Thursday, April 2, 2015

HSM April: War & Peace - the 14th Century Linen Coif

April's Historical Sew Monthly Challenge was War & Peace: The extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear.  Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.  

After getting dressed up for pictures in my new side-less surcoat, I was reminded that, while I love having the veil, I hate the work it takes to get it on right.  I had been wearing my veil pinned to a matching silk fillet (strap around the head) and barbette (strap under the chin), but the process of pinning those pieces in place, then pining the veil to them had grown cumbersome.  I was looking for something both more secure, and requiring less fiddling to get and keep on straight.  Hence the coif!

There are any number of excellent patterns and instructions out there, but the one that I found most useful was posted by the Maniacal Medievalist, which used lots of measurements and math to get something close-fitting and properly fit.  I made slight alterations to the pattern in that edge against the face is bound in the same narrow strip of fabric that extends down into the ties, rather than having a turned under edge with separate ties attached.  I felt that this made my ties more secure, but had the drawback of leaving me with short ties, due to the size of the scrap of linen that I was using.  As much as having things secured under the chin tend to annoy me, I'm thinking I may just leave the ties undone, or tie them instead behind the neck.  Either way, the cap stays relatively secure.

I left a bit of ease in the back so I'd have a place to stuff my hair, if I succeed in growing it out.

Octopus made a fantastically patient model for me while I kept fiddling with camera settings.

Seen from the back.  Lower edge was turned under twice and whip stitched.

Once the cap was complete, I tried it on and was a bit disappointed in the center seam.  The two pieces were sewn together, then the seam allowances folded back under themselves and secured to their respective halves. I was a touch unsure about the security of the seam, and so decided to do some sort of decorative top-stiching to secure it.  Well that went downhill and I ended up doing a more elaborate layered herringbone design reminiscent of some of the St Birgitta's caps I'd come across in my research.

Detail of the herringbone stitching down the center seam.
The details for the challenge

What the item is (and how it is a product of war or a lengthy period of peace: Medieval linen coif.  I kind of see the entire medieval period as an unsteady period of war and peace, and war again.  However, 600 years in the future, historians could probably say the same of today.

Fabric: lightweight white linen
Pattern: here
Year: 14th century
Notions: linen thread, bamboo viscose crochet thread for the embroidery
How historically accurate is it? 9.5/10, with a half-point docked for the embroidery thread
Hours to complete: about 8, starting from measuring and drafting out the pattern.  About half of that was spent on the embroidery.
First worn: Planning to wear it for Figments & Filaments later this month
Total cost: maybe $2.  All of the materials were in the stash and really only a very small bit of them had to be used.


  1. That looks very nice and comfy. I love the embroidery details, too! :) I think I must make one now...

  2. Thanks. They're really simple, without the embroidery. I'm just so excited about the convenience more than anything.