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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sisters: Two Lappets Side-by-side

First draft jan 2019.

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 these 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 record 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 ‘ 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.

Smithsonian 6608-A is larger, and has a small lace edging.
Rolled gathers create the fullness of the top of the caul on Smithsonian 6608-A.
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.

Rolled gathers make the pouf in the caul. Smiths 3700-B.
Loosely-woven cloth and large edge hems argue for a later date.
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?

Portraits

 

18th c portrait 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.