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 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.  
  • 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

Print out the pattern on 8.5 x 11 paper and cut out the pieces you will need. 

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 half 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.  

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 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 take each 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