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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rare Round-Eared Cap: Smiths 6608

[Draft 1: .  Sent to Nancy Davis 6.20.18. for comment. (she retired; forwarded to Bill Yeingst, chair of the division of Home and Community Life, at yeingstw@si.edu)]

Of the 100+ caps I’ve seen, only two are true “round-eared” caps.  They are both from the Smithsonian collection, and from the same collection, the Copp Collection.  They are cut out differently from one another.  This one, Smiths 6608, has a rounded, pointed headpiece, and the ruffle curls around to meet it.  The other, Smiths 6608B, has a straight headpiece.

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

The shiny, fine soft cloth of this cap is probably linen. The incredibly minute stitches are are not unusual in 18th C caps: I counted 20 stitches to the inch.  Each edge  is finished with a whip stitch, then the edges are butted together with another whip stitch. Together, the finished join is 1/16″ across! While not every cap was expertly made, most exhibit these  precise, small, nearly perfect stitches.  Every time I think, “I can do this now, look at those tiny stitches!” I see another example like this of period perfection, and despair.

There are 3 pieces:

  • half-circle shaped caul with a gather tape that comes out of a split in the casing, CB.
  • 2 1/4″ wide headpiece that rounds back to a point under the ear (thus the term, “round-eared cap,” I suppose.)
  • 1 1/2″ ruffle, gathered only enough to get comfortably around that curve. The ruffle is whipped to the headpiece, but the front has a 1/8″ hem.

The museum dates this 1780-1800, partly because the Copp family artifacts include that era.  As with many older collections, the curator who dated this item is no longer at the museum to ask what prompted the dates given.  Nothing about it argues for a later date, and it looks like many caps seen in portraits of the period, so I accept this possibility.

Questions that remain

What don’t I understand?  This cap is small, only 7 1/4″ high, which, once again, makes me wonder if the average 18th C head was smaller. In portraits, many round-eared caps are worn high on the head, with hair piled up inside, so maybe it isn’t intended to cover much ? Or were many extant caps  actually made for younger women? We can’t tell a small adult cap from one made for a teenager.

And I always wonder why THIS cap made it through time for me to touch. Is this the souvenir saved from a child who died? Is this the failed cap that no one liked, so it sat unused? (I can hear the adolescent whine, “But, Ma, no one wears a cap like that anymore!”) Made at school for practice?  Made by Grandma right before she passed away? Made by someone rich enough to have extra caps she didn’t need, found years later in some cupboard?

Round-eared caps are nearly as common in my sample of American period portraits as lappets.  So why do we only have 2 examples?  Did more of them get worn out? Perhaps because they tended to be worn by younger women?  Or did I miss a trove of them when I couldn’t get to the Cooper-Hewitt?

Portraits

This portrait

portrait of the Gordon Family by Henry Benbridge, 1862. Mrs. Gordon wears a round-eared cap.
Mrs. Gordon is wearing a round-eared cap with not much gathering, similar to Smiths 6608.

of the Gordon Family shows Mrs. Gordon in a cap similar to this one.  Most round-eared caps on portraits have a lot of gathers all around the cap, but here is one that seems less so.  The date is 1763. The oldest daughter is wearing a cap like this, too, set very high on her head, so maybe the idea of small caps set high is accurate.

 

 

 

The Reproduction

 

IMG_20160527_182648550
Saines repro of 6608.

 

I used the finest linen I had, but it isn’t as fine as the original.  I didn’t manage to get my stitches as fine, either, especially the whipped edges.  The thickness of the cloth does make tiny stitches harder.  When I sew 20 stitches to the inch on a whipped edge, it often comes out stretched and tight like a dinosaur’s back.

Otherwise, I got the shape and proportions right.

 

My Notes :

smiths 6608 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 don’t know of any other scholarship concerning 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.

DAR 1203: A Cap With A Story

second draft

Few caps are actually dated, but this one has a story and a date.  It’s a simple lappet cap, small and unadorned, of soft sheer cotton mull.  The catalog record tells the story:

“Janneke Phoenix Krum was the wife of Hendrck W. Krum — a soldier of the American Revolution. The flax was spun and woven by Janneke Krum, and the cap made by hand — also by her.”

They were married on May 4, 1777, so the record implies this is her wedding cap.  The DAR Museum in Washington, D.C. owns this cap.

A lappet Cap displayed with a red empire dress and white neckcloth.
The cap on this dress model is DAR 1203, a simple lappet with a story.

The Original

Made of three pieces, caul, headpiece, and ruffle, but with wide (1/4″) hems throughout.  The caul is gathered to the headpiece with whipped gathers over the top 6″ of the headpiece.  The headpiece is on the straight grain, 1.5″ at the CF, widening to 3 1/4″ where the caul and headpiece meet under the ears, and skinnying down to 1/2″ wide at the point. The ruffle is joined to the headpiece with a whip stitch.

The ruffle is gathered at the CF and at the turn of the lappet only, a common characteristic of the era.  The headpiece is reinforced with tiny triangles of cloth at the tips to withstand the tension of the gathering strings attached there.

DAR Aug 13 097
The gathered CF ruffle of DAR 1203
DAR Aug 13 096
Gathers go gently around the lappet, and a string attached here ties the ends under one’s chin.
DAR Aug 13 087
The 1/4″ hem throughout might be an indicator of a later date?

 Questions that Remain

The wide hems and the cotton cloth make me wonder if this is 19th C, but the style and construction fit the bill for 18th C.  Note the museum record says Mrs. Krum spun the flax (i.e., linen) herself, but then identifies the cloth as cotton mull.  I wonder if this is a cap from later in her life?  I wonder if the hand-spun cloth story is real.

Portraits

 

This cap is similar, with a special extra gather at the top in the front.

 

Lappet caps are the most common mid-century cap.    Notice that she has a ribbon under her chin. DAR 1203 has a surviving tie sewn on to the tips, to tie under the chin. I wonder if the ribbon in this portrait is sewn on to the cap, pinned on, or tied around her neck separately?  I’d opt for sewn on to the cap, but I’ve never seen ribbons on an original, not until the 19th C when they grow large and wide.

 

 

The Reproduction

I’m still learning about how the weight of the cloth impacts the gather.  On this cap, although the whipped gather only goes across the top 6″ of the cap, I had to keep gathering it nearly all the way down the sides to make the caul fit onto the headpiece.  That’s also partly because I was still learning how to infer a flat pattern from gathered shape, and got the proportions wrong. Another complicating factor was replicating that curve under the ear.  Most caps are straight here.

Saines' reproduction on DAR 1203, lappet cap of cotton, 1777
My version of DAR 1203.

 

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: BookScanCenter (1)

You can see the problems I had making a pattern!  I’ve gotten better at this over time.

Thank Yous and Permissions.

Thanks to Alden O’Brien, Curator of Costumes and Textiles, of the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington, DC, who gave me permission to blog about the DAR caps I saw.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any scholarship on this cap.