Cap Conundrums – Making a Regency cap

As it will be April soon, it is almost time for HSF challenge #7 “Tops and Toes”. For me, this means making my first Regency-era cap. It will be the “Cap à la Russe” I already wrote some about in January. In the meanwhile, I had little trawl through the online archives and found the original fashion plate I used at the library. It really is stunningly beautiful:

Fashion plate of the cap “à la Russe” (Ackermann’s Repository, 1813).

On Saturday, I started working on the pattern and, well, ran into a few, not so unexpected, surprises.  Originally, I was going to use this cap from the “Workwoman’s Guide” as a starting point for my pattern:

Cap pattern from the “Workwoman’s Guide”.

After patterning the cap, I cut out a toile, only to find that it was a whole bit too small for my noggin. Of course, this little problem was not really new to me; I already ran into it when making my Elizabethan coif last year. So, like last time, I grumbled a little and devised a plan B: drafting my own. Inspired by Jenni’s simple Regency cap, I started out with a semi-circular pattern.

For this, I puzzled out where I wanted the front edge of the cap’s head-piece to sit. As the cap will have a rather wide brim later, I decided to end it pretty much in the center of my head, about where the middle of the ears is. From the center point, I measured around my head, going around the base of my skull. I came out with a remarkable 56 cm (22 inches). To get the cap’s length, I then measured from the same point, straight down to the nape of my neck. This measure was 30 cm (12 inches). The pattern I got, using these two lengths looked like this:

Instead of drawing out the whole thing, I only drew half of it, on a piece of brown paper which was 30 cm (12 inches) long and 28 cm (11 inches) wide. Placing it on the fold of my scrap fabric, I cut out another toile, then basted the rounded back seam together. With the toile on my head, I had another look at the fashion plate and marked out the sections in need of trimming.

After playing around a little, I took off a few more centimeters at the front and cut the side line somewhat asymmetrically, so the head-piece was still right on top of my head, with the ears free on the opposite sides. Considering how a “Russian” cap was tied right where the brim and head-piece meet, I narrowed down the toile’s front section a bit, to comfortably hold a wide ribbon, without it getting entangled with the brim. When I was done, the toile looked somewhat funny. The brown paper piece on the right shows you what it looked like before I put the scissors to it:

The toile, before and after alterations.

Next, I measured from the center of my head, down to the top of my forehead, where I wanted the cap’s brim to end. This way, I found that the brim should be about 20 cm (8 inches) long and about as wide as the widest part of the head-piece, namely the 56 cm I measured earlier. To get the width and shape of the brim’s top end, I placed half the toile on a sheet of paper and traced along the front edge like so:

Patterning the brim.

At this point, I had a workable pattern for my cap “à la Russe”. Despite my previous hassle with historical caps, it was actually pretty easy. To make up the cap, I cut out two brims and two head pieces (one shell and one lining) from the muslin I had left over from my Regency underthings. Right now, one of them sits in my big embroidery hoop, getting pampered with some decorative period white-work.

At first, I was a little hesitant to line the cap as, normally, simple Regency cotton caps were unlined. But then, I find embroidery thread poking into my hair-do somewhat irritating. After a very helpful exchange with some of the awesome folks in the HSF’s facebook group, I decided to go for it and add a bag lining, to cover up all these poky little threads. On top of that, it will also save me the hassle of finishing the curvy back seam. Yay. =)

Now I only have to get ahead of all the embroidery before the deadline on April 15th. Once that has progressed a little, I will treat you all to a, long overdue, post about 19th-century white-work.

See you all then,




2 thoughts on “Cap Conundrums – Making a Regency cap

    • Nessa says:

      Thank you, Abigael. :) I am much looking forward to seeing yours finished, too. As far as mine goes, the embroidery is just finished and I can start sewing now. It’s all one big experiment for me, too. So, crossing fingers for both our caps here. ;)


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