It’s always a good feeling to finish the year and a sewing project at the same time. This time I finished the 1780s cap from the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking just as 2017 closed.
I was sitting on my couch sewing on the bow and watching bonnet movies as the year ticked over, because that’s how I party!
As far as I know, I’m the first person to have made the 1780s cap, which means I had the dubious distinction of discovering the typo where it says to cut one piece instead of two for the both the ruffles.
I should have figured out the typo on my own. Two makes so much sense! But I was pattern testing for Scroop Patterns at the same time. The cap was my ‘down’ time from pattern testing, but my brain was 100% in pattern testing mode. That means I turn off independent thought and logic and follow what a pattern says exactly. And I really wanted to do the patterns as AD gave them, rather than muddying the waters with what I know about 18th c sewing.
So I got completely flummoxed when things didn’t match up. Luckily American Duchess has the best customer service, so when I left a note asking what I was doing wrong I got an answer within 20 minutes.
Fixing the problem did take a wee bit of unpicking. I was also gutted to realise I had to hem yet more ruffle pieces (so much hemming), but it didn’t take me long to get back on track.
Ironically, I’d picked the 1780s cap to start with because it looked like it had less pieces to hem, with only 1 each of the ruffles. Ah well, that means the 1770s one will be easier!
With the right pattern pieces, the instructions in the book are totally followable. If you take care and follow them properly you’ll end up with a gorgeous cap. I’m thrilled with the end result. I’m also hooked on cap making. So useful! So nice and small, so you can always have a few pieces of one with you to sew!
I do have SO many questions though.
Not ‘I’ve tried and tried, but the instructions are totally confusing me, can you clarify X” questions. I think those are fair to ask the authors (once you’ve made a VERY good effort of looking for the info elsewhere and seeing if they have blogged about it! 😉 ). More like: “X stitch is used here, but are there any examples with Y stitch?” The kind of questions you could ask in a class. The book has provided just enough information to whet my appetite! If I ever get a chance to take a Burnley & Trowbridge workshop (a girl can dream) I am SO there!
So the book is great, but no substitute for a class, and getting to pick the brains of an expert.
I do wish the book spent a little more time telling you how to put the cap on, and explaining how the drawstring works / helps the fit. These do seem a bit trickier than putting an apron on, or making a neck ruffle, both of which are explained in detail.
I really enjoyed making it, but man this cap was A LOT of work. So much tiny, tiny handsewing. I’m now looking at the caps in Virgil’s Fine Goods and thinking that the prices are EXTREMELY reasonable for the work!
To finish my cap, I looked at lots and lots of images of caps in 1770s & 1780s paintings and fashion plates. In almost all examples the ribbon on the cap either matches the ribbons on the garment, or is white.
I didn’t have suitable silk ribbon in either colour.
So I made my own:
This lovely silk-cotton with satin stripes has been in my stash for ages. Striped ribbons are shown in lots of 18th c paintings. To make mine, I just finished the edges with a very narrow sewing machine zig-zag stitch. I am 100% ok with that as a historical compromise. It’s so difficult to find modern silk ribbon that matches the hand of period examples. In my mind a length of ribbon with the right hand is a length of ribbon with the right hand. Doesn’t matter if the edges were woven in or finished by your truly.
The Finished 1780s Cap:
I celebrated my new 1780s cap by taking photos with it and my yellow silk pet-en-l’aire.
I’m still working on getting 18th century hair right, but Mr D & I had lots of fun taking the photos, even if they don’t look perfect. (also, I’ve gotten a wee bit bigger since making the pet, and Mr D is not very good at lacing me into my stays properly, so the pet is SNUG)
I wore the outfit with a newly made neckerchief of the same linen voile, and my exciting new American Duchess red & white Dunmores.
So much fun!