Tuesday, August 7, 2012

St Birgitta's Cap -- a seriously rambling post

Okay okay, finally a post showing something I've made. Thank you for your patience as I go on about faires and whatnot.

Here's where I started: Neulakko does it up right, very nice things. I was looking for directions on how to wrap/pin/wear a wimple and veil, and she makes it all very elegant and easy. Allright, I thought, I can do that. All I need are the pieces.

I have two very fine lightweight linen tablecloths. I need to make a new smock from one of them, and the other can be used for headgear, stockings, and suchlike. I used one whole day's worth of sewing time to determine which one I was going to make the smock from.

One tablecloth is very plain. In fact, I discovered while ironing it that it very likely isn't a tablecloth at all, but a true bedlinen -- a sheet! It had a wide hem at one edge and narrow hems on all the rest, and there's no channel for a rod, so it's not a curtain panel. It looks like someone -- perhaps another reenactor?-- wanted sheets of linen instead of the widely-available cotton or blends. Who knows. But it's about the size for a double bed, so there's a lot of nice fabric there that I can plunder for my new smock.

The other tablecloth has a design worked into it with embroidery and pulled threads.

Solid white is hard to get a good pic of, but I hope you can see the details.

I went round and round trying to figure out how to cut out my pattern pieces without wasting fabric, while saving as much of the embroidery as I could and placing it strategically on the bust, hemline, and sleeves.

Hold on, Wenny, I can hear you saying. This post is titled St Birgitta's Cap. Why are you going on about these tablecloths and your smock plans?

I'm getting there! Don't you see? Whichever one I make the smock from, the other one is for my cap, wimple, and veil!

So like I said, I was going round and round -- rather like this post-- and I finally decided that I'd use the embroidered one for the smock, and if it didn't work out, then I'd like to have the other plain one to fall back on. It's not like I have time on the evening before the faire to whip up a cap, wimple and veil (and braids!) much less a new smock, and doggone it, there's nothing wrong with the coif I made a year ago so I'll just wear that. Heck, it's going to be so hot, and there's no shade there, I should just wear my straw hat and call it good. ...But the hat won't look right without my hair out of the way tucked under a cap first.

I decided I'd make the cap. I even found scraps of linen from when I made my first smock that were the perfect size for a cap. I spent about an hour scouring the internet for a pattern -- not because it's a tricky shape to figure out, but because I was unsure of dimensions. A lot of the sites I looked at were across the seas in Finland or Denmark and Google Translate helps, but technical instructions become somewhat muddled. Finally I just winged it, and it came out pretty close to perfect.

I know, I know. Blue bias tape. Not exactly period, right? Well, at eleven o'clock at night, I had no time to cut strips from my scraps of  matching linen, stitch them together to get a piece long enough, and press and stitch that. I used the bias tape knowing that no one at a ren faire would call me on it, as they'd all be too busy being pirates and wenches. And once I tried it on, you know, it's really kinda pretty. I had read (and of course I can't find it now!) that colored woven bands were sometimes used, so I think that when I make my next cap, I'll try that.  Next cap? Yes. Because the shape on this one was a little off, and was pouchy at the back of my head instead of down at the nape of my neck. Practice, y'see. Once I get it right, I'll post the pattern for y'all.

In the picture, my hair is in two braids looped up and pinned to the top of my head. My long, fine hair was not substantial enough to fill out the back of the cap, so I cheated and added a skein of brown wool. It can't be seen, and adds a nice plumpness.

Okay, now I have to go to work. I think I'll talk a bit about my Big Project in the next post, so stay tuned for that!


  1. My grandmother has sheets from Europe (France) in the 40's/50's that are made of the most beautiful linen. It was actually very common and as that generation is passing away, the sheets are ending up in 2nd hand shops because modern folks are foolish. Bless their hearts :)

  2. Whenever I read the phrase "crisp clean linen sheets" in old books, I always get a faraway feeling of longing in my brain. I'll have to get my hands on some (or make some!) so I can enjoy a vintage night's rest!

  3. I love the bias tape on your cap; it makes the utilitarian quite stylish & who knows but some bored young lady didn't do exactly that, once upon a time. I'd wear it with my daily jeans-shirt-apron-boots outfit in winter, happily! Regarding linen, fine source is www.fabrics-store.com; a lot of their posters make their own bed linens: easily done & far less costly than store-bought (fab-store linens are 57inches wide). Definitely worth checking out; use the code 'ilovelinen' for a 5% discount or check their daily sale or doggie bag for discounts (yep, I'm a linen addict...). Regards!

  4. I wonder if we couldn't start a trend. All we needs is for Jennifer Lawrence or somebody to wear a linen cap on some talk show and BAM -- everyone would want one.