Sunday, July 17, 2016

Project Complete: Early 14th Century Open Hood

Project: Open hood in the style of the Luttrell Psalter hoods, circa 1330

Sources: In the very early like of the open hood, it took the form of an extra hat, most often placed over veils or even stylish templar braids. In this format, it was more of an additional piece of clothing added for warmth than anything else. Unlike the open hoods in later incarnations, the early open hood was also, seemingly, not dependent on class divisions. As a piece added on top of other headdress as an extra layer, its purpose was functional and practical, not necessarily aesthetic.

Detail from fol 33r of the Luttrell Psalter (BL Add. MS 42130), c. 1330.
These early open hoods are short (anywhere between chin and shoulder length), and are only stylish by being cut with small nubs, or tippets, at the crown. These tippets hold no practical purpose, and it's difficult to say why they would be included, but they do distinguish the early open hood from hoods and hats that came before. It is also this tippet that grows into the forward pointing arm of the transitional open hoods that come later.

Method: I had made one of these hood ages ago when I was still a wee pup and just starting to learn about headdress. It's served me well all these years, but it was never quite correct. It was time for an upgrade.

I started by locating a wool for the outside, a linen for the lining, and a suitable wool yarn for the finishing from the scrap stash. It does not take very much fabric for an early open hood, and it doesn't even have to be one piece, since the two halves of the hood are cut completely separate.

The depth of my transitional hood was better than the depth of my original open hood, so I laid that down to get some marks in place for the general size, then eyeballed the finished shape with some chalk. I way overcompensated for how large the crown shaping needed to be. After finding that out, here's the re-draw:

The lining and the shell are both cut the same. In reality, the lining should probably be cut just a little smaller, but I find that when I try to do that, I cut it too small and I end up with more problems than if I'd kept them the same size. So, I keep them the same size and deal with the difference later if it becomes a problem.

I used running stitch to sew the two pieces together across the top, around the tippet, and down the back. I used black silk on the green wool, and white silk on the natural linen. To keep the seams neat and add a bit more finishing, I tacked the seam allowances down, again using running stitch. Since these will be buried inside the layers, I don't have to worry about folding in the raw cut edges.

 Around the tippet, it was necessary to cut some notches to get everything to lay down. 

It's not particularly pretty, but don't skip this step. Finishing the seams in the tippet will ensure that it sits upright instead of falling flat.

I did this same step with the wool and the linen, again switching out the threads.

To get the shell and lining together, I stacked them right sides together, lining up the edges and making sure that their center seams and tippets were lined up. If the two layer sizes were going to be a problem, this is when that would should up. I didn't see a huge discrepancy between then, so I moved on. More running stitch all the way around the front and bottom edges to sew the two layers together. A gap is required to turn them back right-side out, so I positioned that in the back, just to the side of the center seam (below). 

Before turning it, I clipped the fabric off the two fronts corners. This helps the corners from getting too bulky when turned right-side out, and ensures that they aren't too rounded.

I used a simple whip stitch to suture the hole once everything was turned out. Then using the white silk, and being very careful about stitch lengths, I top-stitched all the way around the edges.

At this point, the hood was done, and was certainly wearable. The problem was that the hand-stitched quality of the seams around the front create a wavy look. This wasn't wrong. It's a tell-tale sign of the hand-sewing, but it wasn't a clean look. It wasn't polished.

To give it a more finished look, I used an edge treatment I've used many times before on the edges of pouches. Using two loops of thread, you pass them back and forth between each other, sewing them down each time, to create a braided look. I learned this technique from Medieval Silkwork's tutorial originally. For the hood, I decided that a single color, which is a close match to the lining, would give me the correct results. I wanted a polished edge that didn't distract from the overall look of the hood. 

To get started, I put a knot in the end of my two loops and pinned that just passed the center seam. When I started (sorry, I didn't take a picture), I left about 1/8" of space between my first stitch and the center seam. This gave me some space for finishing at the end.

The length of the yarn for one of the loops was equal to three times around the edge I was finishing. That's a pretty long length to mess with. To make it more manageable, I used a finger-crochet technique of creating a series of slip knots to form a chain that shortens the overall length, and is easily adjustable.

To get the best look possible, I took my time with this technique and made sure to tug gently on the loops after each pass. It's also important to keep the thread that's holding everything down tight as you work. It's a three hand-process, and it can take some time to fall into the groove. The biggest tip I can give is to remember that your piece is a pin cushion. Each time you need to put your needle down to use that hand, stick it into the piece, and it's right there when you need it again.

You can see in the picture below the difference that this step makes to the look of the edge.

At the end, I removed the original knot and used a yarn needle to thread the loose ends down through the center seam. After bringing my needle through, I cut the extra yarn off, leaving the tail inside the hood.

Here's what that looked like after both ends where in:

This is okay, but I didn't care for how much it curved in. To fix it, I took some of the black silk thread and sewed the wool closed with a few stitches. After knotting off the thread, I made sure to stitch the ends in to completely hide that little trick.

Shh. Don't tell anyone. ;) 

Evaluation: This little project took me a bit more than a day, and I'm very glad I took the time. It's definitely a huge step up in comparison to my original version, with a better shape, better materials, and better craftsmanship. It's a cute and practical addition to my wardrobe, and will be useful both on its own as I show it here, as well as over veils for warmth, just like the Luttrell examples.

Plus, you know, I'm always looking for an excuse to make more hoods.

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