Winterthur “Wedding Cap” — Or is it? Wint #1955.003.013, 1760

I was so excited to discover this cap, and see the photographs.  It has provenence, it is beautifully made, its style is interesting and unique.  At Winterthur, the research assistant walked me through many layers of security, locked doors, hidden entrances, to bring me to a workroom with this cap laid out under a cloth.  It felt like the big reveal when we pealed back the cloth, and I couldn’t help myself, I cried out, “This is a child’s cap!”  It is so small and perfect and jewel-like. So, like the Boston MFA cap, the query here became: could it really be, as the record asserts, an adult wedding cap?

This cap is at Winterthur Museum, # 1955.003.013.  Their online catalog includes a photo and description.

The Original

Wint 1955.0003.013 cap
Winterthur Museum record photo. Used with Permission.

3″ by 5″ is a very small caul.  The lappet is only 8 1/2 ” at its tip.  The “ruffle,” which isn’t gathered at all, averages 5/8 wide.  So all the dimensions are small.

The needle work is incredible.  Each edge is whipped, then whipped again to join it to its neighbor, creating a little raised edge inside. But what you see on the outside is just 25 perfectly even tiny stitches per inch.  The entire  finished join measures less than 1/16″ across.  The outside edges are rolled, not whipped, to finish.

The caul is pieced up the back, and has a 1/8″ casing along the bottom, but no exit holes for gathering strings.  The only gather is along the top 5″ of the caul, a perfect miniature rolled gather.

The shape of the lappet headpiece and the unruffled ruffle is unique among the examples I’ve seen.  The headpiece is cut on the grain, but curved under the ear, ever so slightly. The ruffle is shaped like a bread knife, with the slightly wider part at the ends.  Joined, these two pieces make a round end, with the join going right up the middle.

Winterthur dates this cap with provenence because it came as part of the collection of needlework made by Mary Alsop (1740-1829), with a note pinned to it, “My Mother’s wedding Cap.”  As Mrs. Alsop was married on April 27, 1760, that is the date given the cap.  (All this is on the long record of the item.) You can see more of her needlework  in the online catalog.

The cloth shines like silk, but it is cotton.  The cloth is beginning to wear away; several mended places are visible.

 

My study photo. I didn’t get any good detail photos.

Questions that remain

Is it an adult cap?  I noticed when I went back to the record to write this post, that its description is changed now to “child’s cap.”  (And then changed back!) It is true that many items that come to us with provenance end up, upon close examination, to be falsely attributed.  So maybe her family did not know which cap was really her wedding cap.  I’ve also seen in museum records, conflicting accounts by various visiting experts about the date or story for an item.  I love that the curators carefully attach all these to the item for the next person to discover, a story gathering over time, perhaps with a conclusion, perhaps not.

I’m leaning toward calling this an adult cap. Here are my reasons:

First, I put my reproduction on the head of Newbold Richardson, (Newbie) who claims she has the “smallest head in the world.”  It fits her.  True, Newbie has short hair, so there isn’t any bulk under the cap.  Also, as I note below, my version is a little off, but not substantially, I think, for fitting purposes.

modern women in repro 18th c cap: it fits!
Newbie models Wint 1955.0003.013 at CSA 2016.

Second, unlike, for example, Boston MFA #49.366, which has gathering strings that will make that cap even smaller when worn, this cap shows no sign of gathers.  The normal method of sizing by gathering the caul is not being used.  This would sit on her head in just this shape, exactly fit for the purpose.  And, as Newbie shows us, it is rather nice looking laying simply on her head.  It could be worn higher, on dressed hair, with ribbons and flowers, and still look fitted and appropriate.

Portraits

No portraits.  No examples.  I’ve never seen this shape anywhere else.  Have you?  I’ve been looking at baby caps in museums (of which there are hundreds!),  websites and books about baby garb, portraits of women and children, both 18th and 19th C sources. I don’t see anything anywhere like this.  Which doesn’t help, does it?  If something is unique — Mary’s one-of-a-kind self-designed custom-fit not-really-fashionable wedding cap — it leaves us at a loss to place it, prove it, or dispute it.

The Reproduction

Saines repro of Wint 1955.0003.013.

As with many caps, one challenge here was reproducing exact 25-stitches-per-inch perfection.  I used silk organza to mimic the shiny look of the original.  The fineness of that cloth, with silk thread, made it possible to achieve those minute edges.

I had some trouble with the shape, especially in the lappet.  Mine ended up pointy rather than rounded.  And the curves suffer from stretching. I pulled so hard on the cloth to make those tiny rolled edges that some look riffly when they should lie flat. I think I would enlarge the pattern pieces of both the caul and the ruffle to allow more room to work.

 

 

My Notes

Click here for notes and pattern: wint 1955.0003.013

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.

Museum record photos by Winterthur Museum.

Other photos by the author. Thanks for permission from Newbie to show her modelling this cap.

Other Related Scholarship

The museum record notes this article, but I have not been able to get hold of it to read it:

Krueger, Glee. “A Middletown Cameo: Mary Wright Alsop and Her Needlework.”. Connecticut Historical Society Museum & Library Vol. 52, No.3-4 Summer/Fall 1987

Mary Alsop’s work was part of the museums’ 2009 exhibit, Who’s Your Daddy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.