Tuesday, January 30, 2024

“Another Cap” The Workwoman’s Guide, Plate 9, Fig 27 & 28 (Tutorial)


One of my favorite 'go-to' books for period sewing is "The Workwoman's Guide" published in 1838. It's chock full of wonderful things used and worn in daily life during the first quarter of the 19th century. I jokingly refer to it as "The Bible of Federal sewing". Every time I peruse it, I find something new that I didn't see before. If you don't already own a copy, it's well worth the investment. It's also available for free through Google Books.

In November, I taught a daycap workshop at the 1820 Col. Benjamin Stephenson House where I offered instruction and patterns for three daycaps from this book. All three can be found in historical illustrations and paintings throughout the early 1800s. Their shapes are not typically seen among reenactors and that's partly why I chose them...plus they are pretty darn cute too. 

The three caps from "The Workwoman's Guide" offered at my workshop in November 2023.

The first of the three caps I drafted for the workshop is referred to in the book as simply "Another Cap". It turned out absolutely darling. Of the three caps, it was a bit more frilly and fussy looking than the others, earning it the nickname during the workshop of 'Aunt Pittypat'. Those who've seen "Gone with the Wind" will recognize the name and hopefully understand why after seeing the finished cap. It may look more detailed than the other two caps but it was by no means difficult to put together. 

Can't you just see Aunt Pittypat wearing this scrumptious cap?

The original illustrations and instructions provided all the information a seamstress needed to put this cap together. Both may seem rather vague to us but it was accepted at that time that most ladies had general sewing skills already without the need to spell everything out in exacting detail. This was a guideline for someone to use to either create the cap as illustrated or change it to suit their particular tastes, style, and size. Measurements are in 'Nails' rather than inches but the book offers detailed information on how to measure using Nails on page 14. To make drafting these patterns easier, I made a ruler with the Nails already marked out. For reference, a Nail is 2 1/4".

So, without further ado, what follows is a simple tutorial to recreate "Another Cap". 

Original illustration and instructions from "The Workwoman's Guide"

I would suggest making a mock-up in a cheap fabric to get the fit worked out for your head. You may need longer or wider sides or a fuller crown. Put your hair up as it will be while wearing the cap to ensure the final draft fits properly. 

It's best to use a white or off-white, lighter-weight fabric (linen or cotton) for this cap (or any daycap, for that matter). It will make construction easier and be historically correct.  If you follow the drafting measurements/instructions in the book correctly, the final pattern should look very similar to the one below. For reference, I included the number of Nails for each section except the curve on the crown which didn't have a specific measurement.

The pattern needs to be cut on the fold which is located on the long side of the crown back (see photo below). 

1. Once your pattern is cut out on the fold, the first seam is on the top of the caul between points A & B. Offset the cut edges A-B by 1/8"-1/4". Sew a flat-felled seam as narrow as you are comfortable sewing (mine was 1/8").

Step 1. Offset cut edges of the caul.

Step 1. Beginning the flat-felled seam.

Step 1. Sewing the flat-felled seam.

2. Open the fold section on the crown and run a small gathering stitch around the curve from C to E to C. Mark center point E.

Step 2. The gathering stitch runs along the curved edge of the crown from point C to E to C.

3. Match center point B (on caul) to center point E (on crown), pull the gathering stitch made in Step 2, and distribute the gathers evenly. Pin caul to crown between points C. Sew a ¼” seam through all layers, securing the gathers to caul with a small backstitch. Overcast the cut seam edge. Press the finished seam toward the caul.

Step 3. Caul and crown pinned together matching center points B & E and points C.

Step 3. Small seam allowance between point C, with cut edges finished with a whip-stitch to keep them from fraying.

Step 3. Seam pressed toward caul.

4. Sew a narrow hem along the front edge of the caul. This can be done either by turning the cut edge in 1/4" then folding that turn in half to enclose the cut edge (as in the photo below) OR by folding the cut edge 1/8" then another 1/8" to enclose the seam. Use a small whip-stitch to finish the seam.

Step 4. Preparing the front edge of the caul for hemming.

 5. Mark the center of the lower crown neck edge. 

         Using a whip-stitch, sew a narrow casing along the entire length of the crown's neck edge for a small ribbon or cord to draw the neck edge up. Leave about 1/4”-1/2” open at the center back for the ribbon to come through and tie inside the cap.

        ALTERNATE EDGE FINISH: Another very period-appropriate neck edge finish is to run a small gathering stitch along the bottom edge, draw it up to fit your head then stitch the gathers in place with a narrow hem. This eliminates the need for a channel or drawstring at the back. Many extant day caps have this type of finish.


Step 5. Sew a narrow casing along the neck edge of the crown for a drawstring. Be sure to leave 1/4"-1/2" open at the center back edge for the string to pull through.

6. Run a thin cord or ribbon through the neck casing, leaving about 1" handing out of each side of the casing. Be sure to pull some of the cord through the center back opening to use to tie it up while wearing (not pictured). If using a cord, tie a knot at each end on the cheek side. Gently tug the cord to set the knot in the seam. Secure the knot with a few small stitches.

Step 6. Tie a knot into the 1" piece left on each side. There should be one on the left and one on the right of the neck edge casing.

Step 6. Pull the knot gently to set it in the corner of the casing and front edge.

Step 6. Tack the knot in place to keep the cord from pulling out when tied at the center back.

7. Cut a strip of fabric 1"- 2" wide by 72" long to make a ruffle that will be sewn to the front and neck edges. You can make it narrower or wider. Depending on the width of your fabric, you may need to piece the ruffle to get 72" length.  

Sew a narrow-rolled hem on both long edges. 

Step 7. Sew a narrow rolled hem along both long sides of the ruffle piece. 

 If you need to piece the ruffle to make it long enough there are two ways to do it:

A. Join two of the short ends together using a narrow flat-felled seam (like that sewn between points A & B in Step 1).

B. DEMONSTRATED BELOW. Finish each short end with a narrow hem. With right-side together, line up the hemmed edges and catching the very edge of the fold, whip stitch the two pieces together. Do not pull the stitches too tight because they will be opened up so the two edges are butted together.

Hemmed edges of two ruffle pieces with right sides together.

Whip-stitch the tops together only catching a few threads on each edge. Pull the thread snugly but not tight.

Whip-stitching complete.

Open the seam so the two pieces are butted together.

    8. Fold the ruffle into quarters and mark each quarter either with a pin or disappearing fabric marker. 

Step 8. The completed 72" ruffle folded into quarters.

9. Gather and attach the ruffle to the cap. I find it easier to do the ruffle attachment one-quarter section at a time (hence marking the ruffle into quarters in Step 8). Be sure to use a sturdy thread for this step. 

Sew a whipped gathering stitch over one long edge of a quarter section of ruffle. You will be sewing this over the already completely rolled hem. Keep your whipped-gathering stitches spaced 1/8"-1/4" apart.  Gather to fit one-quarter section of the cap. Pin in place. Sew the ruffle to the cap. Repeat until all quarters are attached to the cap. Be careful when attaching to the neck edge not to catch the drawstring.

Note: for detailed instructions on the stitches used here, please reference “The Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing” and “The Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing II” by A Lady (Kannik’s Korner). Both booklets are available for purchase in the 1820 Col. Benjamin Stephenson House's online museum shop.

Step 9. Whip-gathering stitches are being sewn over the completed roll hem edge of the ruffle. When these stitches are pulled tight, they create the ruffle.

Step 9. Whip-stiches gathered tight.

Step 9. One-quarter section of the ruffle has been gathered to fit one-quarter of the cap, then pin in place.

Step 9. Sewing the ruffle to the cap.  You will be running your needle under the loop of the gather (aka 'hill') from back to front (as seen above) then picking up the top edge of the hem on the cap. Your thread should naturally lay in the 'valley' between the 'hills' on the ruffle. Pull the thread snugly but not tight. 

For an excellent description of how to sew a whipped gather (ruffle) to a hemmed piece (cap), refer to “The Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing” by A Lady (Kannik’s Korner), page 22.

10. Once the ruffle is secured to the cap, fold it out away from the body.

11.  Attach chin ties. Cut two ¾” x 14” strips (of the same fabric used for the cap) to create chin straps. Roll hem both long edges and one short edge. Gather the unfinished edge and sew to the corner of each side.

Chin straps are sewn to each cheek corner of the cap.

The cap is complete. The original instructions suggest adding either a colorful ribbon or one made from the same fabric at point B. I chose to use leftover fabric to create a simple ribbon (see the last photo) and it was an absolutely charming detail.

 Thanks for reading. Happy Sewing!

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