Pattern Your Own Simple Coif / Unpadded Arming Cap

Period Coifs / Caps
Left: 12th Century
Middle: 13th Century
Right: 14th Century

The plain coif/cap is probably the most versatile piece of garb in the Middle Ages. It was worn for centuries and  changed very little.  It was worn by both sexes. It’s comfortable, practical and easy to make.

Called many different thing, from coif, cap, or hood.  In other languages: koaff, bundhaube, kveiv, kveif, haube, coiffe, huva or kapper. It is essentially a close fitting hat, fastened under the chin using straps.

For events like Gulf Wars, Pennsic or Estrella, having several caps is a must. Keeps the sun off your head during the day and your head warm at night.

If you have kids wear medieval clothing, nothing looks cuter than a child running around wearing a plain linen or cotton coif! And since their hair is often thin or sparse, it keeps their head from burning.

Fabric:

  • Linen: if used under a helm, linen is a must. It wicks the sweat away from the head and gives a cooling effect.
  • Wool: if used to keep your head warm, a lightweight wool is nice. If it’s too itchy, line it with linen.
  • Cotton: a non-period less-costly alternative. Light muslin makes a nice summer coif to keep the head cooler.

 Colors

  • White-ish

 2 Piece Style:

  • Good from early period all the way through the 14th and possibly the 15th century.
  • Even women wore this style in the later centuries.
    • They used the simple coif under their veils, filets, wimples or gorgets to give something solid that those pieces could be pinned to.
  • This style was used as a padded arming cap as well.

Simple Caps / Coifs in Period

8th Century

12th Century
Fecamp Psalter

12th Century
Hunterian Psalter

13th Century

Padded Arming Cap / Coif
13th Century
Morgan / Crusader / Maciejowski Bible

14th Century
Manesse Codex

14th Century
Roman de la Rose

15th Century

15th Century
Jean Froissart Chronicles

Even women wore simple coifs
13th Century Germany
Shrine of St. Elizabeth

Measuring

I have a hypothesis: all garb patterns can be reduced to mathematical equations. Perhaps it’s true of all clothing in general, but I’m only working on garb.

click to enlarge

A = length around your crown

B = Measure around the larger part of the back of your head from the front of one ear to the front of the other ear

C = Measure from the desired length of your cap on one side, around the top of your head to the desired length on the other side.

D = Measure around the base of your head from jawbone to jawbone

A  = __________

B = __________

C = __________

D = __________

The Math

  1. Width of the pattern: Divide A by 3 {A/3} than add
    1. 2” for an average head
    2. 3” for a larger head
    3. 1” for a child’s head
    4. _________________
  1. Length of the pattern: Divide C by 2 {C/2}

_________________

  1. Draw a rectangle with the above dimensions
  2. Write “Top” and “Front” in the appropriate parts of your pattern
  3. Mark or fold the pattern in half in both directions, just for reference
  4. On the bottom edge:
    1. From the back, mark 1 ½ “ (1” for a child’s head)
    2. Divide D by 2 {D/2}
    3. _______________
    4. From the 1 ½” mark, go towards the front D/2.
    5. This is the bottom edge of your coif.
  5. On the center-line(halfway between top and bottom):
    1. Divide B by 2 {B/2}
    2. Add 1/2”
    3. ______________
    4. From the back side, on this centerline going towards the front, mark the above measurement
  6. On the front top edge
    1. Mark 1 ½” down from the top (1” for children)
    2. We’ll use this mark later

Click to enlarge

Connecting the Dots

  1. Let’s start at the bottom back.
    1. From your 1 ½” mark in (or 1” for a child’s cap)
    2. Curve a line up towards the back center-back
    3. Have the line meet the back edge about an 1 to 1 ½” below the center line
    4. Run the line along the back-edge through the center-back line and above it another 1 to 1 ½”
  2. Curve the line up towards the center top line
    1. Similar to the center-back, have the line meet the edge about ½ to 1” before the centerline and run along it for ½” to 1” after before curving down.
    2. Curve the line towards the 1 ½” mark (1” mark for children) on the front edge
  3. Front edge
    1. Two choices
      1. For a straight front: draw a straight line connecting the mark on the front top  edge to the D/2 mark on the bottom edge
      2. For a curved front: curve the line down towards the D/2 mark, intersecting with the B/2+1/2” mark on the centerline.

ADD YOUR SEAM ALLOWANCE when cutting  – ¼” to ¾” depending on your sewing style

Unless, you are making a 13th century styled cap with separate “hem tape.”

 Styles

Tight Fitting Cap

The above pattern will produce a fairly snug cap for you

Looser fitting Cap

To get a cap that is a bit looser, add an extra ¼” to 1” when adding the seam allowance.

Padded Arming Cap

This pattern can be used to make a padded cap as seen in the Crusader Bible.

  1. Add an extra ¾” to 1” to the pattern.
  2. Cut 4, rather than 2, pieces
  3. Sew the center and front together, but leave the bottom back open
  4. Make the quilting lines (the dashed lines you see in the picture)
  5. Stuff the hat with fluffed out cotton balls or scraps of linen. Use a wooden dowel or rod to pack the material into the grooves.
  6. Squish it around with your fingers so that the padding is mostly even.
  7. Hem up bottom back.

Making the straps

We’re making simple straps. You can customize them, but we’ll do simple first.

  1. Cut out two long rectangles of fabric
    1. About 1” to 1 ½” wide
    2. 12” to 18” long
  2. Fold them in half length-ways and iron.
  3. Fold each side in half length-ways and iron again.
  4. On one end of each strap, fold the rough end into the lengthwise fold to hem that side.
  5. Sew the edges

Sewing

  1. Cut 2 of your coif pattern
  2. Sew up the center seam.
  3. Tuck under and iron the seam flat with each side folded over to its own side. Sew along edges to tack the seam down
  4. Hem the front and bottom by folding under the edges, ironing them flat and sewing them.
  5. Attach the straps to the front bottom corner

You are unless you want to add decorative elements if you like. Or leave it plain.

Enjoy your cap!!

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Viking Age Tunic

This is my husband’s newest fighting tunic. It’s based mainly on the tunic found on the shore of Søndersø in the Krugland bog near the city of Viborg in Denmark. This tunic was worn as an outer piece of clothing in the 11th and 12th centuries. The Kraglund tunic has been carbon (14-c) dated to 1045 to 1155.

On left: Extant Kragelund tunic
On right: My husband in his new tunic

A tunic such as this could have been worn by either a man or woman as everyday clothing. If anyone doubts that women also dressed in this manner during this time period, check out the latest information on the Skjoldehamn find. The find included what we would consider a Viking man’s outfit, but DNA tests have proven that the skeleton in the outfit was a woman. Here’s a translation of Dan Halvard Løvlid’s thesis http://www.ceilingpress.com/Resources/SkjoldehamnFindInLightofNewKnowledge.pdf. It was originally written in Norwegian as his master thesis in archeology from the University of Bergen.

Back to the tunic . . . It varied in length and could be as short as hanging to the mid-thigh or as long as hanging to the ankle.  I chose to make this one hang to near knee level.

Its construction is very similar to many other tunics, which date to a similar era, also found in and around Denmark, such as Bocksten Bog Man’s Kyrtle and the Skjoldehamn Kyrtle.

I based my pattern off the work of Marc Carlson, who based his off the work of Hald in Nockert. All of this can be found on Marc’s site: http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/kraglund.html

Some things that make this particular design unique amoung the extant tunics from that time:

  • Body:
    • No shoulder seam, indicating that the main body piece was one long piece of fabric.
    • Two gores in the front
    • Two gores in the back
    • Two gores on either side.
    • Neck-hole has a “V” shape to it (as opposed to the more common rounded one).
  • Arms
    • 3 piece construction with no underarm gussets. This part was tricky to pattern out since the illustration isn’t to scale.

     

    I like the way it turned out. As a fighting tunic, the 8 gores in the bottom give it a-lot of flow and room for movement. The arm construction, which I hesitated in doing because of the lack of armpit gussets, moves quite well too.

    I used linen in the construction, both the fabric and the thread. Although the original is wool, the Viborg tunic, from the same time, is all linen and was found only 35 km away from this one. Given the area they were found in, I’m pretty sure that an all linen tunic of the time would have been an undergarment. Since we live in southern Louisiana and it’s very hot here most of the year, I chose to make this outer tunic from linen and not from wool.

    I’m happy with it, and better still he’s happy with it. I will probably create at least one more fighting tunic in this construction. I know I took pictures of the creation, but I can’t seem to find them at the moment. When I do find them, I’ll add them to the post. I really need to organize my project pictures better!