah Framer (Mrs. Benjamin Peck) 1768-1770 by John Durand (1731-1805)
Sara has wrapped a large striped ribbon around her lappet cap. The lace ruffle wraps around her neck and ties under her chin. Sara Bostwick (Mrs. Sherman Boardman (1796) by Raph Earl (1751-1801)

The Reproduction

The doubled headpiece I found very awkward to put together.  Possibly you would do this by sewing the front of the headpieces together,  turn it, and then tuck in the caul’s edges, gather where needed, pin and sew.  I didn’t figure all that out until later, though.  *Sigh*  In either case, it’s hard to get that 1/8″ folded in neatly and keep it there while you fit other things together.  The headpiece is actually 4 pieces, with a join at the top.  I thought of that as optional, but I shouldn’t have.

You can see it better here. I turned it inside out for the photo.

I also measured the caul wrong by about 4″ the first time, so I had to go back to the notes and redo the pattern, make a new piece. My notes are a mess.

Me wearing my repro of Gen 87.213

I managed to put the drawstring on the inside when notes and photos show clearly it exits on the outside.  I am confused about the tapes on the lappet ends; they are both on the outside in the photos, but I put one on the inside…  Sometimes I look at a mistake and decide to start over, and sometimes I just can’t.

And stroke gathers just make me scream. I used silk organdy for the weight, although the stiffness isn’t right, and really if you have to suffer through stroke gathers, this is a lovely cloth to work with.  Perhaps you have some tips on making stroke gathers? I’ve got the whipped gather down to a tee, but never do those stroke hills and valleys line up for me.

Still, once completed, it makes a pretty cap that is big enough for my (large) head.

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: notes gen 87.213

Thank Yous and Permissions

This cap is presented here with permission, Courtesy Susan Greene Costume Collection, Genesee Country Village & Museum, Mumford, NY.  I worked with Patricia Tice on my visit to Genesee.   I also corresponded with Susan Green, who generously helped me understand what I was seeing here.

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

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