15th Century Tailed Cap (aka: Flemish Kerchief)

Inspirational Pictures

Detail: L'Annonce aux bergers. Danse champêtre.Heures de Charles d'Angoulême, Folio 20V. French, late 15th century.

Detail:1470 Dancing Peasants
Detail: Illustration of mining by Robinet Testard, late 15th century
Detail: 1490 Hommes et femmes fanant et fauchant, Livre d-Heures de Charles d-Angouleme par Testard, Paris BNF

What I see:
White, probably linen, head thingy which appears to wrap around the back of the head and then ties (possibly a square knot) on the top of the head. The front has a flap which can either be forward or folded back.

The cap kind of looks like a St. Birgitta cap with an abreviated loop and a bill (the flappy bit the folds back). That said.. the ties are wide where they attach to the cap and then narrow as they get to the ends where they tie. I’m not sure how/where those would attach to the cap if the pattern was based off of the one I use to make the St. Birgitta coif.

It also kind of looks like a early form of a bonnet.

How have others reproduce it?
Heather’s Page: Flemish Kerchief
This method is missing the knot on top of the head. I like the look for some of the later Flemish paintings.. but this method doesn’t work for me for this project.

The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant has a pattern. I’m not satisfied with the pattern. It seems fantastically wasteful of fabric and frankly I’m annoyed by the lack of measurements on the pattern.

Racaire’s embroidery & needlework: Smurf Hood (Schlumpf Kopfbedeckung) episode II – I love the look of this one. It looks like a simple modification of the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant pattern. This eliminates the odd bias-cut bit and adds an interesting pleating to the back. But it has some odd seams that I don’t see in the images.. and although the pleating is interesting.. it’s another thing I don’t see in the inspiration images.

How I did it

My (updated) pattern for a two-tailed cap.
My (updated) pattern for a two-tailed cap.

Obviously the picture is not to scale. Use the measurements. The “cap” is 11″x11″ with an additional 5″ on the front for the “folded back bill” part of the hat.. and the tails are essential 10″ wide where they attach to the hat.. and 20″ 16″ long cut to be a triangle with the straight edge along the back of the cap.

– Add a rolled hem to all of the edges (marked in red) except the face edge.
– Fold/iron a 1/4″ of the fabric towards the inside of the cap at the face edge of the cap.
– Fold/iron the face edge towards the inside of the cap creating a bill of about 2- 2 1/2 inches. The fold should line up with where the tail curve begins. Stitch this down. (I used a running stitch).

I’m trying it out with just tucking the back.. I played with the hat for a while.. at the current size I just couldnt’ get the back to “tuck” in and hide my hair. I could make it larger.. or use pins.. but I think I’m going to go ahead and upgrade this to use a “direct smocking” fixed pleat like Racaire used.

– So last step the recreate, gather the back of the hat (~20 13 inches or so)(marked in light blue on my pattern) with 1/2 inch gathering pleat an then affix this with some kind of stitching (smocking, embroidery, whatever). I did two lines of white-on-white stemstitch pleatwork embroidery (as described here) across the tops of the pleats.

My cap cut out, pinned and ready for the last seam.

Closeup of the smocking used on the back

From the right
From the back
Left side
From the front

Other Resources:
Medieval Threads: Flemmish kercheif/coif/head thingie

A Medieval Wardrobe: 15th century Tailed Cap
Nice looking hat here.. but not a lot of info about how she made it.

Sevenstarwheel: Late 15th Century White Hood or Coif – Transition Period / War of the Roses
I don’t understand how her pattern works. I think I need to just make one out of fabric and try it out.

Other Relevant Entries

Waisted Kirtles
Black Waisted kirtle
Crimson Waisted kirtle
Cobalt Waisted kirtle

{Edited to add: Recently I taught a class about constructing this hat and I found that my measurements in the picture were incorrect. I have now corrected those measurements in the picture and the text of this entry. Sorry to everyone who used the incorrect measurements. On the plus side this means that this can now be made from about 1/2 a yard of 58″ wide fabric.}

10 thoughts on “15th Century Tailed Cap (aka: Flemish Kerchief)

  1. I was wondering if you crossed the tails in the back or wrap them from the side they’re on? The first and third image seem to indicate just pulling them forward from the side they’re on, while the second and forth image appear to be crossed in the back before tied.

  2. Yeah, I noticed that too. My idea is to cross them over in the back in the same way I cross the loop for the St. Birgitta Cap.

    Check out Racaire’s images. Especially this one.

    I believe, if I’m seeing correctly that she has the tails cross on the back of her neck. The tail on top appears to make ..almost a corkscrew.. while the under tail would look kind of cut off. I think this is consistent with the inspiration images.

  3. Euh… I simply used a rectangular piece of linen 70x100cm (or 27.5×40 inches). You put the short end around your face and then wrap the rest on the back as you would do for a North African headwrap. Then you pull the two ends back up to the top of the head and tie them up.
    After all, these hair pieces were based on… towels (touaille, in French). They were then unlikely to have had loose ends, ties or anything else.

    1. Interesting. Does the outline match the images above?

      Since the Huvet (St. Birgitta cap) was so much earlier and it has a pattern and loops I can conceive of this cap being something tailored or a flat piece of fabric.

      Regardless, I’d be interested to see pictures of your interpretation.

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