Dawn's Costume Guide

Make a Soft Cap

This soft cap will give the finishing touch to your Tudor outfit, and keep your head warm, too. It can be worn by men or women, adults or children, peasants or gentry. Make several in a variety of fabrics to coordinate with your costume wardrobe. This project can be completed in a few hours.

What you need:

Half a yard of heavy velvet, tapestry or upholstery fabric _OR_ a lighter fabric *AND* 1/2 yard of one-sided fusible interfacing in a medium weight (don't worry, the lady at the fabric shop will know what this is --if she doesn't, don't shop there)
18" of double fold 1/2" wide bias tape binding in a color that matches your fabric.
feathers, braid, buttons or other trim as desired

I'm making this out of the same plaid fabric I used for my "Celtic" drape. The yardage was uneven at one end and needed to be trimmed, and I had bought extra anyway. I cut off a piece about 18" wide. It's uneven, but it doesn't matter.

Get Started

First thing to do is fold over a double thickness, so you have two layers, and make a 12" circle on the fabric. I used tailors chalk to mark with. You can use ordinary blackboard chalk if you want, it can be a bit cheaper, or free if you find the little nubbins left in the blackboard tray in a classroom. I like tailors chalk because it has a bit of a waxy texture and doesn't get so powdery and flaky when you draw with it. It's also flat and you can get thinner lines for marking.

Allowing for a 2" brim, mark another circle inside the first, about 7.5" across. You can adjust this to fit your head, or the person you are making it for. Loop the tape measure around their head where the hat will fit and note the measurement. Now make a loop of the tape measure and lay it inside the two circles you've just drawn. Try to figure out if you need to adjust the sizing a whole lot one way or the other. Remember that some will be taken up with seam allowances and it will be a bit bigger than what you have drawn when you are done. It's easier to cut more fabric off, but you can't put more fabric back if you make it too big.

The fabric I'm using in the pictures is kind of thin. If you are using a thin fabric you will want to stiffen the brim of the hat with something. Pick up a piece of the fabric and look at how it acts. Does it flop right over? A nice thick velvet probably holds some of its shape. Even velveteen will. Upholstery brocades usually have a nice stiffness to them. If it goes limp like a wet dishrag, though, you'll want to use some iron-on interfacing.

Medium weight interfacing is handy stuff to have around. I goes on sale for less than a buck a yard, so it's worth picking up when you can get a good price on it. For this project you want the kind that has fusible stuff on one side only.

Pin the fabric inside the circles and cut it out along the outside edge carefully. Do not cut the inside circle out yet.

Lay your fabric circles onto your interfacing, putting the wrong side of the fabric down onto the side of the interfacing that has the bumpy dots. Those bumps are the glue. Take a minute to get this right, otherwise you're going to melt your interfacing into your ironing board. Follow the instructions that came on the wrapper that tell you what heat to use and how long to iron it. Be careful going around the edges of your cap, don't let the iron get in the interfacing or it will stick and make a mess.

After you've got it all ironed down you can cut out the interfacing from around the edges of the cap. If some of the edges didn't get ironed down quite enough, now you can go over them with the iron again and make sure it's good and attached.

Here's a picture showing the two circles from different sides. One has interfacing on it, the other is turned over so you see the fabric.

Now, take one of those circles and lay it down on the yardage again. Leave some space around it. Mark another circle 2" out from the first one you did. This bigger circle is going to be the crown of your cap. The circle doesn't have to be exactly perfect, but try to get it as even as you can.

Cut the larger circle out of the fabric.

Pin your two circles back together and cut out the center part now.

Take the pins out. Put the two brim donuts together with the good sides of the fabric against each other. Pin them again.

Sew all the way around the outside edge of the brim, about 3/8 of an inch from the edge. Take your time and try to get a nice smooth curve on the seam. It will show on the outside.

Iron the seam you just sewed. Now take the pins out, turn it right side out, and press the seams along the edge from the good side of the fabric. If you are using velvet or satin be careful not to press too much and leave an iron-shaped print in your fabric. Work around the brim carefully, making sure you are ironing a nice smooth curve. It really will make a difference in how the caps looks.

Now we're going to gather the crown of your cap into the brim. You'll need a lot of pins for this. First you need to mark the brim and the crown pieces with a little bit of chalk. Fold the crown circle into quarters and mark the cross folds at each edge. Take a needle and thread and make gathering stiches around the outside edge of your crown. They don't need to be the most perfect stitches, you can pull them out later, but if they are even in length it will make a nicer gather.

Fold your brim the same way and mark quarter points with small dots or pin on the inside edge of the fabric.

Match up the quarter marks on the crown with the marks on the brim. Pin each of the four places they match up. Pull on your gathering stitches so that the crown fits against the brim. Pin some more, so everything is right where you want it.

Cut your bias tape. Fold over one of the cut ends about half an inch so you have a nice finished look. Lay it over the seam where the crown and brim meet up, where you've just pinned. Push the center fold of the tape right up over the edges of the fabric so it makes a good fit. Pin it in place. If you can, arrange it so it covers up your gathering stitches.

Instead of using gathers you can pleat the crown into place along the brim. This is probably the more historic method, but it's also harder if you are doing this for the first time or are new to sewing.

Sew the bias tape in place. Sew through all layers of the crown and brim. It may be a bit thick, so go carefully. As you are feeding in the fabric, try to make sure both sides of the bias tape are being sewn down. It tends to slip out of place and not cooperate. You can go over any missed spots by hand later. When you get to the end, fold over the last bit of bias tape so there are no raw edges, and sew it into the seam.

Congratulations! You can now decorate your cap with ribbons or feathers, or wear it plain if you prefer.

All text and artwork copyright 1990 - 2000 D. Duperault. NOTHING on this site may be reproduced or distributed by any means without my written permission. This information offered in good faith, and worth only what you paid for it.
These intructions are Faire Approved for
Scarborough Faire
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