Thursday, October 22, 2015

Getting Medieval

What do you do over the weekend when you don't feel like knitting?

Do you say... make medieval headgear?


Well... ok. But I do.

The Toque
Some time back - a year or so ago - I started a medieval garb project that was centered around the 1200-1300's. I had a wimple, but no period appropriate gown to go with it, and in my quest for something that looked comfortable and simple, I settled upon the cyclas. A cyclas is basically a loose gown with no sleeves, worn over an under gown, which is probably worn over another gown, over a chemise. (No central heating!) The appeal - aside from the ease of construction - was the ease. I could smuggle monkeys, or a band of jugglers, under a cyclas, because it doesn't have a fitted waist. This is a plus, because nothing is truly sadder than being five pounds too heavy to wear a gown you hand stitched, and only finding out right before you intend to wear it, except, of course, then having to wear the wrong headdress or hat altogether.

The most popular hat for this period in Western Europe seems to be (aside from the coif) the dubiously-dubbed "coffee filter hat", or fillet. It's essentially a pleated or ruffled linen crown-shaped headpiece. There are no extant examples, and while I wouldn't exactly say it looks silly walking around looking like you have a paper coffee filter on your head (I've considered much sillier) the general effect I've seen with these hats (once made) doesn't appeal to me greatly. So, I opted for a less common style, the toque, or what we these days call a "pillbox."
Scantily clad in my kitchen in a half-made toque. You know, a typical Saturday.
It all begins with some millinery wire and stiff canvas. There re no extant toques that I know of, so for all I know, they did use wire. Or at least I like to think they did, because certainly plenty of wire got put in headdresses through the medieval period in Europe. (How else do you think that "flying nun" look keeps staying up? Starch will only get you so far!)

I zig-zagged the strips of canvas I had by machine to make the crown of my toque, but everything else, including attaching the wire to the canvas, was done by hand. I used a medium weight bleached 100% linen to cover the toque, which I had to use 100% cotton thread on, because the linen thread I do have just seemed too bulky to get the polished effect I'm looking for.

I used recycled lightweight linen for the lining.

Center back seam of the finished toque
Unfortunately, I took some very blurry photos posing in the toque, but I think the photos will at least give you a general idea of how it turned out.
With barbette
With veil

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