Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Back in the saddle, baby!

So were you wondering what happened to that whole Sew Fortnightly Challenge? Yeaaaaaaah. Let's take a page from The Bloggess and pretend that didn't happen, okay? Maybe I'll catch up, maybe I won't but I'm here now and I have a tutorial to share, awesomesauce, yes?

This would be my first real, live tutorial so try not to laugh too hard if it's sucks. Also feel free to ask questions in the comments if it sucks so hard you can't tell what I'm talking about. Please and thank you.

Now maybe you're curious why I decided to make a morning cap . . . although I suppose I should start with the definition of a morning cap. In short, it's the flouffy thing (which is totally a word) that women of various eras wore on their heads to protect their hair from dirt, sometimes denote marital status, and usually drop hints to the personality, social status, and income of the wearer. If you were say, a farmer's wife out in the country, your morning cap would be a simple affair likely made of linen or cotton. It would need to hold up to frequent washings and you wouldn't want it to get in the way of keeping your home or wrangling your passel of children.

But if you are a silly woman, far more concerned with laying about and feeding your passel of overindulged yorkies scraps from the table or flapping about trying to marry off your passel of pretty but penniless daughters, you might done something far daintier.

Personally, I wanted something towards the mid range, something pretty and dainty but fairly simple and easy care. So I modeled my morning cap after the obnoxiously snobbish Mrs. Norris from the version of Mansfield Park.

Because I am a cheap heifer who already has more patterns than I need, I thought I could find a tutorial to help. Unfortunately, I found a lot of morning caps but precious few instructions, just suggestions for a few different patterns to try. I did find an excellent starting point however, in Sarah Jane's Regency inspired Classic Cap. There was no ruffle and it seemed quite a bit smaller than I wanted but the overall shape was on target. I printed out the crown, fudged a new brim and gave it a go with an old sheet and a basting stitch. Here was the first result.

Very cute, if I do say so myself but much too tiny and too renaissance for a regency impression. I fiddled a bit more by enlarging the crown, and working out the back closure part. My second effort was much more promising and pretty close to my end goal.

Before you can make your bonnet, you'll need to make your pattern and you'll need Sarah Jane's crown piece to help. First, measure the crown of your head ear to ear, about where you want the bottom of your cap to hit. I went for just behind the curve of my ears which was about 18 inches. I added an inch to account for the seam allowances and then cut a strip of fabric 19 x 3.5 inches. Now I wanted my cap to have a bit of a curve around the ears so I laid the strip in half and used my french curve mark what I hoped would be an elegant little swoop, reducing the ends to just about 2 inches.

This is your brim piece. Go ahead and cut two, press them very well.

To make the ruffle, you'll need to measure along the rounded edge of your brim. For the look I achieved, you'll want to multiply that number by 1.5 and add another inch for the seam allowance. Curving the brim will extend the length so don't just use the 19 inches you tore previously. I can't remember what my number was but we'll say 21. So 21 x 1.5 - 1 = 32.5. I wanted my finished ruffle to be about two inches deep so I added half an inch to that number to accommodate the seam allowance on the crown edge and then another quarter of an inch to accommodate the bit I'd lost in joining the lace to the ruffle. That left me with a ruffle piece 32 1/2 in long and 2 3/4 wide. Press with a bit of starch and set aside.

Next comes the cap. Take Sarah Jane's crown piece and lay it on the fold where indicated and lay the remaining flat side against the selvage if possible. If you don't have a selvage edge, you'll want to set the piece back about 3/8inch from the cut side so that you have enough to fold over to make a nice, finished edge. Her crown piece was much too small so I set the pieces back even further from both the fold and the selvage/cut edge to give myself more fullness, a full four and a half inches back from the fold and 2 and 5/8ths back from the selvage/cut edge. If your hair is a decent length, you'll want to add even more fullness to accommodate a regency top knot.

You'll want to round out your edges, as you can see at the bottom and the top left of my picture to give you a nice rounded point. Then you'll want to cut out a little square notch to accommodate your drawstring. As I'm using 1/4 inch ribbon, I'll need to create a channel to fit. I cut a 5/8 of an inch out of mine.

Give everything one last press, working out all the creases. Now you're ready to begin.

To make a basic cap, you'll need about 1/3 of a yard of fabric and half a yard of 1/4in ribbon. I used a swiss dot which is wonderfully lightweight and a touch fancier than a plain weave and a poly-satin ribbon. The swiss dot is from  Hancock's and the ribbon from Farmhouse Fabrics. I also used about a yard of narrow ribbon along the edge of my ruffle as well as about a yard of one inch wide poly satin ribbon on top. Of course, you can add different bits of this and that to your bonnet as you see fit.

We'll start with the ruffle first. To attach the lace, you're going to use a very narrow zig zag stitch. I set my stitch width to 2.5mm and my length to 1.0. Pin the lace onto the right side of the fabric, about four threads from the edge. Then slowly stitch so that the zig is on the lace and the zag is just off the fabric. As you sew, the bit of fabric left will fold over the tiny lace edge. 

You'll be left with some whispies but those are easily trimmed. Press your lace edge outwards, your tiny seam towards the fabric.

Fold over your short ends twice, enclosing the raw edges and sew a narrow hem on either side of your ruffle.

Leaving the threads long, put in two rows of basting stitches on the free edge and gather the ruffle up to fit the rounded edge of one of your brim pieces with each edge stopping about half an inch short of the brim edges.

Lay your second brim piece on top, wrong sides together, sandwiching the ruffles between the two brim pieces. Starting at the short end of your brim, stitch, keeping the ruffle free before turning the corner and stitching the ruffle to the curved edge.

Trim your corners and turn your ruffle out, pressing everything neatly.

Before you're ready to attach the crown, you'll need to fold up the straight edge of the crown and create a channel for your drawstring. To do that (and I apologize for not snapping a picture) you'll need to fold over that notched edge and sew two lines of stitching about wide enough to accommodate your ribbon. If you didn't use a selvage edge, you'll need to first fold over your fabric about 3/8ths of an inch and press. Here's a picture of kind of give you an idea if what I've said makes no sense.

Sew two rows of basting stitches in the crown. We're going to do a French seam here to neatly enclose all your edges so you'll need gather the crown of your cap and pin it wrong sides together to brim's straight edge. You'll want to have more fullness at the center of the brim than the sides to avoid the deflated look you see in my early muslins. 

Trim your raw edge to an quarter of an inch. I know it's close and I know it's painful but you can do it. Turn the seam over and sew with a half inch seam, enclosing the tiny raw edge.

I used a 7 yarn darner needle to thread my ribbon through the channel but you could use a bodkin or a very narrow safety pin. Draw up and tie in a bow. Tie the wider ribbon about the brim of your new creation.

And that's it. You now have a cute little morning cap to keep your curls and ribbons in place and frame your face prettily should the that aloof gentleman up the hill stop by for a visit.

I think I'll be gifting this one to pinky as, I never though I would say this, but I think I could use a bit more fullness in my ruffle. 

Here's Jane Austen in her quite ruffly morning cap and chemisette.

And now for the Sew Fortnightly recap:

The Challenge: Peasants and Pioneers 

Fabric: cotton swiss dot

Pattern: self drafted

Year: appx 1810ish

Notions: 50 wt DMC broder thread, 60 needle, half a yard of 1/4 inch ribbon, a yard of one inch ribbon, one yard of narrow lace

How historically accurate is it? It matches up pretty well with the different examples I've seen hither and yon but I can't vouch for the fabric content of the lace. It came from walmart and it has a wee but of a shine to it so I'm going to assume poly or nylon blend of some sort.

Hours to complete: about two hours total

First worn: Aside from prancing about the house, not yet

Total cost: about $5


  1. Beautiful. Your lace is a very nice impression of bobbin lace from the period.
    A little of constructive criticism; the brim (as far as any extant pieces and cutting/stitching instructions from period manuals) was single layer, not doubled. Each piece would be narrowly hemmed and then the pieces whipped together. See: 'The Lady's Economical Assistant or, The Art of Cutting Out, and Making, The most useful Articles of Wearing Apparel, Without waste; Explained by the Clearest directions, and Numerous Engravings, of Appropriate and Tasteful Patterns,' by A Lady, 1808, and 'The Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing
    Books I & II.'

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I always love hearing more about things were made at the time and it can be so hard to know where to look. I'll see if I can dig up those references.

  2. I really love the material! I have seen extant Regency caps (for children) that look fairly similar. You have inspired me to make one... specially since I have a passel of children! :)