Monday, April 8, 2013

Historical Fortnight #7 Part Two

A Coif and Forehead cloth

Although I do have a lovely embroidered coif I made a couple of years ago, I could always use another. Since I made the ruff, I figured another somewhat simple project would be good.

First, the research:

Coif Width Length
V&A Coif T.12-1948 16.5" 9"
Met Museum Coif 16" 8.5"
V&A Coif CIRC.868&A-1924 17" 8"
V&A Forehead Cloth CIRC.868&A-1924 14" 7"
V&A Coif T.239-1960 17" 8"

Although this is a small sampling, we can already see that the coifs look to average between 16"-17" with a length of 8"-9". I did a lot more research, including into the forehead cloths, however pretty much every single forehead cloth is 14" by 7". After looking at about 5 of them, I gave up. Even though these are all extant (ie, the ones that survived!) they probably are a good measurement for what was typical during the late 16th into the early 17th C. I probably could write a thesis on how the extant garments are only the ones that no one reused and why that's a problem- but, for now, these coifs and forehead cloths most likely survived for two reasons: they are small and therefore not useable in other projects and b) the massive amount of embroidery making them keepsakes. Given that, they probably were worn at some point and made to fit a specific person. So, the measurements themselves are probably accurate for the average lady in the late 16th/late 17th C.

So, for my pattern:
coif pattern drawn

The pattern drawn here (the fold is at the top of the picture) is based on numerous coifs, with the small ear curve. I decided to go with a rough 17" by 9" for the coif. I needed to have a small seam allowance for the hem.


The fabric is just scrap linen I had in the scrap pile. I used white silk thread since I lost my linen thread and have no clue where it ran off to. Silk thread was used in the late 16th C, particularly on embroidered coifs, which I might do at some point to this one.


Since it was a GORGEOUS day outside, I sat on my front porch for about an hour and managed to sew up the hem of both the forehead cloth (the pattern for that really is your standard triangle) and the coif and chase the pup. She was misbehaving.

coif & forehead cloth

Although they are all hemmed, they both need a lot more work. First, I needed to tie them to my head somehow...which is where things got interest.

I had lost my cording as well as the linen thread.

...I blame the cat. He's evil.

Anyway, I ended up having to make cording out of some old stock cotton thread (gah!) that still wasn't long enough but sort of worked for the coif. For the forehead cloth, I very carefully cut a half inch of linen strip, cut it half, folded the edges over and then folded the strips in half...sewing them up to make ties. I then added the new linen ties to the forehead cloth and they worked perfectly.

For the coif, I added a small strip of linen to the bottom edge to act as a casing for the cord. You can see a small white, unembroidered strip at the bottom of many extant coifs. It's just for a drawstring.

Once all of that was done (making cord takes FOREVER!), I ended up with this:


Yay! A coif and forehead cloth! I really love the forehead cloth - I ended up wearing it around while I was still baking bread, cleaning up, and finishing up the coif last night. It came out really well. I like the coif as well but I want my silk cording! The bow on top of the head just looks silly and I really want my coif to be tied behind the base of my bun.

I apologize for the pictures. I did take far better ones; however my camera and my computer refuse to talk anymore. I think it's just an USB cord issue that I hope to resolve this week but, if not, I have the icky mobile phone ones, at least!

Next, the Spanish Surcote assuming I can handsewn the armscyes in an hour.


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