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.


  • 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.


  • 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


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.”


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


  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!!

On Yer Heade: Part II

Period Head Coverings

Or alternately, What Hat Goes with My Outfit?

13th Century

This post comes from a class I taught. It evolved from me standing in front of the mirror, event after event, trying to figure out what to wear on my head that would match the era of the outfit I was wearing. After doing a little research on what in general was worn each century, I was able to decide more quickly which hats went with which outfits. Maybe other folks have the same problem, I thought. Trying to use period sources rather than general costume books, I came up with this. I hope it helps you in your quest to appear more historically dressed.

13th Century

For Women

Headgear becomes much more complex for women this century. The up side is that there is far more variety to what we can wear. I’ll save most of the period pictures after the explanations of what everything is.

  • Braids
    • The simple braids are still around. Generally you’ll see them with one hanging on each side of the head.
  • Veil
    • We have the simple veil, although it is mainly seen worn by the lower classes.
    • There are loads of sites that show you how to make and wear a veil. Essentially, cut a circle, oval, rectangle or square. If you can, hand sew the edges with a rolled hem. Then you’re done. When I made my first veils, I couldn’t get the size right. Finally, I took some cotton muslin I bought on sale and made 3 or 4 mock-up veils. I thought the circle and the oval looked best on me. I made a few of different sizes – smaller for day use and larger for court garb.
    • Here’s one site, but it adds a band around the head, which is practical, but not necessary.
    • Maciejowski Bible

  • Barbette and Filet
    • Many of the complex headgear from this century uses the barbette and fillet.
    • Barbette: a band of cloth that goes around the head and under the chin. It could be thin (~1”) or a wide band.
    • Fillet (aka coffee filter hat) was like a fabric crown. It could be tall or short.
    • The barbette and fillet are often seen together, but they can be worn in some styles separately.
    • Caitlin, from Caitlin’s Clothing, has a simple method of making a barbette and fillet.,%20FILLET%20AND%20CRESPINE
    • The picture to the below has the lady wearing a coif under her barbette and fillet.
    • Barbette and Fillet worn over a simple coif

  • Crespinette
    • A net usually worn with a fillet and barbette.
    • Wealthier women had jewels or beads woven throughout. They also could have their crespinette woven with precious metal threads.
  • Barbette worn with a Crown or Coronet
    • You can sometimes see a plain or decorative barbette worn with a crown. It helps if the crown needs to be secured.
  • Barbette or Filet with a Veil
    • A veil can be held more securely on the head with a barbette or filet by themselves – you don’t always have to wear both.
    • Personally, I don’t care for the barbette. It covers my ears and makes it even harder for my half-deaf self to hear. I do, however, like the filet with a veil. It holds the veil on nicely and is much more comfortable. Either way is perfectly fine.
    • In this drawing the lady is wearing a barbette with a veil and a crown.
  • Veil and Wimple
    • This century sees a rise in the popularity of the wimple – the drape-like thing that goes under the chin.
    • The wimple is simply a rectangle of cloth. It’s pinned to the filet. Then the veil is set on top of the filet/wimple combo.
    • The veil can be pinned to the filet as well or simply held down with a coronet or crown.
    • Here is a simple set of veil and wimple instructions
    • Although you can’t see it in this drawing, she is wearing a filet (and probably a barbette) under the veil and wimple.
  • Cap
    • Possibly the most comfortable 13th and 14th century headgear is the cap, which is also called St. Birgitta’s Huva (I have another blog post solely on how to make one).
    • It’s a loose coif with one long continuous strap attached at the front bottom edges. The strap is then looped twice around the head to hold it in place.
    • A link to my explanation (I have many other links to other explanations too):

Period pictures of these styles

  • St. Mary’s Church, Gelnhausen, Germany
    c. 1230-1235
    Long braids.

  • Church of Our Lady, Halberstadt, Germany

  • Schnutgen-Museum, Cologne, Germany
    c. 1220-1230
    Fillet with barbette

  • Weschselburg, Germany
    c. 1235
    Fillet and barbette under coronet

  • Naumburg Cathedral Germany – 1250
    Barbette and tall filet with crown.

  • Meissen Cathedral, Meissen, Germany
    c. 1260

    • Fillet and barbette with a veil.


  • Elisabeth Church, Marburg, Germany
    c. 1235
    Fillet and barbette over a crespinette.

  • Braunschweig, Germany
    c. 1240-1250
    Veil and wimple. There is probably a filet and/or barbette under there.

  • Elisabeth Church, Marburg, Germany
    c. 1235
    Veil tucked around head and under wimple. Both under a large fillet.
  • Strasbourg Cathedral, Strasbourg, France
    c. 1280-1300
    Oval veil

  • Cathedral of Saints Catherine and Maurice, Magdeburg, Germany
    c. 1250
    Possibly layered veils. I like this one because it shows a decorated veil rather than a plain one.

  • Strasbourg Cathedral, Strasbourg, France
    c. 1280-1300

    • Veil is tucked around the head in a near headrail like manner.


  • A picture of the actual St. Birgitta’s cap
    by C. Dahl

  • Woman on left wearing a cap.
    Woman on right wearing a veil and wimple over a fillet.

  • Decorative fillet with a barbette. Both over a coif.

For Men

  • Coif
    • The coif is still around. One difference is that it is no longer a rectangle folded, sewn up the back and then shaped.
    • You can see a center seam indicating that it is now two separate pieces sewn together.
    • It can still be worn by itself or under a hood or hat.
    • Here’s a simple arming cap pattern you can use for a simple coif. Just don’t stuff it.
    • Simple coif. Shaped with a center seam.

  • Hoods
    • The hood is starting to evolve in what will later be know as the liripipe.
    • But for now, it only has a small tail or tippet.
    • Simple hood tutorial (remember to keep the tail small):
    • It can still be a loose hood that slips on over the head.
    • Or it can made more form fitting by using buttons down the front, such as the one below
  • Straw Hats
    • Non-fabric hats are starting to be seen
    • Mostly by the lower classes of people such as farmers and peasants.
    • Men with straw hats and a woman with a crespinette.

    • Straw hat

Coming soon: 14th century . . . to be continued on another post.