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.

 

 

 

 

Under Ruffle? Philly 87.35.825

second draft.

A Quaker with a taste for simple elegance created this cap, probably between 1750-1800.

Philly 87.35.825 is a Quaker cap, which has its own set of interpretive problems.
This 2-piece cap has an unusual gauzy under-ruffle that skims the nape of the neck.

Philadelphia History Museum records associate this cap with Rebecca Jones, a Quaker “minister” (their quotes, not mine), who lived from 1739-1818.  It’s a 2-piece lappet, with one unusual skinny ruffle sewn along the bottom of the cap, encircling the nape of her neck.  

The Original

The pattern for this cap is very simple: cut out 2 flat piece of super fine linen, and sew them together up the middle.  But first, whip the edges, then butt them together and whip again, with the resulting join measuring less than 1/8″ across.  This is another example of fine and exact stitching.

The front edge is rolled, not whipped, to a minute, neat, finish. The gathering channel is only about 6″ long, along the nape.  The short string comes out at the back, inside, through a buttonholed opening.  After the channel, the edge smooths down to a 1/16″ hem that finishes the back of the lappet.

A gauzy ungathered ruffle only 3/8″ wide decorates the bottom edges, from the tip of one lappet, around the nape, to the tip of the other.  Its edges are also minutely hemmed, then whipped to the cap.

 

The other decoration is a row of tiny straight stitches 1″ back from the front edge of the cap, completely straight and even, giving the impression of being pieced, or maybe she just liked the sheen of the thread. I’ve seen this detail on numerous Quaker caps.

I think this is the only cap I’ve seen with a laundry marker.  It is a red “G” in itty bitty cross stitches.  I wonder why  Rebecca Jones made a cap marked “G”?  I guess “associate with” doesn’t mean “hers.”  Made for daughter Gertrude or Gina?

Questions that remain

One detail makes me wonder about the pre-1800 date: the squared lappets.  Curators at both Philly and Chester County were willing to say that is characteristic of post-1800 caps.  

Portraits

William_Jennys_-_Mrs._Cooke
By William Jennys (fl. 1790 to 1810) – Honolulu Academy of Arts, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5928972

The front of Mrs. Cooke’s cap looks similar to this one, a simple lappet with no ruffles.  The Philly example has ties at the tips, but in this portrait I think she has overlapped the ends and pinned them.  I do think this one is made in 3 pieces, so it has shape and gathers that this cap doesn’t have. I can’t find a portrait of a cap that seems to be made of only 2 flat pieces.

The Reproduction

The pattern was easy because the cap lies almost completely flat.  The only question I had was whether to dip in the nape or cut it straight and let the gather string make that curve. I opted to cut in the curve.

IMG_20160527_182728043
Saines repro of Philly 87.35.825.

I had a problem with this one that I’ve had with others: when I whip an edge, then whip the whipped edged together, I end up with dinosaur humps. See how it makes a Stegosaurus back? That join is stiff and inflexible, too.  Someone suggested it was because I was stretching the cloth as I worked, and to run a

line of stitching up the edge before whipping it. I’ll try that next time.

I also forgot the strings at the ends.

I think this cap has an especial simple beauty.  It’s unique and intriguing and elegant.

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern:  philly 87.35.825

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.

Other Related Scholarship

This cap does not appear in the museum’s online catalog.

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